Year in Review: March, April 2018
By Joe Bachman
With 2018 just about in the books, we take a look back on the top stories in the Portage County community in 2018. These are stories from March to April, including headlines, briefs, and quotes from these stories.
Police Investigate Racial Slur, Threats Made by SPASH Student
March 9, 2018
Local authorities have investigated an incident surrounding a SPASH student who made a racially charged statement on Thursday, March 8.
According to a Stevens Point Police Department news release, a report was made regarding a student who had used a racial slur during a statement, including the reference of a “shooting” taking place. This statement was made by an 18-year-old male at Stevens Point Area Senior High.
In a statement released by SPASH Principal Jon Vollendorf, he stated the following:
“…More importantly, racism is not, and will not, be tolerated. Moving forward we will continue to immediately address and resolve situations and behavior that compromise our school’s culture. This includes continued work with student leaders, parents, and faculty to proactively provide and create opportunities to learn about inclusivity and multicultural sensitivity.”
UWSP curlers win National Championship
The Curling Association of the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point (UWSP) won its second National Title in Eau Claire Friday through Sunday, March 9-11.
The program’s success partly reflects strong freshman recruitment: both Banaski and Behling excelled in high school and came to UWSP specifically to curl at the college level. They have also introduced the sport to many students for the first time. Alternate Lorenzo Smith had never curled before coming to UWSP.
“The team reeled me in with their cookies at the club sports fair,” said Smith. “And ever since I have been in love with the sport.
“Whether you are on the winning team or the losing team, laughs are shared between the opponents both on and off the ice,” he said. “There is a certain respect we all have for one another – no matter the skill level.”
Local Students Participate in National Walkout Day
On March 14, tens of thousands of students participated in a walkout in honor of the 17 victims from the Parkland Shooting Massacre on Feb. 14 at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.
Students across the nation called for safer schools and stricter gun laws.
Many students across Portage County, including those at SPASH and Ben Franklin joined in the 17-minute walkout in protest of an issue they felt they were not being heard on. As a result of the nationwide protests, large boycotts of the National Rifle Association were called for, which resulted in some pressure on larger retailers. Businesses such as Walmart and Dick’s Sporting Goods raised the age for purchasing a gun from 18 to 21 as a result.
UWSP Students Protest Proposed Cuts With Demonstration, Sit-in
By Joe Bachman
March 21, 2018
Slathers of UWSP students stood in solidarity on Wednesday, March 21 in response and protest to the proposed discontinuation of 13 liberal arts programs. This included a 13-minute silent sit-in protest in the halls of Old Main. Other protests would follow outside.
Throughout the day, the scene was that of vehicles who honked in support as they drove by, and signs that read ‘Where is Your Humanity? It’s Been Cut’ held by protesting students. Katrina Reigh is a double major in Arts Management and Drama with a Minor in Communications, and attended the sit-in portion of the demonstration.
“It was great to see so many people come out to the event,” said Reigh. “The chancellor greeted us as we came inside but people aren’t very happy with him, so it was interesting — the 13 minutes of silence were very moving.”
City Officials Move Forward on Student Housing Project on Division St.
By Joe Bachman
April 3, 2018
City officials moved forward with an approval that will see the site of the former Kmart on Division St. become a multi-use private student housing area.
What will become of the former site will turn into a mixed-use property, consisting of two four-story housing complexes, containing 133 units, as well as a 16,000 sq. foot commercial strip center. Amenities for the complex will include high-speed internet, study rooms, exercise facilities, and a storage room. Furthermore, the building will require a maintenance and management team, which will provide 24-hour oversight with the option of added security presence.
Completion of the site is expected on July 30, 2019, with occupancy beginning at the start of the 2019 fall school year.
Holman defeats Gebert for County Executive, Dugan edges Schulist in tight race
By Joe Bachman
April 4, 2018
Voters took to the polls on a snowy evening for two important local races in Portage County and Stevens Point. Incumbent Cathy Dugan defeated a respectable challenger in Lynn Schulist in the race for District 8 Alderperson. She won by a vote count of 300-270.
“I want to thank District 8 voters who put me over the top. said Dugan. “They braved a mighty snow storm to get to the polls yesterday. They put their trust in my experience, representation, and core values. I am honored.”
Chris Holman was elected County Executive in another close race. Holman would take the position by a vote count of 5,973 to 5,270.
“I want to thank all of my supporters for their help and encouragement over the last six months,” said Holman. “I am proud of the positive campaign that we ran. Thank you, too, to everyone who came out to vote despite the weather and to the county’s clerks and poll workers who always dedicate a lot of time and effort to making sure we have a smooth democratic process.
It was an honor and a privilege to run against Jami, as she has done a lot for our community and the county. It was a long night and a very close race. I wish only the best for her and her future. I am looking forward to getting to work and representing everyone in Portage County.”
Annual trivia contest strikes in area neighborhoods
By Gene Kemmeter
April 13, 2018
“The logo for trivia this year speaks volumes. A forty-niner (no, not a football player) panning for gold below the words “WWSP 90FM Presents: Trivia Rush 49.” This is the 49th contest for the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point (UWSP) and draws several thousand people to the community, including more UWSP alumni than come back for homecoming or any other university event.
Newer residents are undoubtedly baffled by the fervor some longtime residents exhibit as the contest nears. What causes middle-aged people to plan for months for the contest and invigorates them into acting similar to what they did decades ago? That is hard to explain.
The contest provides the city with the nickname “The Trivia Capital of the World,” and longtime area residents know why. They realize just how many of their friends and neighbors partake. They’ve experienced uncommonly long lines of slow-moving vehicles, a large amount of motorists on seldom-traveled roads and neighborhoods with an unusual number of vehicles parked near a house with most of its lights on for more than 54 straight hours.”
Plover Shooting Suspect Apprehended
April 26, 2018
Alex Varney pleaded no contest to multiple charges of first degree reckless endangerment in November for an incident stemming on April 26.
At approximately 4:49 a.m., police learned that an argument broke out during a social gathering at a residence on Bluebird Dr., and 18-year-old Alec Varney fired a shotgun, injuring two young men, along with one minor stab wound to a resident of the home.
The victims have all been medically treated, and made a full recovery. Varney will be sentenced on Jan. 4, 2019.
Mitch celebrated for coaching career
By John Kemmeter
April 28, 2018
After 37 years of coaching hockey in Stevens Point, Rusty Mitch decided to retire at the end of this season.
Along the way he spent time as an assistant coach for the Pacelli High School and Stevens Point Area Senior High School (SPASH) boys hockey teams, as well as with the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point (UWSP) men’s hockey team, before he helped restart the Pacelli hockey program, where he spent the last 11 seasons as its head coach.
“It’s a game I’ve always loved,” said Mitch. “My mother got me hooked on the (Chicago) Blackhawks, from the first time I could watch television, I’ve been a big Blackhawks fan, and she’s the one who got me playing hockey as a youth.