Wabeno chief keeps streets safe Submitted: 07/05/2013
Story By Shardaa Gray

Photos By Shardaa Gray

WABENO - Tighter budgets challenge families, schools; even police departments.

Wabeno has taken a unique approach to that issue.

Its police department has only one full-time employee: Chief Mick Ashbeck.

"I always had a desire and passion to be law enforcement when I was younger," said Ashbeck.

"I graduated from Wabeno high school here in 1985. Not quite sure yet what I wanted to do at that time."

Instead of following his dream, Mick Ashbeck did what many young men do: he followed the money.

"I was able to get a part-time job in the welding field and I pretty much stuck with it for about 22 years," Ashbeck said.

"And made very good money in the welding field."

But that wasn't his true passion.

So four years ago, Ashbeck went after his childhood dream.

He became Wabeno's police chief in 2009 and Townsend in 2010.

"I started out part time for Forest County Sheriff's Department and part time here in Wabeno, about the same time, early 2008." Ashbeck said.

As a kid, Ashbeck probably pictured himself as just one member of a big force.

But here in Wabeno, he's the only full-time employee.

"It might be a one man department here, but this is not a one man show out here," said Ashbeck.

"It's the collaborative effort of all our officers out here that make this happen."

To Ashbeck and his team, that means keeping the streets of Wabeno drug-free.

That's tough with a small force, so four years ago, they brought on Dutch.

"It only took about four months to raise over $10,000. And that gave us enough money at that time to go out and purchase a K-9." Ashbeck said.

That kind of extra effort recently earned Ashbeck an award.

He was recognized in the Heritage Who's Who Book. Still, Ashbeck credits his team.

"It's a collaborative effort from everybody. Was I there in the mixed of things, yes ok, but it was a collaborative effort from everybody." said Ashbeck.

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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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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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Kyle Lynch, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources warden for Juneau County, says he was called to the scene to assist in a boat search about 1:30 a.m. He also says the Mauston Fire Department recovered the body, which was found in the water.

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