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'Exciting' change: Merrill's Church Mutual provides six-week paid leave to new parentsSubmitted: 02/15/2019

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MERRILL - IT, finance, and administration manager Koleman Brenner works just three days a week at Church Mutual Insurance in Merrill.

On Mondays and Fridays, he's getting paid to stay home with his wife, daughter, and newborn son, William, who was born Jan. 22.

Thanks to a new program, his father has up to 30 days of paid leave to spend with the family, which he and his wife love.

"We were talking last night, and she just said, 'This benefit is so great, I'm so glad that you're going to be able to be home,'" Brenner said.


In his State of the Union speech, President Trump called for a national paid family leave program. His daughter, Ivanka, went to Capitol Hill to pitch it to senators this week.

But the idea at Church Mutual started years ago, with someone who doesn't even have kids yet.

"I thought, I have to fight for myself and I have to fight for the other mothers and fathers at this organization," said marketing consultant Liz Ott, who went straight to the top.

She asked president and CEO Rich Poirier to implement a paid parental leave program.

"Candidly, I brushed her off the first year," Poirier said.

Then, Ott came back with statistics and arguments.

"I thought, wow, that takes a lot of guts for a new college hire to approach the president of the company," Poirier said.

Ott eventually convinced Poirier and the board.

Starting Jan. 1, Church Mutual provides the paid leave benefit to employees, both mothers and fathers.

"I was really excited to see parental leave part of that, because this affects not only all of the mothers in our organization, but the fathers, too," Ott said. "I feel very proud that I was able to have an impact on all of these people here."

Poirier sees paid leave as the right thing to do, but also as a recruiting tool for potential employees.

Brenner agrees.

"This is a huge benefit for those that are looking to start families or grow their families," he said. "It's really exciting to see a company like Church Mutual, that's located in central Wisconsin, start to offer benefits similar to some of these large companies."

Church Mutual needed to take action to recruit and retain young employees. Poirier said within five years, 40 percent of its workforce will be at retirement age.

Story By: Ben Meyer

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 LOCAL NEWS

RHINELANDER - A former contracted janitor accused of sexually assaulting a Rhinelander student appears headed for a trial.

Stavros Iliopoulos appeared in Oneida County Court on Friday afternoon.  Attorneys told Judge Michael Bloom they had not reached a plea deal.  Bloom decided to schedule one final pre-trial conference for late August before a two-day jury trial was set for Sept. 4 and 5.

In late November, police said Iliopoulos, 65, took a girl into a dark closet and hugged, kissed, and touched her inappropriately at Northwoods Community Elementary School, a public charter school in Harshaw.

Iliopoulos worked for a contracted company, Victory Janitorial, at the time.

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THREE LAKES - Plenty of Three Lakes High School students didn't know what they want to do for a career as of Friday morning.  By Friday afternoon, many still weren't sure, but dozens got an inside look at possible careers.

The school held its annual Career Day on Friday morning.  About 25 presenters included police, an FBI agent, college teachers, and graphic designers.

The school first held Career Day in 2009.  Organizers hope students realize they have plenty of opportunities close to home.

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Snowfall hurting people's eyesSubmitted: 02/15/2019

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WOODRUFF - Shoveling snow can hurt your back. But some may not know that staring at all that snow can hurt your eyes.

The term albedo tells us the amount of light that's either absorbed into the ground or reflected back up. On days like Friday, the snow pack will really make it look brighter out and boost the albedo amount. That's hard on the eyes.

Dr. Kirby Redman is an Optometrist in Woodruff. He says there are simple ways to protect your eyes from the sun's damaging rays.

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MINOCQUA - Most people go big for a 25th anniversary. The Lakeland Figure Skating Club is celebrating its anniversary through it's annual ice show.

The club has roughly 30 members. Volunteer Karla Wotruba says the skaters and coaches have been working to master all the routines.

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 REGIONAL NEWS

MADISON - Illinois Democrats are asking Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers to re-evaluate the environmental impact of a Foxconn Technology Group facility in Racine County.

U.S. Reps. Brad Schneider and Lauren Underwood along with Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth sent Evers a letter Friday saying the facility's stormwater run-off could exacerbate flooding in the Des Plaines River watershed and affect communities in northeastern Illinois' Lake County. The Democrats want Evers' administration to conduct a stringent review of Foxconn's construction plans with a careful look at stormwater management.

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MADISON - Wisconsin lawmakers are introducing a bill to end the sales tax that has funded Miller Park's construction and maintenance at the end of the year.

Sens. Van Wangggard and Tim Carpenter along with Rep. Bob Wittke began circulating the bill for co-sponsors Friday.

Five southeastern Wisconsin counties have been subject to the 0.1 percent tax since 1996. The revenue goes toward retiring the $290 million construction debt as well as stadium maintenance.

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LANSING - Five Michigan courts, from the Detroit area to the Upper Peninsula, will participate in a program to try to reduce jail costs by setting reasonable bonds for people awaiting trial.

Chief Justice Bridget McCormack says no one should sit in jail just because they can't afford to pay bail. She wants judges to set bail amounts that protect rights and public safety as well as save money for local governments.

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AURORA IL -
Update: 2/15/19, 5:45pm

The chief of police says five people were killed and five officers were wounded in a shooting at a business in suburban Chicago.

Aurora Police Chief Kristen Ziman told reporters that the officers were fired upon Friday afternoon as soon as they entered the Henry Pratt Co. building in Aurora.

Ziman says the gunman was also killed.

Aurora is about 40 miles (65 kilometers) west of Chicago.

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