Your Polk County, Wisconsin hometown newspaper since 1883 .
Contact Us
For more information, please
Or call 715-485-3121

"After all these years, still doing a great job!!" -Ron Hermanson
There's a new sheriff in town – and assemblywoman
By Lynda Berg Olds
It has been a busy time in Polk County and across the great State of Wisconsin. Some officials are retiring, some are being sworn-in. Sheriff Pete Johnson stepped down last Friday, eight years and one day after being sworn in (in 2011). Then, on Saturday, Gae Magnafici's In-District Ceremonial Inauguration took place at the Polk County Justice Center. On Monday, Sheriff Brent Waak was sworn-in by Judge Jeffrey Anderson in his Branch II courtroom. Finally, on Tuesday, Joan Ritten was sworn-in as Clerk of Circuit Court, also by the Honorable Judge Anderson.
There was a really nice turnout at Sheriff Johnson's retirement bash on Friday, with a creative and fun fishing décor. And cake. Lots of cake. Johnson turned the responsibility of the weekend over to Waak. He was all done at the county with a weekend off before assuming his new job as an attorney in a Princeton, Minn. Practice.
Waak was ready to pick up the reins and his swearing-in was both solemn and sincere. Surrounded by family he approached the courtroom, amid dozens of well wishers. Indeed, after the official “Swearing on the Bible,” Judge Anderson asked if anyone else present wanted to share some pearls of wisdom with him. And so they did, beginning with Judge Anderson, followed by his campaign manager, father-in-law and the Honorable Judge Daniel Tolan. 
Each individual spoke rather eloquently to Waak's character and wished him well – and then there was a reception – with cake.
Prior to Sheriff Waak's formal proceedings though, were 28th District Assemblywoman's Gae Magnafici's.
There was a tremendous turnout for this Saturday afternoon gala affair, which was presided over by Master of Ceremonies Alan Walker, Chairman of the Polk County Republican Party. The Pledge of Allegiance was led by Gae's husband Tom and the inspired Invocation was by Reverend Richard Hutchinson.
At that time still Sheriff-elect Brent Waak, spoke, giving some great “remarks,” which were followed by more “remarks” by Tom Magnafici. Those remarks left a little something in many of the attendee's eyes.
Same with Gae herself, who knocked on 10,000 doors and walked in 16 parades. Oh, and there was more cake.
The following was submitted after the uber-official pomp and circumstance in Madison:
Representative Gae Magnafici (R-Dresser) was sworn in as the state representative for Wisconsin’s 28th Assembly District this afternoon as the state Assembly convened to begin its 104th session. Rep. Magnafici joins the Assembly with 35 years experience as a nurse and a current small business owner. She and her husband, Tom, currently reside just outside of Dresser.
“I am both excited and proud to get to work here in Madison and make positive changes for my constituents back home,” said Rep. Magnafici. “Healthcare and the economy are two issues that affect everyone, and my experience as a nurse and small business owner will bring an invaluable perspective to our already strong Republican caucus.”
Rep. Magnafici will serve as the Vice-Chair of the Assembly Committee on Substance Abuse and Prevention, as well as serve as a member of the Assembly Committees on Aging and Long Term Care, Constitution and Ethics, Health, Jobs and the Economy, Mental Health, and Tourism.
To find more information on Polk County's Representative visit
Many of those who attended Magnafici's inauguration on Saturday also attended the grand re-opening of what used to be Crickets and is now Brow Tine in Apple River.
January 10, 2019
Smack talk leads to smack down in Amery
On April 13, law enforcement was dispatched to Eisenhower Avenue in Amery for an assault in progress. The reporting party/victim was identified told dispatch that he had been assaulted by his roommate who he identified as Marvin Warmus, Jr. 35, of Amery. 
The reporting party said he couldn't move and that he used “a knife to get away.” The victim also told dispatch that he didn't know if he made contact or not with the knife as he used the knife in self defense.
An officer with the Amery Police Department aided at the address because of the location by a Polk County Sheriff's deputy. 
The Amery officer arrived on scene just prior to the deputy and secured the scene and got first responders to assist the victim. 
When the deputy arrived he found the Amery officer with the victim who was lying in the snow in front of the trailer. The deputy went to the residence and found Warmus inside. He was somewhat calm but emotional. The odor of intoxicants was emanating from Warmus and when asked about what was going on, he said, he didn't know. 
The deputy asked if Warmus was injured as there were a few drops of blood observed on the floor. When the deputy pointed them out, Warmus moved his foot and there was so much more blood on his foot and up his pant leg. A laceration was found from a sharp object above Warmus' right knee. 
EMS was brought in to attend to his injury and subsequently Warmus was brought to the hospital and received stitches.
The deputy was able to ask some questions at the residence about what happened. Warmus said that the victim was talking badly about his mother who had just kicked him out of the house today. 
Warmus said he had enough of the victim badmouthing his mother and kept saying “and now we're here.” At some point, Warmus said that he put the victim in a headlock. 
The victim described this as a choke hold and said that he couldn't breath and was seeing black. 
That is when the knife was to be used in self-defense. The knife was not located although pictures of the injuries were taken and of blood spots in the living room. 
The victim described the incident as being kneed and kicked in the back, and being placed in a choke hold 
Both parties were transported to the hospital where they were treated for their injuries. During that time, the deputy was able to interview Warmus and read him his Miranda warning. 
Warmus said that the two had been drinking at a different trailer and both parties had come back to Warmus' trailer. 
Warmus got upset about a previous and ongoing disrespect of his mother and a physical altercation occurred. 
Warmus said that he used a headlock on the victim to “put him to sleep” and that it is his go to move.
After being medically cleared, Warmus was placed under arrest and secured in handcuffs. Warmus now is facing charges for battery, disorderly conduct, and strangulation.
April 18, 2019
Two-car collision claims two lives
By Lynda Berg Olds
At exactly 5:29 a.m. on Monday morning, the Polk County County Sheriff’s Office Dispatch Center received a call reporting a two- vehicle, head-on crash on Highway 8 about a half-mile east of 15th Street, in the Town of Beaver (rural Turtle Lake).
As the reports came in, information was obtained that at least one of the individuals involved in the crash had no pulse. Once the first responders and fire personnel arrived, it was found that each driver of the vehicles had sustained fatal injuries. The Polk County Medical Examiner’s Office was contacted and did report to the scene.
Polk County Sheriff Brent Waak shared with the press that based on the preliminary investigation, it appeared that one vehicle was traveling eastbound on Highway 8 and it appeared that vehicle crossed left of center and into the left traffic lane for the westbound traffic.
“The vehicle met the westbound vehicle and they collided front left to front left of both vehicles,” advised Waak, who added, “The vehicles traveled only a very short distance post-impact.
Waak did tell the press on Monday that it was likely weather was a factor in the crash, as at the time of the collision, it was raining.
At first that was all Waak could tell the press – to allow time for the families to be notified. He shared who all responded to the scene to assist the Polk County Sheriff’s Office. They were the Turtle Lake Fire and First Responders, the Turtle Lake Police Department, the Cumberland Area Ambulance Service, and the Polk County Medical Examiner’s Office.
The notifications were completed by Tuesday and Waak then released the deceased's identities:
“During the investigation of this crash, it was learned that 67 year-old Geraldine Swanson, of rural Turtle Lake, was driving a 2002 Jeep Cherokee, eastbound on Highway 8. While traveling, her vehicle crossed left of the center line. There were no passengers in the Jeep at the time of the crash.
“At that time, 69 year-old Harvey Richter of rural Cumberland, was traveling westbound in a 2007 Chevrolet Impala. The vehicles, again, then struck head on with damage extending from mid to driver’s side left of both vehicles. There were no passengers in the Impala either.”
Further assistance with this crash will be from the Midwest Medical Examiner’s Office in Anoka, Minn.
The official crash report has listed the location of the crash as 1,184 feet east of 15th Street on Highway 8.
The Polk County Sheriff’s Office will be continuing the investigation into the cause or contributing factors of the crash. 
During the weekly press conference with Sheriff Waak on Monday, he said speed and alcohol are the main reasons for traffic fatalities. He surmised that perhaps the driver (or drivers) were traveling too fast for the wet road conditions.
These tragic deaths were the second and third fatalities in Polk County so far this year.
April 25, 2019

Changes made to Board of Adjustment
T.A. Doughty-St. Hilaire
In recent months, there have been some issues with the board of adjustments.
At Tuesday night's meeting of the Polk County Board of Supervisors some coming changes were discussed and appointments made.
To start with the latter, Mark Kopp and Jay Lilyquist were appointed. The terms for the board are three years and there cannot be multiple persons from the same town or municipalities serving on the board at the same time.  
However, the person with authority over them will be County Administrator Nick Osborne, as is the case right now.
Osborne informed the board that he is developing a code of ethics for the Board of Adjustment as well as establishing criteria for the removal of members. This is being done in an effort to avoid further problems in the future.
​April 18, 2019
Hog farm pits neighbors against each other
By Lynda Berg Olds
In the Town of Trade Lake, just across the border from Polk County into Burnett County, citizens are up in arms over a proposed hog farm, which, if allowed, will be the largest pig farm in the State of Wisconsin.
The pig farm is touted as a $20 million, 23,000-hog farm. According to documents filed with the State, this farm would generate a minimum of 6.8 gallons of manure. Neighbors neared a mob mentality at a recent town meeting. Normally not more than a handful of folks might be present at this sleepy little hamlet's meetings. But when area residents got wind of the possible detriment to their enjoyment of their homes, they came out en force, upwards of 100 crammed into the small hall – and some sources say there were closer to 150 in attendance.
This farm would be operated by “Cumberland LLC and would start with about 3,800 sows, 9,400 pigs and 50 boards – and the plan is to fill the barns with up to 26,000 pigs, according to the Wisconsin Ag Connection. This “Cumberland” ag business is out Iowa - and is not yet a sure thing, in spite of the fact that the Town Chairman of 30 years, Jim Melin has already sold the “big dog” the 35 acres of land needed for the operation.
Melin is quoted as saying he is “excited” about the operation, indicating it will make his farm(s) more sustainable. He said, “Trade Lake will be proud of this facility and that the land is already zoned for agriculture as A1.
His neighbors are most definitely not excited about this. They are concerned about loss of property value (who wants to live next to a pig farm?). Primary among their other concerns are the potential of ground water contamination – and the smell. The worry is that antibiotics and manure will get into the well water.
The preliminary permit filed with the DNR says the hog farm must store the (6.8 million gallons) manure in underground containers – and “inject it into the soil once per year.”
A petition opposing the CAFO [Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation] already has over 500 signatures.
The DNR says the farm still has to submit a final application with a five-year nutrient management plan, engineering designs and an environmental analysis questionnaire.
There will still be a public hearing, but it may be that it is already too late to stop “the big dog.”
The operation would bring up to about 20 new jobs to the area. And the Melins, who will be buying back some of the manure to fertilize about 1,000 acres of the family's land, said the method used to distribute the manure “will be safer than traditional measures.”
Melin also said that back 50 years ago every farmer had 30, 40, 50 cows and they spread manure year round.
While not really an apples to apples statement, he said his neighbors should “look in their own backyard.”
This hog operation will be the first of its kind in northern Wisconsin.
May 2, 2019
“Little Eagles Early Learning Center”
By Lynda Berg Olds
Unity has been planning for the development of a child care center for some time now. In fact, there has been a waiting list since the first board presentation (and subsequent reporting on same), back in November of 2017. Well hold onto Eagle tail feathers as the timeline was rolled-out at Tuesday night's meeting of the Unity School Board – with the actual opening of the center planned for October of this year!
But first, a building must be constructed. Superintendent Brandon Robinson laid it all out:
“The Child Care Center proposal we are providing has been years in the making. Since that first meeting in November, the definite need for such a program has been identified.. Quality child care services are needed in our area. They are difficult to find and there are waiting lists as there aren't very many providers.
“We took a look at a lot of different options and one of the things was a lot of schools that have child care have space in their facilities – but we do we tried to arrive at what we felt would be a good solution for our district for our immediate and long term needs. In both spring planning sessions of 2018 and 2019, we spent a lot of time on the subject and added a child care center to our long-range plan.
“Behind the scenes we have been planning and working on a solution to meet the needs of our greater community. Since the board planning session in early April, we have held three board finance committee meetings as well as two board long-range planning and facilities committee meetings to try to arrive at a solution which best meets our needs.”
Robinson said the next step was to identify programming specifics.
“We decided to run this program specifically through community service so it is available to children in our community, not just family member of children who are enrolled in our school. This will be available to all children in the community. It will be an all day program so that it coincides specifically with the daytime work hours of parents.”
He said the program needs to be fee-based, competitive to the area with weekly rates, and for infants up to four years-old – younger than school age children.
“We talked about school age kids, particularly elementary kids, but that is a presentation for another time. This is focused only on younger than school-aged kids, although we have identified a need there as well.”
The modular building will be constructed on school property right on the corner of Highway 46 and 190th Avenue. There are child care code issues that dictate a number of rules and regulations relating to space needs. Robinson didn't seem to want to get nailed down to a number, but eventually he said the center should be adequate for 60 “Little Eagles.”
Unity will be using their architect of record, DSGW, the same entity used for the recent renovations, additions, etc. Robinson said local contractor Nelson Construction Services (NCS), will help with some of the local sub-contracting.
In terms of the timeline, Robinson called it “ambitious,” but they have dealt with that before and he is confident the project can meet the deadlines. 
Project financing will get underway and the taxpayers will not feel the hit as other debt is being expired soon. Over the next few months the plans will take shape, as will the permitting of the project, site preparation and utilities connections;after which construction will take place in July, August and September, when exterior finish work will be completed – until finally the “Little Eagles Learning Center” will open.
Robinson noted that building a building is one thing, but policy development and building a program is something else. Unity's child care will actually offer curriculum.
School Board President Deb Peterson asked what other area schools were doing child care...the answer was, “all of them.”