RHINELANDER - A staple of Downtown Rhinelander will close its doors for the last time early next year.
John Stoehr has been the go-to guy for custom jewelry since taking over from his dad, who opened the store 40 years ago. He said closing was a tough decision, but the economy made it necessary.
"The gold prices and silver prices are getting higher and higher consistently. I understand when people have a hard time paying their gas bill they're not going to be buying diamonds," says Stoehr.
Stoehr says material price hikes and the changing nature of jewelry buying has been rough on the industry. He says more than a thousand jewelry stores had to close last year.
But he'll never forget being able to help people in the community make memories.
"That was the best part of my job. Somebody would come in and say I want to make my wife a 50th wedding anniversary ring. And I still run into these same people now and the say, 'I still have that beautiful ring'. That's the best part of it: I helped somebody make something that meant something in their life," says Stoehr.
Right now everything in the store is 50 percent off. Stoehr plans to close sometime after Valentine's Day.
RHINELANDER - A Rhinelander employee union believes the city illegally rejected their collective bargaining agreement,now they’re suing the city.
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 1226 represents City of Rhinelander workers from public works, wastewater, parks, water and golf course employees. They filed suit against the city on Dec. 4, 2013.
The union says they reached a tentative agreement for a new collective bargaining agreement in early December 2012. But according court documents, the union claims the city council illegally rejected the agreement and didn’t tell the union about it.
Aaron Halstead, from Madison-based firm Hawks Quindel, S.C., has been a labor lawyer for more than 20 years and says he has never seen a municipality do something like this before.
"I've never had any municipality do what the city did here which is to reject an agreement with the union, despite the fact that they had an agreement on all of the terms," Halstead said.
The union believes the city is violating Wisconsin Municipal Employment Relations Act. In 2012, city workers asked for a one percent wage increase starting January 1,2013.
Halstead said the city and union agreed to that increase in their tentative agreement. According to the group's complaint, the city council rejected the tentative collective bargaining agreement, but passed the one percent wage increase as a resolution.
But the union claims the collective bargaining agreement wasn’t renewed. Instead the group says the city passed a resolution putting the terms into a personnel manual.
Rhinelander city council met Monday night to discuss how to move forward once the city is formally served with lawsuit.
"I think it's unfortunate. We have a good relationship with the union, and a good relationship with the employees," said Blaine Oborn, Rhinelander city administrator. "We have a lot of outstanding employees. So unfortunately, with all this ambiguity [concerning] Acts 10 and 32, I think that this kind of stuff unfortunately [happens]."
The complaint also claims that the city reduced the wages of newly hired people by $4 an hour. They say this violates the terms of the parties' tentative agreement. Halstead says they still haven't received an explanation.
"The city contends that it doesn't have to, but it has never provided a satisfactory answer as to what it is that is objectionable about the agreement that was reached," Halstead said.
Monday nights' meeting was a closed session.
The city will have three weeks to respond to the complaint.
RHINELANDER - “This time of year is just a little different because the pressure is more,” says Anthony Turek, Rhinelander Postmaster. “Christmas is coming we’re a little over 2 weeks away I think right around two weeks and this is it.”
Its crunch time at the Post Office. With Christmas fast approaching it’s important to keep a few things in mind when sending packages this holiday season.
“You’re going to want to take your packages and gently shake them a little, just to make sure that you are comfortable that they’re packaged tightly and securely so that nothing happens to them,” says Turek.
First don’t be a procrastinator! It’s never too early to start sending out your packages.
Also remember to write neatly. Make sure and double check the shipping address and return address is correct.
Lastly you’re going to want to keep a few dates in mind. If you want your mail to be delivered by Christmas Eve you need to send it out by December 20th unless you want to pay more for priority mail.
“So those are just a couple things that people want to do to make it so that the packages that they send here end up where they’re supposed to go on time and safely,” says Turek.
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