Wisconsin Rapids Area (1972)








Wisconsin Rapids Area

Published by:

Wisconsin Rapids Area
League of Women Voters


The Provisional League of Women Voters of the Wisconsin Rapids Area hopes that the information in this booklet will increase your knowledge of Wisconsin Rapids and the area - and that better understanding will enable you to participate more fully and actively in its future development.

The purpose of the League of Women Voters is to promote political responsibility through informed and active participation of citizens in government. The League does not support or oppose any candidate or political party, but seeks to work in the public interest, believing that informed and interested citizens are the surest guarantee of the sound future of our country. Any woman of voting age who is a citizen of the United States and who subscribes to the purposes and policies of the League is eligible for membership.

We extend our appreciation to the many city officials and to the members of public and private agencies who have furnished us with information for this publication. We thank also the many friends of the League whose generous support made this project possible. Finally, we wish to thank the members of the League who gave their time and effort to the preparation of this booklet and whose only compensation has been the knowledge that they were serving the community.


The Community Today
Structure and Function of Government
Financing Local Government
Public Utilities
Municipal Services
Police Protection
Fire Protection
Map - City of Wisconsin Rapids
Correctional Institutions
Emergency Government
Weights and Measures
Planning and Zoning
Housing and Urban Renewal
Parks and Recreation
Public Health
Public Welfare
Map - Wisconsin Rapids School District
Mid-State Vocational Technical and Adult School
Wood County Head Start Program
South Wood County Sheltered Workshop
Day Care Center for Retarded
South Wood County Child Care Center, Inc.
Y.M.C.A. Nursery School
Sunshine Nursery Pre-School
Public Library
Port Edwards
Grand Rapids
Center Page


The Wisconsin River plays the major role in the history of the Wisconsin Rapids Area. Since tribes of Wisconsin Indians first settled on the shores, the life of the community has revolved around the river. In passing the city the river has a descent of 45 feet over an irregular and rocky bed. The Indians gave to this place the name "Ah-dah-wagam," meaning the "two-sided rapids" as the rapids were divided in two by a great boulder. Originally Wood County was a part of the territory claimed by the Chippewa, the Winnebago and possibly some Indians of the Menominee Tribe.

White men began using the river when the first permanent settlers, Sampson, Strong and Bloomer, harnessed the river at the site of Grand Rapids in 1838. An influx of pioneers, mostly French from Quebec, flowed into the new settlement and other saw mills developed, including the prosperous mill of Francis Biron. By 1846 the village population numbered 130 males and 17 females. Two years later Joseph Wood settled in Grand Rapids where he entered the legal profession; the County of Wood was named in his honor in 1856 and Grand Rapids became the county seat. In 1869 the city of Grand Rapids was incorporated and it included that area lying on the east side of the river. On the west bank of the river the settlement called Centralia, incorporated in 1874, developed around the nucleus of saw mills, woodworking plants and furniture factories.

For 40 years or more the two communities of Grand Rapids and Centralia grew up practically side by side, each doing its best in a spirit of rivalry to outdo the other, but with interest essentially the same. As early as 1866 the young communities on either side of the river were joined by a bridge. At last each became so big that it was felt by most citizens on either side of the river that consolidation was the logical step. Thus, the east side population of 1,702 and the west side population of 1,425 became the city of Grand Rapids in 1900. In 1920 the name was changed to Wisconsin Rapids to avoid confusion with Grand Rapids, Michigan.

The river did not always treat the residents kindly. In 1847 and again in 1864 the river rose to great heights and in June, 1880 another flood occurred. Records tell us that on June 12, 1880 the water rose to a height unparalleled for several years previously, but had receded, when on the following Friday it was noticed that it was again on the rise. At 3:00 a.m., Saturday, Mr. Brundage and Mr. Ferguson went to their hardware store to remove tools and had worked only a few minutes when the building was swept away. Brundage escaped but Ferguson went down with the building. During the afternoon the Spafford and Cole store went into the river and was swept away as anxious eyes watched it approach the bridge. Residents feared that the bridge would be destroyed but the store went under the current and was ground into a thousand fragments.

Early residents even used the river for sport. Records from 1872 tell us, "Dancing was the most popular amusement, though later church socials were often held. A very dangerous pastime often engaged in by many men and a few women was riding over the rapids on rafts."

In 1887 a pulp mill was built in South Centralia that was the first direct step in the development of the paper making industry on the Wisconsin River. In 1902 a company was organized to consolidate several of the water power facilities in the area. The organization turned its efforts to paper making and under the leadership of George Mead the company, now known as Consolidated Papers, Incorporated, became a leader in its field.

The Wisconsin River, the "heart" of the city, is still vitally important today. With new emphasis on environmental quality the citizens of the Wisconsin Rapids Area, from Consolidated company executives to the smallest school child, reflect intelligent concern.


The Wisconsin Rapids area is a complex of five municipalities and a number of townships in South Wood County, Wisconsin. The area includes the cities of Wisconsin Rapids and Nekoosa, villages of Port Edwards, Rudolph and Biron, and towns of Grand Rapids, Rudolph, Saratoga, Seneca, Sigel and Port Edwards. Preliminary 1970 census figures for South Wood County show an increase of 12.08% from 33,164 in 1960 to 37,172 inhabitants. The population of Wisconsin Rapids is 18,652. Wisconsin Rapids, located in the geographic center of Wisconsin, serves as the area's hub of commerce and business and is the county seat. The Wisconsin River, called the "hardest working river in the nation" has a drop of 185 feet in the area producing both power and beauty. The river flows through the heart of the city and is controlled to prevent flooding through a series of dams and reservoirs.

Community progress and industrial expansion characterize the past decade. The community takes pride in many new facilities; the McMillan Memorial Library, Riverview Hospital and the expanded YMCA community building. Additionally, the community is now served by the new regional state office building and the modern communications center housing The Daily Tribune and WFHR-WWRW. A new sewage treatment plant and fire station contribute to modern efficiency. Civic concern is reflected in a broad neighborhood redevelopment program, low-cost housing for the elderly and quality nursing homes. The new West Junior High School, a planned new senior high school and a projected Mid-State Technical Institute building program are indications of educational concern in the community. Industrial expansion is evident in the $80 million worth of new manufacturing facilities developed in the last three years.  A 401 acre Class A Industrial Park is municipally owned and located within the city limits. Economic growth provides a tax base to put South Wood County in an enviable position to support public facilities without unduly burdening its taxpayers. The 1971 tax rate for the city of Wisconsin Rapids will be $37.00 per thousand dollars of assessed valuation (less a state tax credit of $2.163 per thousand of assessed valuation). The total equalized valuation of all property in the city in 1970 was $172,899,175; the city's general bonded indebtedness as of December 31, 1970 was $4,850,662; the city's school indebtedness was $4,315,338. The final city budget for 1971 for general disbursement, excluding school and county disbursement, is $5,070,28.70.

The Wisconsin Rapids area's varied leading industries, in addition to the manufacture and converting of pulp and paper and allied enterprises, include manufacture of gas and oil space heating equipment, manufacture of laminated plastic, a grey iron foundry, electric steel foundry, industrial pliofilm plastics, a canning factory and a chlorine and caustic soda chemical plant. Dairy farming, agriculture and the cranberry production offer important economic diversification. There are approximately 7,100 people employed in Wisconsin Rapids and the Area Chamber of Commerce reports through the1970 Sales Management Survey of Buying Power that the 1969 average annual spendable income per household was $10,374, which is $360 above the state average. The Wisconsin Rapids area financial institutions, including banks and savings and loan associations, have total resources of approximately $88,000,000. As the center of a rich trading area, the area has in the general business category 20 lumber and hardware stores, 11 general merchandise stores, 36 food stores, 43 gas and service stations, 13 apparel stores, 23 furniture stores, 68 eating and drinking establishments and 9 drug stores, as well as many service establishments and professional outlets. There are three motion picture theaters (two indoor and one outdoor) and two commercial radio stations, WFHR and WWRW, located within the city, and others in neighboring communities. The Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune, published Monday through Saturday, carries news of the entire area and has a circulation of more than 11,000. A shopper's guide, The Wisconsin Rapids Area Advertiser, is distributed weekly.

Wisconsin Rapids is the only city in the state with four railroads serving the city. Reciprocal switching arrangement allows industry to use any railroad of its choice. Two major motor carriers are headquartered locally and the area is served by six others, as well as a large general aviation airport with direct, scheduled commuter flights to and from Chicago. Buses are available for charter, both local and long distance. Daily scheduled intercity bus service is available. There is one licensed taxi fleet, privately owned, which serves the area efficiently.

Cultural Opportunities

Within Wisconsin Rapids and the vicinity there are many opportunities open to those interested in music and drama, in lectures and in public affairs. The SPEBSQSA, made up of local singers, give public performances and other musical events are plentiful. The Wisconsin Rapids Municipal Concert Band provides weekly concerts from Memorial Day to Labor Day in the Robinson Park Band Shell. Permanent bowl type seating is provided. The band also offers year-round recreation for the musician members. In addition the Lincoln High School music department presents a popular musical every Fall - in 1970 the choice was Carnival. The Wisconsin Rapids Community Concert series (association membership is by subscription) brings top performers on the nation's concert circuit to the area. In 1970-71 the series included the Ballet America; Longstreth and Escosa, harpists; Gorge Morell, guitarist; and the University Singers.

Wisconsin State University, Stevens Point, located 24 miles from Wisconsin Rapids, offers residents of the area a wide and varied program of music. The Chamber Series for 1970-71 included Paul Kuentz Chamber Orchestra of Paris; The World of Gilbert and Sullivan, American touring Company of England's celebrated "Gilbert and Sullivan For All"; An Entertainment for Elizabeth, New York Pro Musica Production, John Reeves White, Musical Director; An Evening of Opera, Karan Armstrong, Marcia Baldwin, Anastasios Vrenios and Harold Enns; Bach Aria Group. nine world-famous instrumental and vocal soloists; and Jorge Bolet, Pianist. The Concert Series for 1970-71 included The Preservation Hall Jazz Band. Billie and Dede Pierce; Royal Uppsala University Chorus of Sweden, Eric Erickson, Conductor; The Little Angels, The National Folk Ballet of Korea; The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, Kenneth Schermerhorn, Music Director with James Oliver BusweIl IV, Violinist; Siberian Dancers and Singers of Omsk; and The Romeros. In addition the faculty members of the university appear frequently in recital. For information concerning all programs offered by WSU contact the university on the toll-free line in Wisconsin Rapids: 424-2351.

The University of Wisconsin Central Symphony Orchestra has a home in the Rehearsal Room of the Fine Arts Wing of the University of Wisconsin, Marshfield-Wood County Campus. Rehearsals are held each Thursday from 7:00-9:30 p.m. From its inception the Orchestra has been sponsored by the University of Wisconsin. During the 1970-71 Season, the Central Symphony Orchestra gave an "Oratorio" Concert, a Children's Concert, a Cabaret Concert, a Mother's Day Concert, plus numerous Chamber Orchestra appearances.

The Lectures and Fine Arts Program offered by The University of Wisconsin, Marshfield-Wood County Campus is a varied program of high quality. In the 1970-71 season the program included Muddy Waters, Rhythm and Blues Band; Mark Furneaux, "Mime and Pantomime"; Fine Arts Quartet, string Quartet; Dr. Edward J. Moody, "Satanism and Witchcraft in America"; Galway Kinnell, "Personality, Death, Poetry"; Czech Chamber Orchestra; Professor Petrovich, "Religion in the Soviet Union Today"; Dr. Hugh Iltis, "The Environmental Crisis"; Dr. Seymour Halleck, Psychiatrist; and the Milwaukee Repertory Theater, "The Liar" Goldoni. (Marshfield, located in North Wood County is approximately 32 miles from Wisconsin Rapids.)

For lovers of theater, the offerings are equally rich. The University Theatre at WSU, Stevens Point, celebrated their Golden anniversary with the 1970-71 season, maintaining a long tradition of fine performances by presenting Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Cabaret, Cyrano de Bergerac, An Evening of Dance, Holiday, The Magic Flute, and Lysistrata. A summer theater program rounds out the drama scene at WSU with four additional plays. Also feeding the appetite for theater in the Wisconsin Rapids Area are the Campus Community Players of Marshfield. In 1971, beginning in April and continuing through August, they will present Indians by Arthur Copit; U.S.A. by John Dos Passos; Arsenic and Old Lace; The Cherry Orchard; You're a Good Man Charlie Brown; and Guys and Dolls. To the delight of children the Shoestring Players of Stevens Point present two plays each year for young audiences - one in the Spring and one in the Fall. Another delighter of children is Mrs. Elvira Vecsey who conducts classes in Wisconsin Rapids in Ballet and Jazz dance.

Film classics are offered by UW in Marshfield and provide a winter series of the best American and foreign films not shown elsewhere in the area. WSU, Stevens Point, offers an Audubon wildlife film series and a travel, adventure film series.

Educational radio is available to the Wisconsin Rapids Area through WLBL, Auburndale, 930kc. which carries programs of the Wisconsin State Broadcasting Service originating at the University of Wisconsin, Madison; a program bulletin is available without charge.

Many lectures are given in the Wisconsin Rapids area each year. In addition to those listed above which are included in the Lectures and Fine Arts program at the Marshfield Campus, professors from UW, Marshfield, offer a wide variety of topical lectures. No fee has been set for any of these faculty lectures; in most cases, none is required. If a fee is necessary, arrangements should be made between the group and the speaker, directly. A list of faculty lecture subjects is available from the university. An outstanding lecture series is offered at WSU in Stevens Point including in 1970-71 David Brower, Dr. Rene Dubos and Arthur C. Clarke. The Museum Lecture Series at WSU, Stevens Point, is open to the public at no charge.

Other groups, such as the churches and civic organizations, present guest speakers on a variety of subjects. The League of Women Voters offers community service meetings with speakers and panelists discussing local, state, national, and international issues.

Three public libraries in the area offer a wide range of books and periodicals, both fiction and nonfiction, with emphasis on occupational, research and technical needs. The new McMillan Memorial Library is discussed in detail in the Library section; The Marshfield library has an unusual and valuable bird collection which may be viewed by the public during regular library hours. The Museum of Natural History, located in the new Learning Resources Center of WSU, Stevens Point, is open to the public daily until 10:30 p.m. when school is in session, excluding, therefore, regularly scheduled university recesses. Programs are offered in the WSU Planetarium every Sunday at 3:00 p.m. when school is in session. These programs are open to the public and the charge is 50c for adults and 25c for children. Special programs may be scheduled for groups.

The Wisconsin Rapids Brush and Palette Club is an association of lovers of the arts as well as working artists and craftsmen. Membership in the group numbers 30 who attend monthly meetings on the 4th Monday at the Courthouse. Programs, including demonstrations, movies and lectures, are open to the public as is their own yearly outdoor show. Additionally the Club hangs paintings in public buildings and plays an active part in the Hopa Tree Show. The Friends of the Library sponsor art shows and also loan prints at the McMillan Memorial Library. Art exhibits are continuing fare at WSU, Stevens Point, with the Edna Carlsten Gallery in the new Fine Arts Building providing an ideal setting for rich and varied exhibits.

Recreational Opportunities

Geographic location endows the Wisconsin Rapids Area with many forms of recreational activities associated with the four seasons of the year. John E. Alexander South Wood County YMCA is the focal point of year-round recreational programs. Dedicated in 1958, this $2,000,000 fully air conditioned structure is considered one of the outstanding community centers in the United States. A staff of six run a full time program of recreation for all members of the family. Splashing at the Olympic sized pool, taking a steam bath and a rubdown from a trained masseur or just playing table tennis in the giant youth center - all these features appeal to active families. The Y offers handball, a restaurant, a shooting range, an indoor golf driving range, many large meeting rooms and 100 ft. by 66 ft. gym, five complete locker rooms with showers and two decorator-keyed lounges.

A regular summer camping program is offered for all boys and girls ages 9 through 13 at the Y-Camp located on Nepco Lake; day camping is available for younger children, ages 7 and 8. Excellent camp facilities include 6 cabins, main lodge and good swimming facilities.

Both the Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts are active in the area with full range programs and a Girl Scout Camp, Camp Sacajawea. The Woodland Girl Scout Council owns this 60 acre wooded site east of Wisconsin Rapids which will accommodate 84 campers in screened cabins. Two large program lodges make the site useful for many kinds of activities besides organized camping.

The beautiful Wisconsin River, countless streams and brooks and two spring fed lakes provide all forms of water sports - swimming, boating, and fishing. Other summer recreation includes camping, tennis, horse-back riding, stock car racing, trap and field shooting and golf. In May of each year the Junior Chamber of Commerce sponsors the Hopa Tree Festival, a full week of special celebration including the Miss Wisconsin Rapids pageant, canoe races, art contests and exhibits, a carnival and a dance. Professional baseball is played by the Wisconsin Rapids Twins, a Class A, Midwest League team affiliated with the Minnesota Twins of the American League.

Winter sports available in the area include skiing, curling, skating, tobogganing and snow-mobiling. Skiing is enjoyed in both downhill and jumping at Dyracuse Mound, 12 miles south of Wisconsin Rapids and Powers Bluff, just 10 miles north. Both have operating tows. Arneson Hill in Wisconsin Rapids offers skiing for those with less experience and in-town tobogganing.

Public and parochial high schools play football at Witter Field and basketball in their own buildings. The YMCA swim team, for boys and girls of all ages, meets regularly in competitive events.

The George W. Mead Wildlife Area is a 20,000 acre block of land with lakes, streams, marshlands and highland. Hunting, fishing and just plain outdoor "looking around" are here for your pleasure. The Sandhill Wildlife Demonstration Area features the Trumpeter Trail that leads you through "back in" solitude, wide marshes, flying ducks, quiet cool woods and ferns, bison herds, deer, beaver and a host of other "native" flora and fauna. Automobile trails, foot trails and observation towers let you see nature first hand in this 9,500 acre tract.

Concentrated in this largest inland production area for cranberries are many marshes (farms) which offer unique tour possibilities from late September through October, the harvest season.

The 107,000 acres of public hunting grounds and the thousands of acres of private land make this an ideal area for hunters. Small game through the antlered buck deer abound. Duck hunting is enjoyed on cranberry marshes, the river and state owned lands. Goose hunting has become increasingly popular in recent years.

For more information on recreational facilities within the area see the section on Parks.


Authority of Local Government

The legal basis for the authority of our local government is state statutes which place limitations on law-making and administrative powers.

Changes made in the structure and function of our local government are made by Council action which is guided by state statute. Within the past ten years, no structural changes have been made but Wisconsin Rapids has taken on the added function of industrial development and airport.

The geographical limits of our city were changed by annexation of a portion of the Grand Rapids area in 1962. The city has jurisdiction over sub-division plotting within three miles of its outer limits.

Our local government has responsibility for the following functions:
Water and Sewers * Streets and Sidewalks
Garbage and Refuse Disposal * City Planning * Zoning
Official Map * Building, Plumbing, Electrical Code Enforcement
Gas Equipment Code * Fire Prevention and Protection
Police Protection * Licenses - Liquor, Bicycle, etc.
Parks and Recreation (city pool and zoo) * Civil Defense
Airport (in cooperation with Port Edwards, Biron, Nekoosa and Grand Rapids)
Industrial Park * Library * Traffic * Taxation * Housing Code Enforcement

Local - State Relations

Wisconsin Rapids is classified, according to the 1970 census, as a third class city which is based on a population of at least 10,000 and less than 39,000.

Concerning home rule, Section 3, Article XI of the Wisconsin Constitution, provision is that "cities and villages organized pursuant to state law are hereby empowered, to determine their local affairs and government, subject only to this constitution and to such enactments of the legislature of state-wide concern as shall with uniformity offset every city or every village. The method of such determination shall be prescribed by the legislature."

Organization of Government

The city of Wisconsin Rapids is organized as a Mayor-Council form with an incorporated committee system. There are five standing committees. They are: Legislative, Finance, Public Works, Public Property, and Personnel.

The authority for administering the local government is vested in the Mayor who is elected by the people every two years. He shares in policy-making by virtue of his veto power, presiding over Council meetings, his vote in case of a tie, and as an ex-officio member of all standing committees. He appoints members to existing boards, commissions, and committees, with the exception of the Water and Light Commission, which is named by the Council. He does not appoint department heads or city officials. All appointments are subject to Council approval.

The Common Council is composed of twenty aldermen who are elected on a non-partisan basis by voters in their respective wards. They are elected for a term of two years. The Council: meets once a month on the second Tuesday of the month in the County Board Room of the Wood County Court House. Meetings are open to the public and the minutes are available to the public. Standing committees meet frequently during the month. The Council has the power to make any regulation that does not conflict with state statutes or ordinances.

The City Clerk is elected by the people every two years. He maintains all records of the city including financial. He is charged with recording deeds and all other public documents. All public documents are preserved on microfilm., He acts as secretary at all Council meetings, and is the secretary for the Board of Review and the Fiscal Board of Control, and the Board of Public Works. He is also responsible for sending out all bills and tax rolls. Responsibility for administering election laws and registration of voters also rests with the City Clerk's office.

The official advisory boards and commissions are:
City Planning Commission * Park and Recreation Commission
Sewage Disposal Commission * City Emergency Government
Committee * Industrial Development Commission * Code Review
Committee * Housing Board of Appeals * Board of Appeals - Zoning
Board of Building Appeals * Board of Electrical Examiners
Municipal Parking Board * Board of Review * Water and Light
Commission * Police and Fire Commission * Library * Airport
Commission * Redevelopment Authority * Citizens Advisory
Committee * Wisconsin Rapids Housing Authority
Board of Public Works


The Mayor with the assistance of a personnel technician handles the personnel department. All city employees are required to reside within the city. Municipal salary scales are set by negotiations with the Personnel Committee of the Common Council annually. Provisions for retirement are set under the State of Wisconsin retirement program.

Space Procurement and Property Management

The city of Wisconsin Rapids has a city hall, a library, two fire stations, a sewage plant, a park and recreation maintenance building, a city garage, a recreation building for senior citizens, and an inspectors office building.

The Common Council by bids through the Public Property Committee is responsible for space procurement and allocation for official use.

The responsibility for managing and maintaining municipal property is delegated by the Mayor and Public Property Committee of the Common Council to:

1. Engineering Department for City Garage, City Hall and Fire stations.
2. Library - Library Board
3. Sewage Plant - Sewage Commission
4. Park and Recreation - Park and Recreation Commission

Community Relations

Our local government issues an annual report as well as a monthly report through the local newspaper. Open public meetings are held to keep the public informed. Departmental hearings are open to the public as well as budget hearings.

There is a Citizens Advisory Committee which consists of a maximum of 25 members whose purpose is "to serve as the formal means through which active citizen participation is provided to aid and support the fulfillment of the Workable Program for Community Improvement for Wisconsin Rapids."

Interlocal Relations

Wisconsin Rapids has a mutual-aid agreement with outlying areas for Fire and Police assistance. Recreational (pool) and library services for persons living outside the city, are provided free of charge.

Metropolitan Areas

Our government is a part of a metropolitan area agency called the South Wood County Area Implementation (Planning) Committee on which the city is represented by three members of the City Planning Commission, all of whom are public officials. It is an infant organization composed of Nekoosa, Port Edwards, Wisconsin Rapids, Biron, and Grand Rapids, acting primarily as a forum. Accomplishments have been made in the acceptance of a general plan for the area, acceptance of very similar zoning regulations and sub-division regulations, and extro-territorial street (road) maps.

The airport is the only cooperative service which is owned jointly by Wisconsin Rapids, Port Edwards, Biron, Nekoosa, and Grand Rapids. It is administered by a commission consisting of the heads of these municipalities.

In 1962, a one mile square area was annexed to the city. The Common Council may allow annexation which can be accomplished directly with the governing body of a participating municipality or indirectly by referendum; the voting by the property owners involved.


A. Financial Organization

In Wisconsin Rapids the Mayor is comptroller and in cooperation with the City Clerk and Deputy Clerk prepares the annual budget. The budget is then subject to review by the Finance Committee of the City Council and receives final approval by the Council. The City Treasurer is responsible for collecting all monies due the City and for investing excess funds.

The City's fiscal calendar coincides with the calendar year with the property assessment date being May 1. Public hearing on the proposed budget for the ensuing year is held in November, according to Wisconsin Statute. The annual budget is adopted at the regular December meeting. Tax payments are due between January 1 and the last day of February to the City Treasurer. If paid on installments, the first half must be paid as above and the second half by the end of July, payable to the County Treasurer.

The Treasurer

The Treasurer is an elected official who has custody of local funds. Money may be paid out by the treasurer upon order of the City Clerk. Control or supervision of the Treasurer's office is exercised by the Mayor Comptroller and City Clerk whose signatures together with the Treasurer's must be on checks. An annual audit also is performed.

The City Council at each April reorganization meeting names the depository bank for local government funds. The Federal Reserve Banking regulations secure the safety of funds. No interest is received on checking accounts but various rates of interest are received on time deposits. It is the practice to invest idle funds legally limited to banks and federal securities.

The Assessor

The municipal assessor is an appointed official as are two assistant assessors. These individuals must have training in the real estate appraisal field. Since no educational institution offers courses leading to a degree in the assessment field, courses offered by the International Association of Assessing Officers and The American Institute of Real Estate Appraisers are recommended.

Property is assessed annually although a physical inspection is not made each year. The last assessment was made last May 1. Basically the procedures set forth in the Wisconsin Assessors Manual are used with valuation being determined by a replacement less depreciation method, primarily based on a market study. Values are set by buyers and sellers. This information is analyzed and extended to property which has not sold to arrive at an estimate of value. The aim is to place assessed values at 100% of market value.

Appeal should be made to the City Assessor. If satisfaction is not achieved then appeal can be made to the Board of Review which meets the 2nd Monday of July. From there one goes to the State Department of Revenue or to the Circuit Court and on to the U.S. Supreme Court if desired.

The valuation formula is re-examined each year by the state department of revenue and changes then given to assessors. All assessors in the state of Wisconsin operate wholly under Chapter 70 of the Wisconsin Statutes. This is the assessors bible. No assessment practice or procedure can be established by a local taxation district.

B. The Budget

A comprehensive budget which includes all revenues and expenditures is prepared by the Mayor (Comptroller) and reviewed by the City Clerk, the Deputy Clerk and the Finance Committee of the City Council. Public hearings are held and after adoption the administration is bound to it except for deviations approved by the City Council. The City Comptroller and the Finance Committee are the administrators for the budget.

Appropriation power is centralized in the hands of the Common Council with only the City Council able to shift budget items. Reserve funds provided by the budget vary from year-to-year. Money is appropriated into the Municipal Reserve Fund and earmarked for specific purposes as the need arises. There is no legal limit on the amount of surplus that may be carried. Surplus funds can be used to reduce the tax rate.

C. Revenues and Expenditures

The total income of the city of Wisconsin Rapids for the past year was $6,717,090.65. Ten years ago it was $1,847,828.17. Annexation, normal growth, inflation and receipts from sale of bonds accounts for the difference in totals.

Income from Federal Sources 1969 1960
Library Construction Aid
Sewage Plant Aid

$ 198,000.00
$ 513,000.00


Income from State Sources    
Income Tax returned by State
Utility Taxes from State
Telephone Taxes from State
Highway Maintenance Allotment
State Aid for Local Streets
Liquor Tax from State
Highway Privilege Tax 
(License Plate Fees)
Sewage Plant Construction Aid







Income from Local Sources    
Property Taxes for City Purposes
All other Local Taxes
Licenses and Permits
Fines and Forfeitures
Gifts and Grants
Assessments for Public Improvements
School District Property Tax
Water Utility Debt Retirement
Interest on Investments and
Special Assessments
Corporate Purpose Bond Issue
Revenue from all other sources

$ 5,013,423.39

$ 1,143,974.21
  $ 6,617,090.65  $ 1,847,828.17

Income Tax - The city of Wisconsin Rapids receives 5/6 of 26.38% of individuals state income tax originating in the municipality. It also receives 5/6 of 46.2% of corporate income tax originating in the municipality.

Highway aids are based on the number of miles of the local streets, except highway privilege tax is 20% of license fees collected on passenger vehicles and 11% on commercial vehicles. 63½% of Utility taxes are returned to cities, villages and towns according to the utility property located and business transacted within each municipality. 85% of telephone taxes paid to the state are returned to the cities, villages and towns based on gross receipts originating in each municipality.

Cities, villages and towns receive 44.45% of liquor taxes apportioned on the basis of population.

The percentage of total income derived from the state in grants-in-aid is 3.05%. 96.95% is in shared taxes.

The total cost of operating the local government in 1969 was $7,203,562.29.* The per capita cost was $360.00. The total cost of operation ten years ago was $1,706,060.51. The change is accounted for by annexations, normal growth, inflation and large public work projects.

* Construction funds are a continuing budget item.

In Wisconsin the state does not supervise or direct the spending of any local revenues. The City Treasurer and County Treasurer collect property taxes. Neither the state constitution nor state legislation has set a maximum rate of property taxation.

The current total taxable value of all property, real and personal, within our local government's jurisdiction is $163,465,400. This is distributed as follows:

Real Estate



Personal Property $23,083,350

Tax-exempt property within the jurisdictional limits includes 400 acres of land which is municipal, state and federal owned as well as similarly owned buildings. Items in the Municipal Reserve Fund are earmarked for special purposes. Wisconsin cities by law can only levy a property tax, auto tax, and 3% sales tax on hotel and motel rooms.

D. Debts

The amount of indebtedness which may be incurred by our local government is limited by law to 5% of equalized value. This limit has never been reached. Unlimited indebtedness is not permitted to issue general obligation and revenue bonds at 5% of equalized value maximum. The percentage of debt limit currently bonded is 72%. General obligation bonds are used for school and general city purposes while revenue bonds are for revenue producing utilities. Unless legal petitions call for referendum vote of the people there is no popular vote needed to pass bond issues, except for city hall purposes.

The city government's borrowing power is never used for meeting current expenses. Short-term borrowing is used in anticipation of collection of taxes with 4% being the interest charges per year in the past. State Financial authorities do not supervise local borrowing.

E. Accounting, Auditing, Reporting

The city of Wisconsin Rapids does not have an auditor. Regular audits are made by independent auditing firms and by the State, the last one for the year 1968. The City retains the State Department of Audit to perform the auditing and bookkeeping. State laws about keeping accounts and making regular financial reports are followed. Personal expenses incurred by a local official in the course of duty must be reported for reimbursement. Though no standard forms are used, reports are filed at the time of the expenditure.

F. Purchasing

In Wisconsin Rapids city government there is no central purchasing department. There are bids received on an open competitive basis with specifications on all major purchases. Major purchases are processed through the Public property Committee and approved by the Council. State purchasing facilities have recently been made available to our city government and probably will be used in the future.


The public utilities of water, electricity, and sewage disposal are administered by the Water Works and Lighting Commission. This commission is a five man board nominated and elected by the Common Council at the September meeting, on a revolving plan. One new member is elected each year for a five year term, thus a complete change every five years.

The water distribution system is municipally owned and operated. It is self-supporting, with no taxes or governmental aids being used.

Raney-type wells, located on the outer city limits, with a capacity of 7,000,000 gallons per day, provide water for the city. A new well will be drilled within two years providing an adequate supply until 1990.

Electric power, also under the auspices of the Water Works and Lighting Commission, is purchased wholesale from Consolidated Water Power Company.

 Sewage Treatment Plant

Wisconsin Rapids has a new $2 million sewage disposal plant which began operation the week of January 12, 1970. ($703,980 was provided by a federal grant from the Water Pollution Control Administration.) Both primary and secondary treatment is provided with 90-92% waste removal, compared to only 50% in primary treatment. Two-thirds of the city's sewage is receiving secondary treatment with service to the remaining area planned. Five operators man the plant twenty-four hours a day, with tests being made to determine amount of waste being removed. An alarm system sounds if sewage backs up in any of the nine lift stations.

Sixty per cent of the city now has separated storm and sanitary sewers. The remaining forty per cent will be separated within the next seven to ten years.

The telephone and gas utilities are privately owned. They are regulated by their private boards, but must comply to state regulations. The Wisconsin Gas Company, which supplies natural gas service to Wisconsin Rapids, Biron, Port Edwards, Nekoosa and Vesper, has its district office in Milwaukee. It is a wholly owned subsidiary of the American Natural Gas System.

The Wood County Telephone Company is an investor-owned independent company, which has a five man board elected annually. The company has a franchise to serve parts of Wood, Portage, Adams, and Juneau counties.


Streets and Roads

The city of Wisconsin Rapids through the Engineering Department, provides for the construction and maintenance of streets and highways. Specific standards for the widths of streets, highways, sidewalks, curbing and parking have been established. Height, spacing, and intensity of street lighting is carried out in accordance with the standards of the American Standards Association.

Streets and sidewalks, snow removal and street cleaning are the responsibility of the Street Department under the direction of the Street Superintendent. The Concrete Inspector, employed during construction months, inspects old concrete and makes recommendations for new installation. All sidewalk, curb and gutter installations are done by private contractors.

There are 130 miles of city and connection streets in Wisconsin Rapids, with 7.1 miles of state highways 73, 13 and 54. State aid is contributed according to actual mileage of streets in use as reported to the Motor Vehicle Department each year. Cost of curb and gutter installation is paid for by both the property owner, through special assessment, and by the city, on a 60-40% basis. The property owner pays in full for the sidewalks that boarder his property.

There are eight municipally owned parking lots in Wisconsin Rapids. These are administered by the Off-Street Parking Commission and financed by the meter money and parking fines.

Garbage and Rubbish Disposal

The city operates a municipal garbage and rubbish pick-up service. All residential garbage, wrapped and in cans no larger than 26 gallons in capacity and no heavier than 75 pounds, is picked up on scheduled routes. Cans need not be placed at the curb but boxes of rubbish should be set at the curb on the day of collection.

Brush and trash, placed on the curb will be picked up by special crews if the resident calls the city garage before noon on Mondays.

The modified landfill operated by the city on Engel Road, is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, for city residents only. Tree trunks, brush, sand and concrete are some of the items accepted. Household items, cans, garbage, etc. should be taken to the Tork Sanitary Landfill Operation on Engel Road just past the city landfill. It is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily including holidays, except Sundays when it is open from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Any normal refuse from Wisconsin Rapids, Nekoosa and Port Edwards is accepted without charge. Those living outside these municipalities pay a fee based on weight. They may take brush and trash to the Tork Landfill while city residents take theirs to the city landfill.

Incinerators may be installed in houses. Outside incinerators must be of an approved type and may only be used after 4 p.m. They must be placed at least fifteen feet from any buildings.

It is unlawful to burn any fires on public property. They must be inside the sidewalk line of private property, at least thirty feet from buildings, and permits are required. Grass fires requires a permit and are not allowed before 5 p.m.

Permits are available by phone from the East Side Fire Station, 423-1150 or the West Side Station 423-6860 after 4 pm. Do not call the emergency fire number for these requests.


The Wisconsin Rapids Police Department is under the jurisdiction of the Mayor and the Common Council. The Chief of Police who administers the Police Department is appointed by the Police and Fire Commission. Members of this commission are appointed by the Mayor with approval of the Council for a term of five years. Personnel of the Police Department are selected by examination from candidates who are at least 21 years of age and have been a resident of Wisconsin for one year. Division Heads for the Detective, Traffic, and Juvenile Divisions are also selected by examination. At the present time there are 38 members of the Police Department. All patrolmen are currently receiving cooperative police and fireman's training in order that they may be used whenever needed as firefighters. Four patrol and two detective cars are operated by the department

The traffic safety program of the Police Department includes radio talks, working with schools, school crossing guards, school safety patrols, and news articles. A crime prevention program includes talks to schools and civic organizations, the helping hand program, and an in-service training program.


The Wisconsin Rapids Fire Department is also under the supervision of the Mayor and Common Council with the Police and Fire Commission appointing the Fire Chief. Members of the department are selected from a list of men who have passed a written and oral test. Presently 28 persons are employed in the two fire stations. Equipment includes three pumper combinations, a combination pumper and snorkel ladder, and two ambulances.

A year round program of fire inspection is in operation and the department gives special emphasis to educational activities each year during fire prevention week.

During emergencies the fire services are shared with other local governments in the area who reimburse the city for this service.


The Wisconsin Rapids Area is served by the County and Circuit Courts of Wood County. In Wood County, County Court Branch I usually has jurisdiction in probate matters, juvenile cases, adoption cases, and family court matters. County Court Branch II handles traffic cases, criminal cases (either misdemeanors or felonies), civil cases, and includes the small claims court. The Circuit Court has jurisdiction in some civil and criminal cases, in naturalization hearings, and in appeals from the County Court. Only Port Edwards has a municipal court for traffic offences. The rest of the traffic cases in Wood County are brought to County Court Branch II.

City of Wisconsin Rapids


Wisconsin Rapids has one correctional institution which is the Wood County Jail to which law violators who are guilty of misdemeanors and have sentences up to one year are sent. The Sheriff and Deputies working under him administer this institution. Women jailers are provided for female prisoners who are housed in a separate wing. Juveniles are separated from adult offenders. Deputies are selected by examinations.


Wood County and the City of Wisconsin Rapids have a full-time joint County - Municipal Director of Emergency Government who is appointed by the County Board and the Common Council. In case of an emergency due to enemy action or natural disaster this director coordinates and directs both county and city emergency government activities. His duties also include developing plans for emergencies, training programs and exercises, supervision of emergency equipment, and stocking shelters with supplies and medical equipment throughout the county.


The Emergency Government uses specially installed sirens to warn of emergency. These sirens have a three signal capacity. The signals and their meanings are as follows.

1. ALERT - a steady sound for three to five minutes, means to tune to your radio for information.

2. ATTACK - wavering up and down for three to five minutes, means take shelter immediately.

3. FIRE - alternating high and low tone for three to five minutes, means all off-duty firemen should report for an extraordinary fire.

These signals are sounded for only five seconds every noon to signal 12:00 o'clock and to test and maintain the system.


The function of checking and enforcing weights and measures is handled by the State Department of Agriculture, but the local government is charged for this service.


In the city of Wisconsin Rapids the responsibility for planning for orderly growth of the city rests with the Common Council. It is aided by a City Planning Commission and by the city Bureau of Planning and Engineering Design.

The Planning Commission consists of the Mayor, City Engineer, an alderman, a Park Commission member and three citizens appointed by the Mayor and confirmed by a 2/3 vote of the Council. The citizen members of the Commission serve without pay. Technical and financial assistance in planning is available from the State Department of Local and Urban Affairs on a limited basis.

One of the major tools in implementing the planning for the city is zoning. All of the city is mapped into certain zoning districts, and zoning ordinances, which were recodified in 1965, are adopted by the Council to determine in which zoning district a property shall be classified.

The Planning Commission is sometimes involved in enforcement of zoning restrictions when it reviews plans for certain types of commercial and industrial buildings to determine that they meet the specifications of the district. Generally, however, it is the responsibility of the Building Inspector to enforce the zoning ordinances.

Public hearings are required for all zoning changes and state statutes require notification by mail of residents in or adjacent to the areas in question. A Board of Appeals - five citizens appointed by the Mayor and approved by the Council - is empowered to grant variances from zoning ordinances where such restrictions would cause unnecessary hardship to a property owner.

For planning on an area wide basis, a master plan (the 701 Plan), prepared by a private consulting firm, was adopted by the City Council in March 1968. This plan included analysis of existing land use, highways, transportation facilities, parks, public buildings, utilities, open space areas, schools, economic factors and population of South Wood County.

The South Wood County Comprehensive Plan Committee meets monthly to discuss progress and problems involved in implementing the 701 Plan.


A. Housing Programs

The Wisconsin Rapids Housing Authority is a five member board appointed by the mayor with the approval of the Common Council and serves without pay. The Housing Authority contracts private concerns to seek bids on the construction of suitable housing units, and it consults and works through realtors in looking for appropriate properties. Expenses incurred by the Authority are paid from the city's general fund with reimbursements by federal funds where applicable.

Federal housing projects, municipally administered, include two 65 unit projects for the elderly and one 50 unit project for low income families. Construction began in 1970 on the housing for the elderly and initial eligibility requirements are: minimum age of 65 and a maximum yearly family income of $3500.00.

The Redevelopment Authority is a seven member board appointed by the mayor with the approval of the Common Council and serves without pay. A paid executive director implements policy decisions of this board based on the urban renewal plan. An urban renewal plan was drawn up in 1968, presented to the Council in 1969 after public meetings and approved by the Council in September of 1969. The plan outlines improvement objectives in specified areas of the city which have been characterized by signs of deterioration. The Housing Act of 1968 provides loans and grants to carry out the program, funding approximately 75% of the total cost.

Efforts are made to integrate clearance with public housing development so that suitable housing is available. Local realtors are consulted to help find housing for displaced persons, but in the case of necessary relocation it is the intent of the Redevelopment Authority to have suitable housing or business locations available before relocation.

B. Building Standards

A building inspector, a plumbing inspector, and an electrical inspector are in charge of building inspection in their respective areas. Buildings are inspected: 1. periodically during new construction until completed, 2. during remodeling and plumbing and electrical changes, 3. annually in the case of rooming houses (three or more tenants), 4. in answer to all complaints of buildings with apparent deterioration which may cause a hazard. A unified building code covers all construction, alteration, repair and removal of buildings and their equipment.

The state law provides the minimum standards and the Common Council has incorporated standards from model codes. These standards were drawn up in 1920 and revised in 1964.

Building codes are enforced through the inspector who has authority to enforce compliance with the code. Other ordinances regulate occupational density and safe and sanitary conditions of privately owned properties. There are plumbing and electrical codes applying only to the city of Wisconsin Rapids and not the surrounding area.


The city of Wisconsin Rapids maintains parks and recreational facilities for the enjoyment of all its citizens. These parks and facilities are administered by the Department of Parks and Recreation. The commission supervising this work is made up of four citizens, plus the superintendent of schools, one alderman, the mayor, and one member of the school board. This commission meets once a month and its decisions are sent to the City Council. The cost of maintenance for the year 1969 was $60,000 which came entirely from taxes. This is no indebtedness.

The programs of the commission are carried out by the Park Superintendent and a staff of nine men while the street department maintains the equipment.

The parks maintained by the city are:
Robinson Park (E. on Highway 54): with a shelter house, picnic facilities, playground equipment and a baseball field.
Lyons Park (S. on Highways 54 & 73) with picnic facilities and playground equipment.
Ben Hanson Park (S. on Highway 54 & 73) with picnic facilities. 

The recreational facilities under the commission's jurisdiction are: Arneson's ski hill, ice skating rinks, a swimming pool, Witter and Mead Fields, the zoo and public tennis courts. The river banks are landscaped and in the Spring the Hopa trees are a pleasure to all.

During the summer the city sponsors playground activities at Mead and Witter Fields and Robinson Park for children between the ages of six and sixteen.

Non-government sponsored community recreation facilities include the Immanuel Lutheran Church roller skating rink and the Little League Baseball program.

Additional nearby facilities for recreation include:

South Wood County Park (County Trunk W - Lake Wazeecha) Facilities for outdoor cooking along both sides of the lake, two swimming beaches, and campsites available by arrangement with the caretaker.

Rudolph Grotto - (8 miles N. of Wis. Rapids on Highway 34) outdoor religious display - caves, bridges, flower garden and picnic grounds.

John E. Alexander South Wood County YMCA Community Center in Port Edwards.

The Ridges golf course and winter sports area, south of the city on Griffith Avenue.

Tri-City golf course, south of the city near the airport.


Public Health Officer

Duties of the Health Officer are in accordance with local ordinances, state statutes, and the administrative rules of the Division of Health. They include making sanitary surveys and maintaining continuous sanitary supervision of his territory, making periodic sanitary supervision of school buildings and places of public assemblage, taking steps necessary to secure prompt and full reports by physicians of communicable diseases, and prompt and full reports of registration of births and deaths, enforce health laws. The Mayor appoints the Health Officer for the city for a two year term.

Public Health Nursing

Wood County has a public health nursing service established in compliance with state statute 141.06. Under this statute a county health committee composed of five or more members appointed by the Chairman of the County Board of Supervisors and a representative of the State Division of Health may, when authorized, employ county public health nurses, sanitarians and other public health personnel, to conduct generalized public health nursing programs, environmental sanitation or other public health programs under the supervision of the county health committee in cooperation with the State Division of Health. At least three of the appointed members must be members of the County Board and in Wood County all five are members. There is also an ex-officio member from the County Medical Society.

Wood County is one of several counties which make up District No. 7 of the State Division of Health, which has headquarters in Wisconsin Rapids. Certain direct services are received from the district office, as well as advisory and consultant services.

Since the merger of the Marshfield City Nursing Service with the County Nursing Service in 1969, and the merger of the Wisconsin Rapids Nursing Service in January of 1970, there are eight nurses working out of two offices, Wisconsin Rapids and Marshfield. These are registered professional nurses who qualify for Certification as Public Health Nurses. There are in addition, seven registered professional nurses who work part-time giving skilled nursing care to the sick in their homes. They are assisted by six home health aides who are under their supervision. Registered professional nurses are also employed by the school district, the Wood County Head Start program, Consolidated Papers, Preway and Nepco.

While school nurses are employed in Port Edwards, and in Lincoln High School and the West Side Junior High in Wisconsin Rapids, the Wood County Nurses provide school nursing services for all of the other schools in the county, and coordinates the services of the school nurses with other family health services. They provide services to all parochial schools on the same basis as public schools. Services are also provided for day care and nursery schools.

Financing Public Health

Financing of Public Health activities is largely through tax funds. In 1970 the budget for general public health nursing was $108,760.00 and for the Wood County Health Services $41,040.00 or a total of $149,800.00.

The State Division of Health pays each county that employs a public health nurse $1,000.00. Bedside nursing care is provided on a fee basis in the patient's home, fees being collected from Medicare, Mericaid, insurance and the individual. Hence a major portion of the $41.040.00 budgeted for this service will be financed by the fees collected and by special grants from the State Division of Health. This is supplemented by county taxes. Fees are also collected for the immunizations given.

Preventive Medicine

Immunization clinics are held in four areas of Wood County each month. The clinic in the Wisconsin Rapids area is held on the first Tuesday of each month in the Court House Auditorium from 6:45 to 7:45 p.m. Protection is offered against Diphtheria, Tetanus, Whooping Cough, Red Measles (Rubeola), German Measles (Rubella), Smallpox and Polio. A small fee is charged, but immunizations are available without charge for those who cannot pay.

Tuberculin Skin Testing is provided for students in kindergarten and 9th grade each year. Follow-up of positive reactors includes chest x-ray of the individuals and tuberculin testing of family contacts.

Environmental Health

Wisconsin Rapids, Nekoosa, Port Edwards and Biron all have public water supplies which are fluoridated. The water is tested and treated under the supervision of the Division of Environmental Protection of the Department of Natural Resources. The four communities also have public sewage disposal systems. There are state and county standards for the installation of private sewage disposal systems.

All restaurants or establishments that serve food to the public are inspected and issued permits by the State Division of Health. Food handlers are not required to pass periodic tests. There are two public health sanitarians who work out of the district office on this program. The rules concerning restaurants do not apply to churches, religious, fraternal, youth or patriotic organizations, service or civic clubs which serve the public only occasionally. Hotels, motels, and tourist rooming houses and cabins are also inspected and licensed by the State Division of Health.

Vital Statistics

The County Registrar of Deeds is the primary registrar for the collection of vital statistics (certificates of births, fetal deaths, and marriages) for towns and villages. The City Health Officer collects the certificates for those events which occur within the city limits. Copies are sent to the Bureau of Health Statistics in the State Division of Health.


Riverview Hospital

Until 1904, the only available hospital service was that provided by Dr. J. W. Rockwell, located over the Otto Drug Store. There were only four or five beds.

In 1917 a two story brick building was erected, which had a 30 patients capacity. A major wing was added to that building in 1942, (this building is now Riverview Manor).

The Wisconsin Rapids area is now served by a $3 million, 150 bed hospital built in 1967. Forty per cent of the building cost was provided by a federal grant under the Hill-Burton Act. Area industries contributed $1,200,000 and public contributions totaled $900,000.

The Riverview Hospital has 28 physicians on the staff, including three pathologists, three radiologists, one cardiologist, and one urologist, plus eighteen dentists.

Services of the hospital include Obstetrics & Gynecology, Orthopedics, Pediatrics, Urology, Radiology, Pathology, Thoracic Surgery, General Surgery, Ophthalmology, and Internal Medicine. Intensive care and coronary care including a cardiac monitoring machine are available. Special equipment, much of it donated by area citizens and service clubs, include a nuclear scanner, an echo brain-wave machine, an electro-encephalogram, a pulmonary function resuscitator, and a kidney dialyzer.

The surgical suite of the hospital includes one operating room equipped especially for dental surgery, and one room for eye, ear, nose and throat surgery

The Wood County Mental Health Association has an office in the hospital, and a psychiatrist and a psychologist are available for consultation.

Riverview Hospital Auxiliary

The Hospital Auxiliary was organized to assist the hospital by carrying out activities within the hospital that meet with the approval of the administration, and by raising funds by means that meet with the approval of the Board of Directors.

The five hundred members perform hospital in-service duties such as distribution of mail and menus, baby pictures, and a service cart stocked with personal items for patients to purchase. The cart makes daily rounds at the Riverview Hospital and visits the Riverview Manor twice a week. Gifts are also given to patients at holiday time.

Members also staff the hospital gift shop and a thrift shop which sells donated items. An annual Fall Bazaar featuring many hand-made gifts is another of their money making projects. All proceeds from these projects go to the hospital. $50,000 was pledged and paid to the hospital building fund, and another $50,000 was pledged with $40,000 already paid for the Riverview Manor remodeling project.

Membership is open to anyone, dues are $2.00 for active members, $10.00 for associate or non-active members.

Area Hospitals

There are two general hospitals in Wood County - Riverview in Wisconsin Rapids with 150 beds and St. Joseph's in Marshfield with 365 beds, 38 of which are reserved for psychiatric patients. Both are non-profit institutions. Norwood in Marshfield is the Wood County operated psychiatric hospital; it has 194 beds. Nearby hospitals include St. Michael's in Stevens Point, a charitable, non-profit general hospital with 131 beds and Adams County Memorial in Friendship, a nonprofit general hospital with 24 beds.

All of the 15 tuberculosis sanitariums, county and private, are available to residents of Wood County without cost to them, but River Pines Sanatorium, a privately owned non-profit institution, is most often used. It has 50 beds.

University of Wisconsin Hospital in Madison is state owned and available to Wood County residents when referred by their physicians. It has a total of 772 beds, 40 of which are for rehabilitation, and 46 for mental patients.

Psychiatric patients from this part of Wisconsin are also admitted to Winnebago State Hospital at Winnebago near Oshkosh.

There are four nursing homes in this area, all of which provide skilled nursing care and have distinct units certified for federal programs (Medicare and Medicaid). Riverview Manor with 68 beds is a non-profit facility, Edgewater Haven with 107 beds is owned by Wood County and Family Heritage Home, with 160 beds and the Bethel Home at Arpin, with 104 beds are proprietary facilities. All are licensed by the State of Wisconsin.


Public Welfare for Wood County is centered around the Department of Social Services. This department employs a total of 35 full or part time people in its two offices located in Marshfield and Wisconsin Rapids.

In Wisconsin Rapids, twelve social workers and one homemaker are available. In addition, there are two supervisors, nine clerical persons, a surplus commodity distributor, a corporation counsel and a director. The director serves as the executive and administrative officer of the department and is appointed by the County Board of Social Services. This County Board includes five members. The members are elected from the Wood County Board of Supervisors and each serve a 2-year term.

The Department of Social Services is closely connected to both the state and federal governments. The federal government established the programs. The state sets up the programs within federal guidelines and the county administers the program. All the governmental units share in the cost of the programs, both administratively and in the actual money provided to those who meet the requirements. But, the county alone has the responsibility, both financially and administratively for the General Relief program. The gross amount to be expended for maintenance and services under the Department for 1970 in Wood County is set at $3,614,418.15.

All employees of the department are hired through Civil Service examinations. Minimum qualifications for social work positions include a four year college degree. The clerical positions are filled through testing on necessary skills; preference being given to residents of Wood County in filling all positions.

The Department provides social work services to anyone who needs them in the county. The average case load per social worker is between 40 and 60 with all income levels represented on the various assignments. The workers are responsible for assisting families and individuals with personal and economic problems such as: parent-child relationship, discipline and control of children, truancy, delinquency, child abuse, child neglect, martial problems, divorce, separation, and assisting the elderly, blind and disabled with the many problems they must face. A new program will be started for the retarded of the community. One social worker will become a Fixed Point of Referral in the community and will have extensive knowledge of the problems the retarded and the resources of the community and the state in the area of retardation. Foster homes for children and adults and also a Homemaker program aid compliment the services offered. Only step-parent adoptions are handled by the local department.

In addition to the social services, the agency administers financial aid programs of: Old Age Assistance, to Families of Dependent Children, Aid to the Blind, Aid to Permanently and Totally Disabled and General Assistance. The agency also administers the Surplus Commodity program for the county. This involves the distribution of commodity foods to low income families. An additional program of Medical Assistance is also a part of the agency responsibility.


Wisconsin Rapids Public Schools

Control of the Wisconsin Rapids District Schools is vested in a 7 member Board of Education. Each member of the board is chosen on a nonpartisan basis from the district at large at the regular spring election for a term of three years. Three members are elected one year, and two members each of the two following years, resulting in overlapping terms of office. Candidates may have their names placed on the ballot by filing nomination papers with a minimum of 200 and a maximum of 400 signatures with the Wisconsin Rapids City Clerk before a specified date. Other requirements are that they must be eligible to vote and a resident of the school district.

The function of the board is to set policy that will best realize the board's - and the people's philosophy of education. Other responsibilities include the selection of a superintendent, approval of an annual budget, purchase of school sites, buildings and equipment, action on the superintendent's personnel recommendations, appraisal of the effectiveness of the school program and informing the public on progress and needs of the schools.

Board members are compensated according to the number of meetings they attend. These meetings are open to the public except in the case of an executive session at which disciplinary action, specific personnel problems, land purchases, or similar matters are to be discussed. Minutes of the meetings are published in the Wisconsin Rapids Tribune and news reporters are present. The board elects a president and vice-president. Personnel finance and building and grounds committees, consisting of two members each, are appointed by the president. The Board of Education selects a Superintendent of Schools and any other administrators it may deem necessary, as well as approving the recommendations of the Superintendent in hiring of Teachers.

The responsibility for providing the funds for the Board of Education rests with the Fiscal Board of Control which is composed of the twenty aldermen from Wisconsin Rapids, Village presidents from Biron, and Vesper, and eleven town chairmen from the towns of Arpin, Grand Rapids, Hansen, Rudolph, Saratoga, Seneca, Sherry and Siegel in Wood County; Carson, Grant, and Plover in Portage County. Approximately 70% of the school budget is met with funds from the governmental units represented on the Fiscal Board of Control. This board meets as a special order of business at a Wisconsin Rapids Council meeting with the mayor of Wisconsin Rapids presiding.

The amount of general state aid, the largest source of funds for the school district, is determined by the State Department of Public Instruction using a formula which takes into account the amount of equalized property valuation for each student in the district. This is real or market value of property, determined by the state, not assessed valuation. The State Department of Public Instruction also sets down certain requirements which schools must meet to receive state financial aid. In 1969-70 the general state aid was 19.4% of the operating cost for the Wisconsin Rapids District Schools.

In the case of large capital improvements, the school district (through the Board of Fiscal Control) is permitted to borrow money by issuing bonds. The issuance of these bonds is controlled by the state and the total bonded indebtedness may not exceed 15% of the equalized valuation of the district.

The average net operating cost per student in the Wisconsin Rapids District for the 1969-70 school year was estimated at $558. Average cost per student for this same year throughout Wisconsin was $683.

There were 7,421 students enrolled in the Wisconsin Rapids District School for the 1969-70 school year. The elementary staff was composed of 209 teachers and principals and the high school staff numbered 103. Teachers contributed an average of 6% of their salary to a retirement fund and state statute safeguards them from dismissal without cause.

School buildings and grounds may be used for community activities if permission from the Board of Education is obtained. A charge is sometimes made to groups using these facilities.

Bus transportation is provided for both public and parochial school students in the school district who live more than two miles from school. Some students are transported who live less than two miles from school in the case of unusually hazardous walking conditions.

The Wisconsin Rapids school system provides educational opportunities for the mentally retarded at two levels, the educable and the trainable. A CORE program is also set up at Lincoln High which serves the needs of high school age students who need more work on the educational skills.

Other special programs include the school lunch program, a health attendant and counseling service at Lincoln High School, library service, summer school, speech therapy, and the services of a school psychologist.

Parent-Teacher organizations are active at all of the district elementary schools.

Parochial Schools

There are four Roman Catholic grade schools in Wisconsin Rapids, one in Nekoosa, and one in Rudolph. These schools have a total enrollment of 1482 students. There are two Lutheran schools in Wisconsin Rapids with an enrollment of 416. The area is also served by Assumption High School, a fully accredited Roman Catholic supported school with an enrollment of 542.

Assumption High School, a private school of quality serving 540 students, is fully accredited by North Central Association. Among other innovative educational successes, Assumption is now using a modular scheduling program. The purpose of Assumption High School is to assist individual students in developing knowledge and skills which are needed for responsible living. Within that program the faculty attempts to offer direction and inspiration to help the student to know himself, to judge realistically his own abilities and the needs of society, and to establish goals which reflect a sense of obligation to God, country and world, as well as self.

The Wisconsin Rapids Area Board of Catholic Education was organized in August, 1970. The purpose of the board is to foster, develop and advance quality educational opportunities for all Catholics in the area. While it is advisory to area pastors, parish councils and board of education, it will attempt to provide better coordination and cooperation among existing Catholic education program. Other purposes of the board include; to serve as a liaison with public school officials and other governmental units; to extend the effectiveness of Catholic education; and to concern itself with the financial planning of all Catholic education in the area.


Mid-State Technical Institute located in Wisconsin Rapids is part of the area Vocational-Technical and Adult Education District 14, as provided by a master plan in which the State of Wisconsin is divided into 18 districts. Under this plan District 14 is made up of 6 counties including Wood, Portage, Waushara, Marquette, Adams and Juneau. The Board of Area Vocational, Technical and Adult Education District 14 consists of 6 members appointed by the chairman of Wood, Portage, and Adams county. The 7th member is a school superintendent elected by the board for a two-year term.

District 14 is financed by 76% local tax, 11.4% state tax and 2.5% federal aid.

Vocational Diploma programs are, offered in business and distributive education and trade and industry. Associate Degrees are offered in business administration and industrial science and engineering.

General subjects, business education, foreign languages, arts and crafts, homemaking, and trades are offered as non-credit courses.


The Wood County Head Start Program gives compensatory education to support low income parents in their role of providing a learning environment for their children. In addition Head Start meets, or directs children and parents to community agencies to help meet, medical, dental, nutritional and social needs.

The four Wood County Centers are funded through the private, non-profit Community Action Program, Inc.

R. E. H. A. B.

R.E.H.A.B. Program is available to serve those persons with industrial disabilities. The program is organized to serve 14 counties with headquarters in Wisconsin Rapids. Vocational training is given through Mid-State Technical Institute; also the services of the Sheltered Workshop work evaluation programs are being used. The federal government contributes 80% of the financial support and the state of Wisconsin 20%.


South Wood County Sheltered Workshop located in Wisconsin Rapids is a non-profit organization conducted for the purpose of carrying out a recognized program of rehabilitation for physically, mentally, or socially handicapped individuals, by providing such individuals with remunerative employment and one or more rehabilitating activities of an educational, psychosocial therapeutic, vocational and personal adjustment.

A Sheltered Workshop is also located in North Wood County. Each workshop has its local Board of Directors. The Executive Committee composed of the officers of the two local boards has the responsibility of coordinating the service programs and of establishing policies within the communities. Financial income is derived from contract sales, the State of Wisconsin, county board. United Fund donations, special projects and miscellaneous sources.

Day Care Center for Retarded

The Day Care Center for Retarded located in Wisconsin Rapids is coordinated with the local school system but is not associated with it. It serves children with mental retardation, physical handicaps, emotional disturbances and a combination of these problems. Some of these children are later able to attend public schools.

The center has one paid employee with volunteers providing the other help. Financial support is provided by Wood County and the State on a 60% to 40% basis.

South Wood County Child Care Center, Inc.

The South Wood County Child Care Center, Inc. located at 1051 Oak Street, provides child care for working mothers on a sliding fee scale based on ability to pay. It is open from 6:45 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. Monday through Friday during the regular school years. Funds are received from the United Fund to augment the fees charged.

Y.M.C.A. Nursery School

The Y.M.C.A. Nursery School provides four year olds with preparation for kindergarten by presenting an opportunity for the child to work in a group, play and share with others, and use art supplies.

Classes are limited to twelve each session. One may choose Monday, Wednesday or Tuesday, Thursday sessions. There are two semesters, one for Children who are four by December 11, which lasts for thirteen weeks, the other for children four by May 14, which lasts for eighteen weeks.

Sunshine Nursery Pre-School

The Sunshine Nursery is a privately owned nursery school licensed by the state. Children three years of age attend for two and one-half hours, two days a week, children four and five attend for three days a week. Emphasis is on education in a half-day program for preschoolers.



In 1890, the upper floors of the building opposite the old Hotel Witter, near the present East Side fire station, became temporary headquarters for the first library. The city rented these upper floors for two years. A gift of $5,000 from Thomas B. Scott, a lumber baron, established the library.

The T. B. Scott Library was moved to the newly completed City Hall building in 1892, when a gift of $5,000 by J. D. Witter made it possible to buy more books. The library operated there for 56 years, occupying the entire upper floor of that building.

In 1948, the city accepted the gift of the Isaac P. Witter home on Third Street South from George W. Mead. The gracious Georgian residence surrounded by elms served as library for 22 years.

The T. B. Scott Library closed to the public the week of March 30, 1970, after moving to the McMillan Library had already begun.

The McMillan Memorial Library

The McMillan Memorial Library located at 490 E. Grand Avenue, began serving the community on April 6, 1970. Funds for the $1.4 million facility came from a $575,000 city bond issue, $600,000 gift from the Mary McMillan Burt Trust Fund, a $220,000 federal grant, and $81,000 in other gifts.

The handsome new structure has an adult department with 32,781 circulating books, 3,336 reference books, 309 uncataloged paperbacks, and 370 phonograph records. Newspapers and periodicals can be read in the pleasant reading room, and large print books are available for the visually handicapped.

In the gaily decorated juvenile department there are 15,729 books, which brings the total library holdings as of June 30, 1970 to 51,846. Services for children include a popular story hour series for four year olds, and a summer reading club with varied activities.

Two meeting rooms are included in the library, and it is anticipated that a program of community events will be worked out to make use of these facilities. One is an all-purpose room accommodating 75 persons. It is equipped for art exhibits, and several have already been held.

The Fine Arts Center with 232 seats rising from a semi-circular stage area, has been used for one act plays presented by the Lincoln High School Drama Club, a children's production presented by the youth department of the library, Christmas concerts, and a production of "Our Town" by a group of high school and college students. More programs are planned.

Films are provided for clubs and group use by the library's member-ship in the Wisconsin Library Film Circuit, Inc., a cooperative project. For ten months of the year, collections of 14 or 15 different l6mm. films are available each month. A loan projector is provided when the borrower does not have access to one. This library is a member of the Wisconsin Valley Library Reference Service, a ten county cooperative program providing supplementary reference assistance and inter-library loans. Service headquarters are in the Wausau Public Library.

Other special resources and services include a file of local news-papers on microfilm with microfilm reader, two record players with earphones, and a coin-operated copy machine.

The library is under the supervision of a nine member Library Board of Trustees, appointed by the Mayor and confirmed by the Common Council. The Board has the responsibility of acquiring and maintaining a suitable building, setting personnel and operating policies, and hiring an adequate and qualified staff.

The head librarian heads a staff of three librarians, eight assistants, and seven part-time pages, including a cataloger, a reference librarian, a children's librarian, plus one full and one half time custodian.

The budget for 1970 is $140,801.00. Of this amount $118,878.00 is from the city of Wisconsin Rapids. All residents of Wood County are eligible to use the library, which receives an annual appropriation from the county ($3,200 in 1970); readers from outside the county pay a refundable deposit of $5.00.

There were 13,709 registered borrowers as of September 30, 1970, 9,056 adults and 4,653 children. Circulation in 1969 was 70,269 adult and 71,482 juvenile, a total of 141,751. The first nine months are running about 20% ahead of 1969, especially since moving into the new library. As of September 1970, 61,996 adult and 63,630 juvenile, for a total of 125,626 books borrowed in a nine month period.

Library hours are: Adult and Youth departments 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday. In the summer the library closes at 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and at noon on Saturday.

Friends of the McMillan Library

The Friends of the McMillan Library Committee was organized in 1969 to promote understanding of the library, its function, resources, services, and needs. It also promotes and encourages gifts to the library. It interprets the interests and needs of the community and helps the library meet these needs.

During the open house at the new library, the Friends Committee provided tours. Art exhibits and displays in the extensive display cases are arranged by the Committee, and they solicited gifts for the picture loan system.

Membership is open to all Wisconsin Rapids residents, dues are $1.00 a year.


Elections held in Wisconsin Rapids are the March primary, April election, September primary, and the general election in November. In the 1970 November election 68.49% of the 9,794 registered voters cast ballots.

Registration Requirements

In Wisconsin Rapids to be a registered voter, one must be 21 years of age or older, a state resident for six months, and a city resident for ten days. Persons can register to vote at the City Clerk's office at any time during regular office hours. Registration for a particular election closes on the Wednesday two weeks prior to that election. Registration is permanent providing the individual exercises his right to vote at least every two years. Cards are sent to those who have not voted in a two year period questioning whether they are still residents. There is no registration by party.

Absentee Ballots

The City Clerk's office makes the absentee ballots available about two weeks prior to the election. Ballots can only be mailed or given directly to the voter. The voter's signature on an absentee ballot must be witnessed by a Notary Public or by two qualified Wisconsin electors, neither of whom is a candidate for office. Ballots will not be mailed out after the Friday preceding the election, and must be received by the City Clerk's office by election day.

Election Officials

The City Clerk's office is responsible for the administration of election laws. Names of election officials are submitted by the two major party county chairmen to the Mayor by February of odd numbered years. The Mayor reviews the list of names and submits it to the Council for confirmation of the appointments. Election officials receive instructions prior to each election.

Elected Officials

Local offices filled by election are: Mayor, City Clerk, Treasurer, City Attorney, Aldermen, and School Board members. Aldermen from even numbered wards are elected for two year terms in the even numbered years, odd numbered wards in the odd numbered years. Each ward has one alderman. School Board members serve for three year terms, with three members elected one year, and two members each of the following two years, resulting in overlapping terms of office. The other city officials are elected for two year terms.

Precincts and Wards

Precincts and wards are established by the Common Council. There are six precincts and twenty wards. Wards one through six are on the West side of the river and residents of these wards vote at Mead School on 17th Avenue. Wards seven through twenty are on the East side with voting taking place at the Howe School on Eighth Street.


To become a candidate for city office in Wisconsin Rapids one must be 21 years of age or older, a resident of Wisconsin for six months and a city resident for ten days. Aldermen must reside in the ward they represent. Twenty signatures on nomination papers are needed for alderman and 200 for city-wide office.

Election Information

The League of Women Voters of the Wisconsin Rapids Area prepares and presents information on the candidates and the elections as a voters' service. The Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune carries candidates questionnaires and other information on the election. WFHR the local radio station presents programming to aid the voter, as do the TV stations seen in the area.

Wisconsin Rapids is represented on the County Board by eleven Supervisors, elected from districts 18 through 28. The County Board has a total of 35 Supervisors. Voters in Wisconsin Rapids also vote for the 7th District Circuit Court Judge, two County Court Judges, and the other Wood County officials, such as Sheriff, County Clerk, Treasurer, Coroner, District Attorney, and Register of Deeds.

Wisconsin Rapids is in the 2nd Assembly District, the 24th State Senate District, and the 7th Congressional District.


The village of Port Edwards was incorporated in 1902. It was first developed in 1840 around a saw mill established by John Edwards for the manufacture of white pine lumber.

The 1970 census figures show a population of 2,139.

Governmental policy is determined by a village president, clerk, treasurer, assessor and a board of six trustees.

Much of the town's social life revolves around it's churches, schools, parks and playgrounds.

The John Alexander YMCA Community Center offers many programs and activities for local and surrounding areas.

The new public elementary school opened in 1970 has grades K-4, and John Edwards School has grades 5-12.

Residents vote at the Port Edwards Municipal Building. Voter registration is not required.


The town of Nekoosa, located eight miles south of Wisconsin Rapids on the Wisconsin River, developed around a paper mill constructed in 1893. Today the Nekoosa branch of the Great Northern Paper Company employs the majority of people working in this area.

The city government consists of the mayor, eight aldermen, and a city clerk, treasurer, attorney, assessor and operator.

1970 preliminary census reports for Nekoosa show a population of 2,444.

A Roman Catholic grade school has grades 1-8. The public schools have grades divided as follows: elementary K-4, middle school 5-8, and a new high school opened in 1970 for grades 9-12.

Residents in Wards 1 and 2 vote at the middle school and residents in Wards 3 and 4 vote at the elementary school. Advance voter registration is not required.


The village of Biron, incorporated in 1910, is located on the Wisconsin River 3 miles north of Wisconsin Rapids. It developed from a sawmill built in 1837.

The local government consists of a village president, clerk, treasurer, assessor, constable and six trustees.

Village residents vote at the Biron Community Hall. Voter registration is not required in advance.

The Biron Division of Consolidated Papers, Inc., and four cranberry marshes are located in this area.

There is a volunteer fire department. One school with grades K-6 is part of the Wisconsin Rapids School System.


The township of Grand Rapids has been annexed over the years by adjoining communities until at the present the township area is approximately 26 square miles. It is mainly a residential community with mostly "urban-type" occupations.

The South Wood County park located on Lake Wazeecha is open to the public. A municipal building located on County Trunk W houses the volunteer fire department.

Schools are included in the Wisconsin Rapids school district. Elected officers of the town of Grand Rapids include a chairman, two supervisors and one part-time polices officer.

Residents of Grand Rapids vote at the Fire Station on County Trunk W. Prior registration is not required.


Rudolph, the second town to be established in Wood County, is located approximately 7 miles north of Wisconsin Rapids. Four miles to the south the village of Rudolph was incorporated in 1960.

Rudolph is now one of the best dairy areas in Wisconsin. Two cheese plants are located in the area.

Rudolph is served by two churches, the Moravian Church and St. Phillips Catholic Church which has a grade school with it. A public grade school with grades K-6 is part of the Wisconsin Rapids School System.

Known as "the home of the famous Grotto Shrine and Wonder Cave" Rudolph claims 30,000 visitors annually. Memory Lane Museum, also located there enables the visitor to see "yesterday today."

The town of Rudolph has a town chairman, clerk, treasurer, assessor and two supervisors. Residents vote in the community hall. Voter registration is not required.

The village of Rudolph has a president, two trustees, and a clerk, treasurer and assessor. Residents vote in the meeting room of the fire house. Voter registration is not required prior to voting.


The village of Vesper is located 12 miles northwest of Wisconsin Rapids. The village government includes a board president, treasurer, clerk and trustees.

Vesper is a shopping center for farmers. The Midland Cooperative has an active establishment. Sana Dairies, Woodruff Crates, and the Easy Roller Company are the local industries.

The community also has four churches, a recreation center, a park with a shelter house, and a public library. Local organizations are veterans clubs, 4-H, Homemakers, senior citizens and Lions club.

There is a public elementary school serving grades K-6. Residents vote at the Vesper Shelter House. Prior voter registration is not required


The township of Grant established in Portage County in 1864 is included in the Wisconsin Rapids School District. The only area to develop in the two section township of Grant is in the unincorporated community of Kellner. Elected offices in the township of Grant include a chairman, two supervisors, a clerk, treasurer, assessor and constable.

Population of the double township in 1970 numbered 1,180. Many residents work at the paper mills or factories in Wood County, some farming is done on a part-time basis. There are Lutheran and Moravian churches in the area. 4-H and Girl and Boy Scout groups are available for the youth in the community.

Residents of the town of Grant vote at Grant Town Hall. No prior registration is required.