ONEIDA COUNTY - The Oneida County Public Health Department worked hard over the past year. They wanted to improve their standing against other counties in Wisconsin. Counties across the state were ranked on the annual University of Wisconsin Population Health rankings.
The rankings help counties understand how healthy residents are and how long they will live. Oneida County ranked 50th of out 72 counties this year. Last year they were ranked 57.
"We have coalitions that work really hard on areas such as alcohol abuse drug abuse," says Linda Conlon, Oneida County Public Health Director. "We have a coalition that works on chronic disease prevention so we're out there getting the message out."
Despite the jump in the rankings there's also room for improvements.
"Some of the areas that we are not succeeding in is adult smoking, we're above the state rate for the percentage of adults that smoke," says Conlon. "We've also seen an increase in adult obesity and we have seen an increase in unemployment and children in living in poverty."
Other counties in the Northwoods struggled. Langlade County was 52nd. Vilas County was 54th. Lincoln County was 58th, and Forest County was 68th.
WOODRUFF - You don't see very good odds of catching someone who poached a deer unless someone saw or heard it happen. Luckily for law enforcement, that's what happened in Woodruff and Minocqua last week.
People living near Theis Road off Highway J and near Gopher Lane along Highway 70 heard gunshots late Wednesday night, September 21. Minocqua police found two 16-year-old boys who shot and killed two bucks.
DNR Warden Supervisor Dave Walz says the teens were shooting within 100 yards of homes.
"There's a serious safety aspect when these people are out shooting deer at night, they may not know what's in the background," Walz said. "Even if they do know what's in the background, it's still not a safe situation."
ST. GERMAIN - 300 Vilas County sixth-graders joined together against drugs and alcohol in St. Germain Thursday. The kids got to hang out with peers they will be going to high school with in a couple of years.
Though it all looked like fun and games, each exercise opened the floor to more serious topics like cyber-bullying, drug use, and underage drinking.
"There are little things that we are planting seeds and as those seeds are planted, later on others can help it grow as well," said UW Extension Youth Agent Nancy Ann Miller.
Throughout the day, the middle schoolers rotated through hands-on positive activities. Kids were even able to talk to Nicolet College about future career plans.
At one station, the leaders showed off Native American traditions with drumming and dancing to get the middle schoolers to open up.
"They just have a riot. You ask them what's the best thing and they say everything!" said Miller.
This is the twelfth year the positivity conference joined at St. Germain Park.
Conference coordinators say the end goal is to leave the kids with a lifelong memory of the Northwoods.
ONEIDA COUNTY - No matter the weather, a glass of wine can be enjoyed year round. Even in the bitter cold, there are wineries in Oneida County that still offer tastings and wine tours.
"When people think of a winery, they do think of grape wines. They're kind of surprised, pleasantly surprised when they come to our winery and see fruit wines," said Terri Schenck from Three Lakes Winery.
The Oneida County wineries are a little bit different than what you'd see in Napa Valley.
"It is a farm so we are working on different crops, black currants, apples and an experimental vineyard," said Linda Welbes from Brigadoon Winery in Tripoli.
With the unique flavors of wines, Three Lakes Winery and Brigadoon Winery often see a lot of visitors from out of town.
"They usually say, 'I didn't know how much I needed this.' They relax, they unwind whether it's summer time or fall, just to sit outdoors when it's beautiful, it's peaceful, it's quiet," said Welbes.
Three Lakes Winery has a lot of history behind their building.
"The actual winery itself is an old Chicago Northwestern Train Depot that was built in 1880. There was a tornado or wind storm that happened in 1924 that destroyed the building," said Schenck.
The building was rebuilt shortly after. Every fall the winery hosts cranberry marsh tours.
"There are several bogs in the area and it's interesting for people to be able to go and see a bog and see how the cranberries are harvested and what goes into making cranberry wine," said Schenck.
With winter right around the corner, the crops won't be producing much.
"The crops, they are what they are. It's farming so there's not much you have to do and you just hope for good weather. Lots of snow cover, that helps," said Welbes.
The Three Eagle Trail runs right into the parking lot of Three Lakes Winery. That brings in a lot of traffic year-round.
"In the winter time it turns into the snowmobile trail. We will get a lot of snowmobile traffic in the winter time and a lot of foot traffic, hiking, biking people in the summer time," said Schenck.
MERRILL - The debate in Merrill over what's junk and what's historic treasure may not end soon.
It appears Merrill City leaders won't punish two of its workers for taking items from a now demolished building on the Lincoln County Fair Grounds.
After about a month-long investigation, Mayor Bill Bialecki sent out a statement Thursday morning on behalf of the common council with a decision.
It said, "The actions of City Administrator Dave Johnson and Fire Chief Dave Savone, although not in violation of city Ordinances or policies, were in poor judgment. They have been advised to follow City ordinances and policies to avoid improper conduct or the appearance of such conduct, as it reflects poorly on City Government."
Back in July, Savone got the okay from Johnson to help a friend take some shutters and tables from the
Schultz building on the grounds before it was demolished.
But some people considered those items historic and expressed their concern on social media.
The Merrill City Common Council then hired an outside firm to investigate.
Now that that's done, Johnson still feels the same way he always did.
"I've stated from the beginning that there were no laws, ordinances or policies that were violated, and that is what the investigation showed," Johnson said. "So, I mean, how can I feel other than vindicated?"
Johnson and Savone did return the items.
Savone did not want to talk on camera but told Newswatch 12 he did not violate any ordinances.
Opponents of this decision believe the city leaders violated state open meetings laws.
According to documents obtained by Newswatch 12, those opponents filed a complaint Thursday afternoon with the Lincoln County District Attorney.
RHINELANDER - Lifting brand new bikes out of the basement to see the light of day for the first time, Gene Welhoefer couldn't wait to put them to use.
"We'd love to wear the tires out in year one," Welhoefer said.
The Three Lakes Principal loaded bike after bike -- 29 on this trip -- into a trailer parked outside of Mel's Trading Post in Rhinelander Thursday afternoon. The school district purchased 63 bikes to promote healthy habits in Three Lakes students.
"Get outside, breathe some fresh air, soak in some sunshine, take a little ride," Welhoefer said.
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