SPOONER– Discussion ensued between Spooner City Council members at their October 3 monthly meeting on whether to amend a city ordinance defining whether a dog or cat has to be on a leash to be considered "under control" and not running at large.
The current ordinance Section 10-8(c)(2) states, "A dog or cat shall not be considered to be running at large if it is on a leash and under control of a person physically able to control it or it is trained and in the immediate company of a person to which it immediately responds and obeys (e.g., a dog playing a game of fetch
in a field, or walking alongside its owner or a member of the owner's immediate family) if such person is over the age of 12 years."
The proposed amendment would remove the part of the ordinance starting from "or it is trained" and would simply read: "A dog or cat shall not be considered to be at large if is on a leash and under control of a person physically able to control it," which then requires the animal to always be on a leash when off of the owner's property.
Alderperson Terri Reiter, chair of the Safety and Licensing Committee, said that one reason for the revision is due to a discrepancy between the wording of the ordinance and the city's dog license application, which just says, "10-8 Pets are required to be on leash and under control."
Prior to the council discussion during the public commentary, dog owner Aaron Tripp addressed council explaining that his dogs have extensive training and time that's been put into them. He said that he as well as his wife and kids walk their dogs off leash with an electronic collar and have had zero issues with anyone in the city over the coarse of the past five years. He asked council to not change the wording in the current ordinance which would not allow him as a responsible pet owner to walk his dogs in the same manner that they are trained for. He also said he was unsure why it was an issue since records he requested and were provided by the police department showed only six warnings or citations issued for an animal at large problem in the city over the past two years. He pointed out that three were the same person and in all the cases the dog was nowhere near the owner. Tripp expressed that in his view changing the wording in the ordinance requiring all dogs on leashes isn't going to change the behavior of the people who aren't watching their dogs currently while making it so he can't enjoy his animals and have them enjoy the freedom he trained them to have.
When the amendment came up for discussion/action, council discussed the issue for well over 10 minutes citing personal observations and experiences and including input from Tripp as well as Spooner Police Chief Jerry Christman. Christman explained that the six instances cited were cases and said he has had many more conversations with dog owners about controlling their animals but also said that the dogs were not near their owners. A couple council members commented on witnessing people letting their dogs run loose and uncontrolled in the city parks. Alderperson Tim Donovan recalled unleashed dogs fighting with his own dog while walking them on a leash. Alderperson John Parker said he was currently in favor of the amendent recalling his grandson being seriously bitten by another owner's dog out of control while Alderperson Michelle Ortmann expressed it was unfair to those who spend a lot time training their animals. Alderperson Carol Dunn indicated the issue should be whether the dog is under control and not necessarily a physical leash but also said that control might be hard to tell and enforce. Alderperson Rick Coquillette questioned the definition of control and the distance a dog could be from the owner and still be considered under control stating his dog could be on the other side of a field and come when he calls. He suggested the amendment be referred back to committee for further review. Mayor Gary Cuskey suggested that there may be a way of modifying the ordinance in a way that could "accommodate the control that we're looking for" and have it better defined to "get the best of both worlds." Council deferred the matter back to the Safety & Licensing Committee for further discussion, the meeting to be held the morning of October 29.
Park plan amendment
Council approved amendment to the Spooner Parks & Recreation Plan which was submitted to the DNR in 2015. The 2015 plan states that it is an update of the 1994 City of Spooner Parks & Recreation Plan and Addendum 1 in 1997 and Addendum 2 in 2013 and that it is used to identify facilities that are needed, where they should be located and generally when the facilities should be constructed. It also has maps, demographic projections, and land use information.
City Administrator Bill Marx explained later that now a plan must be submitted to the DNR every five years for the city to qualify for grant funding for improvements. He said that the 2019 amendment includes descriptions of projects completed since 2015 as well as projects hoped to be done. Some examples of completed projects include a new warming house along with other improvements to the hockey rink in 2017, roof reconstruction of the Spooner Roundhouse and surrounding soil remediation also in 2017, and basalt (to keep dust down) to the Wild River Trail and improvements to Merchant Park this year. A couple examples of hoped for improvements include planting shaded trees in the Railroad Park and constructing a Pickleball court in the Eastland Addition Park. Marx said also said that a recommendation in the plan is for the city to purchased the old post office building to create green space and a connection from the Railroad Park to downtown.
• Council approved amendment to the ordinance restricting sale of tobacco to minors to also include vaping products.
• Cuskey announced the upcoming Jack-O-Lantern Festival starting October 19 and the pumpkin roll. Alderperson Tim Donovan expressed concern about the festival being held in the parking lot across from the civic center might interfere with events. Other council members were also concerned about parking for events as well as for uptown during the weekend. Council agreed to keep the festival in the lot this year acknowledging its proximity to the pumpkin roll but contemplated moving it to the Railroad Park in the future while keeping the pumpkin roll down Signer Hill.
• Also on October 19, there will be a program at the high school at 11 a.m. to honor National Guardsmen being deployed to the Middle East.
• Cuskey announced official trick-or-treat hours on October 31, from 4-8 pm with residents showing endorsement by leaving the porch light on.
• Cuskey announced Fall Cleanup on November 2 at the city shop and to bring appliances and tires. He said that this year identification with an address must be shown to prove residency in the city.
"Store Closing" and "Sale 40% Off" are two signs taped to the door of the Lakes Community Cooperative Stone Lake Market on Main Street in Stone Lake.
The cooperative market that opened its doors in July 2008 will be closing them at the end of business Saturday, Oct. 12.
Over the course of its 11 years, it has been a struggle to keep those doors open, but by the grit and determination of the board, members, volunteers, and patrons – some of whom occupy all four roles – the little grocery store has defied the odds and offered a local, convenient sources of groceries.
In March 2018, the previous board moved to close the store, but the membership was adamant about giving life to the business, and a new board with a new determination gave the store a new name and logo, a new look, and a new business plan, adding local products available only at the store, such as restaurant meats and Burnett Dairy cheese. But all of their noble efforts eventually failed to achieve profitability.
Board President Susan Walker said the little store had four pressing challenges: competition from the new Dollar General store that could offer lower prices, aging equipment and mounting repair bills, inability to pay competitive wages to workers and the cyclical market, with a booming summer tourist season followed by sleepy winter months.
"The membership chose to keep it open, and for the last two years we have tried to meet that expectation," Walker said. "We had some very generous financial gifts to help us through that, but it was not enough to sustain the business."
More than anything, she said, it was the slow winter months that the business could not overcome.
"We cannot sustain ourselves in a cyclical market, where a lot of businesses can close during the winter months," she said. "That's not feasible for a business like this, and we cannot sustain our monthly expenses
during the winter months."
She discussed the efforts to put the store on a new footing in the spring of 2018.
"We initiated a cleanup effort," she said. "We restaged the store. We rebranded with the Stone Lake Market logo. We did try to meet the expectations of the members who wanted to keep the store open. However, that happened at the same time that Dollar General opened here. We've noticed a marked decrease in our sales, and during our winter months, I don't think there is enough population in this area to sustain both of those businesses."
The previous board suggested those who wanted the store to stay open to dissolve the cooperative with all its debt and reopen under a new name with a fresh, new slate. Walker said there is no interest in doing that.
"Everyone has ideas; everyone has suggestions," she said. "The bottom line is we cannot sustain the business overhead during the winter months."
The building itself is looking sharp and clean and attractive. Walker said there had been a "concerted effort" last spring to give the building a new look that many noticed.
A letter went out to the 511 cooperative members on Friday, Oct. 4, to announce the closing. There will be a membership meeting Saturday, Oct. 19, where the board will present its position.
Walker said it is possible the membership could choose to keep the store open but she does not know how that could be accomplished.
"The board has done everything it could," she said.
Walker has volunteered to be the store's manager during the summer, and other board members also have volunteered. And she is thankful for the employees staying on until the final day.
"This is a hard thing to do no matter how you look at it," she said. "It's not how we wanted it to come out, but it is the way it has. We're done."
She added, "It has been our pleasure to serve the community. We will miss our customers."
SPOONER– Twenty years ago the Wisconsin's Northwest Heritage Passage (WNHP), now known as Arts in Hand, took shape to advocate for and promote the arts, what is now sometimes called the "creative economy."
It has been a collaborative that has brought together artists, crafters, niche agriculturalists, museums, and historical points from the Great River (the Mississippi) to the Great Lake (Superior) – 13 counties in all from Pepin County to Ashland County, with the passage mostly following the Hwy. 63 and 53 corridor.
The goal was to not only promote the artisans and growers but also to stimulate the rural economy through the homemade and the homegrown.
In celebration of the 20th anniversary, three of the five "founding mothers" who are still in the area were honored during the passage's annual meeting in Spooner on October 1: Alene Peterson, Janet Krokson, and Beverly Stencel. Each was presented with a gift in honor of their dedication and longtime support of the arts and the passage.
The inspiration for the passage struck while Peterson was traveling and ran across the book "The Craft Heritage Trails of Western North Carolina." Its wonderful descriptions of who the people were, what they were doing, and their history and culture hooked her.
"I couldn't put it down," she said as she described the passage's history at the annual meeting.
A group back home had talked about doing a brochure of
art locales, and when she told them about the book, they said, why not do it.
She thought that was a crazy idea, but it gradually took shape. First came maps of the artisans' and growers' location along the passage in 2001 (with updates in 2004 and 2009, with 10,000 printed at a time). In 2011, they published the book, "The Wisconsin Passage: An Adventure in the Handmade, Homegrown and Historical offerings from the Mississippi River to Lake Superior."
Peterson's role was to go to the various studios and galleries and farms and meet with each artisan and producer, travels that she said she will remember forever.
"We wanted to do a book that was a book, not an advertising piece," Peterson said. "So we tried to make the descriptions of the places that were in the book, to tell a little bit about them, that would make you want to visit, but not in an advertising way. And it really did take a visit to do that. Because when we put out forms that said, 'Tell us about yourself,' they all said, 'Well, I'm inspired by nature.' I knew I couldn't put that down for everybody."
So she and others visited each site, noting what made each unique or memorable – a garden, perhaps, or a quaint building or the scenery. Niche agriculture was included since that tended to attract the same type of people that arts and crafts do.
Krokson translated those visits into descriptions and wove in historical facts, cultural information, and ancedotes.
Peterson thanked Krokson for the writing that gave the book its voice.
"Even though those descriptions are perhaps out of date, those cultural and historical stories make that book worth taking a look at," Peteson said.
The organization would not exist had it not been for Peterson and Stencel, Krokson said when she was honored.
"Beverly offered her expertise in community development. And her vision and her knowledge kind of guided Alene and me," she said.
Peterson pushed the project along and contributed a lot of vision, dedication, and loyalty to the cause, Krokson said.
"In the beginning, I don't think any of us would have predicted how in 20 years it was going to look," she said of the heritage passage.
At the time the organization was forming, Stencel was the University of Wisconsin-Extension community development educator.
Stencel took many a road trip with Peterson gathering info, even going to western North Carolina for hands-on training. She praised the all-volunteer nature of the heritage passage organization and said it is amazing that it is volunteer-driven.
As a non-profit, WHPA did trainings for artists and crafters, helping them develop their business through marketing, advertising, and display.
"Then there always was that part also of educating the public," Stencel said. "Because if you do classes for them, they see how hard this is. They appreciate way more what you're putting into it. Because you guys do such beautiful work."
What really lent credibility to the organization – gave it "wheels" – Stencel said, was some research that she initiated by seeking out someone to determine what economic benefit artists and crafters contribute to the economy. A colleague of hers took on the challenge, and the research showed the passage and the arts are a boon to the region's economy.
The passage not only became successful, it was a model that Stencel spoke about across the country, outlining how a great idea led to a collaboration across counties that economically benefited the participants, the communities, and the region.
Stencel has since retired from UW-Extension and still volunteers at Arts in Hand gallery.
WNHP eventually became known as Arts in Hands, and a gallery of that name opened in 2013.
After the founding mothers presentations, Arts in Hands member Mike Threinen summarized some of the recent achievements of the gallery. He said an amazing number of world-class, talented artists are in the area.
"What y'all did 20 years ago, is more valid today, probably than it was 20 years ago," Threinen said of the heritage passage. "So thanks for doing this. Because it started something that is really important. And the gallery that came out of this is doing really well."
A major shift this year was the formation of a gallery management committee so the gallery will become a run by artists, for artists, freeing up the board to concentrate on the organization as a whole and its mission.
The gallery started a feature artist wall, and in January through April, student artists will be featured, another way to tie together the gallery, community, and school.
The ability for the organization to do its mission depends in part on revenue, and a lot of that comes from the gallery, Threinen said.
The growth of the gallery is 41% year to date, he said, a good start. The gallery also took in twice as much during this year's Fall Splendor Art Meander compared to last year.
"And that's with rainy days. So trends are good, things are moving forward. And again, with great volunteers, great artists. Great stuff happening."
"We're very sensitive about not wanting to make the gallery too fancy," he added, noting that its brand is being a quaint gallery that people love to visit.
"An organization like this runs on volunteers," he concluded. "And I'm just – I could not be more pleased with this team. I could not be more pleased with the energy that I see on this team, the passion and some really great people."