Countdown to 2014: Top Stories of 2013, Part I
This year held a great deal of excitement and (depending who you are) embarrassment for Stevens Point Area residents. New companies set root in the city, new jobs were created, and we saw the end of the Centerpoint Mall. Some local officials and residents made national headlines for doing great things, while others have been taken to task for creating controversy or counter-productivity. Here’s the City-Times’ list, in no particular order, of the biggest stories of 2013:
Skyward Stays in Point (July)
The future of Skyward as a Stevens Point- based company was in question after Tony Evers, superintendent for the Wisconsin Department of Public Institution (DPI), tried to force all districts in the state to use the same company for student information system software. The move would have required Stevens Point schools to change its own software vendor from Skyward to a Minnesota- based company chosen by the DPI. Skyward officials said that would limit the company’s growth and might be forced to relocate company headquarters outside the state, prompting local business leaders and elected officials- including local Assemblywomen Amy Vruwink and Katrina Shankland- to host a series of meetings and rallies to advocate removing all the funding allocated for the single- vendor system from the 2013-15 state budget. Stevens Point Superintendent Attila Weninger even rallied leaders from dozens of school districts to formulate a plan of action. “Save Skyward” signs could be seen in hundreds of yards around the city and elsewhere during the fiasco. Governor Walker heard the protest loud and clear and eventually agreed to remove the funding from the state budget, effectively killing the single- vendor idea. In August, Skyward unveiled its plans for expansion in the East Park Commerce Center which includes 1,000 new jobs. The company is currently partnering with the Wisconsin Rapids Rafters in a “Teacher of the Year” contest.
Point Brewery Expands Twice (Jan. & Dec.)
Point Brewery began and ended its 2013 with plans to physically expand the building and internal systems to keep up with demand for its craft beer line. In January the company announced its fourth major expansion is as many years. The $2 million project increased the brewery’s annual production capacity to 150,000 barrels with the addition of a second brew kettle, 16 more unitanks for fermenting and aging beer, and a new automated grain handling system. The expansion also included a new can packer that allowed the brewery to package four-pack and six-pack 12-ounce can packages for the first time in its history.
In December the company again announced major growth, investing $1.5 million in equipment and infrastructure upgrades to enable it to meet the non-stop growth in consumer demand for its handcrafted beers. Much of the investment is earmarked for electrical and cooling system upgrades and the brewery will install three more unitanks for fermenting and aging beer, upgrade its bottle filler, and purchase one thousand new kegs for the brewery’s expanding draft beer business, among other improvements. The latest expansion is expected to add 8 jobs to the company.
SPASH Athletes Saw Winning, Record- Setting Year
SPASH students seemed to rule the world in 2013. 14 year-old student Kali Schierl set a world record for her weightlifting category by bench pressing 150.9 pounds, beating the previous record of 149.8 pounds by a Texas teenager, during the Midwest Regional World Association Bench Press and Dead-lift Championships in July. Schierl has been formally recognized by the district for her excellence.
The SPASH Cross Country Boys also received kudos from the district. The team won their 10th cross country state championship in November, tying them for a state record in 2nd most state championships in the WIAA membership. The team has also won 26 consecutive conference championships.
School Board’s Inability to Function Like Adults
2013 was not kind to the Stevens Point School Board. Or perhaps it was the other way around. Board Members showed unparalleled inability to compromise on even the minutest of details, causing 4+ hour marathon meetings, new policies dictating when and how members should be allowed to speak, shouting matches and one Board Member walking out of at least one meeting. It took Board Members over a month to decide on a new president, after an unsuccessful April organizational meeting which lasted over 6 hours with 25 spent votes. Since then, Board Members have squabbled over when they’re allowed to comment during meetings as well as the format of meeting agendas, leaving some residents wondering who’s actually in control of the district. Board Clerk Jeff Presley has been very critical of the administrator contracts being approved without having been read by fellow members, while Board President Terry Rothmann has had to reign in the nearly- constant complaints of Board Members Lisa Totten and Kim Shirek, who have objected to everything from the superintendent’s business expenses to their own at-home Internet service, causing their inability to retrieve importance documents over email. One year of presidency was enough for Rothmann, who on Dec. 26 put in his non-candidacy paperwork at the district office. Community Access Television workers also drew a line in the sand when, at the end of 2013, the city’s television station announced it refused to air any further School Board meetings, as the extended length was interrupting other municipal programming.
Read the next part of our list in Countdown to 2014: Top Stories of 2013, Part II on Tuesday.