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What the Wausau Paper Brainerd Mill Closure Means for Wis. MillsSubmitted: 02/22/2013
Story By Lyndsey Stemm

RHINELANDER - We found out yesterday a Wausau Paper mill in Brainerd, Minnesota will close. That's bringing the impending sale of the Rhinelander plant back to the forefront of many minds here in the Northwoods.

Many people aren't sure whether to be relieved or worried, so we spoke with a representative from the company today.

Wausau Paper expects the Brainerd mill to close by April. The company will try to sell the mill. But it will close first, and the town will lose about 130 jobs.

Director of Investor Relations Perry Grueber says the factors that led to the decision to close that mill are specific to Brainerd. He says there are specific differences between that mill, and the two Wisconsin mills up for sale.

"Both the Rhinelander and Mosinee mills are substantially larger operations with substantially larger workforces. They have far more diversified product offerings and have been very well established in the technical specialty market for many years. They are performing significantly better at the present time than Brainerd was," says Perry Grueber.

Brainerd's customers will still need to get their orders from somewhere. Grueber expects production for those products to move to Rhinelander or Mosinee. That should make those mills more appealing to buyers.

Rhinelander Mayor Dick Johns hasn't heard of any serious interest yet.

But he and a group of other community leaders wrote a letter in a show of support for the city, and one of its biggest employers. They also asked Wausau Paper to keep the lines of communication open so the city and its people aren't kept in the dark.

"We just have to be patient and see where it goes. And I know it's hard for a lot of people in the community. There are families out there that want to know, 'Can I buy this? Can I do this? Can I do that?' But I'll tell you, with a positive attitude I think we can all come through it very well," says Mayor Johns.

He told us when news of the sale first broke, the City of Rhinelander would do whatever it could to help find a buyer, and keep the mill open.

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ONEIDA COUNTY - You often see tomatoes growing in gardens across the Northwoods, but making sure tomato plants stay healthy is difficult here in Wisconsin because of tomato blight.

In Wisconsin, tomato plants often get a disease called tomato blight. It can come early or late in the season.

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MINOCQUA - You know summer in the Northwoods will soon be here when seasonal businesses start opening up again.

Wildwood Wildlife Park opened up Saturday in Minocqua.

Hundreds of people rushed to the gate today to see all different types of animals, some local and some exotic.

"We are so busy today but it's a beautiful day to come out to Wildwood," said the park's director Judy Domaszek. "This is one of our baby aoudads, it's an African sheep, and as you can see in the background there are many people busy playing with the baby goats, and the sheep and the pigs and the tortoises, and they're just enjoying their day."

On Saturday the park had a giraffe feeding.

Workers also have been renovating and expanding the park.

The park has many new animals on the way, including some baby animals that were born there.

"The mouflon sheep are new, we've got some new reptiles, we have some new babies that we're going to have down in the nursery in a little while," Domaszek said. "We actually had a baby badger born here at the zoo. And we have a baby kangaroo. Those guys are all coming down when it's safe to come down."

Wildwood is open every day from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Then after Memorial Day the park stays open till 5:30 p.m. for the summer. 


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NORTHWOODS - Prescription drugs play an important role in our health.

They help us recover if we're sick, cope if we have a chronic condition and help manage pain.

But those drugs can expire or just stay in the back of our medicine cabinets for months or years.

And if those drugs get into the wrong hands—such as toddlers or abusers—that's a problem.

That's why many local police and sheriff's departments participate in the National Prescription Drug Take-Back program.

It's run by the Drug Enforcement Administration, and Saturday was National Take-Back Day.

"We're keeping the controlled substances in the hands they're supposed to be in, especially with the pill epidemic now, it's important that these stay out of the hands of people that are abusing them," said Minocqua Police Officer Matthew Tate. 

Several area police departments hosted drop-offs Saturday. 

You can drop off prescription or over-the-counter pills, ointments, patches, non-aerosol sprays, vials and pet medications. You cannot bring in inhalers or aerosol cans, and you cannot drop off illegal drugs or needles.

All the drugs are brought to the state Department of Justice where they will be incinerated.

That's better than just flushing them or throwing them out in the trash.

"It's very important that it's not getting into our ground water is the main thing," Tate said. "We just don't want people dumping them in toilets or in their garbage."

If you have prescription drugs you want to get rid of safely, don't worry if you missed Saturday's opportunity. Many area police stations have drug drop-off bins in their lobbies, so you can drop them off any time of the year.


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ADAMS COUNTY - Two men died in a car crash near the Wisconsin Dells Saturday afternoon according to the Wisconsin State Patrol.

Police got a call around 2 p.m. about a two-car crash on County Road B north of State Highway 23 in Adams County.

A 65-year-old was driving and a 72-year-old was in the front passenger seat. Both those men died at the scene. They were both from Oxford, Wisconsin.

Driving the other car was a 24-year-old man from the Wisconsin Dells. He was taken to a hospital but is expected to survive.

Wisconsin State Patrol is still investigating. The names will not be released until the families are notified. 

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WISCONSIN RAPIDS - We now know who were the three people killed during Wednesday's double-murder suicide in Wisconsin Rapids.

The Wisconsin Rapids Police Department says  36-year-old Justin Bohn of Wisconsin Rapids shot and killed his 5-year-old daughter, Paige, and his 3-year-old son, Devon.



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- Plus, a local greenhouse that was destroyed by a tornado in 2011 and was rebuilt is celebrating it's20th anniversary. We'll take you to the celebration.

We'll have the details on this story and more tonight on Newswatch 12 - news from where you live.

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PHILLIPS - Many professions today look for workers with skills in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. On Thursday students and their families from Phillips Elementary School got an opportunity to explore some of those careers.

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