RHINELANDER - Don't expect government tax incentives to convince Petco to keep Drs. Foster and Smith (DFS) in Rhinelander.
Petco, which owns DFS, announced last week it will close most of its Rhinelander operations and lay off 289 workers.
Last month, former Gov. Scott Walker pledged $28 million in state money to keep a Kimberly-Clark paper products plant in Neenah. That move saved almost 400 jobs.
But it looks unlikely something similar could happen for DFS.
According to state Rep. Rob Swearingen (R-Rhinelander), the company's mind is made up.
"At this point, we think that's not their intent. They do, obviously, just want to pull out," Swearingen said. "It seems like that ship has already sailed, so now the focus is specifically on the 289 employees and their families."
In 2014, DFS, when it was considering selling its business, asked Petco if it would keep the company in Rhinelander. Petco said yes.
"The real gut punch is when they just dropped the bomb like that and let their employees know via the letter, and the rest of the community, that they were just actually going to close up shop with the exception of the Live Aquaria and move on. So, that's disappointing," Swearingen said.
In an email on Monday, Petco spokeswoman Lisa Stark didn't directly answer our question about whether Petco broke a promise in leaving Rhinelander.
"Closing DFS now is a difficult but necessary business decision driven by evolving consumer preferences and Petco's ongoing brand evolution and retail transformation efforts. We appreciate that it has a very real effect on both individuals and the broader community in Rhinelander, and we are committed to partnering with state and local agencies to support those impacted as best as possible," Stark wrote.
Last week, Gov. Tony Evers sounded cautious about giving taxpayer dollars to keep companies like Petco in-state.
"The hope is that those tax credits create jobs and better financial environments so that there is good revenue coming into the state, but there's a balance that has to be there," Evers said. "But we will be checking into that. That's very concerning."
The Live Aquaria department of DFS will stay in Rhinelander and actually double its workforce to about 60. Stark, the Petco spokeswoman, said Live Aquaria will "continue to grow in Rhinelander."
The Oneida Co. Economic Development Corporation plans to meet with Petco corporate executives in the near future.
MADISON, WI - The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is proud to host the 8th annual Wisconsin Free Fun Weekend. Park admission fees, fishing license and trail pass requirements will be waived on June 6-7 to encourage Wisconsinites to take advantage of and enjoy Wisconsin's outdoors.
During Free Fun Weekend June 6-7:
- No state park admission stickers or trail passes are required. - People may fish without a fishing license or trout/salmon stamps. All other fishing regulations apply. - ATV, UTVs, and OHMs are exempt from registration requirements. Resident and non-resident all-terrain vehicle operators do not need a trail pass to ride state ATV trails. - Capacity limits remain in effect at some properties to limit overcrowding. - Visitors are asked to recreate responsibly close to home and practice social distancing.
Before heading to a state park, trail or waterbody near you, here are some additional things to know:
- Residents and non-residents will not be required to have a fishing license or trout/salmon stamps. - All 2020-2021 fishing regulations apply including bag and length limits. - Due to the public health risk, loaner equipment will not be available. Anglers should bring their own equipment and bait. - Only anglers living in the same household (i.e. family members or roommates) should fish within six feet of one another. - Events such as fishing clinics are canceled. - Anglers are encouraged to have a backup plan in the event there is crowding or unsafe conditions where they plan to fish. We encourage everyone to fish safely and responsibly. - Locate launches and shorefishing access points near you.
RHINELANDER - 114 colorful flower baskets will soon flood the streets of downtown Rhinelander.
For eight years the master gardeners at Forth Floral have put their effort into making downtown appealing to visitors.
Every April, petunias--one of the easiest flowers to grow and maintain--are picked out by color and grown in the greenhouse.
After that, each basket is displayed in June and watered every day for the rest of the season.
Forth Floral co-owner Ruth Hempel knows the impact the flowers have on people.
"Oh, people just love the hanging baskets. It's just been a real boost, it's good for our community as well as all the visitors that come to town. It just makes downtown a really beautiful place," she said.
A committee works with downtown to fund a campaign to fund the planting and maintenance of the flowers.
As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the group is struggling to find people to help nurture the plants.
However, Forest Co. residents connected to employees at Nu Roc say the virus was present a few weeks prior to the county's first case.
Resident Jennifer Connor discovered after speaking to community members that two weeks prior to the county announcing their first confirmed case another employee at NuRoc tested positive in April
Witnesses at NuRoc, who wish to remain anonymous, did confirm that the administration brushed off that employee's COVID like symptoms as another illness and allowed her to continue working in the building until April 24.
That following week the employee tested positive for the coronavirus.
CDC guidelines state "if a healthcare worker develops symptoms of COVID-19 (fever, cough, difficulty breathing), advise them to stay home from work."
Nurses and other staff stated that the employee's significant other tested posted for the virus prior and after speaking with administration they were asked to not share that information with their colleagues.
One stated "Corporate told us that the employer has the coronavirus, but not to say anything to anyone as we need to keep this real quiet. We were told by corporate not to worry."
Following CDC guidelines includes healthcare workers to report when they come in contact to a high or medium-risk exposure. Additionally they ask to exclude them from working for 14 days after the last exposure.
Knowing that information, Connor began to call multiple state agencies to warn of the potential outbreak at Nu Roc.
All nursing homes are required to report data weekly to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and CDC through NHSN according to the CMS and CDC reporting requirements.
After speaking with almost ten state agencies, Connor added in an email to Newswatch 12 that they had no knowledge of the spread and even admitted they had inaccurate data.
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