RHINELANDER - We found out yesterday a Wausau Paper mill in Brainerd, Minnesota will close. That's bringing the impending sale of the Rhinelander plant back to the forefront of many minds here in the Northwoods.
Many people aren't sure whether to be relieved or worried, so we spoke with a representative from the company today.
Wausau Paper expects the Brainerd mill to close by April. The company will try to sell the mill. But it will close first, and the town will lose about 130 jobs.
Director of Investor Relations Perry Grueber says the factors that led to the decision to close that mill are specific to Brainerd. He says there are specific differences between that mill, and the two Wisconsin mills up for sale.
"Both the Rhinelander and Mosinee mills are substantially larger operations with substantially larger workforces. They have far more diversified product offerings and have been very well established in the technical specialty market for many years. They are performing significantly better at the present time than Brainerd was," says Perry Grueber.
Brainerd's customers will still need to get their orders from somewhere. Grueber expects production for those products to move to Rhinelander or Mosinee. That should make those mills more appealing to buyers.
Rhinelander Mayor Dick Johns hasn't heard of any serious interest yet.
But he and a group of other community leaders wrote a letter in a show of support for the city, and one of its biggest employers. They also asked Wausau Paper to keep the lines of communication open so the city and its people aren't kept in the dark.
"We just have to be patient and see where it goes. And I know it's hard for a lot of people in the community. There are families out there that want to know, 'Can I buy this? Can I do this? Can I do that?' But I'll tell you, with a positive attitude I think we can all come through it very well," says Mayor Johns.
He told us when news of the sale first broke, the City of Rhinelander would do whatever it could to help find a buyer, and keep the mill open.
TOMAHAWK - Tomahawk High School sporting events got an attendance boost this winter. At the same time, local charities benefited from the community's generosity.
The school's Varsity Club sponsored six nights of special events, one for each winter sport. The Varsity Club gave out T-shirts printed with team rosters. Meanwhile, fans brought donations for local charities.
"Each kid would walk in and they'd put on their T-shirt," said Varsity Club member Jackie Elliott. "When we got our student section going, they were all together, and you just had this block of white. It was awesome."
RHINELANDER - People lived through detours, dust, and demolition throughout most of 2016 in downtown Rhinelander. Residents won't see that kind of work in 2017, but the city is planning more closures and road work to finish up the Streetscape Project.
Crews will start with the Davenport Street Bridge shutting down for a month in starting April 17. Public Works Director Tim Kingman says some sections of concrete, sidewalk, and asphalt pavement shifted, settled and cracked over the winter.
WAUSAU - A contractor fell from a ladder and died at the construction site of the new Hilton Garden Inn in Wausau last week. Now, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating the death.
Marathon County Sheriff's Captain Dale Wisnewski said Shane J. Cash, 45, of Wisconsin Rapids was drilling holes in the ceiling on Thursday when he fell from his ladder and died on scene.
RHINELANDER - Cracked concrete, twisted rebar, and overgrown trees and bushes don't paint the most ideal picture for a park. But a Rhinelander alderman sees the perfect chance for a peaceful place to enjoy nature.
Alderman Alex Young hopes to turn an old snow dumping dock site into a "pocket park." The site sits where Norway Street runs into the Wisconsin River behind Ripco Credit Union and the DNR Service Center building.
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