Early Wednesday morning, September 3rd, as Medford school officials arrived for work they discovered that the high school had been vandalized. Reports indicate that many doors and windows at the high school had been spray painted sometime Tuesday night. School officials began the task of cleaning up the mess before students arrived. According to district administrator Pat Sullivan, a number of Medford students have been identified as being involved. While most of the damage was cleaned up, on a number of doors the paint peeled off from the pressure of the power washers. So they will require additional attention. Some of the graffiti read: “Class of 2016”. District officials have indicated that the disciplinary process for the students involved has begun.
A utility worker was injured in a work-related accident Tuesday August 18th in the town of Greenwood. Reports indicate that a 911 call to the Taylor County Sheriff’s Office reported that a vehicle had struck a rope which was being guided across the roadway by a construction worker, causing the worker to be entangled in the rope and injuring him. When a Taylor County officer arrived on the scene, an injured semi-conscious person was lying in the roadway on Lemke Creek Road, just north of County M. Other workers on the scene indicated that they had been guiding a piece of fiber optic cable underground in the ditch area of Lemke Creek Road about 500 feet north of M. A backhoe was pulling a high tensile rope which was attached to the fiber optic across County M. An eastbound vehicle struck the rope causing it to strike the victim’s legs, flipping him onto the pavement. The vehicle did not stop. One of the workers indicated he saw the victim get flipped into the air just after being struck by the rope. The Medford ambulance transported the victim to Aspirus Hospital in Medford. There were no construction signs or barriers posted on County M. It was possible that the vehicle’s driver who ran over the rope had no knowledge of what actually happened.
The case involving the disciplining of Medford Police Officer Rob Stieber continued Thursday, August 20th. Stieber is charged by Medford Police Chief Ken Coyer with conduct issues related to personal cell phone and computer usage while on duty.
Former Taylor County Officer Haydon Estano testified by phone from Brown County. Estano testified that he had observed other Medford police officers using their in-squad computers for viewing You-Tube, Sportscenter and watching movies while on duty. He called Stieber a “caring guy” while expressing fear that Stieber’s ex-girlfriend would follow through on her threats of violence toward Stieber.
Next Rob Stieber took the stand on his own behalf. His attorney Shawn Paul asked him why his ex-girlfriend left the series of threatening voice mails telling him to stay away. He replied that her best friend was trying to set her up with a trucker from Canada. When he was asked why he didn’t report her threatening voice mails he responded that he loved her and didn’t want anything to happen to her. Stieber testified that one time his ex-girlfriend took a kitchen knife and pointed it at him. He said that on March 6th his father helped him move most of his things out of his ex-girlfriend’s house. But they had agreed to meet later that night after work outside of Hemer’s. During their relationship, they would meet outside a number of Medford area businesses where he parked his patrol car after she was done working at the Medford hospital E.R. Chief Coyer called Stieber’s presence at Hemers a form of stalking while Stieber’s girlfriend worked at the hospital. Stieber said she actually wanted to go to the movies that next night. He said his one mistake was calling the trucker from Canada and telling him that he was still in a relationship.
Stieber expressed his surprise that 2 letters of reprimand which were to be removed from his personnel file were used in the charges against him. One instance of calling dispatch from his cell phone in 2011 was supposed to be removed 1 year later. A second infraction of failure to report a change of address was to be removed one month later. Stieber testified that during his 7 ½ years as a Medford Police officer he had received numerous “atta-boys” letters of commendations from superior officers. They included a life-saving certificate. He had the department’s most extra patrols and half of all traffic stops in 2014. Stieber said he thought those documents would be in his personnel file but they weren’t.
City Attorney Wilson cross examined Stieber. He asked if Stieber recalled phoning dispatch in 2011 to ask if he needed to respond to a report of an unruly inmate at the Jail. Stieber said he couldn’t recall. Wilson asked Stieber about adhering to an 8 point improvement plan. Stieber said that was three years ago and that the chief said he would remove it from the file after 1 year. Regarding Stieber calling his girlfriend during a breakup, Stieber said it was a one time thing on a relationship that went sour. Stieber said his only bad decision was calling Ned the trucker after he was off duty. He said while he was parked outside Hemers, he was waiting for her, she was coming to him.
Commissioner Brian Hedlund asked Stieber about a recorded interview with the Chief and Stieber regarding his alleged misconduct. Hedlund asked Stieber why he showed remorse? Stieber responded he was scared. He said it was like a bombshell. He said I never should have called Ned. “I was sorry and wanted to get back to work”.
Commissioner Jim Elliot asked if Stieber had any prior knowledge about the topic of the meeting. Stieber said, no, I thought it was about cell phone use.
Stieber testified that his ex-girlfriend had brought home various patient records from the hospital. When he was asked why he didn’t report her violent threats or alleged violations of HIPPA laws he said he was “blinded by love”. He said on the day before he moved out she had given him her work schedule so they could coordinate time off together.
Thursday afternoon Sargent Craig Amundson of the Taylor County Sheriff’s Department took the stand. Amundson said he is Stieber’s brother-in-law. Amundson said he calculated 65 days of computer usage by the Medford Police Department. His report showed the top 10 web sites visited by most of the employees. He refuted the chiefs assumption of stalking by Stieber, indicating you couldn’t see the hospital’s ER from Hemer’s. He said that the chief alleged Stieber used the computer for 144 minutes searching for the Canadian trucker when in fact it was closer to 44 minutes.
The last witness to take the stand was Chief Coyer. Attorney Shawn Paul questioned why Stieber wasn’t provided a written notice of charges prior to his administrative meeting. She grilled Coyer for changing his timelines as the case progressed.
Commissioner Russ Jablonsky asked Coyer if the Police & Fire Commission had met on March 5th, the day before Stieber moved out & called the trucker, what would you say to Stieber?
Coyer responded that in February he, Officer Carey and assistant Sara Serano had detected a decline in Stieber’s performance. He said Stieber missed an unlocked jewelry store door and finding a reported stolen car.
Commissioner Jim Metz asked about Stieber’s girlfriend's threats toward Stieber. Was any action taken toward her? Coyer said she denied those.
Commissioner Jim Elliot asked Coyer if he had changed his attitude toward Stieber’s girlfriend. Coyer responded that they were like nitroglycerin on a bumpy road.
The 4 commissioners concluded Thursday by deciding in closed session how they will accept the closing summaries by both sides. Currently Chief Coyer has placed Officer Stieber on paid administrative leave. The commission must decide whether to do nothing, to discipline Stieber possibly with non-paid time off and then reinstate his position, or to terminate his employment. If the 4 commissioners should end up in a 2 to 2 tie vote, Stieber would assume his employment immediately.
The Medford Police and Fire Commission is scheduled to meet again on September 2nd at Medford City Hall.
A Monday night fire caused damaged to a Medford area business. At 9:40 Monday night a 911 call reported that a logging truck was on fire in the work shop at Krug’s Towing & Repair located northwest of Medford at N3470 CTH Q. The business is owned by Brian and Jeanne Krug of Medford. Two employees of the business discovered the burning semi-tractor as they drove up to the building. No one was working in the building at the time. Medford firefighters were able to extinguish the burning truck which is reported to be owned by a logger from Arkansas, WI. Due to an extension of the fire, firefighters had to peel away a portion of the steel ceiling in the work shop to extinguish some burning rafters. No injuries were reported. The cause of the fire is under investigation. Preliminary damage estimates are $300,000. Brian Krug told K99 that the towing and repair businesses are continuing to operate. The phone numbers will not change. Until the building can be repaired, the businesses will operate out of the Krug Bus Garage on Medford’s West Side.
The Chequamegon Flowage Miller Dam will be receiving some required repairs before winter. The Taylor County Forestry and Recreation Committee discussed the repairs which had been documented by the D.N.R. Jack Schmieser talked to the committee about the extent of repairs and how he would approach the project. He indicated much of the procedure would be the same process as is used at Hoover Dam. The repairs upstream would be done from a boat. The repairs which have been identified by the D.N.R. include the dam gate and abutment walls. To repair cracks in the dam, which were not identified by the DNR, would drive the estimated cost over $30,000. The committee voted to proceed with the required repairs to Miller Dam which Jack Schmeiser estimated would not exceed $10,000.
In other business the committee was told that logging in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest may be on the rise with the initiation of the Good Neighbor proposal. Currently the U.S. Forest Service is cutting about 60% of the timber which they are authorized to harvest. The federal agency justifies this inactivity due to budget cuts. The Good Neighbor Initiative would divert some of the timber management to the state and county levels with expenses reimbursed by the logging proceeds. The committee expressed guarded optimism that the program may increase the volume of timber harvest in the federal forest.
The four person City of Medford Police and Fire Commission is normally a low-key position. Now they are faced with the decision of whether to allow a Medford Police officer to lose his job. Commission members in attendance included Jim Elliott, Russ Jablonsky, Brian Hedlund and chairman Jim Metz.
Officer Rob Stieber has been charged by Medford Police Chief Ken Coyer with violating I.T. rules, personal cell phone standards and personal conduct including failure to report his change of residence address.
Testimony on Thursday, August 6th by Chief Coyer gave details of Officer Stieber's alleged used of his personal cell phone while on duty and incidents of inappropriate record keeping. Coyer said a resident was concerned about a 2 year old child who was in a meth house. Coyer said Stieber didn't report the child's situation to human services, which put the child in peril.
The city's attorney alleged that Stieber patrolled outside the hospital where his girlfriend worked to monitor her as they were in the process of breaking up. Attorney Wilson charged that Stieber spent about an hour while he was on duty googling another man whom the attorney said Stieber's girlfriend had met online. Attorney Paul pointed out that the Marathon County Sheriff's Department found no evidence of stalking. In regard to using a computer for personal use, attorney Paul said every officer except for officer Schroeder had used a computer for personal use while on duty.
Primary testimony on Friday, August 7th, centered on Rob Stieber's ex-girlfriend Lori Thomson. She testified that they never had a normal relationship and estimated that they broke up and made up 4 or 5 times over 4 years. She said one day she came home from work and all of his things were in her home. He had been living with his grandparents. Thomson complained that Stieber would rip up her lawn with his vehicle during disagreements. She called his dad to move his things out of her home. While Thomson was at work, Stieber and his father moved his items out of the house. Thomson said that Stieber took several items which he had given her including a lamp, a bike wheel, waffle iron and, when she looked outside, there was a pile of sunflowers because he took the bird feeder.
One area of contention was when Stieber searched Thomson's caller id and found the phone number of a Canadian man with whom she had conversed. Stieber called the man the following morning at 4:00, 5:00 and 7:00 A.M., telling him that he was her boyfriend.
Thomson reported that Stieber's mom had called her at 1:00 A.M., sounding intoxicated, scolding Thomson for jeopardizing her son's job.
Thomson testified that she thought Stieber would change, but now she just wants him to leave her alone. She lamented that she lost more in this relationship than she did in her divorce.
Shawn Paul cross examined Thomson, grilling her on being investigated for violating Aspirus polices by taking home written patient records.
Stieber told a Marathon County detective that Thomsom had left numerous profanity laced voice mails on his phone. The boisterous voice mails were played for the commission with Thomson shouting, "I wil ruin your job!"
The four member commission must decide whether Rob Stieber can keep his job as a Medford Police patrolman. He is on paid administrative leave facing charges of misconduct. Following two days of testimony, the Police and Fire Commission will have a time out next week with their next meeting scheduled for Monday, August 17th at Medford City Hall beginning at 9:00 A.M.
The 2015 Taylor County Fair will be held Thursday, July 23rd through Sunday, July 26th in the Taylor County Fairgrounds on the corners of Highway 13 & 64 in Medford. The K99 Dairy Dessert Contest is Friday afternoon beginning at 1:00 in the multi purpose building. Grandstand entertainment includes K99 Radio & Nicolet National Bank presents Vic Ferrari on Thursday night at 7:00, NTPA Tractor Pulls Friday night at 7:30, Central Truck Pullers Truck Pulls Saturday night at 6:00 and Mini Rod Pulls Sunday afternoon at 3:00. The Market Animal Show & Sale is Friday night at 6:00, Dairy Judging is Saturday morning beginning at 9:00 with the Over the Hill Contest to follow, the Junior Amateur Talent Competition starts Sunday at noon. For more information, visit wi tayor county fair.com…
Members of the Taylor County Finance Committee got a sneak peek at a proposed children’s museum during their meeting on Tuesday, July 14th. Alli Rannum and Lesse Lukewich detailed their plans for the proposed children’s museum. They indicated that the museum would be a place for young families to bring their children and interact with peers utilizing interactive activities including a small bank, grocery store and sensory type activity stations. Outdoor gardens would teach children to care for plants with learning workshops on the environment. Ms. Rannum told the committee that the city pool sold 189 passes last year and their initial goal would be 200 memberships. Through fundraising events they hope to raise enough money to purchase a building in downtown Medford and green space for outdoor activities. The fundraising goal is $200,000.
Rollie Thums indicated he had driven numerous busloads of Rib Lake students to similar museums in Eagle River, Madison and Eau Claire. He said the children had so much fun it was difficult to get them to leave. He commended the group for their enthusiasm and said he supported giving our children an activity where they don’t use their thumbs, but use their brains.
Dave Krug questioned if the facility would amount to a daycare. Alli Rannum replied that parents must sign a form agreeing to not leave their children unattended. Mr. Lukewich indicated that daycare providers would be welcome to bring their youngsters for productive learning activities.
The finance committee voted unanimously to pledge $10,000 to the children’s museum venture with funds coming from power line funding. The measure will now require a 2/3 approval by the Taylor County Board at their August meeting.
Medford Apartment Building Destroyed By Fire 7/4/15
The shortage of rental housing in Medford became more pronounced with a major apartment fire on the 4th of July. Just before 2 o’clock Saturday afternoon, a 911 call reported a structure fire at 810 Malibu Drive on Medford’s northeast side. The Medford police, Taylor County Deputies, and Firefighters from Medford and Stetsonville responded. Emergency personnel were able to confirm that everyone had made it out of the building and were accounted for.
The fire started on the east side of the structure near an air conditioner and quickly burned up 2 stories spreading to the rafters along the roof’s soffit. With the flames burning and contained between the shingles and the ceiling drywall, firefighters had a difficult time containing the blaze. The Medford ladder truck applied thousands of gallons of water with the majority of the roof system eventually collapsing. The nine apartment complex which is owned by Chuck Gelhaus is considered a total loss.
Many agencies responded to the scene. Displaced occupants received assistance from the Taylor County Emergency Management, Taylor County Human Services, and the Red Cross for temporary housing needs. The Taylor County Humane Society assisted families with housing for their family pets. Taylor County EMS assisted with medical issues related to the fire and heat. No major injuries were reported. Krugs’ Bus Service provided transportation for displaced citizens. Happy Joe’s Pizza and private citizens came forward with water and other items for responders.
The building’s owner Chuck Gelhaus told K99 that he was amazed at the professional response on a holiday weekend. He expressed relief that no one was hurt. And although the building’s occupants could recover some personal items on Sunday, many items were lost. Mr. Gelhaus indicated that anyone who wanted to help the fire victims could contact either the Red Cross or Human Services. Prior to construction on a replacement facility the long process of state approved plans must be completed. Mr. Gelhaus said that their goal is to have a new rental housing facility completed prior to winter.
The Medford Area Senior High School was well represented at the 2015 Badger Boys and Girls State Program. Douglas Shumacher of Stetsonville and Jacob Geiger and Ty Wrage of Medford attended Badger Boys State June 13th through the 20th at Ripon College. Esther Lusenge of Medford attended Badger Girls State June 21st through the 26th at the UW-Oshkosh. To be selected, students must rank in the upper third of the junior class and exhibit qualities of leadership, character and an interest in government and leadership. Recently, these students stopped by the K99 Radio studios in Medford and shared their Badger State experience with K99's Patrick Porten.....
Plans are being announced for the 2015 K99 Dairy Dessert Contest at the Taylor County Fair. All dairy desserts must include 2 Real Dairy products to be eligible. This year’s winner of the contest will receive a select Haier 18 cubic foot top mount refrigerator courtesy of K & B Refrigeration. The event will be held in the Taylor County Municipal Building Friday July 24th at 1 PM. This year’s dairy dessert contest is sponsored by Marathon Cheese Corporation, K & B Refrigeration, Taylor County Farm Bureau, and K99 Radio. Entry deadline is Friday July 17th. For complete rules, check our website K99WIGM.com or stop by the K99 studios on highway 13 in Medford.
The Sheldon man who is guilty of killing one man and injuring another man while driving drunk is going to prison.
Judge Ann Knox-Bauer sentenced James Winchel to 16 years of prison time for driving drunk and killing Juan Salinas and injuring his brother in 2013. Prior to his sentencing on Friday in Taylor County Court wearing handcuffs and an orange jump suit Winchel turned and winked at his family members. District Attorney Kristi Tlusty asked the judge to impose the maximum sentence which would have amounted to 30 years imprisonment and 20 years extended supervision. D.A. Tlusty indicated that Wisconsin has a poor reputation for punishing drunk driving. She said that Winchel’s crime is multiplied by his 4 prior O.W.I. convictions.
In court on Friday, Salinas family members wept as the D.A. detailed the crash which severely broke the leg of Fernando Salinas and killed his brother Juan Salinas as they stood alongside a rural roadway in western Taylor County following a day of deer hunting. Juan’s body flew 130 feet after the collision. Ferando’s leg was so badly broken that it took exceptional care by doctors in Wausau to save the leg. Prior to sentencing on Friday, Fernando limped to the witness stand to tell the court how he and his only brother came for a fun weekend and it turned into a nightmare. He told the court he had endured 3 surgeries. He suffers nightmares and wakes up crying after losing his only brother. He also asked the judge to sentence Winchel to the maximum time so he couldn’t cause this to another family.
Juan Fernando’s widow Maria took the stand next. In front of her was a picture of the couple. She began to weep telling the court she lost the love of her life. She said she didn’t get the chance to say goodbye. She continued weeping saying she had no one to cook for, no one to mow lawn, or go camping with. She felt that Winchel showed no remorse and recalled how during the trial he looked behind him to smile at his children. The widow Maria sternly said “you have no idea how that made me feel”. She concluded by thanking D.A. Tlusty, her staff and the court.
Natalie Martinez read a statement from Juan’s son Daniel who characterized his late father as dependable, caring and always ready to help. He indicated his regret of taking his father for granted, thinking he would always be there.
Winchel’s defense attorney Noco asked the court to compare to comparable cases involving repeat drunk drivers killing someone. He said that his research showed that in cases over the past 2 years, prison sentences have ranged from 4 to 14 years. He told the court that he knew what it felt like to lose a family member, but that instead of life in prison, Winchel needed rehabilitation. The attorney told the court that if Winchel messed up after an abbreviated stay in prison, then he’d go back for the rest of his life.
Judge Knox-Bauer sentenced James Winchel to a total of 16 years of prison and an additional 18 years of extended supervision. The judge expressed her concern over Winchel’s 4 prior OWI convictions. It appeared to her that the state’s efforts to rehabilitate Winchel had failed and that it was just a matter of time before he killed someone. She said it’s fair to say that it’s been a living hell for the families of the victims. After Winchel’s prison term, his 18 years of extended supervision will include a 5 year revocation of driving privileges, must submit a DNA sample, must pay restitution, write an apology to the families, and take part in an OWI impact panel. Winchel is to begin his prison term at the Dodge correctional institute. He will be just under 60 years old when he is released.
An arrest has been made in connection with the recent break-in of the Medford V.F.W. Reports indicate that one person is in custody in another jurisdiction following an apprehension at a recent unrelated break-in. While the investigation is underway in several neighboring counties, it is reported that the individual is a prime suspect in break-ins at a number of businesses. The Medford V.F.W. was reported to have been heavily damaged during the overnight break-in and burglary recently. Medford Police are working with law enforcement in neighboring counties in putting the details together. According to Medford police Chief Ken Coyer, details on the break-in are pending with district attorney Kristi Tlusty for charges in the V.F.W. break-in. Details on the suspect who is jailed at this time are forthcoming.
5/24/15 Fire Calls Paired Up
The Medford area fire department was called to a pair of fire calls Saturday, May 23. Just after 8 o’clock Saturday morning a fire alarm sounded at Maple Island at 333 South Wisconsin Avenue in Medford. It was discovered that a gas powered fogger was being used to apply pesticide. The resulting fog triggered the smoke alarm. There was no fire at Maple Island.
Saturday night at 11:35 Medford firefighters were called to a house fire at the Gerald Jani home located at N3308 Spring Drive in the town of Goodrich. Mr. Jani told firefighters that they were sitting by a campfire and noticed flames coming out of the kitchen window. When firefighters arrived the home was fully engulfed in flames. The Athens Fire Department assisted with water supply. Efforts were focused on protecting adjacent structures and cooling a fuel barrel which was near the home. No injuries were reported but the 25 by 40 foot home was a total loss. Medford firefighters were on the scene until 3:15 Sunday morning.
On Sunday, May 17th, 2015, around 7:24 A.M., a Medford Police Officer was dispatched to the report of damaged items in the Medford City Park. A light fixture was discovered broken in the small wooden covered bridge on the west side of the Riverwalk. A plastic memorial was also found broken on the west side of the Riverwalk. One of the city garbage cans was floating in the Black River. Two memorial benches and a large wooden planter were tipped over on the east side of the Riverwalk. If anyone has any information related to this vandalism incident, please call the Medford Police Department at (715) 748-1447. Citizens are also asked to call the Medford Police Department if they see anyone in the Medford City Park after 11:00 P.M. The park closes at 11:00 PM.
A "monster" has shown up on Clint Carbaugh's Facebook page. We've seen these kinds of things on You Tube, Facebook and the like before. They usually turn out to be a hoax, some kind of computer generated picture. But this "River Monster" was found by the Little Black River near Stan Carbaugh's home. Clint recently took some time to "share" his "River Monster" story with K99's Russ Gowey. We hope you "like" it. You'll also find pictures of Carbaugh's River Monster below........
Medford Police are investigating a burglary which occurred Sunday night or early Monday morning. The burglar pried open the back door to the Medford V.F.W. and took undisclosed items. Medford Police are seeking the assistance of anyone who may have seen someone in the area of the V.F.W. between the hours of 9 PM Sunday, May 3rd, and 7 AM Monday, May 4th. If you saw anyone walking or driving near the V.F.W. parking lot overnight Sunday night, please call the Medford Police Department.
Two incidents including a house fire and a deadly motorcycle crash occurred over the weekend in Taylor County.
Friday night, May 1st, just after 5 o’clock the Medford Area Fire Department was called to a mobile home fire at W8283 Center Avenue, northwest of Medford in the town of Hammel. Reports indicate that prior to firefighters arriving, a person entered the burning home and subsequently escaped through a window. The individual was taken for injury treatment. When firefighters arrived the flames were from under the floor up into the ceiling of the kitchen and bathroom. Firefighters were able to extinguish the blaze. One pet dog died in the blaze, but firefighters removed a second dog from the structure which appeared frightened, but alive. The home owned by Jim Haynes sustained an estimated $20,000 damage. Cause of the blaze is undetermined at this time. Medford ambulance and Taylor County officers also responded.
Then, early Sunday, May 3rd, a deadly motorcycle crash was reported at 1:50 A.M. to the Taylor County Sheriff’s office. The initial caller reported that it appeared to him that the motorcycle struck a tree and the male driver of the motorcycle was not responding. Emergency personnel from the Taylor County Sheriff’s Office, Medford Ambulance, MedEvac, and Medford Fire Department responded. The initial investigation indicates that Anthony Ostrowski, a 39 year old Tony, WI resident was travelling north on County Q approaching County M which is a “T” intersection. The motorcycle failed to stop at the stop sign, travelled north across County M into the ditch striking an intersection sign and marker sign, flipped over and came to rest. Ostrowski was the lone passenger on the motorcycle. Speed and alcohol are being considered as potential contributing factors in the crash.
People who were near Medford’s Main Street Wednesday morning, April 29, found out first hand why you call the fire department when there’s a gas leak. PSI drilling from Chippewa Falls was using an auger truck to take soil samples in an alley behind Handel Automotive when their auger ruptured a WE energies natural gas line. The 3 man crew quickly ran from the scene, leaving the drilling engine running. The Medford area fire department responded and neighboring buildings were evacuated. As the wind direction shifted a loud explosion and 30 foot high flame erupted. A pickup truck and the auger truck were involved in the fire. Two adjacent garages were damaged but the efforts of the fire department prevented the fire from spreading. The explosion and ball of flames melted an overhead power line. Power was out temporarily to a large area including the courthouse. Several downtown businesses were without power until the gas line could be repaired. No serious injuries were reported.
The Taylor County Board of Supervisors met Tuesday, April 21st. The board approved the appointment of Jason Julian and James Gebauer to fill 2 county board vacancies. In a presentation of plaques to former supervisors, “Foxy” Dennis Fuchs gave an emotional farewell. Foxy said he had one piece of advice especially for the two new members: “Keep your ears, eyes and mind open, and make your decision that way”. The board gave a standing ovation to Mr. Fuchs. Several retiring county employees were presented plaques. The family of the late Joe Sweda accepted a plaque in observance of his 34 years as a county board member. The long list of committees which Sweda served on included one called the Dance Hall Committee. Marie Albers accepted a plaque of appreciation for the 3 times in recent years that she continued to operate the Veterans Office in the absence of a Veterans Service Officer.
Supervisor Lester Lewis told the board he introduced an ordinance which was designed to spread the power of the county to more people. Currently, he said the county seems to be run by a select group of 4 or 5 people. The ordinance read: “No committee shall be so made up as to constitute a quorum of any other committee except for elected committees.” Lewis said: this works in other counties, it would make for more diversity on the committees. Chuck Zenner objected stating that the county has 5 – 3 member committees, saying he didn’t see how they could implement this. Supervisor Sue Breneman felt there should be some kind of change; indicating there are 4 or 5 people from near Medford who control the committees. Chairman Jim Metz responded there was a time when the board was run by western Taylor County with control by Mr. Sweda and Beadles. Tim Hanson said he took offense to the accusation that he may make decisions which would affect his district. Hanson said he votes for the well being of the county. As the roll call vote made it’s way around the room, with all members voting no except for Bob Lee, the vote got to author Lester Lewis who responded “I’m Present”. County Clerk Strama told the group that the ordinance was defeated by a 15 no vote, 1 yes vote and 1 “I’m present” vote.
Another emotional issue was the purchase of 77 acres of land to add to the county forest. Supervisor Breneman questioned the purchase indicating the Rib Lake school district would be the loser. She asked about the several potential building sites on the shores of Kennedy Lake which is part of the parcel. Chamber director Sue Emmerich felt that the county could gain tourism dollars from use of new cross country ski trails on the property. Dave Lemke said the trails are perfect for not only skiing but also logging. About 44 acres of the parcel are ready to be logged. The parcel has 1600 feet of frontage on Kennedy Lake, ¾ mile of cross country ski trails, and 2 miles of other mowed trails.
Bob Lee said he didn’t think the county needed the new land and that land is for private ownership.
Lester Lewis said maybe the county could sell some of their other land. And as far as development goes, you’re not going to get any development there anytime soon. Lewis continued: Rib Lake isn’t going to grow anytime soon. Supervisor Mildebrand questioned if it was proper to take money out of budgets, and asked if the board could approve the purchase contingent upon the Knowles Stewardship being reinstated into the state budget. Zenner quickly said "No". Former county forester Brad Ruesch gave some background into the land acquisition fund. Originally, counties borrowed money from the state interest free to purchase county forest. The loans were paid back from timber sales. The current half million dollar Taylor County land acquisition fund was built up from timber sales over the past 20 years.
Rollie Thums stood up to express his opposition to the purchase. Thums said that Taylor County has 17,536 acres of county forest, or 489 40 acre blocks. Thums said “we beat the snot our of our department budgets!” He asked who is going to maintain the trails on the parcel. He reminded the board that last year the town of Rib Lake approached the county board to ask that they take over the Harper Lake beach and the board said no, they couldn’t afford to take care of it. Thums continued that the county has some 40’s that no one walks on and he’d be in favor of selling those and use that money for the new purchase. Thums concluded by asking, "who’s making our taxes high? We are!"
Bob Ruesch addressed the board indicating we have a wonderful county forest, but it is lacking in lake access. He said they were not only buying forest land, but guaranteeing access to the other adjacent county forest. While the parcel generates $2,243 in annual property tax, the Rib Lake school budget is in excess of 4 million dollars.
The vote to purchase the 77.2 acres for $199,900 passed by an 11 yes and 6 no votes.
At the close of the meeting Dave Lemke told the group that he is concerned about the federal forest service closing the Kathryn Lake campground. He has been in contact with the Park Falls office and is working to set up a meeting at the Grover Town Hall to address possible opportunities to keep the Kathryn Lake Park open. He said the conservation group has spent a lot of time and money in the park and it would be a shame to have it locked by the federal agency.