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 fiancee, 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

Few drivers zipping along Northwoods roads probably think about the culverts they cross, culverts sending stream water underneath the pavement or gravel.

Instead, it’s Jon Simonsen’s job to worry about the structures, which play a major role in both transportation and fish habitat.

“People don’t give a culvert much thought, and they’ll pass over it.  But they think about it a lot when the road is washed out and the road has failed,” said Simonsen, a DNR transportation liaison.  “So that’s when it has become significant.”

Ben Meyer/WXPR

Shanai Matteson poured three small cups of water for Mary Moxon last Friday, putting them on a wooden board, like a flight of beers at a craft brewery.

“It’s very subtle, but water has different tastes, and it has to do with the mineral content of the water, the treatment of the water,” Matteson said.  “Sometimes it has to do with the pipes or the container that the water comes in.”

Matteson had just set up her table, called a popup Water Bar, at Project North, a music and sustainability festival in Rhinelander.

Church Mutual

Church Mutual Insurance Company and its employees donated more than $175,000 to the Merrill Area United Way this week.

That far exceeded the fundraising goal set by the Merrill-based company, and beat last year’s total by more than $20,000.

Since 2000, Church Mutual has contributed more than $1.5 million to the Merrill Area United Way.

The company is the nation’s largest insurer of religious organizations.

Ben Meyer/WJFW

Forest County District Attorney Chuck Simono nearly got emotional when he learned help was on the way.

He’s been the only prosecutor in the county since 2008.

But this month, the administration of Gov. Tony Evers announced Forest County would get one of the 65 new assistant district attorney positions added statewide.

“According to state statistics, I’m doing the work of three prosecutors because our workload is so heavy,” Simono said.  “It’s a 24/7 job.”

He’s been asking for another prosecutor in his office for much of that time.

More than 180 local government leaders in Wisconsin want the governor and legislature to take swift action to prevent incidents of mass violence.

Mayors, police chiefs, and administrators all signed a letter to Gov. Tony Evers, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald.

Wausau Mayor Robert Mielke and Hurley Mayor Paul Mullard are among the signers of the letter, which was sent by the League of Wisconsin Municipalities.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

  

A Hurley attorney will serve as the new Iron County Circuit Court Judge after he was appointed by Gov. Tony Evers Thursday.

Tony Stella will fill the vacancy created by the July death of longtime judge Patrick Madden.

Stella served to stints as Iron County District Attorney in the 1980s and 1990s and is a graduate of Hurley High School.               

“Tony Stella has been a lifelong advocate for the people of Iron County,” said Evers in a press release.  “He has the temperament, knowledge, and experience to be an excellent judge.”  

Jim Albert

Twenty-one-year-old Kai Movrich has enough to worry about.

On top of working at Contrast Coffee in downtown Ironwood, she owns and is an instructor at a dance studio in town.

She didn’t need her tap water at home to be a problem, too.  But she found something gross when she moved into a new house in July.

“Through our faucet in our bathroom, when we turned the spouts on as soon as they turned our water on, we actually had sediment coming through our spouts,” Movrich said.  “We’re talking rocks the size of nickels.”

Her frustration isn’t unique.

Ben Meyer/WJFW

The role of the century-old paper mill in Park Falls may be much different after the sale of the business last week.

Price County Judge Kevin Klein granted a new company, Element Ventures, ownership of the mill after it had gone into receivership.

Park Falls Mayor Michael Bablick expects the Flambeau River Papers mill to reopen under new ownership with about 50 employees, a fraction of what it had in early 2018.

WXPR

Projects like an expansion of the Indian Bowl and creation of an assisted living facility keep planners in Lac du Flambeau busy.  But they want to hear even more ideas from the community.

On Wednesday, they’ll host an input session for feedback on their current projects and pick up thoughts for even more.

WPVGA

The Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association (WPVGA) calls last year one of the worst years in the state potato industry’s history.

Thousands of acres of potatoes had to be left in the ground after an early deep frost stopped the harvest.

Tamas Houlihan calls this week a “big week” for Wisconsin potato farmers hoping to recover from last year.

Houlihan is the Executive Director of the Antigo-based WPVGA.

Ben Meyer/WXPR

In the next year, Aspirus will pour $14 million into a major expansion of its Rhinelander clinic.

The healthcare provider broke ground on the project on Friday morning.

“We’re out of space,” Aspirus Regional Clinic Director Robb Fabich said of the current facility.

But by next October, the clinic will be ready to open an additional 21,000 square feet of space.

Planning for the expansion has been in the works for months, according to Fabich.

Forward Elk Lake Park Splash Pad

  People in Phillips have a special reason to hope our September weather stays warmer than average.

After years of planning and $200,000 of fundraising, volunteers finally opened an outdoor splash pad late last month.

It started as the dream of Kristen Harper, a young mother in Phillips, who thought of the splash pad as a way to play with her kids in warm weather.

Harper helped make the splash pad at Elk Lake Park happen.  It has no standing water, but has fixtures that squirt and spray like at a waterpark.

Ben Meyer/WXPR

Ron Wiedeman’s ancestors came here around 1900, as best as he can tell.

It’s a swath of land along the Wisconsin River in the Town of Crescent, just southwest of Rhinelander.

“I’ve lived in this area my whole life,” said Wiedeman, sitting at his kitchen table.

When he was a kid, the spring now known as Crescent Spring was on his family’s property.

“Just clean, fresh water, always clean, and good tasting water,” Wiedeman said.  “I’ve [drunken] out of there since I was probably eight years old.”

Tomahawk Fall Ride

The Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office expects calls, crashes, and incidents over Fall Ride weekend, which ended Sunday.

Tens of thousands of Harley riders come to Tomahawk for the event.  Last year, one person died as part of 14 people involved in crashes.

But this year, police got a pleasant surprise, responding to no crashes or incidents.

Congressman Sean Duffy’s sudden resignation announcement last month surprised many people in northern Wisconsin.

But not long after we learned the news, potential candidates started thinking about running to replace him.

State Sen. Tom Tiffany (R-Minocqua) became the first candidate to jump into the congressional race last Tuesday, but he may well face a test in his own party.

Speaking by phone from his mother’s 91st birthday party in Miami, Wausau heart surgeon and Cuban refugee Dr. Fritz Riveron said he’s gotten encouragement to run for the seat as a Republican.

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