Rice Lake city crews worked over the weekend to successfully reopen the downtown ice skating rink, which had become unskateable as a result of hot water from a nearby manufacturer saturating the ground.
The issue was discovered as crews tried to freeze the rink located behind the Chamber of Commerce on S. Main Street beginning about Dec. 20, and it kept developing pock marks and sharp ridges.
On Dec. 29, Community Services Director Jim Anderson surveilled the condition of the rink.
“It was completely unskateable,” he told the Parks Board as members reviewed the reason for its closure, how to fix the issue and who should maintain the outdoors recreational facility at a Friday morning meeting.
As Anderson was the only member of the city crew on duty the day before New Year’s Eve, he alone made the decision to close the rink and erect a barricade. However, someone moved the barricades and the Chamber posted that it was open.
According to Anderson, Rice Lake Main Street Association Executive Director DeAnna Westphal asked him to flood the rink to level if off, and he denied the request.
Nevertheless, Westphal’s husband obtained a hose from the Rice Lake Fire Department and used water from the fire hydrant always used to flood the 6,760-foot-square rink against his wishes, he said.
The association raised the water level 4-6 inches, right up to the level of the floor inside the warming house on the rink’s south side. But problems again developed with the surface, making it unsafe to skate on.
To fix the rink’s surface, city crews began shaving off the top 4-6 inches of ice late last week. It wasn’t possible to again flood the surface at the high level without risking flooding the warming house.
City foreman Mike Ashlin warned the Parks Board that one flood was not going to make the rink extremely skateable, but after working over the weekend, the city announced Tuesday it was again open for business.
Anderson has been consulting with Besse as neither the city nor manufacturer had been aware of the problem, which had probably been present over the years but not to this extent. It’s not possible for the company to turn off the boiler, which is producing the water, without shutting down and laying off its workforce.
City crews have researched ways to prevent the problem from occurring in the future, and meanwhile Besse is piping steam water away, Anderson said. But any long-term fixes would need city funding, which falls under the purview of the City Council.
Anderson posed the question to the Parks Board about releasing maintenance of the rink to the Rice Lake Main Street Association per its request, but gave no recommendation.
Committee members were skeptical of releasing control, citing among other things liability issues and questions about the volunteer organization’s ability to maintain it as it doesn’t have equipment.
Board member Wayne Rado said it was premature to hand over control to the association before the rink’s problems are fixed.
The Parks Board, which has control of the downtown rink, which was established around 1998, denied the Rice Lake Main Street Association’s request to take over maintenance. The organization has an agreement with the city it will maintain the warming house.
The Parks Board also reiterated that the city service department has the authority to close the rink.
While the downtown rink was closed, the public had the use of the outdoor rink at the Hockey Center arena.
A judge ordered a Rice Lake man to life in prison — although he will be eligible to apply for extended supervision after half a century — for the murder of a 24-year-old town of Chetek man.
Garrett Macone died the night of Sept. 20, 2020, from two bullets shot into the back of his head as he slept in his home.
In November, a jury deemed 26-year-old Andrew J. Brunette guilty of Macone’s murder in the first degree, and on Friday the prosecution and defense argued between two possible sentences: Either life in prison with the possibility of extended supervision or without.
The victim’s family tearfully told Barron County Circuit Court Judge James Babler how the murder had affected their lives as they pleaded for him to pass down a life sentence with no possibility of release.
Jim Macone, Garrett’s father, said Brunette lied about his son threatening him and his family, and his mother, Jana Macone, described Garrett’s bear hugs when she had a bad day.
“I love you, it will be OK,” Jana Macone imagines her son would say when her heart hurts and she’s having a bad day.
Audrey Macone, the victim’s sister, received the news of his death the day before her birthday and learned that day that Brunette had confessed. She said she had needed medication and therapy to ease her pain, and felt unsafe and unsettled.
The Macones feared for their lives and lives in the community if Brunette were ever released from prison, and noted he never expressed remorse.
“I want to see a life sentence,” Jana Macone said. “I think he’s capable of killing again.”
District Attorney Brian Wright said the murder was premeditated and Brunette intended to get away with it.
“This was pure and simple a murder by execution,” the district attorney said.
Sentencing Brunette to life without the possibility of extended supervision would be justice for Garrett Macone, he concluded.
Brunette’s mother spoke in defense of her son, laying much of the blame at the feet of her ex-daughter-in-law, and said she was remorseful for what happened to the Macones.
Defense attorney Stephanie Thomas-Schmidt asked Babler to allow Brunette to apply for extended supervision after 30 years, noting that applying for release did not mean it would be granted, he’d have to work for it.
Citing that science shows male brain development continues into the mid- to late-20s and that Brunette suffered from borderline personality disorder that was untreated at the time of the murder, Thomas-Schmidt argued that it was possible he could safely be released once he reached his mid-50s.
Brunette, in his statement, said he took full responsibility for his crime, apologized to the Macone family and his own, and would be “forever sorry.”
“I wish I could take it back,” Brunette said.
Babler told Brunette that he agreed with the jury that he knew the wrongfulness of his actions. It was jealousy, not mental illness or the defense of his children, that drove him to murder Macone.
But the judge also said he thought there was hope for Brunette, and sentenced him to life with the possibility of extended supervision after 50 years, setting any possibility of his release from prison when he’s in his mid-70s.
Brunette was credited with 474 days already served and is bound for prison intake at Dodge Correctional Institution in Waupun.
Candidates submitted their names to be put on the Spring Election ballot by the Jan. 4 deadline, and they are now off and running. Races have been set up in Rice Lake and throughout the county.
Rice Lake City
Two men are running for the office of mayor of Rice Lake, and five people are seeking the four available at-large seats on the City Council.
Incumbent Mayor Michael Diercks announced he would not seek re-election at a City Council meeting in November, and two have forwarded their names to be printed on the April 5 ballot.
Justin Fonfara and Bruce Willers hope to succeed Diercks and take on a two-year commitment to serve the city beginning April 19.
Three incumbent at-large council members — Todd Larson, Mark O’Brien and Cory Schnacky — are seeking re-election. However, incumbent Dan Lawler is stepping down.
James Resac and Marlene Dirkes filed nomination papers, setting up a five-way race for four seats.
Council members serve two-year terms.
Rice Lake Area School Board
Six people are running for three at-large seats on the Rice Lake Area School Board, and their names will appear on the Spring Election ballot.
The three incumbents whose seats were up for election — Deanna Aubart, Joshua Estreen and Gary Spear — had declared their intention not to run again, so no matter who wins on April 5, the trio will be new to the board.
The candidates are: Dianne Koser, Phil Henkel, Vanessa Aspseter-Hellstern, Linda Tollefsrud and Gerry Miller, all of Rice Lake; and Miriam Vavra of Haugen.
School board members serve three-year terms beginning April 25.
Barron County Board
There will be nine races for seats on the Barron County Board of Supervisors.
District 14’s seat first appears on the ballot of the Primary Election on Feb. 15, as three people filed candidacy papers. Incumbent Carol Moen of Cameron seeks to retain her office against challengers Pattie Greene of Cameron and Noah Marach of Rice Lake. The two who earn the most votes move on to the April 5 ballot.
In District 2, Diane Vaughn of New Auburn seeks to unseat incumbent Oscar Skoug of Chetek.
Incumbent John Banks of Chetek will be defending his office in District 3 against Paul Poppe of Chetek.
In District 5, incumbent Karolyn Bartlett of Dallas faces Angela Young of Chetek.
Ron Fladten of Barron is challenging incumbent Peter Olson in District 12.
In District 15, incumbent Eric Pannier of Rice Lake is running against Fran Langman of Cameron.
Patti Anderson of Rice Lake hopes to unseat incumbent Russell Rindsig of Sarona in District 17.
Incumbent Jerry McRoberts of Rice Lake is defending his seat in District 19 against Abe Voelker of Rice Lake.
In District 26, Audrey Kusilek of Rice Lake is challenging incumbent Don Horstman of Cumberland.
Three supervisors chose not to run for re-election: Steve Johnson in District 13, Tod Gerland in District 18 and Bert Skinner in District 28. Three are seeking their seats unchallenged: Kathy Krug of Cameron in District 13, Randy Cook of Cameron in District 18 and Craig Turcott of Cumberland in District 28.
Incumbents running for re-election unopposed are Bob Rogers (District 1), Terry Lee (District 4), Pamela Fall (District 6), Bill Schradle (District 7), Gary Taxdahl (District 8), Jim Gores (District 9), Gary Nelson (District 10), Roberta Mosentine (District 11), Louie Okey (District 16), Marv Thompson (District 20), Burnell Hanson (District 21), Stacey Wenzel (District 22), Dana Paul Heller (District 23), Bob Anderson (District 24), Stanley Buchanan (District 25), Bill Effertz (District 27) and Dale A. Heinecke (District 29).
Supervisors serve two-year terms.
Incumbents for judicial seats concerning Barron County face no competition on the ballot of the Spring Election.
Barron County Circuit Court Branch 1 Judge James Babler of Barron is running unopposed, and Thomas M. Cruz of Appleton is seeking to retain the bench for the Court of Appeals District 3.
Both terms run for six years.