Ben Meyer

Special Topics Correspondent

Ben took the newly-created position of Special Topics Correspondent at WXPR in September of 2019.  He has a specific focus through his grant-funded position: reporting on water and water resources in northern Wisconsin and Michigan's Upper Peninsula.  Through his on air and online reporting, Ben explores water as a necessity for life and as an identity for the region.

Prior to joining the WXPR team, Ben spent more than seven years serving in several roles at WJFW-TV in Rhinelander.

Originally from Mount Horeb, Wisconsin, Ben is a graduate of UW-Madison. He lives in Rhinelander with his wife, Erika.  Outside of work, Ben is an avid Brewers and Badgers fan.  He enjoys doing outdoor projects, running, and competing in triathlons.  Ben is also a WIAA basketball official and calls play-by-play for Rhinelander Hodags sports.

Ben Meyer/WXPR

As he began coordinating community responses to the coronavirus, YMCA of the Northwoods CEO Ryan Zietlow found himself having the same conversation over and over.

So, on Monday, he brought together community leaders together to work as one.

The Oneida County Health Department, health care providers, school leaders, emergency responders, the chamber of commerce, and the mayor attended a meeting led by Zietlow at Rhinelander City Hall.

All K-12 schools in Wisconsin will close starting Wednesday, Gov. Tony Evers directed Friday afternoon.

“Closing our schools is not a decision I made lightly, but keeping our kids, our educators, our families, and our communities safe is a top priority as we continue our work to respond to and prevent further spread of COVID-19 in Wisconsin,” Evers said in a release.

Some districts may choose to close earlier than Wednesday.

Earlier on Friday, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services reported 11 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the state’s total to 19 cases.

DRI

Rhinelander Mayor Chris Frederickson has cancelled Saturday’s annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade in downtown Rhinelander.

In a press release, he cited statewide guidance from Gov. Tony Evers on large gatherings during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Also on Friday, the Rhinelander Area Chamber of Commerce cancelled the RACC Business Spotlight at Rhinelander High School, scheduled for Mar. 21.

Dan Dumas/Kim Swisher Communications

On Tuesday, Scott Blado found good news as he dipped scientific instruments below the ice on the Big Eau Pleine Reservoir in Marathon County. 

“Right now, we’re seeing [a reading of] 10.9 dissolved oxygen, which is fantastic.  We couldn’t ask for anything better than that at this time of the year,” said Blado, an environmental specialist for the Wausau-based Wisconsin Valley Improvement Company (WVIC).

Blado tests multiple points on the reservoir every week, and on Tuesday, he saw a significant jump from the week before.

School District of Crandon

Signs of support started appearing last weekend in Crandon after the school’s girls basketball team qualified for the state tournament for the second time in three years.

The Cardinals are now one of just four teams still alive in Division 4.

Coach Keegan Kincaid said supporters around the team have played a role in its success.

“That’s one thing.  We’re blessed with an awesome community in the Northwoods and Forest County and Crandon and even the surrounding teams within our conference have played a huge supporting role,” he said.

Godfrey and Kahn

As Wisconsin works toward setting up enforceable limits for PFAS in water, it’s already behind several other states.

But the federal government seems to be trailing even farther behind in protecting the public.

The man-made group of chemicals got more attention in Wisconsin once it was found contaminating water supplies like Rhinelander’s.

The contaminant, linked to health risks, is present across the country.

But the actions taken by different governments are a hodgepodge.

The Rhinelander Common Council will discuss the future of City Administrator Daniel Guild at a special meeting on Friday.

Guild was arrested by the Oneida County Sheriff’s Office on Monday with an anticipated charge of Misconduct in Public Office, a felony.  He was booked into the Oneida County Jail and will make an initial appearance in court Tuesday.  Guild has been under investigation for more than a year.

Oneida County Sheriff's Office

Rhinelander City Administrator Daniel Guild is in Oneida County Jail after his arrest Monday morning by Oneida County Sheriff’s deputies.

The arrest was made on suspicion of Misconduct in Public Office, a felony.

Deputies arrested Guild during a traffic stop on Highway 8 west of Rhinelander, according to Oneida County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Dan Hess.  The traffic stop was made with the express purpose of making the arrest.

YouTube

Last year, Vilas County opened more than 700 new criminal cases.

Almost all of them went before the county’s only circuit court judge, Neal Nielsen.

That made him one of the busiest judges in the state.  Statistics show Nielsen is doing the work of about one and a half judges, ranking third in the state in judicial need.

“Obviously, we would like to be able to devote an appropriate amount of time to each case and to resolve those cases swiftly so that everyone had confidence that this was a system that worked well for the citizens of the state,” Nielsen said.

Ben Meyer/WXPR

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) quickly determined airport conditions had nothing to do with Thursday’s incident at the Rhinelander-Oneida County Airport that sent a pilot to the hospital.

“They looked at our surfaces, at our field condition reporting, where the aircraft began its incident and where it ended that incident and determined the airport was not a factor and shifted their attention to the operator,” Airport Director Matthew Leitner said Friday.

Ben Meyer/WXPR

Since a 1940s dam on Sailor Creek near Fifield in Price County created a 200-acre recreational flowage, the Lobermeiers have considered it part of their home.

The S-shaped flowage is spotted with islands looking out at wooded shorelines, and for Dave Lobermeier, it’s a place of enjoyment.

But the Sailor Creek Flowage has also become the source of a decade of legal headaches.

Ben Meyer/WXPR

A mistake on landing led a cargo plane to flip over at the Rhinelander-Oneida County Airport Thursday morning, injuring the pilot and closing the airport.

The incident happened at 8:15 a.m. as the plane was arriving in Rhinelander on its flight from Milwaukee.

“It was CSA Air, a Cessna 208 Caravan, one occupant,” said Airport Director Matthew Leitner.  “Our airport rescue and firefighting responded initially, then that was augmented by the Rhinelander Fire Department and the Rhinelander Police Department.”

Ben Meyer/WXPR

The State of Wisconsin hands out nearly $5 billion in general aids for public school districts every year.

But not all schools get a proportional piece of the pie, and schools in northern Wisconsin are hit especially hard.

The Fair Aid Coalition is trying to fix that.

Coalition President Ben Niehaus, the superintendent of the School District of Florence County, met with other northern administrators on Monday in Minocqua.

Wisconsin State Legislature

Irma State Rep. Mary Felzkowski hopes to move up to a seat in the State Senate.

The Republican announced her candidacy Monday, hoping to take the seat being vacated by Minocqua Republican Tom Tiffany.

Tiffany is filing a notice of non-candidacy in the 12th State Senate District as he makes a run for U.S. Congress.

Felzkowski was first elected to the state legislature in 2012, representing the Tomahawk, Merrill, and Antigo areas.

She said she decided to run for Senate after Tiffany won his congressional primary on Feb. 18.

Dan Dumas/Kim Swisher Communications

In the winter, snowshoes are the best way to navigate a swath of undeveloped, wooded, privately-owned land between Monico and Pelican Lake in Oneida County.  The simple forest roads that exist are snow-covered and unplowed.

In late January, Badger Minerals, a Michigan-based subsidiary of a Canadian company, announced plans to drill several holes on this tract, seeking to learn more about minerals under the snowy surface. 

Pages