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2019: Year in review


• People of Barron County and many more from around the country and world are relieved to learn that Jayme Closs escaped her captor on Jan. 10. Her kidnapper, Jake Patterson, 21, confessed to the crimes, saying he had seen the girl getting on a school bus and decided "she was the girl he was going to take." The judge called Patterson the "embodiment of evil" before sentencing him to life in prison. Jayme did not appear at Patterson's sentencing but said in a statement, "He thought that he could own me but he was wrong. I was smarter."

• The Boardwalk, a "tabletop cafe" that sells board games and allows people to play games in the cafe with food and beverages, is opened 105 N. Main St. on Thursday, Jan. 31. Owners Peter and Rachel Metzger started up the The Boardwalk to fulfill a community niche as a fun and inviting place for people of all ages.

• Cambridge Assisted Living is planning opened its doors to make a home away from home for about 68 people. Located at 820 Bearpaw Ave. in Rice Lake, the new facility offers a wide range of amenities.


• Harry Skirm, 64, from Puyallup, Washington, was killed Feb. 8 on Hwy. 48 near Cumberland when his vehicle crossed the center line and struck an eastbound truck.

• Dan "Bimbo" Gifford's photo of Cameron fire chief Mitch Hansen went viral this after the volunteer department battled flames and temperatures in the double digits below zero at Jan. 30 house fire.

• Snowfall totals ranked among the highest and temperatures among the lowest in local weather records. Highway departments could hardly catch a break, with consistent heavy snows.

• Barron County judge Michael Bitney's decision to become Facebook friends with a woman whose child custody case he was hearing created at least the appearance of bias, a state appeals court ruled. The 3rd District Court of Appeals ordered the case to be re-heard by another judge. The case, which is the first of its kind in the state, contemplates whether judges' use of social media can compromise them. The ruling didn't lay out any bright-line rules for judges, but it warned them to use caution when engaging with people online to avoid the appearance of impropriety.


• About 1,000 people attended the inaugural Spurs & Skis Skijoring Stampede at the Barron County Fairgrounds in Rice Lake, according to organizers of the event. Proceeds of the event benefitted efforts of the Rice Lake Rotary Club and UW Eau Claire-Barron County Foundation.

• Childhood kidnapping survivor Elizabeth Smart spoke in Barron about how to help victims, like Jayme Closs, recover from trauma. She was also promoting 'Smart Justice: The Jayme Closs Case," a TV special.


• Josh Estreen, Deanna Aubart and Gary Spear were elected to the Rice Lake school board, leaving Michael Duerkop as the odd candidate out in a four-person race for three seats.

• Pat Uchytill, 50, of Haugen, died after a car he was working on slipped off a fork lift.

• Cases of STDs and measles increased in Barron County. Gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis were all reported in greater numbers. Lower vaccination rates also caused an increase in measles.


• A late winter and wet spring adversely affected crops. Winter kill was a big concern for alfalfa, and farmers were late to plant corn and soybeans.

• Brett W. Tyler, 23, died as the result of a three-vehicle crash occurring on Mother's Day on Boot Lake Road south of B, in the town of Beaver Brook east of Shell Lake in Washburn County. The Wisconsin State Patrol reported that a northbound 2017 Chevy Silverado pickup truck driven by Donald D. Meyer, 51, of Chippewa Falls, collided with two southbound passenger cars. One was a 2017 VW Passat driven by Brett Tyler. The other car was a 2018 Toyota Camry driven by Trae A. Tyler, 24, of Rice Lake.

• The Milk Pail ice cream parlor sign stays "Closed" as a new buyer is sought for the Marshall Street icon.


• Shopko closes in Rice Lake, the latest in a series of big box retail closures in recent years in the community. The closure of Shopko stores affected 1,715 employees across Wisconsin, including 51 in Rice Lake.

• Northern Star Theatre opens in its new location at 12 W. Marshall St., with the musical "Newsies."

• Rice Lake Main Street Assn. director Kathy Wellsandt retires, and is succeeded by Kianna Lindh.

• Justin A. Andrea, 35, of Rice Lake died in a crash June 29 while traveling along Hwy. 253 in the town of Beaver Brook.


• A tornado rips across Barron County on July 19, the worst hit of a stormy summer. Comstock, Barron and New Auburn were among the worst affected areas. Hundreds were left without power for several days.

• A new Rice Lake Community Services shop is officially completed on South Wisconsin Avenue.


• Walmart has sued the City of Rice Lake for the third time in as many years over the property valuation of the Arkansas based company's West Avenue location. The most recent suit was filed Aug. 1 in Barron County Circuit Court and, like the previous two, claims a property valuation of $13.5 million is excessive and leads to Walmart paying more property tax than is legal.

• A Canadian National Railway train struck a southbound semi-truck filled with soybeans near 18th Street and Guy Avenue in Barron around 3 a.m. on Aug. 26. The westbound, twoengine train sheared off the back half of the trailer, spewing soybeans onto 18th Street, before coming to a stop 20 cars from the impact site. No one was injured.


• The Richard Grand Recreation Hall is dedicated at Hunt Hill Audubon Sanctuary, offering a greatly improved space for the sanctuary's many programs.

• Audra Poppe, 22, is found dead in a mobile home in Cameron. Police said she was stabbed by Eldon S. Jackson, 21, who afterward died when his vehicle collided with an oncoming truck on Hwy. 8.

• Two 16-year-olds died in a crash on Hwy. 63. Grace Schradle and Michael Magnuson were in a vehicle that collided with a semi tractor-trailer. The semitrailer was traveling northbound on Hwy. 63, and a sedan was traveling eastbound on 60th Avenue, approaching Hwy. 63. A witness told police the sedan slowed but traveled onto Hwy. 63 without stopping for the stop sign.

• One driver was killed and another injured after two trucks collided yesterday at the intersection of 18th Street and Hwy. B, north of Rice Lake. Thomas Lamm, 48, of Boyceville was traveling south on 18th Street and failed to stop at the stop sign at the Hwy. B intersection. Lamm's truck collided with a westbound truck driven by Corey Carlson, 47, of Rice Lake, who was injured.

• Rep. Sean Duffy (R) resigns after more than 8 years in Congress. He said the upcoming birth of a daughter with heart defects was an important factor in his decision. Weeks later Duffy took a job as a pundit on CNN and joined a lobbying firm.


• After more than a year of work, Main Street Bridge is fully re-opened to traffic. However, numerous visible cracks became a source of ire for citizens and city officials.

• Rice Lake Public Library re-opened with an improved and expanded location at 2 E. Marshall St. The former Heritage Manor property had been used as a temporary location throughout the previous 9 months.

• Henry Repeating Arms and the Big Boy All-Weather lever action rifle won the 'Coolest Thing Made in Wisconsin' competition organized by the Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce from a contestant pool of over 150 different products and companies.

• Brian Morris, 44, of Turtle Lake died after his van and a semi-tractor trailer collided near Poskin around 4:52 a.m. on Oct. 17. He was eastbound on Hwy. 8 when the van crossed the centerline into the path of a westbound semi-tractor trailer hauling US Postal Service mail.

• One of the few left of its kind, Rice Lake's last video rental store, Video Plus & Celebrity, closed after 27 years in business.


• Movin Out, a Madisonbased non-profit, offers the lone proposal for redeveloping the former Heritage Manor building in Rice Lake.

• Mayor Michael Diercks announces he will seek reelection in 2020, and Alderman Doug Edwardsen throws his hat in the race as well.

• Three people were injured after a traffic crash that sent vehicles careening into the County Inn parking lot north of Rice Lake on a Saturday night. Two SUVs collided at the intersection of Hwy. B and SS shortly after 6 p.m. Both cars then careened into the parking lot of the busy restaurant, crashing into a parked vehicles, one of which then crashed into the side of the building.


• A 21-year-old Kewaskum man died early Thanksgiving morning after his pickup truck rolled over on Hwy. 8 east of Cumberland. Cole R. Schiebel was extricated from the vehicle and transported to Cumberland Hospital where life saving measures were unsuccessful.

• Preliminary 9-day gun deer season numbers released by the Department of Natural Resources showed a 20% drop in the deer harvest in Barron County. The deer gun season saw 2,190 antlerless deer and 1,406 bucks registered in Barron County for a 3,596 total.

• Efforts to save 2-year-old Myah Watters were unsuccessful after she was found unresponsive in the Red Cedar River. The young girl drowned after leaving her home on Hartel Street. Nearly 100 people formed a search party for the girl.

• A second metal sculpture was added to Lakeshore Drive as Trusty Rusty put hoofs down, embodying the pioneering spirit of the lumbermen and farmers who settled in the area more than a century ago.

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