News

Wed
08
Mar

Check’s not in the mail

The city of Gillett qualifies for reimbursement of some of the costs associated with cleaning up the Nicolet Trail Campground, but it might be a while before the check arrives.

Alderperson Nanette Mohr reported to the City Council on Thursday that the city’s claim for $4,420 had been accepted, but because of an increase in claims under the Petroleum Environmental Cleanup Fund Award program and budget shortfalls, some reimbursements are being delayed.

Mohr read three communications from the state Department of Natural Resources that essentially said the money will be released on a first-come, first-served basis.

“Hopefully we’ll find out that we’re first-come,” she said.

The city purchased the campground property at Washington and Richmond streets in 2012 and converted it into a recreational site for campers in spring and summer.

Wed
08
Mar

School district loses building supervisor

The Oconto Falls School District’s supervisor of buildings, grounds and maintenance has stepped down after 18 years with the school district.

Kevin Judy, who was earning more than $60,000 a year in his job, submitted a resignation that was approved Jan. 29 during an unusual Sunday school board meeting.

Records show school board members met behind closed doors for 30 minutes to discuss the situation before voting to accept Judy’s resignation.

One week later, however, Judy submitted a request to retire from the district and to receive retirement benefits that would have been unavailable with a resignation.

The board voted Feb. 13 to accept the retirement and make it effective retroactive to Jan. 27.

Judy gave no explanation in his letter for why he was leaving the school district, and he could not be reached for comment.

Wed
08
Mar

Superintendent hopes voters will protect schools

Editor’s Note: Oconto Falls School Superintendent Dean Hess has released the following statement to the community regarding the school district’s $11.5 million referendum on the ballot April 4:

Dear community members:

As last week’s column noted, on April 4, the Oconto Falls School Board will ask district voters to consider a referendum question. If passed, the referendum would allow the district to exceed its revenue limit by a total of $11.5 million over five years to stabilize the district’s finances and protect its educational offerings. The measures that the referendum authorizes would replace expiring measures that voters passed in 2014.

Since my last column, a number of community members have asked me to explain why the district needs these measures now. To answer this question, some background is necessary.

Wed
08
Mar

New hotel effort ready for next step


Times Herald Photo By Scott Williams

A for-sale sign is posted on the vacant lot being promoted for a new hotel development, adjacent to the Bellin Health clinic on the right, at 107 E. Highland Drive, Oconto Falls.

Efforts to lure a new hotel to Oconto County are turning toward financing options for a development that could result in a 50-room lodging facility to accommodate tourists and other visitors.

Oconto County Economic Development Corp. is spearheading the three-year-old push to entice a hotel developer to build on a site in Oconto Falls.

The county currently has only two lodging properties equipped with about 60 rooms combined, which has proven to be inadequate at times to serve crowds drawn to such local attractions as snowmobiling, boating and fishing.

With a consultant study citing enough tourism to warrant building another 50 hotel rooms, the economic development group is teaming with the city of Oconto Falls and the Oconto Falls Area Chamber of Commerce to attract a hotel builder to the area.

Wed
08
Mar

A family legacy of service


Contributed Photo

Ernest “Porky” Magnin, who joined the Oconto Falls Fire Department around the time he opened Magain Hardware in 1938, set an example for son Chub Magnin, grandsons Tim and Bart Magnin, and great-grandson Cole Magnin, who all followed in his footsteps.

At least one person named Magnin has been on the roster of the Oconto Falls Fire Department for close to 80 years, a legacy of service that is now in its fourth generation.

Ernest “Porky” Magnin (1893-1981), who joined the department around the time he opened Magnin Hardware of Oconto Falls in 1938, paved the way, and Porky’s son Chub (Orrie) Magnin (1924-2010) followed in his father’s footsteps. He worked at Magnin Hardware and served 33 years as a member of OFFD from 1947 to 1980. Chub served as captain and received the Firefighter of the Year Award in 1975.

Brothers Tim and Bart Magnin, sons of Chub and Marie Magnin, are the family’s third generation of OFFD members. The brothers have early memories helping their father wash firetrucks.

Tim joined the OFFD in 1985 and worked his way through the ranks as firefighter, training officer and captain. He was named chief in 1991. He also is director of Oconto County Emergency Management.

Wed
08
Mar

County board salaries could be realigned


Times Herald File Photo

Oconto County Board Chairman Lee Rymer, center, shown facing other supervisors at a recent board meeting, denies that he makes committee assignments to help anyone earn bigger paychecks.

The senior member of the Oconto County Board wants to reform the system for compensating board members because he believes some people are holding elected office only for the paychecks.

Supervisor Gerald Beekman is proposing that the county pay board members yearly salaries and reduce the amount that they receive for each board meeting and committee meeting they attend.

Beekman, who has served 40 years on the board, said some supervisors collect more than $5,000 a year by serving on multiple committees as appointed by Chairman Lee Rymer.

Rymer plays “favorites” and hands out multiple committee assignments to supervisors who are trying to pad their county paychecks, Beekman said.

“It boils right down to money,” he said. “It’s created a system of the favorites and the non-favorites. It’s a bad system.”

Wed
01
Mar

DNR ranger station making progress


Times Herald Photo by Scott Williams

The ranger station at 195 E. Highland Drive was built in the 1970s, and officials say it does not not even have enough room left for a warden supervisor to set up a desk.

Conservation could have a new home soon in Oconto County.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has purchased real estate in Oconto Falls and is moving forward with plans for a new ranger station where an expanded staff would oversee forestry operations throughout the region.

After years of discussion, officials hope to start construction this summer at 300 Hank Marks Drive on a facility that could cost nearly $2 million and would more than double the DNR’s footprint locally.

The state agency works with local fire departments and forestry departments to provide fire protection, wildlife management and other conservation services in Oconto County’s numerous wooded expanses, as well as those in surrounding areas.

Ryan Severson, the DNR’s area forestry supervisor, said the new ranger station, as proposed, would be more than twice the size of an existing DNR facility in Oconto Falls, and would house additional forestry and conservation staff.

Wed
01
Mar

A toast to Oconto’s lost brewery


Contributed Photo

A horse-drawn wagon carries costumed characters hoisting beer steins to promote Oconto Brewing Co., a local brewery that began in the 1850s and operated for a century under various owners.

It was the beer that made Oconto famous for about 100 years.

The Oconto Brewery, which operated on Superior Avenue from the 1850s to the 1960s, churned out so much cold and refreshing brew that Oconto, at times, was shipping beer south to folks in Milwaukee.

In Oconto, the locals would trek across town and quench their thirsts after work. Those fortunate enough to have jobs inside the Oconto Brewing Co. could similarly enjoy a few cold ones using personalized copper mugs engraved with their names.

Thomas Bourassa, 85, remembers the brewery as a bustling place where he often stopped to watch Oconto Beer roll off the assembly lines. Although the operation ceased in the mid-1960s, many people around town have fond memories of the brewery, Bourassa said.

“There’s still quite a lot of us who remember,” he said. “It’s Oconto history — it was a good history.”

Wed
01
Mar

State to detour Highway 22 shoppers


Times Herald Photo By Scott Williams

Jack Pardy, center, line superintendent for Oconto Electric Cooperative, examines state Highway 22 construction plans Monday with Barb Hardy, right, project leader for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.

Business owners along state Highway 22 in Oconto County are bracing for the impact of a road construction project that some fear will leave them cut off from customers this spring and summer.

State highway officials plan to detour motorists away from Highway 22 while crews rebuild and upgrade a four-mile stretch between Oconto Falls and U.S. 141.

State officials are offering assurances that they will maintain local access on the road — for residents and business owners — and that they will try to minimize disruption during a construction period that could continue until September.

Some local merchants, however, are concerned that customers will see the detour signs and just keep on going.

“It just kind of scares me,” said Stephanie Wirhanowicz, owner of the Steel Moose Bar & Grill, who joined others Monday at a public meeting to discuss the highway project at Oconto Falls City Hall.

Wed
01
Mar

Race set for Suring village president

Newcomer Dan Newell will challenge Suring Village President Jay Tousey in the April 4 general election to determine who leads the village for the next two years.

Voters in the Feb. 21 primary selected Tousey and Newell to advance to the general election, leaving Jeff Whiting, a former village president, out of the running.

According to unofficial results, Tousey finished with 61 votes in the primary, followed by Newell with 33 votes and Whiting with 12 votes.

Tousey, who as been village president for 25 years, won his current term two years ago by defeating Whiting, 108-52.

Newell, a Suring resident for six years, is a political newcomer who emphasizes his business experience and his desire to improve education for local children.

The winner of the April 4 election will get a two-year term presiding over the village’s $600,000-a-year budget and the Village Board’s monthly meetings.

The Oconto County village has about 500 residents.

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