Rhinelander's Mayor cautiously optimistic mill buyer will keep plant open
Story By Lane Kimble
RHINELANDER - We need to wait awhile to figure out how the sale of Wausau Paper's Rhinelander and Mosinee mills will really effect the communities.
But Friday night, we did find a sense of cautious optimism coming from city leadership.
Rhinelander Mayor Dick Johns worked at the paper mill from 1955 to 1994. He's seen plenty of changes at the plant over the years, including three separate sales.
That past experience keeps him hopeful for the future.
"Confident's not a good word, but I'm hoping that it will be," Johns said. "That's important to all of us. You know, we have PrintPack down on the other side of town, that's an improvement to our community and we're proud of that and we're proud of that paper company."
KPS Capital Partners in New York invested $130 million to buy the two Wisconsin mills.
They're offering Wausau Paper 25 percent ownership in the new paper company they plan to form. Wausau Paper claims the investment group has "significant experience" in the paper business.
Mayor Johns hopes KPS understands Rhinelander needs to keep its mill.
"Any industry in this day and age is important to the community, especially when it's over 100 years old, you've had it here and it's been a part of your community for those many years," Johns said.
The sale isn't official just yet. There are seveal steps to go through, including establishing a new collective bargaining agreement with the unions.
Wausau Paper hopes to wrap things up by the end of the second quarter this year.
KPS invested in Waupaca Foundry, Inc., based in Waupaca, Wisconsin. Just last month, Waupaca Foundry dolled out a $200 million return to investers.
VILAS COUNTY - Many snowmobile trails in Eagle River still need more grooming after all three trail groomers went out of service. The trails didn't get groomed for four days last week because all three of the Sno-Eagles Snowmobile Club's trail groomers need repairs.
The club hasn't had all of their groomers working for a couple of weeks. Sno-Eagles President Ken Storms said the trails took a big hit last week when all three went down. The club says it has made a concerted effort to catch up with trail grooming, and get the trails smoothed out.
VILAS COUNTY - Vilas County finally got what it wanted. For fifteen years, the county had needed someone to act as a full-time Recreational Officer--someone to monitor public safety on the snowmobile and ATV trails as well as the lakes and rivers. Now, Vilas County Deputy Sheriff Randy Schneider will fill that role.
PHILLIPS - The Price County Sheriff's Office wants to find out what it needs to do to get a K-9 officer. Sheriff Brian Schmidt believes a new dog would improve the office's ability to find drugs.
The county doesn't have its own K-9 officer. However, they do turn to other departments for help.
"What we would utilize is surrounding counties, and it is at their discretion," Schmidt said. "Like Rhinelander, we utilize their dog on occasion, maybe once or twice a year. But again, it is their dog, so they have their needs come first. So if we have our own equipment, our needs are met with our equipment."
WISCONSIN - The Wisconsin Council on Problem Gambling received a record number of phone calls to the helpline in 2014â€"14,731 to be exact. This is a 5.6 percent increase from calls received in 2013.
Some of the callers reported having to file for bankruptcy or having thoughts of suicide. The report from the Council also calculated $47,000 as the average gambling debt of callers in 2014, and $20,000 as the median debt.
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