Arbor Vitae residents raise concerns for Old US Highway 51 constructionSubmitted: 01/17/2013
Story By Hayley Tenpas

ARBOR VITAE - A year from now an old stretch of road will have a brand new look.

It's just a one mile stretch of Old US 51 in Arbor Vitae, but a lot of work needs to be done.

All that future construction prompted an informative meeting tonight.

Complete resurfacing and reconstruction of the road will begin at the end of the school year in June.

The one mile stretch from US Highway 51 to Buckhorn Road goes right past Arbor Vitae-Woodruff school.

School safety is one of the main concerns for the project.

"Since the grade school moved in there we get a lot of congestion, a lot of traffic at the intersection of Old 51 and Hwy 51 plus traffic- parent's hauling their children. That intersection's all going to be wide and it's 3 lanes up to the entrance of the grade school," said town chairman Frank Bauers.

Many people are worried about trees near the road.

To make the road 4 feet wider on each side, trees will be cut down.

Bauers believes trees will be spared if possible.

"Wherever we can save a large tree we will, but I know from a history of working with logs, practically my whole life, that when you get a big white pine tree that's 24 inches or bigger, most of them have red rot in the middle. So it's an opportunity for people to get rid of some problem trees at no cost to them," said Bauers.

When work is done, Old Highway 51 will have improved asphalt and shoulders.

The project is also completely funded.

Half the money comes from a State grant.

The other half comes from the town.

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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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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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