PICKEREL - Sending mail will soon be more difficult if you live in a rural area.
Post offices are cutting hours - and sometimes closing.
But in Pickerel, the U.S. Postal Service has a creative solution.
Lotter's BP gas station is the home of one of the first five Village Post Offices in the state.
"You can get different basic postal services at one of these locations, that, at times, might be more conducive or convenient for our customers," says USPS Spokesman Sean Hargadon.
Pickerel's post office is about to scale back to four hours a day.
But the Village Post Office at the gas station is open at least 12 hours daily.
It provides basic services like buying stamps, buying and sending flat-rate boxes, and a collection box.
"Most of the people like the convenience of just being able to come to one stop. They don't have to make another stop down at the post office. We have a collection box outside. They have the ability to drop off their mail for pickup by 10:30 in the morning here, or they still have a collection box down at the post office three doors down that has a collection period at the end of the day," says station owner Kay Lotter.
The USPS plans to expand the Village Post Office program.
Right now, Auburndale is the only other community in our area with a location.
RHINELANDER - Many veterans are not eligible for full dental coverage.
But a new VA healthcare program is changing that.
Veterans who don’t have dental insurance can now join a new program that will give them coverage.
The VA partnered with insurance companies MetLife and Delta Dental.
Brad Nelson is the public information officer for the VA in Iron Mountain.
"About 90 percent of our veterans who are enrolled in VA healthcare, are not eligible for VA dental care directly, like we mentioned," said Nelson. "So that's why this insurance program would be a very good option for them if they don't already have dental insurance."
The new program allow veterans can work directly with the two insurance companies for the best coverage plans.
The closest full-care VA hospital is in Iron Mountain.
The program will cut down on travel time for veterans by helping them find a dentist who will accept their new insurance plan closer to home.
"Taking control of your healthcare is actually one of the messages that the VA wants to come across to our veterans, including dental care," said Nelson. "Again, we want recognize at the VA that oral health can impact a person's overall health."
The program will get vets a reduced monthly cost for the insurance.
Coverage goes into effect January 1st.
For additional information, visit the VA Healthcare website.
RHINELANDER - When you’re celebrating the holidays that often means drinking.
Because of that, there are more alcohol-related accidents and deaths this time of year.
But the Oneida County Sheriff’s office wants to prevent as many as accidents as it can.
The Booze and Belts campaign runs through December 21. The campaign is part of the OWI enforcement grant the sheriff's office received in October.
Throughout the campaign, you’ll see three extra squads on patrol looking out for drunk drivers and people who are not wearing their seat belts.
Lloyd Gauthier, Oneida County Patrol lieutenant, says it's all about making the right choices after you've been drinking.
"We really want people to come and enjoy the holiday season, it's Christmas time here in the Northwoods. Whether it's a family coming to one of the resorts that we have here in the area, or just enjoying the different things that we offer," said Gauthier." "We just want people to make good decisions. And you realize that if you don't make good decision, that can affect other people."
Booze and Belts is a statewide program.
It puts more officers on the streets before the holidays.
The Department of Transportation reports that's when the most accidents happen. Lieutenant Gauthier says your choices can have a range of impact.
Gauthier thinks that's because of early celebrations like office Christmas parties and private gatherings.
"Whether it's a traffic crash where you end up killing someone because you're intoxicated, or you seriously injure somebody else, a family member, or yourself," said Gauthier. "Also driving too fast, with the winter conditions roads can change rapidly."
The Sheriff's department says more officers patrolling for OWI's will keep everyone safe.
The Department of Transportation reports most accidents happen between 7pm and 3am.
Vilas county is also participating in the Booze and Belts campaign.
ACROSS WISCONSIN - Gov. Scott Walker has signed a bill that would increase requirements for high school math and science classes students would have to take for graduation.
The bill raises the math and science requirement for graduation from two to three credits each. A computer science class could count as a math credit and an agricultural sciences course could count as a science credit.
The measure also gives schools flexibility to award math and science credits to students in career and technical education programs.
The proposal comes as the state's school districts are implementing more rigorous academic requirements. It would also bring Wisconsin more in line with neighboring states.
RHINELANDER - Logging means more to people in the Northwoods.
The industry helped many people form the towns we know today.
That's why the Rhinelander Chamber of Commerce is planning an event to honor the logging history.
The first annual Boom Lake Log Jam will be this summer.
The chamber hopes it can use the jam as an exciting way to honor Rhinelander's logging history.
Lara Reed, the executive director of the Chamber, is excited about the upcoming jam.
"We just have a very rich logging history. Even looking at the Hodag, he is our town mascot and he comes from the tradition of logging," said Reed. "Gene Shepard was a logger, and the name Hodag comes from the name that they was used for one of their pieces of logging equipment. It really is just the history, culture and heritage of our community."
The Boom Lake Log Jam will also bring local restaurants and businesses together.
"We'll also do some different activities during the day, one of the big things we're working on right now is our Boom Lake Burger Battle contest. We're going to have all the area restaurants. If you think you've got the best burger, we're going to have information to get that burger in our competition," said Reed.
Local logging businesses and paper mills will also be involved in the event.
Some of those business will bring machines that simulate logging and tree cutting.
The event is set for Saturday June 21, in Hodag Park.
RHINELANDER - Most people can now successfully get through the online healthcare website. The Obama administration announced today about 365,000 people have successfully signed up.
That's well behind what the administration had hoped for at this point. Some people are still having trouble because the website isn't completely fixed. But the federal marketplace is paying some people to help.
Aylee Herr is a certified application counselor. He helps people navigate the healthcare.gov website. Today he was helping people sign up in Rhinelander.
In two months three workers in his office have only signed up 30 people in Northcentral Wisconsin.
"The number is actually going up and we are enrolling more people not just them but through our educational processes people are able to do this on their own, that's actually helping these numbers go up and the website is actually working a lot better now," says Aylee Herr, a Certified Application Counselor.
The website was designed to be at a sixth grade level. Before logging onto the site, it’s important to understand your family arrangement and household income.
“Once you get that number worked out the second step we want you to do is figure out what hospitals and doctors you prefer," says Herr. "Once you have those two in a way figured out its very easy for you to navigate the website."
The Obama administration and counselors like Herr will continue their enrollment push through the New Year. People enrolling by December 23rd can get coverage by the first of the year.
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