Merrill Public Safety Training Center reopens two years after tornadoSubmitted: 04/24/2013

Ben Meyer
Executive Producer

MERRILL - Merrill's April 2011 tornado - ironically enough - flattened a campus that trained emergency workers and law enforcement.

Two years later, the Northcentral Technical College Public Safety Center is rebuilt.

It now offers an even higher level of training - with some of the coolest features around.

The new Public Safety Center will put what it offers against any training center in the state.

On Wednesday, we got our first look at the extensive Emergency Village and learning buildings that make up the NTC Merrill campus.

"I want you to know it's the only one in the entire technical college system. We have a unique opportunity to do some training that no other technical college has the opportunity to do - to put Merrill on the map," NTC President Dr. Lori Weyers told a crowd of over a hundred at the ribbon cutting.

Learners in fire, EMS, and criminal justice can use realistic scenarios to apply their classroom instruction.

But the Center's offerings aren't only targeted at NTC students.

The Merrill area community can take advantage as well.

"We'll be able to offer training for brand-new drivers, like a 16-year-old driver learning to do skid recovery, or for a person with a concealed carry permit, perhaps they want to learn how to use force and make decisions about use of force. In addition to just the public safety community that's out there, we'll offer a lot of classes that the general public will be able to enjoy," says NTC Dean of Public Safety Bryce Kolpack.

The Center plans to have almost 11,000 people use its services for learning every year.

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PARK FALLS - Many people in the Northwoods go to church on Sunday mornings, and for some of them it may be begrudgingly.

But there are plenty of people, often elderly or sick, who want to go to church but have a hard time doing so.

Peace Lutheran Church in Park Falls wanted to change that. Since May, they've been undergoing some construction. On Sunday, the church had a dedication ceremony for a special new addition—an elevator.

Now people like 100-year-old Ruth Olson can worship with greater ease.

Before the elevator, Olson said she would get to church by literally pulling herself up the stairs using the railing.

Olson's story is like many. As the older population grows, church buildings don't evolve with them. The buildings are often old and sometimes lack accomodating features for the elderly or disabled, and takes money to update the buildings.

"We have churches where the people are getting older and it's very hard for people to get around," said Rev. Dwayne Lueck, the district president for the North Wisconsin District Lutheran Church- Missouri Synod.

Some parishoners couldn't do what Ruth used to do, and so they would have to worship at a service held across the street in the day care center, instead of in the beautiful church.

"Now all the services can be over here," said Rev. Dale Heinlein, the pastor of Peace Lutheran.

The congregation at Peace Lutheran believed in an elevator, so they paid for it.

"We been talking and planning this for...a long time," said Dick Ross, president of the congregation. "Pretty hard for some of the people, and I think you saw them, pretty hard for some of the people to worship here, so it was time."

"You can see it in their eyes more than anything when they know they have access and when they come up here and just enter the building and no steps, it's a great thing," said Buzz Peters, a parishoner who helped design the new elevator and space.

"We can finally have access for everybody to get into the worship facility, free access, that's what this is all about," Heinlein said. 

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MADISON - Two Republican legislators have created a bill that would shift federal road dollars from local projects to major state projects. Opponents say the bill is a backdoor attempt to make sure federal prevailing wage requirements don't apply to local projects.

The bill sponsored by Sen. Duey Stroebel and Rep. Rob Brooks would transfer $47 million in federal funding from local projects to state projects and move $47 million in state dollars from state projects to local ones.

Stroebel says the swap would save money by removing local projects from burdensome federal regulations.

He has been a vocal advocate for doing away with prevailing wage statutes, which require minimum salaries for workers on government-funded construction projects.

Spokeswomen for GOP legislative leaders didn't respond to inquiries about the bill's chances.

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The Wisconsin State Journal reports (http://bit.ly/1Ple8j5 ) it obtained the data from the Department of Human Services under the state open records law.

The rule took effect in April for participants in the state's food stamp program, FoodShare. It requires able-bodied adults without children living at home to work at least 80 hours a month or look for work to stay in the program.

The DHS data show about 25 percent of the 60,000 recipients eligible to work were dropped from the program between July and September. But about 4,500 found work through a new job training program for FoodShare recipients.

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