Rib Lake Fireworks Incident 7/11/18
We have some details of the incident Tuesday night, July 3rd, during a fireworks celebration over Rib Lake. According to Rib Lake Fire Chief Russ Bullis, a fireworks mortar shell exploded prematurely shortly after leaving the mortar tube and severely burned Tim Olson, one of the certified pyrotechnics launching the fireworks off an island in Rib Lake.
Tim was severely burned on his arms and legs and a little less on his face and ear. He was rushed by boat from the island to a waiting ambulance and taken to the UW Burn Center in Madison. Skins grafts were performed on Tuesday.
Members of the team shooting off the fireworks are all trained and take many hours of classes before being allowed to be a pyrotechnic. It was NOT a Rib Lake Fire Department event, however, some Rib Lake Firemen are some of those who are professionally trained.
A benefit for Tim Olson is being arranged.
Medford Stabber Charged With 3 Felonies 6/13/18
Taylor County District Attorney Kristi Tlusty has charged 25 year old Derek Novak with 3 felony charges following a stabbing incident on Medford’s west side on May 10th.
Derek Novak was charged with attempted 1st degree reckless homicide, aggravated battery-intend bodily harm, and 1st degree recklessly endangering safety, all felonies, and a 4th charge of use of a dangerous weapon, a misdemeanor. The charges stem from an altercation in which Novak allegedly stabbed Stormy Webber on County Highway Q.
Derek Novak’s next court appearance will be his initial appearance June 19th at 1 PM. In the meantime, Novak is being held in the Taylor County Jail on $200,000 cash bond.
New Owner Of Former Medford K-Mart Building? 6/5/18
Many area residents are wondering what’s going to happen to the former Medford K-Mart building. While that answer is still unclear, there has been some movement on the ownership of the Medford Plaza.
The Medford Planning Commission met Monday night. The primary purpose of the meeting was to approve a certified survey map of the Medford Plaza and a resulting proposed land division. Chip Courtney, General Manager of the Medford Cooperative told the group that there are negotiations which could result in there being new owners of the former K-mart building by investors from Texas, and the possible subsequent sale of the current County Market building parcel. Mr. Courtney indicated that the Medford Cooperative is in negotiations to purchase the building which houses County Market, Black River Spirits and the former Maurice’s parcel along with a portion of the adjacent parking area. The Planning Commission approved the survey map.
Bob Christenson brought up concerns regarding zoning requirements. Chip Courtney reviewed a Reciprocal Easement Agreement which addresses and assures a mutual share of ingress, egress and parking for both property owners which the Planning Commission approved.
Medford Firefighters Deal With 2 Barn Fires Amid Intense Heat 5/30/18
One of the most intense workouts for a rural firefighter is dealing with a barn fire. With temperatures near 90 degrees and intense humidity, Medford firefighters have dealt with their second barn fire in two days.
Monday night, May 28, they were called to the Matt Bunkelman barn fire on Settlement Drive in the Town of Chelsesa. Efforts from that fire were completed about 4 AM Tuesday.
Then, just before noon on Tuesday, May 29, Medford firefighters were called to the Rich Wirz home at 267 Allman Street for an electrical fire. Several walls and ceilings were breached to get at the hotspots in the electrical system. Preliminary estimates of damage to the Rich Wirz home were placed at $40,000. Efforts at the electrical fire were completed at about 3:30 PM Tuesday.
Less than 3 hours later at 6:19 PM Medford’s fire department was called to another barn fire, this one was at N3721 Castle Drive just west of Medford. The barn is owned by Bruce Poehler. When firefighters arrived the barn was fully engulfed in flames. The Stetsonville Fire Department assisted with water tanker trucks and manpower. The Bruce Poehler 36 by 80 foot barn was totally destroyed. Cause of the fire was possibly power tools in the hay mow.
Memorial Day Fire Destroys Barn 5/28/18
Following a weekend with record breaking hot temperatures as the Memorial Day sun began to drop in the sky, the sounds of fire truck sirens could be heard in the Medford area. Just before 7 o’clock Monday night, milking chores were underway on the Matt Bunkelman farm north of Medford located at N5653 Settlement Drive in the town of Chelsea. As they were milking the strong smell of smoke filled the barn. Running out of the barn flames were visible in the hay mow. The Medford fire department was the first of the area fire departments on the scene and the barn was nearly fully burning when they arrived. Several of the remaining cows were run out of the burning structure.
While the cause of the barn fire is undetermined it was noted that several lights in the hay mow had been knocked out the previous evening during storms with heavy lightning. An end loader was brought in to assist in structure and hay removal. The Matt Bunkelman barn was a T-shaped structure measuring about 100 by 190 feet. Preliminary damage estimates were at least $500,000. Medford firefighters were on the scene until just before 4 o’clock Tuesday morning.
Medford Vandalism 5/23/18
Medford area residents were upset this week by a string of vandalism which occurred at the Veteran's Memorial Flag Field and the Frances L. Simek Memorial Library in Medford. The damage occurred between 9:30 P.M. on Friday, May 18th and 9:00 A.M. on Saturday, May 19th. Windows were broken at the Frances L. Simek Memorial Library. Several lights were broken at the Veteran's Memorial Flag Field. Graffiti was located on several pieces of playground equipment in the Medford City Park. Items were thrown into the Mill Pond and memorial benches were over turned as well. A small trailer was stolen from the Water's Edge BP gas station parking lot.
Medford Police Chief Brian Carey has informed K99 Radio that 2 male juveniles are being referred to officials for appropriate charges in the vandalism incidents.
The small trailer with a Framer's Market sign is still missing. Anyone with information on the whereabouts of the trailer is asked to contact Medford Police.
Stetsonville Water Rate Proposal Makes Waves 5/22/18
The residents of Stetsonville will be taking part in a financial “catch up” with their water rates slated to increase over 50%. A public hearing on the rate increase was held Tuesday, May 22nd, involving Michael Newmark, an official of the Public Service Commission and nearly 20 Stetsonville residents. Village Clerk Shawn Sullivan told the group that the 7 year old water system has a debt of $2.19 million and has major concerns trying to make debt payments of $84,000 per year with revenues of just $150,000. Since going online, the total water usage was considerably lower than originally projected. At the hearing it was noted that the village has experienced just one increase in rates of 3% over the past 7 years. Some neighboring communities have experienced increases of 3% annually, and one had an increase of 134%. It was noted that the total cost of the Stetsonville water system was high is due to the fact that it was so new and not 80 years old.
The hearing was conducted via a speaker phone. Resident Josh Brandner told the PSC that it isn’t fair to get slammed with an increase of 56% raising his bill from $60 to $100 per month. He expressed his concern for retired individuals living on fixed incomes. He questioned how the initial usage rate was calculated.
Trina Duellman testified that with the projected average monthly increase that no one’s going to want to live here. She called the 56% rate hike “crazy”.
Donna Dowden asked the PSC official to answer the questions which had been posted on the website by 12 residents. She was told by the PSC, that’s not how we do it. Ms. Dowden indicated that 7 years ago the village needed a water system because about half of the resident’s wells were contaminated with gas in the water. She said that while she agreed on the need for a new system, she didn’t sign up for a 50% increase 7 years later.
Larry Kloth testified that he is a former public works director and that if he had proposed a 56% rate increase they would have replaced him. He asked for incremental increases and wondered why his water bill would be higher than the bill at his Arizona winter home.
Shawn Sullivan told the group that the village had requested a 4% rate of return but was told that the states “floor” is a 4.9% return.
Alan Whetstone testified that he may have the biggest family in town and indicated his concern with paying a monthly water bill in the $230 range.
Nicole Buechel questioned the lack of public notice and said she feared that the magnitude of the rate increase will deter people from wanting to live here.
Stetsonville’s water system has 234 users. The extent of the rate increase is in the hands of the Public Service Commission. Once they make a determination the village will have 90 days to implement the updated rate structure. Several of the residents expressed concerns about the fact that the entire rate structure decision was in the hands of Madison bureaucrats.
The next meeting of the Stetsonville Village Board is set for June 11th at 5:30 in the library.
Pretrial Set For Jake Wendt 5/15/18
The Medford man who held police at bay with a loaded handgun in January was in court on Tuesday May 15th. 31 year old Jake Wendt was in court with his attorney Wright Laufenberg. According to court documents, Wendt fired eight shots from a pistol into the ceiling and walls in a home on Allman Street and held police at bay for five hours before surrendering peacefully as the result of phone negotiations with officers.
As a result of the incident Jake Wendt faces 8 felony charges and a host of misdemeanor charges. Wendt’s attorney told Judge Ann Knox Bauer that his client wished to waive his right to a preliminary hearing and proceed to trial. Wendt entered a plea of not guilty to all charges.
District Attorney Kristi Tlusty requested June 6th as the date for a Pre-trial hearing. Jake Wendt is being held in the Taylor County Jail on $30,000 cash bond.
Bond Set For Alleged Medford Stabber 5/11/18
On May 10, 2018 at 4:40 p.m. the Taylor County Sheriff’s Office received multiple 911 calls reporting a fight and stabbing in progress on County Highway Q south of State Highway 64 in the town of Medford. Taylor County Sheriff’s deputies and Medford ambulance service were dispatched. A 24 year old male, Stormy R. Webber of Medford and 25 year old Derek J. Novak of Phillips were both transported from the scene to Aspirus Hospital of Medford with injuries.
The investigation into the incident indicates the two men confronted each other on the side of the road over relationship and child care issues. The confrontation turned physical and Derek Novak produced a military style knife, Webber was unarmed. During the fight Webber was stabbed several times resulting in serious injury that required he be air lifted from Medford for medical treatment. Novak also received medical treatment for his injuries and was released from Aspirus Medford and is currently being held at the Taylor County jail.
Investigation into the stabbing is ongoing.
The 25 year old man who is the alleged knife wielding stabber involved in a Thursday night, May 10th fight on Medford’s west side was in court Friday (this morning), May 11th. Derek Novak was led into the Taylor County courtroom wearing the jail issued orange jump suit as he appeared for a bond hearing. Court Commissioner William Grunewald presided over the hearing. Novak was represented by Hannah Hittle from the state public defenders’ office.
District Attorney Kristi Tlusty told the court that Derek Novak is facing some serious charges including possibly attempted murder. D.A. Tlusty illustrated her further concerns as she told the court that Novak was charged in a violent incident on April 9th in Price County when he was alleged to have assaulted his wife. Novak was out on bond with one of the conditions of bond that he not be involved in any criminal behavior when the alleged stabbing occurred.
Stressing the need for protecting the public, D.A. Kristi Tlusty requested a cash bond of $200,000.
Public Defender Hittle requested a cash bond of $1,000 as she stated that Novak needed the ability to continue working and support two 3 year olds and a stay at home wife.
District Attorney Tlusty told the court commissioner that the public needs to be protected and that Novak’s alleged April 9th assault of his wife occurred in the presence of the children.
Commissioner Grunewald indicated that Derek Novak is facing an alleged serious offense. He said that the need to protect the public outweighs the need to support a family. Bond for Novak was set at $200,000 cash with conditions that Novak have no contact with Stormy Webber or Joanna Backstrom.
District Attorney Kristi Tlusty said that the initial appearance for Derek Novak is set for June 19th in Taylor County Court. Charges relating to the Thursday night stabbing incident are pending.
Mountain Biking In Taylor County 5/7/18
The Taylor County Rail Trail is undergoing a face lift. Last summer, a number of trees which were encroaching on the trail were logged off. A fundraising effort was undertaken to supplement grant funds for resurfacing a portion of the trail. Taylor County Forester Jake Walsisak has indicated that there should be enough funding to resurface the entire 16.4 miles of trail in Taylor County and also perform the necessary repairs to the bridges on the trail. The Price County Forestry Department recently talked about logging along the 9.2 miles of trail in Price County. Reports indicate that an adjacent landowner objected to the logging and the committee dropped the discussion. Looking ahead at future maintenance of the Pine Line Trail it was noted that the Pine Line Commission which is made up of representatives from Price and Taylor County actually owns and manages the entire stretch of the trail in both counties cooperatively.
You don’t need mountains to enjoy the thrills of mountain biking. At a recent meeting of the Taylor County Forestry Committee, Scott Broman spoke on behalf of establishing a local group which could begin the process of establishing mountain bike trails in Taylor County. Mr. Broman told the group that grant funds of up to $5,000 are available from the International Mountain Bike Association to aid in researching and establishing a designated mountain bike trail system within the county. He indicated that a minimal amount of work is required to establish terrain which would be suitable for mountain biking enthusiasts. The committee encouraged Scott Broman to continue his efforts of organizing a group to pursue the possibility of an organized mountain bike trail system in Taylor County.
It’s almost time to think about next winter. Maintaining snowmobile trails takes time, effort and money. One section of snowmobile trail in Medford is lacking the support of money and may face closure. Forester Jake Walsisak has indicated that the trail between Allman Street and Broadway includes a bridge that is in need of maintenance but currently this portion of trail is lacking any type of funding. The grooming association stops grooming at Allman. Without proper funding and the required bridge maintenance the portion of snowmobile trail between Allman Street and Broadway in Medford may be closed next winter.