RHINELANDER - From her store on Brown Street in downtown Rhinelander, Kate Bauman would love to sell anyone a hand-restored armoire, while knowing it's a specific clientele she tends to reach.
"I know that my chances of an ATV rider coming in and purchasing a dresser is slim to none," Bauman said with a laugh.
After Monday night, those chances may have just gone up. On a 6-2 vote, the city council approved allowing ATVs and UTVs on almost all city streets. Riders cannot use or cross Lincoln Street or Stevens Street north of Dwight Street.
Alderpersons Dawn Rog and Ryan Rossing were the lone dissenters.
"To bring that opportunity to Rhinelander, I think just makes sense," Bauman said.
The city started looking at the idea last fall. City Administrator Daniel Guild put out drafts and a survey in April to get public input.
Hodag 4-Wheelers ATV Club President Paul Hagen told Newswatch 12 last month he felt the move would better-connect Rhinelander to surrounding towns such as Pine Lake, Pelican, and Crescent, which all allow riders, while also benefiting businesses in the city.
"I've talked to a lot of people and, you know, their business will go up 20 to 30 percent," Hagen said. "People can just enjoy their machines a little bit more [now]."
The ordinance doesn't actually go into effect until the city can post signs at the entry points explaining the rules. Then, it's really up to the riders to follow those rules.
"They can make this or they can break this with their behavior," Police Chief Lloyd Gauthier said.
Gauthier thinks local clubs do a great job of policing themselves. Still, he thinks rules like following posted speed limits (generally 25 MPH), with a cap at 35 miles per hour anywhere, riders under the age of 18 being required to wear helmets, and a no-ride rule between midnight and 5 a.m. will likely get broken from time to time.
"I'm very conservative and I will say yes, there will be people that violate the law," Gauthier said. "We have that every day with motor vehicles."
The ordinance also limits maximum weights of ATVs and UTVs, requires riders have a valid driver's license and insurance, ride in single-file on streets, be at least 16 years old, and not "cruise" on streets.
The city council can vote to rescind the ordinance at any time riding becomes an issue. Gauthier says police chiefs he talked to in Tomahawk and Eagle River both said ATVs on city streets haven't been an issue for either one.
"Being a larger municipality, I think we might be a test case as to how well that will go," Gauthier said. "Something new, it's change. So, obviously it's going to be difficult at first, but as long as they adhere to traffic rules and the rules of the road, then it's less likely that there will be crashes."
Bauman hopes the ordinance sticks, even if it doesn't mean a UTV rider loading up a dresser on their machine.
"All of these other communities are benefiting from that type of traffic. It was just time that we capitalized on it as well," Bauman said.
Gauthier said the city hopes to post the ordinance signs before the Fourth of July. You can read the full ordinance here.
RHINELANDER - The city of Rhinelander took a municipal well offline after its water was found to contain excessive levels of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), according to the Oneida County Health Department and the city.
Since that well is turned off, "the public water system is ok to drink," stated the health department release.
"Based on current, available information, we can conclude that the water is not considered a potential threat to health and is safe to drink," read the city's release.
Some studies have shown people with PFAS expose may be at risk of increased cholesterol levels, worsening response to vaccines, a higher risk of thyroid disease, lower fertility in women, and an elevated risk of high blood pressure in pregnant women.
RHINELANDER - Running the master streamer on a Rhinelander firetruck gave Nick Heise a sense of control over an exciting situation this morning. The junior firefighter got the chance to do something he s never done before: go into a burning building and put out the fire.
"You can call us crazy, but we actually like to do it," Heise said. "Fire rolling over our heads and got to play with it and learn some stuff about fire behavior."
Rhinelander firefighters were practicing controlled burns along Ohlson Lane, just behind the Home Depot. Crews lit four sets of fires, with two on the top floor and two on the ground level, then burned the whole thing down and worked on putting that out.
RHINELANDER - The City of Rhinelander told residents this week its municipal water is safe to drink, responding to concerns of elevated chemical levels in city water.
On Monday night, the city said it had shut down Well 7 on June 24 after a test for perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) came back showing excessive levels.
But on Tuesday morning, the Oneida County Health Department couldn't offer a similar assurance about the purity of private wells in the area.
PFAS refers to a group of manmade chemicals that may cause higher cholesterol, low infant birthweights, and lower female fertility, among other health risks. The manmade chemical is found in products like food wrappers, stain-resistant fabrics, and nail polish.
RACINE - A Racine woman is accused of leaving her 3-year-old grandson in a hot vehicle while she shopped at the Dollar Tree.
A criminal complaint says police were called when someone spotted the toddler in the vehicle with the windows up Friday when temperatures were in the 90s. The complaint says first responders broke a window to rescue the boy who was "limp and very warm to the touch."
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