- An hour-long bus tour sold Wisconsin DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp on Merrill on Friday.
"Can I just say how impressed I am with all of the things going in on little old Merrill?" she said.
Specifically, it's the redevelopment of formerly abandoned manufacturing sites which had her excited.
"It is such a rewarding part of our agency," Stepp said. "It's really more of the glitter and rainbows when it comes to the feel-good stuff."
For example, the Hurd Windows and Doors company moved out of their factory on Merrill's west side decades ago. The move left behind environmental hazards.
"We're dealing with a dip tank and pentachlorophenol, which is difficult to treat," said John Robinson, the Northern Region Supervisor of the DNR's Remediation and Redevelopment Program.
Grant money from the DNR helped clean the site.
"It's a property in transition from unused to used and from unclean to clean," said Merrill City Administrator Dave Johnson.
Right now, the property is being partially used by an alfalfa drying company. Huge mounds of alfalfa sit under massive white tarps.
Merrill hopes that with one more remediation step, a manufacturer can find success on the grounds.
"Success means having the jobs, putting it back into productive use, and addressing the pathways to make sure nobody is exposed," Robinson said.
The final remediation step includes dealing with contaminated soil on the property.
Part of Merrill's new Riverbend Trail runs adjacent to the old Hurd property, helping show that parts of cities once considered dead and dangerous can rise again.
"Seeing these properties come to life again, it's really the rebirth of a community," Stepp said.
Written By: Ben Meyer