News

Wed
01
Jan

Longtime Falls banker makes transition to town government


Times Herald Photo by Joan Koehne

Nikki Tolzman, who begins her term as the Little Suamico clerk/treasurer this month, stands at the counter at the Little Suamico Town Hall, ready to greet town residents.

An Oconto Falls woman with more than 20 years of banking experience has been hired as the Little Suamico clerk/treasurer.

Nikki Tolzman, 42, was selected to replace Eileen Bardouche, treasurer for 33 years, and Sandy Pagel, clerk for 39 years, who both retired at the end of 2013. The Town Board voted to combine the positions and approved the employment of Tolzman in November.

Although she officially begins work Jan. 1, she met with Bardouche and Pagel before year’s end to learn more about her new position.

“They are super ladies. There’s some big shoes to fill,” Tolzman said. “They know their jobs in and out are are very supportive.”

A graduate of Oconto Falls High School, Tolzman began her banking career in 1992 as a teller at bank in Gillett. Over the next two decades, she worked at banks in Oconto Falls, Gillett and Green Bay. She has experience with mortgage lending, bookkeeping, teller supervision and compliance.

Wed
01
Jan

Middle school students click with one-to-one technology

Schools across Wisconsin are launching one-to-one technology programs that put an iPad, laptop or other device in the hands of every student.

In the Oconto Falls School District, seventh-grade students at Washington Middle School were the first to be issued laptops that are incorporated into daily lessons.

“It’s a great supplemental tool to help out the textbooks,” Principal Lou Hobyan said. “Kids can research the most current data for projects.”

The school purchased 140 Lenovo laptops for 123 students at a cost of $825 each. Parents pay $60 a year to cover warranty costs. The total cost for the project, including the carrying cases, was $119,000.

Students received their laptops and carrying cases at the start of the school year and are responsible for keeping track of their new learning tool.

Wed
01
Jan

Canning company announces job cuts

Allen’s Inc., a vegetable processor, will permanently lay off seven employees at its Oconto Falls warehouse by Feb. 15, the Wisconsin Division of Workforce Development recently announced.

The Siloam Springs, Ark.-based firm will also lay off 100 employees at its Pulaski plant.

Allen’s cans vegetables under the Freshlike, Veg-All, Trappey’s, Allen’s and Popeye Spinach brands.

The company announced it will not transfer or reassign the laid off employees.

The Oconto Falls employees include the manager of the warehouse at 160 Hank Marks Drive, three supervisors and two machine operators, according to Allen’s Dec. 17 letter to the DWD.

Allen’s is undergoing reorganization under a Chapter 11 bankruptcy it filed in October and is looking to sell much of the 87-year-old firm. It initially listed assets between $100 million and $500 million and estimated debts of $279.9 million, according to the publication Arkansas Business.

Wed
01
Jan

Pawn shop opens on Main St.


Times Herald Photo by Joan Koehne

Michele Campbell and her son, Rick Ruesch, operate The Pawn Shop on Main Street in Oconto Falls. Merchandise in the store has been transferred from a shop owned by Jim Campbell, Michele’s husband, in Eau Claire. Jim Campbell will close his Eau Claire pawn shop and begin accepting items in Oconto Falls in January.

A new business on Main Street in Oconto Falls offers a little bit of everything.

The Pawn Shop has been doing steady business since opening Nov. 25. The business is an offshoot of American Cash and Loan, a pawn shop owned by Jim Campbell in Eau Claire. About 60 percent of the inventory from that store has been moved to the Oconto Falls location, run by Jim’s wife, Michele, and her son, Rick Ruesch, store manager.

After the closure of American Cash and Loan at the end of 2013, Jim will relocate to Oconto Falls and begin accepting items from local residents. Michele Campbell said he will take in “anything of value, because it seems there’s a market for everything.”

The family looked at spots in Green Bay before choosing to open shop in the former movie rental store and arcade building in Oconto Falls. Campbell, chief financial officer at Community Memorial Hospital, said the family wanted to help revive the downtown area by opening a store.

Wed
01
Jan

OJ’s Midtown reopening in January pushed back


The front steps of OJ’s Midtown restaurant show Christmas spirit but no entrance for the public. After a fire in October caused extensive damage, OJ’s was scheduled to reopen Jan. 6 but equipment issues have forced a delay.

Ever since Joan and Owen Farrell started dating in high school, Joan knew of Owen’s dream to own a restaurant. After they married, they realized that it was too costly to purchase something in their home area of Milwaukee, so when a family member saw a listing for a Gillett restaurant, they decided to buy.

With some fast food experience and a dream, they moved to Gillett and opened OJ’s Midtown in 1977.

But the dream turned into a nightmare on Sunday morning, Oct. 6, when Joan noticed smoke coming up the side of her upstairs kitchen window. When she went downstairs to investigate, she found fire creeping up to the ceiling from the grill and microwave area in the restaurant kitchen.

Within minutes, the sprinkler system kicked in, and the family was scrambling upstairs figuring out what to take as their renovated apartment filled with smoke.

“I was afraid it would burn down or be completely damaged,” Joan said.

Wed
01
Jan

Oconto County Circuit Court

Proceedings from Dec. 20

A $10,000 cash bond for Richard K. Garrigan II, 21, Oconto Falls, has been revoked. He is accused of being a repeater of delivering a controlled substance on May 2, 2012, in Oconto, and armed robbery on June 21, 2011, in Oconto. A status conference is scheduled for Feb. 11.

Sentencing will take place Feb. 11 for Heith M. Warner, 42, Oconto Falls. He pleaded no contest to a charge of manufacturing with intent to deliver a controlled substance on April 18 in Oconto Falls. His $10,000 signature bond continues.

Desirae L. LaFortune, 33, Hobart, made an initial appearance on a charge of interfering with custody of her two children on Dec. 1 in Oconto Falls. Her appearance is continued to Jan. 16, and a $2,500 signature bond was furnished.

Wed
01
Jan

Oconto County Sheriff’s Department

At 4:44 p.m. Dec. 20, an Oconto Falls man was traveling north on a John Deere skid steer on County Road C in the town of Morgan. At the same time he observed an Oconto County Highway Department truck plowing snow approaching from behind, also driven by an Oconto Falls man. The driver of the farm equipment turned left into a driveway, and the truck driver was unable to avoid a collision. There were no injuries.

At 2:08 p.m. Dec. 20, an Oconto man was driving his car south on U.S. 41 at Galuska Road, town of Abrams. His vehicle skidded on the snow-covered roadway and struck a road sign, then came to rest on Galuska Road. There was moderate damage reported to his automobile.

At 4:04 a.m. Dec. 22, a man from Lena was driving his pickup truck south on Tower Dam Road in the town of Stiles, lost control and entered a ditch, striking a tree. The pickup truck sustained severe damage, but the driver was not injured.

Wed
25
Dec

Falls city employees receive 2% pay raises

City employees were granted 2 percent pay raises for 2014 by the Oconto Falls City Council on Dec. 10.

The group includes eight full-time workers: Vicki Roberts, city administrator; Nancy Brye, deputy clerk; Eve Wallace, deputy treasurer; Kathy Sutrick, receptionist; Terry Magnin, street superintendent; Gerry Lemirande, street mechanic/foreman; Dave VanArk, street laborer; and Brad Magnin, street laborer.

Seven part-time employees also received 2 percent raises: Bobbie Krozell, building inspector; Larry Jeske, city attorney; Jim Patenaude, municipal judge; Annette Hoefferle, court clerk; Kay Oninski, park and recreation supervisor; Roy Kooren, recycling center attendant; and Mark Krumrei, recycling center attendant.

All union contracts expire in 2013, so all employees are exempt from bargaining contracts, with the exception of the Police Department employees.

Wed
25
Dec

Death of inmate raises questions

The death of a rural Lena man is raising questions as to whether Oconto County Jail inmates are receiving adequate medical care.

Jeffrey “Jeff” Furst, 44, died Dec. 14 at a Green Bay hospital.

According to Jail Administrator Carol Kopp, an ambulance was called at approximately 7 p.m. Dec. 13 for Furst, who was transferred to Bellin Health Oconto Hospital, then placed on a medical flight to Bellin Hospital in Green Bay. He was pronounced dead at 4:06 a.m. Dec. 14.

Medical Examiner Al Klimek said he could not release the cause of death due to privacy regulations. However, he said, the death was the result of a medical condition.

“It was a result of a natural disease process,” he said.

Furst’s wife, Lena, told the Times Herald the family is considering legal action.

Wed
25
Dec

Gillett school tax hike catches resident by surprise

When Morgan resident Nichole Holzem opened her property tax bill earlier this month, the result was shocking. She remembers “practically choking” when she saw the school tax for the Gillett School District.

“Our taxes have gone down year after year,” she said. But not this time.

Her overall tax bill increased 33 percent from 2013, “which was just insane to us,” she said. The school tax was up a whopping 29 percent.

“This isn’t something we could have budgeted for,” she said.

Holzem and her husband own a home and 20 acres of farmland that they lease to neighbors. They’ve lived at the residence for seven years and have one school-aged child. Because of their work responsibilities, they applied for open enrollment for their child, who attends a school district other than Gillett.

According to Holzem, the jump in taxes made the family consider selling their home.

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