Ben Meyer

Special Topics Correspondent

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Ben took the newly-created position of Special Topics Correspondent at WXPR in September of 2019. For a year, he focused on reporting on water and water resource issues in northern Wisconsin and Michigan's Upper Peninsula as part of The Stream, a weekly series.

Starting in September 2020, Ben’s reporting focus has been on the new landscape of living, working, and playing in the Northwoods, a place mostly devoid of giant employers, but a home to many entrepreneurs, small businesses, and people working from home. The series is called Employed.

In addition to special topics reporting, Ben often contributes to daily news reporting and hosting on WXPR.

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 currently pursuing a law degree at Mitchell Hamline School of Law in the Twin Cities. He’s is an avid Brewers and Badgers fan, and 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.

Oneida County will move fully into Phase 2 of its COVID-19 reopening plan at 5 p.m. Tuesday, said Health Officer Linda Conlon.

That means the county’s guidance allows for more people at libraries, gyms, and community centers and participating together in outdoor recreation.

Ben Meyer/WXPR

Protesters gathered Monday morning in Eagle River to demand tougher prosecution of a St. Germain man suspected of a hate crime against tribal spearfishers.

They held signs asking for justice for tribal members and respect for federally-protected treaty rights.

“We’re tired of the hate. Racism is hatred. Feeding and allowing that to continue for so long is unacceptable, and we’re not going to stand for it. We won’t tolerate it anymore,” said protester Shannon Retana.

The Oneida County Economic Development Corporation hopes small businesses will take advantage of a special COVID-19 grant relief program that opens soon.

The state of Wisconsin is giving out 30,000 individual COVID-19 grants to small businesses across the state. Each grant is for $2,500.

Oneida County Economic Development Corporation Interim Director Jeff Verdoorn said these small businesses make up the backbone of the county’s economy. About 85 percent of county businesses have fewer than 20 employees.

Ben Meyer/WXPR

Standing at Grand Traverse Harbor on the Keweenaw Peninsula, a look right reveals picturesque yellow-sand beaches and unassuming seasonal homes.

A look left includes nothing but a black shoreline on this part of the peninsula, which juts into Lake Superior in Upper Michigan.

Jay Parent scooped up a handful of the pebbly black sand, which stretches out of sight on the shoreline.

“It was this high stamp sand right here all the way across the harbor,” Parent says, gesturing more than head-high.

A local domestic and sexual violence advocacy group saw a 75-percent drop in requests for services in March and April due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

But it wants people to know it’s fully available to provide help to those who need it.

Embrace serves survivors in Price, Rusk, Washburn, and Barron counties.

Sexual violence program coordinator Angela Frieze said the drop is not because less violence is occurring.

Tomahawk Fall Ride

The Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA), the main organizer of the annual Tomahawk Fall Ride motorcycle event, has pulled its involvement from the 2020 event due to COVID-19.

“With the uncertainty of what is to come with COVID-19 we simply cannot risk the responsibility of any illnesses for our guests, customers and MDA clients,” wrote MDA Executive Director Murphy Maes.

MDA also hinted funding and staffing challenges during the pandemic played into the decision.

Emily Stone

An outbreak of black flies is having major impacts on loon nesting in northern Wisconsin this spring.

This year, the peak of black fly activity has overlapped with the nesting season for loons in the Northwoods.

It’s similar to what happened in 2014, according to Erica LeMoine, the LoonWatch Program Director.

“It’s very irritating to the loons, as you can imagine. It causes them, often times, to leave the nest and leave the nest unattended. Sometimes, if it’s a particularly bad year, as it is this year, they will abandon their first nesting attempt,” LeMoine said.

Hodag Country Festival

Two days after Oneida County approved a plan allowing the 2020 Hodag Country Festival to go forward this summer in Rhinelander, festival organizers reversed course and canceled the event.

The event, which was to be held July 9 to 12, made the cancelation announcement Thursday afternoon.

Dan Dumas/Kim Swisher Communications

From a few yards away, a woman and four small children watch a massive machine rumble to life.

They stand, look, and point as a boat is lifted by the Burnt Rollways Boat Hoist, carried over a road and dam, and dropped gently in the water on the other side.

“It’s a novelty,” said Scott Blado, who is operating the machine. “It’s just kind of a thing that you go and do. It’s not really a ‘we’ve got to go that way’ kind of thing. It’s more of an event.”

This week, operators fired up the hoist, the only one of its kind in the state, for the summer season.

Hodag Country Festival

Note: in an announcement Thursday, the Hodag Country Festival reversed course and announced the event had been canceled for 2020.

Despite concerns raised by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Hodag Country Festival will go forward this July.

Ripco Credit Union

  

Not long ago, Rhinelander’s Ripco Credit Union ran into a problem.

It couldn’t hire new employees because it was out of office space.

So, within the next two weeks, Ripco will begin a major expansion at its headquarters on Sutliff Avenue.

Vice President Diane Sowinski said discussions have been taking place for a year.

The credit union felt ready this spring, but had to figure out whether to go forward during a virus pandemic.

In WXPR news:

  • We have a roundup of farmers market opening dates across the area
  • A motorcyclist crashed and died near Tomahawk
  • Services have shifted, but mental health options still exist in the Northwoods
  • The home market in the area seems to be turning over quickly

UPDATE:

The Wisconsin State Patrol has released the name of the man killed over the holiday weekend in a Lincoln county motorcycle crash.

They report 49-yar old Michael A. Plummer of Merrill died in the crash. Plummer was driving a motorcycle on county 'S' at the Highway 107 intersection when the vehicle left the road and and hit a tree. The crash is believed to have happened overnight on Sunday and was discovered after 10:00 a.m. Monday. Plummer died at the scene.

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In Memorial Day news:

  • Forest County now has 22 confirmed COVID-19 cases and one death
  • The opening of the Northwoods National Cemetery in Harshaw will be delayed
  • The Hurley/Ironwood area is making progress on new bike trails
  • A Merrill man has announced his candidacy for State Assembly
  • Local government during a pandemic has been put to the challenge in some area cities

Tyler Ruprecht

A Merrill man is the first Democrat to announce his candidacy in the 35th Assembly District.

Tyler Ruprecht is jumping into the race to replace Republican Mary Felzkowski.

She’s vacating the seat to run for State Senate.

Ruprecht most recently attended school at UW-Marathon County.

On his campaign website, his policies focus on quality, affordable healthcare.

Three Republicans have filed to run for the seat, which includes Merrill, Antigo, and Tomahawk.

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