Icy roads create major headache for salt trucksSubmitted: 01/29/2013
Story By Shardaa Gray

RHINELANDER - The weather made a messy morning across the Northwoods.

Dozens of schools in the viewing area were either delayed or closed completely.

Plenty of people slipping and sliding around.

You might think warm temperatures will help clear those icy roads, but they can actually be a major headache for safety crews.

Oneida County Highway workers started their day at dawn this morning.

Their main goal was to get the streets plowed and salted before heavy traffic and school buses got out.

Highway Department Commissioner Freeman Bennett says the temperatures bouncing from one extreme to the next is a nightmare.

"If the roads are wet and especially on the high side parts of the curb, the snow melts and washes across the road and washes all the salt residue off, said Bennett.

"Then when the temperatures drop so fast and freezes instantly, the big problem that we have is when it's 18 degrees below zero. The salt doesn't work."

Pot holes are another issue for salt truck drivers.

Bennett says having to refill them can get very tedious.

"If we can get the cleaned up in the summer time a lot of times what we'll do is hot mix asphalt and then they stay," Bennett said.

"But around this time of the year, it's tough. It gets wet and pops right back out again. So after a day like today we'll be out there again Thursday and we'll be patching them one more time."

Bennett says the best thing to do with icy roads like today is leave an hour early.

Give the salt trucks space.

Even though they're moving at a slow pace, they can spin out as well.

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MERRILL - This weekend Northcentral Technical College hosted its fourth annual Fire and EMS University for firefighters across Wisconsin.

It provides training on firefighting and EMS techniques at the Public Safety Center of Excellence in Merrill.

In a simulation training exercise, firefighters have their hoods covering their face so they couldn't see anything when they entered a basement. They had to feel a fire hose and use teamwork to get around and save a dummy.

Firefighters from all over Wisconsin can come to the all-day event. They came to refresh their skills, teach and learn new techniques.

"We put out some classes that are very interesting and not run every day and if it applies to their department they'll send people," said Dean of the Public Safety Division of Northcentral Technical College Doug Jennings.

The school keeps adding other training tools as well. Just this year they added more training features, such as a simulator that allows law enforcement to practice driving trucks, squad cars and EMS vehicles.

On Saturday the students also trained with the aerial ladder.

"We are the only fire department in Lincoln County with an aerial ladder," said Merrill Fire Chief Dave Savone. "And so most of our firefighters have to operate our aerial ladder. And so we felt this truck operation aerial ladder operations is a great class for them to come and see."

UST Fire Apparatus brought a new aerial ladder truck for the students to practice with, and teachers from southern Wisconsin and St. Louis, Mo., also came to help coach.

Firefighters say they want to constantly re-educate themselves.

"It's great to get the extra practice," said Dean Johnson from the Town of Wausau Fire Department.

Northcentral Technical College also offers semester schedule curricula for law enforcement and fire science. 

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MERRILL - Merrill residents might have heard a lot of music in town today.

Merrill High School hosted the Merrill Marching Invitational. Three high school marching bands took over the football field at Merrill High School Sunday.

Antigo, D.C. Everest, and Merrill high schools all showcased their musical creativity.

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MILWAUKEE - A published report says unauthorized improvements have been made to a footpath on state land that a donor to Gov. Scott Walker has been trying to buy.

A spokesman for business executive Elizabeth Uihlein acknowledged that workers at her adjoining property may have cleaned up the trail slightly.

But the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (http://bit.ly/1Z18WU8 ) reports those who have seen the trail say the improvements are significant.

Uihlein is seeking to buy 1.75 acres along Rest Lake, where the footpath is located. But a tentative deal with the Department of Natural Resources was put on hold after critics raised questions.

A DNR spokesman says the agency inspected the site on Thursday and found an "established trail." He declined to say whether the department had talked to Uihlein or her representatives.

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EAGLE RIVER - Eagle River hosted its 36th annual Cranberry Fest during October's first weekend.

Organizers say the weather this year brought in many more visitors.

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NEKOOSA - People in Nekoosa could go back in time this weekend.

Volunteers at Pointe Basse recreated a historical camp that portrayed the lives of people from the 1700s and early 1800s.

Volunteers from all across the U.S. had a piece of history to share.

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RHINELANDER - Harvest Hoedown started Saturday at noon at the Woodpecker Bar and Grill in Rhinelander.

The event featured a hay maze, horse-drawn carriage rides, food, and live music all afternoon.

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RHINELANDER - A Wisconsin brewing company executive wants businesses to hire more veterans.

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