Sparsity Aid Expansion Would Benefit Northwoods Schools Published on 02/12/2020 under News A number of Northwoods schools would benefit from changes to the state's sparsity aid formula in Gov. Evers' education spending proposal.

Back on Monday, the Tomahawk School Board discussed how this plan would benefit the Tomahawk School District.

Evers' proposal would add an additional Sparsity Aid category for larger schools in rural areas as defined by fewer than 10 students per square mile. The current formula caps district enrollment at 745 students, leaving many districts including Tomahawk too big for sparsity aid.

Yesterday the legislative fiscal bureau released additional estimates from the proposal. With that revamped formula, Merrill would become eligible to receive sparsity aid. Based on current enrollments they would receive $260,000. Also eligible under the proposal, Rhinelander at $247,000 and Northland Pines at $127,000. As we told you yesterday, Tomahawk would receive an additional $118,000 with the change.

The sparsity aid change is part of a larger school spending proposal, coupled with additional tax cuts, introduced by Gov. Evers. The funds come from a projected revenue surplus.

Leaders of the Republican-controlled legislature have indicated they are working on their own plan with the surplus.

In Other News

Timber Sales on Lincoln County Forest Lands Continue to Pay Off
Published on 02/21/2020 under News Lincoln County residents continue to benefit from the county's forest lands, not only recreationally, but also financially. At their meeting Tuesday, the Lincoln County Board approved the 2019 Annual Forestry report as prepared by forestry administrator Kevin Kleinschmidt. According to that report, the county operates just over 100,000 acres of forest land. The timber sales from those lands generated nearly $2.5 million last year. Twenty percent of those funds, approximately $509,000 goes back into the county's general funds, while 10% or $255,000 is distributed to townships with county forest lands. The remaining dollars are put into the County Forestry Fund, with surplus transferred into the county's capital improvements budget. Kleinschmidt notes in the report that this is the second highest year of revenue from the timber sale program. In addition to the financial benefits, the report also covered the trail improvements, animal and land surveys, recreational opportunities, and tree plantings undertaken this past year. By approving the report, it will be entered into the 15 year comprehensive land use plan. It will also be posted to the public.
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Family Safe After Merrill Fire Thursday Morning
Published on 02/21/2020 under News The Merrill Fire Department was able to limit damage to a single level of the home following a Thursday morning fire. Crews were called to a house on West Main Street at shortly after 3:00am. Firefighters were able to contain the fire to the second level of the home where the fire originated. They initially attacked the blaze from outside before finishing indoors. All three occupants of the home, and their pets, were able to safely evacuate. The fire department credited their having working smoking detectors in the home. Based on the initial investigation, they believe the fire was the result of an electrical issue. (Photo contributed from Merrill Fire Department)
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Flu Leads to Cancelled Classes in Elcho
Published on 02/21/2020 under News High numbers of students with the flu resulted in the closure of school in Elcho today. The Elcho School district announced that while their absence rate has not reached the threshold to require a closure, they called off classes as a preventative measure. They are hopeful that the three-day weekend will help prevent further spread of illness. The district says the Langlade County Health Department has supported the decision. All extra curricular activities in Elcho this weekend were also canceled.
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DNR Encourages Participation in Deer Management Assistance Program
Published on 02/21/2020 under News The DNR is encouraging landowners, hunters and land managers to enroll in their Deer Management Assistance Program or DMAP. The goal is to create a healthier habitat for deer and all wildlife. The program provides participants with habitat and management information, communication with DNR staff, annual reports and publications, volunteer opportunities and DMAP workshops. The DNR says that more than 1,000 property owners are currently part of the program. Enrollment is always open, but properties of 160 acres or more are encouraged to enroll prior to March 1, to receive priority access to program benefits, including a site visit and walk-through in 2019 with a professional wildlife biologist and forester. You can learn more by entering the keyword dmap on the DNR website.
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Felzkowski Authored Bills Advanced from Assembly
Published on 02/21/2020 under News Among a flurry of bills passed by the State Assembly during their final floor session, were several co-authored by Rep. Mary Felzkowski. Felzkowski praised the passage yesterday. The first is aimed at increasing school funding transparency. The Department of Public Instruction would created an easily accessible online portal that would allow people to look up what funding the school receives and where the money is spent. Felzkowski says, "My bill will allow for everyone to be more informed and work together to make sure these funds are serving our students in the best possible way." The other legislation more clearly defines the role of holistic or complementary health care practitioners such as homeopaths, herbalists and nutritional consultants. "This bill gives practitioners clear parameters for what they can and cannot do to continue operating, both protecting consumers and giving them the right to make their own health care choices." With passage in the assembly, both bills will head to the Senate. Earlier this week, the assembly passed another resolution co-sponsored by Felzkowski proclaiming May 2020 as Paper and Forestry Products Month in Wisconsin. Felzkowski says,  "These industries provide over 100,000 men and women with family-supporting jobs and bring in billions of dollars to our state. Our state has led the nation in paper manufacturing for more than 50 years, and I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues in the Paper Caucus to advocate and prioritize this Wisconsin tradition."
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Tomahawk Police Report
Published on 02/21/2020 under News A patrolling officer performed a traffic stop after observing a vehicle operating without plates. The 22 year old driver did not have a valid license and was cited for operating after revocation. A search turned up marijuana, and the man was arrested for possession of THC and drug paraphernalia. Officers received an apprehension request and were able to locate the 33 year old Tomahawk man. The warrant was confirmed, and the man taken into custody without incident. Officers conducted a traffic stop Tuesday evening. Following a standard field sobriety test, the driver, a 49 year old Brantwood man, was taken in for operating while intoxicated. The report indicates children were in the vehicle. They were picked up by a responsible party.
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Additional Information on Fatal Tuesday Crash Involving Plow Truck
Published on 02/20/2020 under News Officials have now identified the victim in a fatal crash in Lincoln County involving a plow truck earlier this week. That accident happened Tuesday morning at just before noon on Highway 51 in Irma. According to the Wisconsin State Patrol, a pick up truck rear-ended the plow which was removing snow from the shoulder of the highway. A passenger in the truck died from injuries sustained in the crash. He has been identified as 67 year old Thomas Thompson. The driver of the truck suffered non-life threatening injuries. The plow operator suffered minor injuries and was treated on the scene. According to the initial investigation, neither of the men in the pick-up truck was wearing a seatbelt. The report also says that alcohol is not a factor. The crash remains under investigation.
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Merrill Fire Dept. Talks Safety After Recent Tragic Fires
Published on 02/20/2020 under News As the Merrill Fire Department wraps up their investigation of several unrelated fires in recent months, they are hoping public education helps prevent another tragedy. Two people died and a number of victims suffered burns from those three fires at homes on Schulz Spur Drive on December 22nd; River Street on January 27th, and Riverside Avenue on February 7th. Fire Chief Josh Klug explained the process they use to determine the cause of fire. That includes witness interviews and a physical examination of the scene. The utilize those clues to eliminate possible causes. He says sometimes the exact cause is never known, and that is the case in each of these fires. According to the announcement, each has been categorized as "accidental with an undetermined cause." They emphasized that despite the unknown cause, there is nothing suspicious, illegal, or intentional. In that same announcement, the Department also provided a few general safety tips. They noted that none of the tips offered were directly related to the recent Merrill fires. First and foremost, make sure you have working smoke detectors on every level of your home. Ensure you have two escape routes out of a bedroom. Along those same lines close your door when sleeping to give yourself some additional escape time and to limit smoke inhalation during an overnight fire.
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Sierra Pacific Announces Purchase of Semco Facility, Equipment
Published on 02/20/2020 under News The closing of Semco in Merrill last month came as a surprise, but the building likely won't sit empty. Sierra Pacific announced that they have reached an agreement to purchase the Semco facility and equipment to allow for expanded production capacity of their wood and vinyl product lines. They currently have manufacturing locations in Medford and Merrill. They noted the 275,000 square foot facility will provide an additional 25% of floor space beyond their existing 1.1 million square foot locations. President Tom Takach said via news release, "While the closure of Semco is very unfortunate, we are grateful for the opportunity to expand and stay ahead of the incredible growth of the Sierra Pacific Windows brand and all our product lines." He also reflected on Semco. He said,"While Sierra Pacific Windows will not be manufacturing Semco's products, we are grateful to the Semling family, and will continue to honor their legacy of being a quality window manufacturer, solid employer, and members of the community in Merrill." Semco unexpectedly closed their doors on December 31. The family-owned window manufacturer had employed as many as 300 people.
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Marshfield Clinic, Ascension Complete Sale of St. Clare's; Flambeau Hospitals
Published on 02/20/2020 under News Two Northwoods healthcare providers have finalized an agreement for Marshfield Clinic to purchase Ascension two area hospitals. The two providers made that announcement via a joint news release yesterday. It says Marshfield Clinic will acquire St. Clare's Hospital in Weston, as well as the Diagnostic and Treatment Center. They'll also fully acquire the Flambeau Hospital in Park Falls. Since 1994, the two providers previously operated that facility jointly. This plan was first announced in October. It was finalized in recent days. Marshfield Clinic CEO , Dr. Susan Turney said, "By combining our exceptional group of providers with our own hospitals, health plan and research institute, we are able to provide truly comprehensive and cutting-edge care to our patients. By completing this transaction, a previously announced plan for a new Marshfield Clinic hospital in the Wausau area was abandoned.
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