A 2-year-old girl was rushed to the hospital on Dec. 8 after being found unresponsive in the Red Cedar River by Rice Lake police. Myah Watters did not survive.
Officers were dispatched at approximately 9:33 p.m. to a residence on Hartel Street in the City of Rice Lake for a missing child. The caller told dispatch that the front door to their home was open, and the child could have been missing for up to 30 minutes.
Law enforcement searched the home multiple times and deployed a K9 unit and drone.
Police estimate that 75-100 people answered a call for searchers on Facebook that night.
Dozens of flashlights reflected off the snow and lit up the undersides of decks and interiors of sheds.
Eventually one of those volunteers found a set of small footprints.
Officers followed the trail to the river and at approximately 10:55 p.m. an officer using a handheld thermal imaging tool noticed a small speck of heat on the screen. The child was in the water and obscured by branches about 2 blocks from her home.
Officers immediately began performing CPR, and she was rushed to a nearby ambulance and transported to a hospital, but she did not survive.
Police say it appeared as if the girl slid into the water. It is unknown why she left the residence or headed towards the river.
Police are investigating the incident and Child Protective Services was notified, which are standard procedures in the death of a child. An autopsy will be performed.
RLPD Captain Tracy Hom called the community support amazing and stressed that it is a challenging situation for everyone involved.
While the search progressed, a 21-year-old Cameron man was arrested after reportedly nearly striking searchers with his vehicle at approximately 10:33 p.m.
The driver was cited for reckless driving-endangering safety. A blood sample was sent out for testing and criminal charges may be considered.
Besides the RLPD, the Rice Lake Fire Department, State Patrol, Barron County Sheriff's Department, EMS personnel and many citizens assisted in the search.
It's a busy Friday morning at Badger Brew Coffee Loft. Heather Haller is going back and forth behind the counter, steaming, stirring and slinging hot drinks.
"Sorry, I haven't had time to get adequately caffeinated," she says, apologizing to a reporter waiting for an interview.
The self-described barista/owner/coffee evangelist and now roaster mom—better known to many as Heather Brew—reaches around a drip coffee urn to pump some fresh brew into her cup.
Not only did she brew it herself, she roasted it too, as part of her new venture, Woodland Coffee Roasters.
"Nobody around here was doing it," said Haller, explaining her foray into in-house roasting.
She said roasting in-house provides fresher coffee with more flavor. Woodland offers a number of country-specific coffees as well as unique blends, like the Catalyst Cold Brew, Sweater Weather and Nordic Notes.
Being unique is nothing new to Haller.
Her college job was working in the drive-up Badger Brew Express coffee hut, stationed in what is now the Auto Value parking lot, in 2004 and she purchased the coffee hut in 2006 from Pamela Gaffney, who went on to pursue a nursing career.
"Being stuck in a box 8 to 10 hours a day, all I could think about was how to get out of the box," said Haller, who was also working a second job from 4:30 to 9 or 10 p.m. most nights.
She came out of the box in 2008 and opened Badger Brew at the corner of Koepp Avenue and Main Street.
Haller closed the shop in 2013 to pursue a new opportunity in Seattle. It is a favorite city of Haller's and home to one of her best friends and former Badger Brew business partner Tyler Van Helden. So she accepted an offer to manage the coffee shop portion of an upstart cafe near the University of Washington.
But due to leasing issues, the cafe never opened.
Though the dream job proved too good to be true, Haller enjoyed other opportunities in Seattle's rich coffee scene. Haller picked up a pair of jobs, working for Visions Espresso Services with Van Helden and at Vashion Coffee Company, where she learned new techniques from a world
champion barista, Bronwen Serna.
She even judged latte art competitions, which involve pouring steamed milk into a shot of espresso to produce a pattern or design on the surface of the latte.
But, for family reasons, Haller ultimately returned to the Badger State.
Badger Brew Coffee Loft opened in Spring of 2014. Though it's not in the Emerald City, the spirit of Seattle is present in the form of a skyline mural and Haller's flavorful coffee. She opened the adjacent White Stag in 2016 to serve beer, wine, appetizers, small plates and desserts.
The desire to do something new struck again this year with the founding of Woodland Coffee Roasters.
The first batch in Haller's specialty drum roaster was an Ethiopian natural process coffee—her favorite.
There's also single-origin beans from Sumatra, Guatemala, Mexico and elsewhere. Haller said she sources fair trade organic beans as much as possible.
Seasonal blends so far include Going To The Lake, Up North, Sweater Weather, Nordic Notes and Catalyst Cold Brew. The packaging is fun and bright, complete with images of deer, badgers and other woodland creatures, as well as flavor notes that describe the coffees.
The smell of roasting coffee beans fills the streets of downtown Rice Lake whenever Haller is at work, typically at night after the coffee shop is closed. A lighter roast takes 9-14 minutes at a time, while a dark roast takes 14-22 minutes.
Badger Brew now almost exclusively serves beans roasted in-house, and Woodland specialty teas are coming soon.
Woodland offerings are also sold at Main Street Market and Out There in Rice Lake as well as Julia's Java in Luck, with more local retailers coming soon.
And one doesn't have to be local to get it—Woodland has a web store at www.woodlandcoffeeroaster.com. All varieties are available and can be shipped in the U.S. for a small fee or picked up at Badger Brew for free.
A contract for the City of Rice Lake's residential waste and recycling hauling is going out to bid in 2020.
Republic Services, formerly Allied Waste, has held the contract since 2007. The current version of the contract, a 10-year deal, expires Aug. 31, 2020. The City will put out a request for bid proposals in January, and look to award a new 10-year contract in May.
During discussion at Tuesday's City Council meeting, alderman Dan Schwab asked if it might be possible to partner with the Town of Rice Lake for a contract.
City staff indicated that it could be a possibility, though it would complicate accounting and logistics.
The township itself does not provide waste hauling to residents; rather they are free to chose which, if any, contractor to use. Commercial waste collection and hauling in the city is also open to competition, with four different companies serving city businesses.
City Community Services Department director Jim Anderson said the downside of multiple haulers is that increases traffic, and therefore, noise and wear and tear on roads.