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Merrill looks to identify mission, major issues, future plans in first-ever strategic planSubmitted: 04/22/2014

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MERRILL - What does a city see as its mission?

How does it address its biggest issues?

Where does it hope to go in the next few decades?

Leaders in Merrill want to answer those questions with their first-ever strategic plan.

Strategic plans are designed to give organizations, or, in this case, the City of Merrill, long-term, big-idea direction that helps leaders make day-by-day decisions.

Merrill is working on their first strategic plan with the help of the UW-Extension.

"Success would look like three or four very important strategic issues that the city government feels its going to face in the next several years and creating an action plan to address those issues," says Art Lersch of the Lincoln County UW-Extension, who is helping form the plan.

One of those issues might include increasing the city's tax base.

The strategic plan should be finished this summer.

When it is, Merrill will be one of the few small communities in Wisconsin with a strategic plan.

Story By: Ben Meyer

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 LOCAL NEWS
Raising awareness about alcohol useSubmitted: 04/22/2014

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NORTHWOODS - People in Wisconsin love their beer, but alcohol is a big problem in the Northwoods. Experts want people to remember that alcohol is a drug and should never be abused.

Alcohol is a depressant and slows down the central nervous system. Experts feel drinking here in the Northwoods has become too normalized.

“When you talk to people even from the Northwoods community alcohol goes hand in hand with family gatherings , graduation, prom, hunting, snowmobiling, recreational activities,” says Katie Kennedy, Options Counseling Service Clinician. “It's kind of created this normalized look at alcohol that it's okay to do that in these environments or in these situations when it actually really increases risks.”

It's not just adults that have alcohol problems. Kids under 21 are finding unique ways to abuse the drug. Some have even resorted to snorting alcohol as a means to get drunk faster.

“What happens anytime you ingest a substance as far as snorting like right into your nose it goes into your mucus membrane,” says Kennedy. “So instead of drinking alcohol whereas it's processed through your system it's a process, the alcohol goes immediately into your body into your blood stream it affects you a lot quicker.”

In 2012 Wisconsin was the number one state for binge drinking. That's according to the Center for Disease Control. April is alcohol awareness month.

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Northwoods man initially charged with homicide, takes plea deal Submitted: 04/22/2014

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LAC DU FLAMBEAU - A Lac Du Flambeau man will take a plea deal before letting his case go to a jury.

31-year-old James Peterson was originally charged with first degree intentional homicide.

Witnesses told police he showed up to a party in 2013 with a knife and drunkenly started a fight, but other witnesses say Peterson was attacked.

Online records show Peterson accepted a plea deal in Vilas County court Monday.

He pleaded no contest to two lesser charges including hurting someone by carelessly using a weapon. He was also found guilty of a second OWI.

Peterson will face sentencing in August.

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2 fined for mistreating dairy cowsSubmitted: 04/22/2014

GREEN BAY - Two people convicted of mistreating cows at a Brown County dairy farm have been fined hundreds of dollars.

Lucia Martinez pleaded no contest Tuesday to two counts of mistreating animals, and Abelardo Jaimes pleaded no contest to one count. As part of a plea deal the charge was downgraded from a misdemeanor to a forfeiture.

Prosecutor David Lasee says with fines and court costs, Martinez will owe about $1,100, while Jaimes will have to pay $600 to $700.

Martinez, Jaimes and two others were charged after Mercy for Animals, an animal-rights group, secretly recorded workers beating injured cows.

Jaimes' attorney, Luca Lopes Fagundes, says workers were told they needed to make sure sick cows didn't remain down because they could die.

A message left with Martinez's attorney wasn't immediately returned.

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UPDATE: 28-year-old man gunman in custody after hostage standoff with policeSubmitted: 04/22/2014

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WITTENBERG - A 28-year-old Gillett man is in custody after a standoff with police in Shawano County, according to the Shawano County Sheriff's Department.

Police say they received calls and reports of a gunman inside the Village of Wittenberg McDonalds / Shell station around 2 p.m. Tuesday. According to a police report, the gunman was not demanding money.

The gunman let all of the workers at the station out of the building and kept a lone worker behind as a hostage. He released that person just after 3:00 p.m.

Shawano County Sheriff's Department and Marathon County Sheriff's Office deputies set up a perimeter and closed a portion of State Highway 45 during the incident.

A hostage negotiator persuaded the gunman to surrender just after 4:00 p.m. The man was taken into police custody.

Leaders at the Wittenberg-Birnamwood School District locked down at least one of the district's schools Tuesday for about 45 minutes in response to the police situation near the school.

Students were released later once the area was safe.

We will report more information as it becomes available.

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Wisconsin DNR to hand out turkey certificatesSubmitted: 04/22/2014

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MADISON - Wisconsin wildlife officials say they're going to hand out personalized certificates to successful first-time turkey hunters this year.

The Department of Natural Resources says hunters can fill out information about when and where they killed the bird as well as information on its weight and spur length on the agency's website. Hunters also can submit a photo of themselves with their turkeys.

The agency will send the certificates out electronically within a few weeks of receiving the information.

The certificate program will run during both the spring and fall hunts.

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Oneida County Sheriff announces bid for general electionSubmitted: 04/22/2014

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RHINELANDER - Sheriff Grady Hartman wants to keep his job for another four years.

The Oneida County Sheriff announced Monday he will run in the general election.

Governor Scott Walker appointed Hartman to the position in January 2013 when former Sheriff Jeff Hoffman retired.

Hartman has served in the Oneida County Sheriff's office for 15 years.

He was promoted to Sergeant in 2006.

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Rhinelander receives award to upgrade sewersSubmitted: 04/22/2014

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RHINELANDER - Leaders in a Northwoods community want to make sure that their untreated waste water doesn't get into lakes and rivers.

That's why they applied for an award that will help them upgrade the sewers.

The city of Rhinelander won the award today.

The city got $3,754,000 in grants and loans from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to improve its downtown sewers.

Leaders say a flood with the current system could hurt local waterways.

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