MERRILL - Moving can be difficult and emotional, but for a local fire department, it's all smiles as they prepare to move for the first time in decades. Today, the Merrill Fire Department broke ground on their new home. Their new station will be built on the corner of Pier and Second Streets.
"It's going to bring some advantages to us because we have the two main drags right here in town so we'll be able to go east and west right out of the fire station," says Dave Savone, Merrill Fire Chief.
This will be a big upgrade from their current station which was built in the 1960's. The new building will be home to both the fire department and EMS.
"Both the fire service and the EMS for the southern half of the county. So both operations will be running out of this building. So we'll be running three ambulances, two fire engines, a tender and a ladder truck," said Dave Savone.
Plans for the new station have been about a year in the making. The Fire Chief said all 23 of his men are excited for the move.
"It's an exciting day. You know, the Merrill Fire Department has been around for 125 years. This is a big step into the 21st century with our fire department and the men are looking forward to this new step in our new tradition," says Dave Savone.
The project will be finished by January 31st of 2014. The project cost less than their 3-million-dollar budget.
WHITEWATER - Wisconsin has made the Peace Corps' Top 10 list for number of volunteers per capita.
Peace Corps volunteers spend two years working in a developing country. Tasks might include teaching English, digging wells and tending gardens.
According to rankings released Wednesday, for every 100,000 Wisconsin residents, 3.7 join the Peace Corps. That's ninth best in the nation, just behind Minnesota (3.8). Vermont is No. 1 at 7.8 volunteers per 100,000 residents.
Many of Wisconsin's volunteers come from the Whitewater area, which was ranked No. 10 in metro areas per capita.
President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps in 1961 to foster a better understanding between Americans and people of other countries. More than 215,000 Americans have served in 139 countries worldwide.
MADISON - Gov. Scott Walker's administration plans to schedule round table discussions around Wisconsin for people to discuss the state's tax code and propose changes.
Walker says he wants to lower the overall tax burden every year he is in office. The round tables are to discuss the state's tax structure, not any specific proposal.
Walker and the Republican Legislature this year passed a $650 million income tax cut and a $100 million property tax reduction.
Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and Revenue Department Secretary Rick Chandler hosted the first tax reform round table discussion on Monday at Beloit College. Walker says more will be announced in coming weeks.
RHINELANDER - Many older people in the Northwoods still love their paper-and-print books. The task of choosing between today's e-readers and tablets can seem daunting. But e-readers and tablets are creeping in as popular options too.
The Rhinelander Library held a class today to teach people about the different options for going mobile. Educating older people is especially helpful.
“If you're just interested in books people usually want to have an e-reader,” says Erica Brewster, Family Living Agent with Oneida County UW Extension. “If you're interested in doing a lot more maybe you want to watch Netflix movies or you want to be on the internet than you want to look at a tablet.”
Some of the popular tablets include the iPad and the Microsoft Surface. People interested in an e-reader might consider the Kindle or the Nook.
“We've gone from computers being something we have on a desk and we work with, to taking it for granted that we have a cell phone, we have a tablet, something that travels with us,” says Brewster. “So the mobile technology is the newest and greatest breaking trend really that we have is being able to carry our technology with us.”
E-readers are typically cheaper than tablets which can cost a few hundred dollars.
EAU CLAIRE - Gov. Scott Walker has signed into law a pair of bills designed to help students who are pursuing a technical college education.
One bill Walker signed provides incentive grants to school districts that promote career and technical education programs. The grants of up to $1,000 per school district will be available starting next school year.
The other bill Walker signed provides scholarships to full time students at technical colleges. Between one and six scholarships worth $2,250 will be available at each school.
Both measures passed the Legislature unanimously earlier this year. Walker signed the bills in Eau Claire.
State Superintendent Tony Evers had proposed the incentives last year and thanked Walker for signing the bills into law.
RHINELANDER - The antler-less deer hunt season opens Thursday.
Local legislators wanted to cancel the four day hunting season, but the DNR says that can't happen.
It would take at least six months to get through the administrative process to cancel any hunting season.
The DNR wants hunters to have a chance to hunt game before the season ends.
Jeremy Holtz is a DNR wildlife biologist in Rhinelander.
"The December antler-less hunt would simply be giving hunters who didn't get to hunt the first weekend--because they had to work, or they were in another part of the state--to fill a tag they already have," said Holtz. "So the odds of it having a significantly negative impact on the herd from a population management standpoint, I would consider them pretty low."
Republicans Tom Tiffany, Rob Swearingen, and Mary Czaja disagree. They say last year's late winter and high number of predators hurt the deer.
Now, legislators believe this year's early winter weather will continue to hurt the herd.
"My office in Madison, Representative Mary Czaja from Tomahawk, and certainly Senator Tiffany, have been receiving a lot of comments from frustrated sportsman regarding the low harvest of the deer season this year," said Rob Swearingen, Wisconsin State Representative. "As well as with the natural predators out there, and the early on set of icy conditions, we're worried that all of this together is going to create the perfect storm and take it's toll on these deer."
In August, two deer management units over-issued about 350 antler-less deer permits.
The DNR says it got about 254 of those permits back.
Last year in Oneida County, 74 deer were shot during the antler-less deer season.
Antler-less deer hunting is open from December 12 through December 15.
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