Top stories in 2017
Another year has passed into memory, and local history was recorded in the pages of the community newspaper.
Waupaca County Post reporters covered tragedies and controversies, storms and scandals, a homicide trial, a heroin epidemic and a baby born in a park.
The Waupaca School District built a new sports complex and Manawa built a veterans memorial. Both projects were made possible with donations from the community.
Below are some of the top stories that appeared in the Waupaca County Post in 2017.
After 36 years on the bench in Waupaca County Circuit Court, Judge Philip Kirk decided to hang up his robe in 2017.
Kirk, who also served as chief judge of the 8th District from 1994 to 2000, retired at age 70.
Two Waupaca County attorneys – Troy Nielsen and Erik Hendrickson – ran for Kirk’s seat.
Nielsen, a public defender from Scandinavia, won the election on April 4 by a vote of 4,522 to 2,568.
There was no question for the jury selected on Jan. 13, 2017, about whether Alison Roe stabbed Craig Dake and caused his death on March 6, 2015.
The jury had to decide whether she stabbed him intentionally or whether it was in self defense.
In her closing arguments, District Attorney Veronica Isherwood questioned Roe’s account of the stabbing.
Roe testified Dake punched her in the face, grabbed her by the throat, flipped her over on her stomach and clenched her around the neck in a chokehold.
She said she was face down in the pillow, with Dake directly on top of her with one leg between her legs.
Roe said Dake loosened his grip in order to place his other leg on the bed.
She said she then grabbed the knife from the nightstand and swung her arm sideways and back.
The medical examiner had testified Dake died following a single, vertical stab to the chest that pierced his heart.
Isherwood and an officer physically demonstrated the stabbing as described by Roe.
Isherwood held the knife in her right hand with the blade pointing up from her fist. The officer was behind her with his right arm around her neck. Isherwood swung her arm sideways, showing she could not reach the officer in the chest with the knife.
“You cannot stab somebody in the chest when they are laying over you,” Isherwood said. “She stabbed him straight in the chest and he wasn’t leaning over her in the bed.”
Referring to the bruised and swollen lip that appears in photos of Roe taken immediately after she was arrested, her public defender, Troy Nielsen, asked, “How is it possible that Craig punched Ali in the face, strangled her and she suffered the wounds that she did and it’s not self defense?”
After six hours of deliberation, the jury found Roe not guilty of first-degree intentional homicide.
Two hours, 23 crashes
Waupaca County E911 dispatchers received reports of 23 vehicle crashes in just two hours on Jan. 16, 2017.
The ice storm made rural roads impassable and stranded motorists throughout Waupaca County.
According to Communications Capt. Rob Karski, with the Waupaca County Sheriff’s Office, the county responded to 39 calls of stranded vehicles on Monday, Jan. 16.
Another 26 calls for vehicles stuck on the road came in on Jan. 17 and 10 on Jan. 18.
On Jan. 9, 2017, the Waupaca County Board voted 23-1 to close Lakeview Manor within 90 days.
For the previous several years, the costs to operate the county nursing home exceeded revenues. Consequently, nearly $1 million in tax levy revenues supported the facility annually for more than a decade.
When it closed, the 40-bed facility had 28 residents and 60 employees. Only eight of the employees were full time.
Waupaca County had operated a facility since 1902, when a building was erected in Weyauwega to care for the chronically insane.
The Iola-Scandinavia School Board accepted the resignation of David Dyb as district administrator at an open meeting on April 3, 2017.
However, the board had already voted to accept his resignation during a closed-session meeting on Jan. 3 and granted Dyb sabbatical leave until June 30, when his contract was set to expire.
As part of the agreement between Dyb and the school board, Dyb received a lump sum payment of $15,000 and $9,161 for 22 days of unused vacation.
He also continued receiving a paycheck through his resignation effective date on June 30. He was paid $108,267 for the 2016-17 school year.
According to the resignation agreement between Dyb and the board, “The parties agree that the interests of citizens in the District are served if the parties refrain from making disparaging comments about one other.”
Dyb has since been selected as superintendent of the Clintonville School District.
Bethany Home project
Bethany Home in Waupaca completed the final phase of its $21 million construction project in the spring of 2017.
The project included the construction of a three-story skilled nursing and rehabilitation center. Each floor has 18 private rooms.
The first floor is for long-term care, the second floor for those with dementia and the third floor for short-term care and rehabilitation.
The second floor includes a hospice suite.
Another part of the project was the expansion of The Pines. That added an additional 20 assisted living units.
Studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom units are available there.
Bank president fined
Archie Overby, the former president of First National Bank in Waupaca, was ordered to pay $1.6 million in restitution and $100,000 in fines.
The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, which oversees federally chartered banks, issued a consent order in March and made it public on April 21.
OCC’s order also prohibits Overby from participating in affairs of or holding a job with any financial institution.
Describing Overby’s compensation as “excessive,” OCC said FNB paid Overby $3.57 million in base salary and bonuses from 2010 to 2014.
He also received more than $1.62 million for personal expenses from 2010 to 2013. Most of the expenses were for travel, including family trips to Arizona, Texas, New York, Disney World in Florida and the Cayman Islands.
Baby born in park
On June 5, Waupaca Police Officer Diana Flatoff helped deliver a baby.
“I think it was 4:41 p.m. actually when the call came in. It was an ambulance call that a woman was going into labor at the South Park boat landing,” Flatoff said. “I got into my squad, I located the boat landing and heard some screaming as I got out of the squad.”
She approached and found a young woman in the middle of giving birth.
Nine minutes after Flatoff arrived on the scene, a baby boy had been delivered.
She was assisted by Gold Cross Ambulance and an off-duty firefighter.
“It was one of those moments in my life that I will never forget,” she said.
Catalpa receives grant
Tim and Joy Neuville presented their $50,000 Forward Together Grant to Catalpa Health during the Waupaca Area Community Foundation gala on June 17.
The Fox Valley clinic provides mental health services for children and families and subsequently opened an office in Waupaca in the fall of 2017.
Jacob A. Peglow, 15, Waupaca, was accidentally killed by a 17-year-old friend while they were playing with a .22-caliber handgun on July 26, 2017.
The son of Jim and Jenny Peglow, Jake was an active member of Waupaca FFA, Destination Imagination, 4H and Trinity Lutheran Youth Group.
On Sept. 15, Austin Hovarter, 18, Waupaca, was charged with first-degree reckless homicide.
According to the criminal complaint against Hovarter, a 14-year-old boy who witnessed the shooting said when Hovarter shot Peglow, he “held the gun out in front of him in his right hand, with his left hand supporting the shooting hand, he aimed the gun at Jacob and pulled the trigger.”
Hovarter told investigators he had played cops and robbers with the gun several times before, and the gun had not been loaded.
He was subsequently released from custody after posting a $100,000 cash bond.
Waupaca High School unveiled Comet Field, the new football and soccer stadium on Aug. 25, when the Comets hosted Shawano and suffered a 35-34 loss.
The $2.3-million facility features a synthetic turf field, resurfaced track, increased grandstand seating, additional storage areas and restrooms and a new concession area.
Three major donors – Waupaca Foundry, Farmers State Bank and First National Bank – stepped forward as the district announced a fundraising campaign earlier last year to raise $1 million for the project.
In response to the growing opioid crisis, Waupaca County responded to the challenge by establishing a drug treatment court.
In the fall of 2017, Waupaca County Drug Court began working with its first defendants.
The program seeks to reduce recidivism among opioid addicts through intensive counseling, ongoing substance abuse treatment, frequent meetings with probation agents and drug testing twice per week.
Each offender who enters the program is monitored by a team that includes law enforcement and mental health professionals.
“There are plenty of studies that show over the last 20 years that drug courts that maintain evidence-based practices reduce recidivism by as much as 25 percent over a two-year period,” according to Aaron Holt, the county’s drug court coordinator.
County sues drug companies
Waupaca County joined 27 other Wisconsin counties in a federal suit against several pharmaceutical companies in November.
The counties are seeking compensation for the millions of dollars they are spending in response to the opioid epidemic.
They accuse the pharmaceutical companies of a “nefarious and deceptive” marking campaign that resulted in addiction to painkillers, then later to the growing heroin problem.
According to Waupaca County’s civil complaint, filed Nov. 7 in the Eastern Wisconsin District Court, “County governments and the services they provide their citizens have been strained to the breaking point by this public health crisis.”
The complaint notes that from 2013-15 statewide, 1,824 people have died as a result of opioid overdose.
Between 2013-15, at least six people in Waupaca County died as a result of opioid overdose.
“Between 2012 and 2014 there were 53 hospital encounters involving opioid poisoning in Waupaca County,” the complaint says. “In 2016, there were 230 hospital encounters related to opioids in Waupaca County.”
In Waupaca County, there were 16 babies born in the county with neonatal abstinence syndrome from 2012-14.
Veterans Freedom Park
A dedication of the memorial at the Manawa Area Veterans Freedom Park was held on Nov. 11.
The memorial includes a walkway, seven flagpoles, flags, lighting and five monuments with the names of veterans.
“Each of those names represents not only a service member but also their family that sacrificed as well,” Mayor John Smith said. “They are truly the purpose to build the park so that we could pay tribute to our veterans who sacrificed for the freedoms we enjoy today. Each name on that wall signifies a person who was willing to risk their life so that we can live the life that we do today.”
A shelter was also added to the park and further improvements are planned.
Rail crossing litigation
Weyauwega’s fight to keep trains from blocking the city’s railroad crossings for more than 15 minutes went to the appellate court on Nov. 24.
Wisconsin Central Ltd., which is a subsidiary of Canadian National Railway, appealed an Oct. 9 Waupaca County Circuit Court decision that found in favor of Weyauwega.
Judge Vicki Clussman’s ruling allows the city to enforce an ordinance that makes it unlawful for an idle train to block an intersection for more than 15 minutes.
Clussman also ruled that Wisconsin Central must pay the $750 fine for each time it violated the ordinance.
Weyauwega police issued more than 40 citations that the railroad company refused to pay.