Northwoods logging equipment company looks to help in Puerto Rico cleanup; workers frustrated by red tapeSubmitted: 12/05/2017
Ben Meyer
Ben Meyer
Managing Editor / Senior Reporter

Northwoods logging equipment company looks to help in Puerto Rico cleanup; workers frustrated by red tape
Photos By Phil Kiefer

RHINELANDER - Hurricane Maria battered Puerto Rico more than two months ago. Parts of the island are still a mess, with tangles of downed trees, poles, and power lines.

Some of the most effective cleanup tools are machines usually used to log the forests of northern Wisconsin. But a local company is learning that trying to pitch in on the island can be frustrating.

"These people are suffering [down] there. It's not easy," said Sean Vann, who returned from Puerto Rico on Tuesday morning. "It's just a big ball of destruction on any road you take up into these mountain communities."

Vann is a sales rep for Ponsse, which makes logging equipment. Its North American operations are based in Rhinelander.

The Puerto Rican government says about a third of the island is still without power. Ponsse employees see a way to help.

"These Ponsses would be perfect for cleaning up all of these downed trees and debris," said Phil Kiefer, a Ponsse operator trainer who visited Puerto Rico three weeks ago. "We're actually cleaning up the beaches with them down there. We put boxes on the back of the forwarders so we can load all of the debris in there off the beach."

"Our equipment is well suitable to move the trees and clear up the lines for the power line companies to put new lines up," agreed Ponsse North America President and CEO Pekka Ruuskanen.

Despite the good fit, only a few machines are on the island right now, slowed by Puerto Rico government red tape.

"Our guys are ready to go. There are 60 trucks and as many people, just waiting. They've been waiting seven weeks. It's frustrating to wait," Ruuskanen said.

For example, a service truck currently parked in Rhinelander is headed to the island.

"This truck to get to Puerto Rico would be driven to Miami and then put on a barge," Vann said.

The barge trip takes about a week before reaching the island.

"It takes a while to clear them through Puerto Rico customs, so I imagine this truck would probably sit two weeks before we can even field it there."

That's aggravating Ponsse, who says it just wants to help the island with its slow road back to recovery.

"If that would have happened here in northern Wisconsin, it would have been a done, cleaned up mess," said Kiefer. "It doesn't seem like the government really wants to get out there and say, 'All right, let's get this deal done.'"

Ruuskanen said only three of his machines are on the island right now. He said it will take 20 or 30 to get the cleanup job done right.

Text Size: + Increase | Decrease -
| Print Story | Email Story
Sponsored in part by HodagSports.com

What We're Working OnSubmitted: 10/16/2018

- Tonight on Newswatch 12:

We'll tell you about a petition from a group of Crandon business owners who want the DOT to pay for work on sidewalks the businesses believe are flawed, and we'll get a response from the DOT.

We'll show you a new training program from Nicolet College designed to help local fire stations recruit more volunteers.

And we'll bring you a preview of a series on the 34th Never Forgotten Honor Flight where several veterans from our area tell about their wonderful experiences on the trip.

We'll bring you the details on these stories and more tonight on Newswatch 12 - news from where you live.

+ Read More

BARRON - Update:

Authorities say a Wisconsin teenager who has been missing since her parents were found dead in their home isn't a runaway and that they think she's in danger.

Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald said during a media briefing Tuesday that he can't reveal why authorities believe 13-year-old Jayme Closs is in danger because it could compromise the investigation. But he repeated his plea for the public's help in finding her.

Deputies responding to a 911 call found the bodies of 56-year-old James Closs and 46-year-old Denise Closs at around 1 a.m. Monday in their home in the western Wisconsin town of Barron. No cause of death has been released but authorities said gunshots had been fired.

+ Read More

Play Video

RHINELANDER - People living in Rhinelander will see something new waiting at their curbs this winter.  It's a big change for garbage and recycling that the provider expects everyone to love.

Rhinelander awarded Eagle Waste and Recycling the city's new solid waste disposal contract on Oct. 8.  Forty-eight-gallon garbage bins and 96-gallon recycling bins replace the Advanced Disposal bins on January 1, 2019.  

Rhinelander is the 75th municipality the Eagle River-based company will manage.

+ Read More

Play Video

FOREST COUNTY - Nineteen years ago, a judge found Jeffrey LeVasseur guilty of violent sexual assault of two children in Forest County.

Both victims were younger than 12 years old.

LeVasseur, now 52, has served his time in prison, and next Thursday, he'll move into a home deep in the Forest County woods.

"The law says they gotta come back. We gotta find a place. That's what we're doing," said Forest County Board Chairman Tom Tallier.

+ Read More

Play Video

PHELPS - Fourth grader Brandon Creye didn't expect his Monday to look like this. 

"I'm pretty excited," said Creye. "I think we going to test like water samples to see if they're ok." 

Creye and 60 other fourth graders got out of the classroom Monday. Eagle River Elementary teacher Nicole Musial took them to Deerskin Creek in Phelps to learn science.

+ Read More

WISCONSIN RAPIDS - The Wood County Sherrif's Department confirmed the death of a 41-year-old female inmate.

During the early morning hours of October 14, Jennifer Carrick died while in custody of the Wood County Jail.

Carrick was arrested and brought in by another agency 4 hours before she died.

The inmate was reported by cellmates to be in medical duress, and staff along with EMS attempted to save her life.

An initial investigation indicates an accidental death as Carrick concealed an unknown substance in a body cavity and later ingested the substance.

+ Read More

Play Video

RHINELANDER - Sears expects to close 142 stores around the country by the end of the year. That doesn't mean the Sears name is going to completely disappear. The manager of the Sears Hometown store in Rhinelander says his store is here to stay.

+ Read More
+ More General News

Click Here