Local public radio managers aim to 'protect' stations as Trump proposes federal cutsSubmitted: 03/30/2017
WAUSAU, RHINELANDER - Every year, the federal government puts almost a half-billion dollars into public radio and television.

But in his preliminary budget proposal earlier this month, President Trump pushed for cutting all of that funding.

That could hit public radio in our area hard. Wisconsin Public Radio statewide and WXPR in Rhinelander rely on thousands of federal dollars to operate.

Wisconsin Public Radio is celebrating its centennial this year, and its Central Regional office in Wausau is celebrating five years in a new building on the UW-Marathon County campus.

Rick Reyer is the regional manager.

"What I really am passionate about is telling stories," Reyer said. "That essentially is what we do. We've done that for a hundred years in this state."

While Wisconsin Public Radio is telling stories, it's also facing challenges. About ten percent of its revenue comes from the federally-funded Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), which President Trump wants to gut.

"I'm not sure if it surprises me," Reyer said. "But I like the fact that people are talking about the value and the necessity that public broadcasting has."

In Rhinelander, independent community public radio station WXPR faces similar challenges. About 20 percent of Station Manager Pete Rondello's budget is federal money through the CPB.

"We will protect the station," Rondello said. "We believe that the station is a local voice that's worth protecting for the community."

Like many stations, WXPR uses federal money to pay organizations like National Public Radio for the right to broadcast its programs.

"All of those shows cost us money, thousands of dollars in the aggregate, so a lot of our funds go in that direction," Rondello said.

WXPR is urging listeners to sign an online petition called Protect My Public Media.

If it works, and federal money is preserved, WXPR and Wisconsin Public Radio will keep up their work. If it doesn't, major changes could be on the way.

"Certainly we're going to have to look at expense control even harder than we do now. I think we'd be able to weather that type of scenario where the CPB would go away," Rondello said. "We're talking about that. How do we begin to dialogue about running WXPR without that funding?"

"Will we be here?" Reyer asked rhetorically. "Yes, but it would be significantly a different Wisconsin Public Radio."

Story By: Ben Meyer

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RHINELANDER - In a vacant building on 14 acres of property in Rhinelander, Dwight Webb sees potential.

"This area has a lot to offer," Webb said.

Webb grew up in Rhinelander, so he knows all about its tight-knight community, solid schools, and easy access to nature. But what Rhinelander lacks, an old building could fill.

"Not only student housing, it's almost a community building," Webb said.

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ONEIDA COUNTY COURT - A Rhinelander man who apparently tried to shoot and kill a man at an apartment complex could head to trial.

Steven Fletcher, 46, appeared in Oneida County Court on Thursday for a preliminary hearing.

Prosecutors believe Fletcher broke into an apartment south of Rhinelander about three weeks ago and shot
at another man.

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EAGLE RIVER - After eight years of planning and budgeting, a groundbreaking ceremony finally took place at the Walter E. Olsen Memorial Library in Eagle River.

The 37-year-old building is getting a face lift with the $2.8 million renovation and expansion project.

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ONEIDA COUNTY - Sixty-five species of native mammals call Wisconsin home. The DNR wants help collecting data about all of them.

"Snapshot Wisconsin" is a statewide wildlife monitoring program. It relies on volunteers to host trail cameras throughout the year.

"We ask a volunteer to set the camera out for us and go out and check it periodically, change the camera chip, change the batteries. Then they upload the photos to a central site," said DNR wildlife biologist Jeremy Holtz.

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What We're Working OnSubmitted: 03/30/2017

- Tonight on Newswatch 12:

Every year, the federal government puts almost a half-billion dollars into public radio and television. But in his preliminary budget proposal earlier this month, President Trump pushed for cutting all of that funding. Tonight we talk to managers of public radio stations in Wausau and Rhinelander about how those cuts would affect their stations.

We'll tell you about a plan that would turn a former Rhinelander nursing home building into student housing.

And we talk to the Phelps Chamber of Commerce Director about new classes that will be a part of this Saturday's Maple Syrup Fest.

We'll bring you the details on these stories and more tonight on Newswatch 12 - news from where you live.

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CRANDON - A woman charged with helping sneak prescription pills into the Forest County Jail will need several thousand dollars to get out of jail.

52-year-old Patricia Kirker had her initial appearance in Crandon on Thursday.  Police say she supplied 20 pills for an inmate on work release to sell in the jail.

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SCHOFIELD - A cloud of grief hung over part of Marathon County Wednesday. Underneath, were thousands of people who waited to pay their final respects to a man who died serving his dream job.

There were plenty of tears, emotions, and Green Bay Packers jerseys as services were held for 40-year-old Everest Metro Detective Jason Weiland, who was shot and killed last week.

A 21-gun salute represented a fallen man who leaves behind a family in every sense of the word. 

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