The Barron Police Department is looking for three people suspected of vandalizing the main pavilion in Anderson Park on June 1.
An officer on routine patrol through the park at 12:53 a.m. observed "BLM" and "No Justice No Peace" written in black spray paint on the pavilion, according to a statement written by Barron Police Department Chief Joe Vierkandt and posted to the department's Facebook page on Monday.
The graffiti's message is related to nationwide protests over the death of George Floyd.
After notifying dispatch, the officer observed three subjects run from the area.
The initial Facebook post described just one of the subjects, stating the person was a black male. No other descriptors were provided.
Some Facebook commenters criticized the post's description of the suspect as racist, while others defended the description stating it would be hard to see in the dark and if other descriptors were available police would have used them.
An update was posted by
Barron Police Department on Tuesday that described the man as 6 feet tall, thin set, possibly wearing shorts and a T-shirt and stated that the other two subjects were in a non-lit area near the river and could not be described.
Police requested public assistance in identifying the suspects, and asked citizens with doorbell cameras to review their footage.
The original Facebook post was edited on Tuesday and has been shared over 1,400 times.
Facebook commenters agreed that vandalism was not acceptable in their community.
Many people offered assistance with cleaning up the graffiti or with monetary support.
Chief Vierkandt thanked those who offered to repair the shelter but said that the Barron Street Department would be fixing the pavilion.
Street Commissioner David Hansen estimated that it cost about $250 to remove the graffiti, and that three summer employees had scrubbed the lettering off on Monday.
He said he is still pricing paint and contractors and that a crew will paint all of the pavilion's wood paneling.
The graffiti stems from protests being held in cities nationwide after the death of 48-year-old George Floyd, a black man who died after Minnesota police officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee into Floyd's neck last week. Chauvin and three other officers were fired the next day, and Chauvin was charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter on May 29.
After some discussion on a troubled police department, the Rice Lake City Council approved filling the position of the K9 officer at its regular meeting May 26.
The last K9 officer, Josh Eckes, submitted his resignation as of June 2 after 4 years in the department.
Alderman Mark O'Brien asked that the issue be dealt with in closed session at a later meeting. He cited recent issues within the department, illustrated by 10 officers signing a letter of no confidence in chief Steve Roux in April.
O'Brien, a former Rice Lake police officer, said, "It's strange to have an officer leave a department, and we've had quite a few leave. And I'd like to know why. I worked with Steve for years and got along with him just fine, so I can't say it's that. But I'd like to know more about what's going on."
City administrator Curt Snyder said, "Delaying this a few weeks would not be the end of the world, but it wouldn't help. It would further hamper the chief's ability to run the department, which I think might contribute to things already being complained about."
An excerpt of the police union's letter of no confidence reads, "Over the past several years, we have been disheartened by Chief Roux's actions and his management of our agency. He has tested our willpower and confidence in his skill to adequately lead this department."
The department has 14 patrol positions. Two officers did not sign the letter, and two officers still in their 1-year probationary periods did not participate in voting.
A motion to approve filling the K9 officer position passed 5-2.
A relative newcomer to Rice Lake was elected to fill a vacant position on the City Council at the meeting.
Keith Moffatt was appointed by a 5-2 vote of current Council members to serve as District 1 alderman. He replaces Jim Dorrance, who moved out of the city.
Moffatt, of 36 E. Marshall St., said he has lived in the community for 2 years, moving to Rice Lake in retirement after time in the U.S. Army and a career in engineering and management.
In a letter to the Council, Moffatt stated, "District 1 is in the historic heart of Rice Lake. It deserves our collective attention, focusing on the continued development of its unique character and heritage. In addition, I am looking forward to the constructive input from the citizens of the 1st District on how I can best serve their interests."
Voting against Moffatt were Dan Lawler and Cory Schnacky, who motioned and seconded, respectively, to appoint Bruce Willers to the seat. Willers was appointed as District 1 Alderman in January of 2013, lost reelection to Dorrance in 2015 and returned as an at-large alderman from 2016 to 2018.
Alderman Doug Edwardsen vouched for Moffatt, giving the example of his willingness to show up out of the blue to assist with a beach walk clean up on Lakeshore Drive.
"He's someone who dives into things," said Edwardsen.
Moffatt was also endorsed by, of all people, a third contender for the open seat.
Three-term former mayor Al Arnold concluded a voluminous pitch of his own qualifications by saying, "Over the years I have always encouraged others to get involved and run for office. New blood is always good. So for that reason, if I was sitting in your chair, I would actually vote for the new guy. I'd vote for Keith."
In other business, a cost cut for the annual renewal of alcohol serving licenses in Rice Lake was rejected by the Council.
Other communities in Wisconsin have cut the annual fee, sometimes as low as the statutory minimum of $50.
Lawler suggested making the annual fee— $500 for liquor and $100 for beer and wine—half price for the city's alcohol serving establishments.
But other alderman said they felt it was unfair to give a break to one group of businesses when many are struggling during an economic slowdown brought on by COVID-19 lockdown precautions.
Barron's Chris Kroeze made his big screen debut May 29 at the Stardust Drive-In Movie Theater in Chetek.
The singer gave an acoustic performance while sitting in the back of a 5th generation Ford pickup truck while his image was blown up to 60 feet by 40 feet behind him.
"Well if you can't tell," Kroeze told the crowd, "it's just me tonight, so I'm trying to keep it casual."
Concertgoers arrived in around 170 vehicles and relaxed in lawn chairs, bought funnel cakes and hamburgers from the snack bar, and made song requests via Facebook.
A drone twirled overhead taking video, and a cameraman filmed the performance.
"It kinda felt like summer, like summer should be anyway," drive-in owner Paul Javener said.
The show provided an opportunity for not only Kroeze to do his job, Javener said, but for the lighting and sound crew that haven't been able to work together for months to do theirs.
Kroeze continued his job on Tuesday when he left for Nashville for a recording session.
Movers transported Wiesner Community Chapel on May 27 from its landmark spot along Hwy. V to a new home.
The 112-year-old building is now at the Hungry Hollow Gas & Steam Engine Club grounds about 5 miles south of its former place in the Town of Stanfold.
"The move went very well," said Sandy Peichel, president of the Friends of the Wiesner Community Chapel.
Peichel said the decision to move the building was difficult but was the best option for the future of the chapel.
DeEtte Fankhauser, another member of the large extended Wiesner family, said the family and neighbors had done a lot of work over the years to restore the chapel, but there wasn't much interest from the next generation to keep it going.
"Financially, we were more than okay, but we just didn't have the help. Families weren't interested any more or have moved out of the area," said Fankhauser.
She said the chapel was in rough shape, with windows shot out and various other issues, when the family purchased the building in 1989.
"Many of my aunts and uncles and cousins worked to restore it," she said.
It was in the midst of another project in the spring of 2019 that Hungry Hollow took interest in the chapel.
While the structure was raised up on blocks—for the replacement of joists and a new foundation—a member of the Hungry Hollow club inquired about the chapel because the club was looking
to add one to its grounds, said Fankhauser.
After much discussion the Friends group decided to take Hungry Hollow up on its offer, and a new foundation was poured for the chapel at its new home instead.
"Where it's situated on the Hungry Hollow grounds, it's really going to be impressive, especially the view from Hwy. 25," said Mark Gargulak, club president. "We're thankful to the Wiesner family for giving us the opportunity."
The chapel was built by members of the large Wiesner family and their neighbors more than a century ago.
In the June 5, 1908, issue of The Chronotype, it was reported, "Herman and Albert Wiesner and Wm. Wille are busy preparing the foundation for the new German church which they contemplate building in the near future. The church is to be built on Herman Wiesner's land nearly opposite Aug. Lee's residence. We think they have chosen a nice site for the building and it is close to the main road."
It wasn't long before a structure was erected.
In the Aug. 7, 1908, issue it was reported, "Peter Schesvold helped Emil Wiesner with his hay last week as the latter's father, Herman Wiesner, was helping Bernard Scheu and W. Wille put seats in the church. Rev. Geo. Zellmer is papering the room this week."
It was called the German Evangelical Free Lutheran Church—and variations thereof in the early years. Services were held in both English and German initially.
There was also a one-room schoolhouse nearby, which primarily served the family of German immigrants Herman and Ernestina Wiesner, who bore 18 children, according to 1910 Census records.
The "Wiesner School" was built in 1889 and moved from near the chapel site to the northeast corner of 23rd Avenue and 16th Street in 1907. It was known as the Columbia School.
Aside from church services, the chapel was the site of many gatherings and concerts, especially around Christmas time.
Eventually its congregation dwindled, and the building was used for farm storage or abandoned for many years.
Once the Friends group restored it, traditional uses of weddings, funerals, family reunions and other functions returned.
Peichel said the Friends group would eventually disband, but the Wiesner family would continue to use the chapel at Hungry Hollow for reunions and Christmas gatherings. She said the family would also assist in its continued upkeep.
"We're happy to put it at Hungry Hollow where people can enjoy it," she said.
Gargulak said Hungry Hollow hopes to eventually make the chapel available for weddings.
Though the club's annual show in late June is cancelled this year, the chapel will be used for the show's Sunday church service in future years, said Gargulak.
Fankhauser said the family's attention will next turn to the Wiesner Cemetery, located a half mile east of the old chapel site. The Town of Stanfold has ceased maintenance of the cemetery in November after its board discovered that legal ownership of the land was never transferred to the town. The land is privately owned.
The chapel move was supposed to happen last year, but inevitably there were delays.
The move, paid for by the Friends group, took about 4 hours, as power lines had to be temporarily moved.
Fankhauser said at one point, the chapel's trailer hit a bump on Hwy. 48, causing the chapel bell to ring.
"The sound was sad, but it made me feel kind of good, too," she said.