CRANDON - Hometown Trolley looks likely to stay in Crandon--and expand its facilities there--after a vote by the Forest County Board on Tuesday.
Other counties have tried to draw the manufacturer away, but Tuesday's vote gave the company confidence it can expand its production onto the current Forest County fairgrounds.
Right now, more than 50 people work at Hometown Trolley. By the time it's done with expansions, that number could be more than 200.
"It's the very lifeblood of the city," said Forest County Board Supervisor Larry Berg. "There are other good businesses here, but this is such a large one, and growing so quickly, it really holds our future."
"Immediately, right now, what we need to do is show that we want Hometown Trolley to stay here and tell them that we will work with them to make sure they can expand," agreed fellow Supervisor Melinda Otto.
Hometown Trolley plans to expand south. Phase One would add 75 feet of building and 15 to 25 jobs. Phase Two would expand the facility by another 300 feet and add between 50 and 150 jobs, according to Hometown Trolley Chief Operating Officer Dustin Pence.
After an hour and a half of discussion, by a unanimous show of hands, the Forest County Board approved a plan in concept to give or sell part of the fairgrounds to Hometown Trolley.
But that agreement didn't come without a lengthy legal discussion. A land deed more than 20 years old makes the issue more complicated. According to the deed transferring the land to county, if the county uses or sells the fairgrounds for something other than a fair, the county needs to replace it with equal or better fair facilities. The Forest County Agricultural Society, a volunteer group that helps put on the fair, has fought hard to make sure the fair will keep adequate facilities.
Some supervisors questioned whether the deed's provisions were actually in effect.
"When you put it in perspective of what Hometown Trolley brings to the county and what happens once a year, I think there's no comparison," Otto said. "I'm going to vote for economic development every time."
Forest County's lawyer made his interpretation clear.
"A preliminary opinion is that those restrictions are enforceable," said Forest County Corporation Counsel Paul Payant.
Forest County will form a committee to explore options for fair placement. Forest County Agricultural Society President Howard Sipple will be part of the committee.
"All parties are in favor of economic development," Sipple said. "Yet the board did back the fact that they want to support the county fair."
The 2018 fair will be hosted at the same site.
"I'm very relieved with that," Sipple said. "We've had a promise made here today."
Beyond that, plans are unclear.
"If we have to come up with a new fairgrounds, that's what we'll do," said Forest County Board Chair Paul Millan.
Hometown Trolley plans to start Phase One of its expansion in October. Phase Two will start in 2018 or 2019.
UPDATE: The suspected shooter from a homicide in Tomahawk has been identified as Eric Lee Moen, 32. Tomahawk Police Chief Al Elvins confirmed Moen is being held in the Lincoln County Jail for a 1st-degree intentional homicide charge.
The Lincoln County Clerk of Courts reports Moen is being held on a $1 million cash bond. He has yet to appear in court, but an initial appearance has been set for Monday at 1:30 p.m.
Online court records show Moen was convicted of various traffic offenses. He was also convicted of misdemeanor battery in Portage County from a 2002 case.
Elvins plans to release more information Friday afternoon.
Tomahawk police identified the victim in the city's first shooting homicide in years. Friday morning, Police Chief Al Elvins announced Charles K. Ramp, 52, was shot and killed outside his home on W. Mohawk Drive Thursday night.
Police arrested the suspected shooter, a 32-year-old man from Wausau, but did not identify him. The suspect was found about 130 miles away in Lake Hallie, which is near Eau Claire.
RHINELANDER - The Rhinelander Salvation Army hopes to raise $40,000 in its bell ringing campaign again this year. It reached that goal during the holidays a year ago.
Volunteers kicked off the bell ringing drive at Trig's and Shopko on Friday. Eighty-six percent of money raised stays in the Rhinelander area to help families in emergencies.
"We're very excited that we're keeping our goal at 40 (thousand dollars) this year, and we're hoping that people are continuing to be generous in helping us reach that goal," Rhinelander Salvation Army Kettle Coordinator Kim Swisher said. "People are friendly, they're excited, they're like, 'Oh, it's bell ringing time!' [That] always means the holidays. We're excited about that."
You'll see volunteers at Trig's and Shopko through the holidays. Bell ringing starts at Walmart next week.
ROSENDALE, WI - An explosion and fire at a cheese plant in Fond du Lac County sent one person to the hospital.
The sheriff's office says 36-year-old Travis Klotzbach, of Brandon, was using a cutting torch on an empty 55-gallon barrel in the auto shop at Knaus Cheese near Rosendale when the explosion happened just after 7 a.m. Friday.
EAGLE RIVER - Americans eat more than 46 million turkeys on Thanksgiving Day. That much thawing, handling, and cooking of turkeys means people can make mistakes.
The Vilas County Public Health Department wants to help people avoid exposing themselves to dangerous bacteria. It says frozen turkeys should always be thawed in the refrigerator or under running water.
"You don't want to set them out on your countertop for any amount of time to thaw them because that's when they're going to be in the 'danger zone.' The 'danger zone' is between 40 and 140 [degrees Fahrenheit], and that's when pathogens can grow," said Vilas County Registered Sanitarian Amy Springer.
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