Top-10 stories from the Feb. 11 Ripon Commonwealth Press

Here are the top 10 stories from this week’s Ripon Commonwealth Press:

10. Ripon students sign letters of intent to play college sports

Two Ripon High School seniors made their decision to play sports at the collegiate level official.

Mckenzie Nodolf and Cassidy Mader both signed paperwork Wednesday during an after-school ceremony at Ripon High School. Nodolf will play women’s soccer at Clarke University, while Mader will compete for the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater softball team next year.

Ripon Athletic Director Bill Kinziger started off the program by noting that both Nodolf and Mader have represented the school with class, as well as their families and teammates with integrity.

He then passed the microphone to Nodolf’s and Mader’s respective coaches to share their thoughts.

Click here to find out what the coaches had to say.

9. Green Lake Common Council makes headway on Airbnb ordinance

The Green Lake Common Council furthered its effort to regulate short-term rentals — better known as Airbnbs or Vrbos — at its meeting Monday.

The Common Council voted on key items on a draft ordinance, clearing the way for City Attorney Dan Sondalle to craft a more permanent version that the Common Council is expected to vote on next month.

“This is a draft,” Mayor Ray Radis said of the ordinance. “We’re not voting on putting this through; we’re voting on this to find consensus, to give it to Dan to put it on the agenda.”

The proposal only applies to short-term rentals in residential zoning districts and includes a grandfather clause for rentals in good standing with the Tri-County Environmental Health Consortium if they register for a license with the city.

To learn more about what specific items were addressed Monday, click here.

8. Last week's snowstorm adds to poor start of 2021 for traffic accidents in Green Lake County

Last week’s snowstorm compounded an already poor start to 2021 in Green Lake County in terms of traffic accidents.

According to Green Lake County Chief Deputy Matthew Vande Kolk, the sheriff's office saw 18 vehicles go into the ditch, along with six property damage accidents, as a result of last week Thursday's storm.

Adding those in, he noted the county has seen seven injury crashes, 19 property damage crashes and one fatal crash already this year.

For comparison, in all of 2020, Green Lake County had 42 injury crashes and 92 property damage crashes.

“The snow combined with this extremely cold weather has made the effectiveness of salt and other road treatment solutions less effective,” he said. “Subsequently, even though the snow is gone, the roads are still very, very slippery. People need to slow down and approach intersections and curves very cautiously because it's hard to determine what kind of traction you're going to have when you get there.”

For more safety tips, click here.

7. First major snowstorm of 2021 wreaks havoc for Ripon area drivers

Thursday’s snowstorm wreaked havoc on drivers in the Ripon area, especially those using country backroads.

The Fond du Lac County Sheriff’s Office responded to at least 14 weather-related traffic incidents in the area from Thursday morning to Friday morning, with five near Ripon, five in Brandon, two in Eldorado, one in Pickett and one in Rosendale, according to reports from the county.

Town of Ripon Police Capt. Howard Stibb said his department responded to anywhere from 20 to 30 vehicle incidents, with only one accident.

He noted most of those were runoffs into the ditch or cars getting stuck in a snow drift, while the accident was due to a school bus on Union Street turning left onto Cty E to head north, pulling out in front of a southbound vehicle.

The bus struck the vehicle but no injuries were sustained by students, according to a message sent out by the school district to families.

For more on how the storm impacted the Ripon community, click here.

6. Standing Tall: Socha avenges loss to qualify for state tournament

Aaron Socha made what head coach Lee Cotton called a “small mistake” during his 220-pound regional championship match against Campbellsport’s Joseph Volz on Jan. 30.

The Ripon High School senior wrestler wasn’t about to let it happen again last week Saturday.

Facing Volz in a second-place match to determine who would go to state, Socha avenged the regional loss as he picked up the pin at the 3-minute mark at the Kiel Division 2 Sectional.

“That was a bit of a nice little topping on the cake avenging that loss,” Ripon head coach Lee Cotton said. “He just made a small mistake in position, where he had the Campbellsport kid on his back and just slipped off … And we corrected the mistake and found ourselves in a wrestleback in the same position again and this time the mistake was corrected and he got the pin.”

Socha becomes the first Tiger to qualify for the state tournament since Ryan Cody did so in 2018. The state competition will take place Saturday at Adams-Friendship High School.

He was the only one out of four Ripon wrestlers to advance.

For more on Socha’s journey and on how the other wrestlers performed, click here.

5. Green Lake resident, who dedicated her life to the community, in need of new kidney

Green Lake resident Nancy Hill has dedicated most of her adult life to helping the community.

But now, she needs the community’s help.

Hill, who has previously served as the Green Lake Association executive director, a Thrasher Opera House board member and Rotary Club member, is in desperate need of a new kidney.

She has lost function in both kidneys, it has limited her contact with the outside world to dialysis appointments three times a week for four hours.

Although dialysis filters her blood and removes unwanted toxins, waste products and excess fluids, Hill expects her health to gradually deteriorate over the next two to three years without a new kidney.

Click here to learn more about Hill’s battle with kidney disease.

4. Follow-up: Narcan use in Ripon more than doubled from 2019 to 2020

The Ripon Guardian Ambulance Service (RGAS) administered Narcan, a medication used to counter the effects of opioid overdose, more than twice as many times in 2020 than it did in 2019.

Last year, RGAS administered Narcan 16 times after only administering it seven times in 2019, according to EMS Chief John Teachout.

Additionally, those numbers do not necessarily reflect those people who were found without a pulse, not breathing and no treatment was administered due to signs of post-mortem.

Teachout said 10 overdoses could be directly attributed to heroin use, while four others were suspected overdose of prescription medications containing opiates and two were the same person within one week.

Although Narcan use more than doubled last year, Teachout said RGAS has not had to administer the medication within the last three months.

Click here to learn more about what caused the spike in overdoses and what’s being done to reverse that trend.

3. Cause for concern: Ripon native worried about low-vaccination rates among long-term care staff

As the COVID-19 vaccine has been distributed to long-term care facilities, the director of housing and clinical services for the senior living advocacy group LeadingAge Wisconsin has witnessed an unsettling phenomenon.

According to Robin Wolzenburg, a significant portion of staff members in Wisconsin nursing homes and assisted-living facilities are refusing to take the COVID-19 vaccine, jeopardizing residents.

After talking with the head of the Pharmacy Partnership Program through the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, Wolzenburg said only about 34% of staff in long-term care facilities are taking the vaccine, while roughly 79% of residents are receiving the vaccine.

In rural areas, she noted the results have been even worse as there’s “a lot more hesitancy” surrounding the vaccine, resulting from misinformation circulating on social media.

In fact, one area nursing home only had an approximately 10% vaccination rate among staff members, according to Wolzenburg.

Although she declined to comment on the record regarding specific facilities that have had low vaccination rates, Wolzenburg noted she’s “talked to a couple of the administrators of a few places, and I'm going to be honest, I don't think that the encouragement is there.”

Click here to learn what Wolzenburg believes is causing the low vaccination rates and what she thinks could be done to reverse the trend.

For a related editorial on the benefits of the COVID-19 vaccine, click here.

2. John Teachout to retire, Ripon looking to hire a new EMS chief

The city of Ripon is looking for a new EMS chief as Teachout announced that he plans to retire effective Sunday, Feb. 28.

“The city has placed the ads for the EMS chief position, and next we will interview the most qualified candidates,” City Administrator Lori Rich said in an email, adding that the position of EMS chief is “not one of the positions that the [Common] Council approves the hiring of.”

Teachout declined to comment on the reasons for his retirement and his retirement letter, dated Jan. 14, 2021, does not offer an explanation.

“While I have accomplished much, I would just prefer to leave the service of the city quietly,” Teachout said in a written statement to the Commonwealth, regarding his retirement. “The people I am most proud of are the volunteers of our ambulance service who deserve much more recognition for their efforts and accomplishments than I do.”

To learn more about Teachout’s career, click here.

1. On a medical, spiritual mission to Kenya, Ripon residents learn how much Americans take for granted

A pair of Riponites recently returned from a two-week medical mission trip to Kenya, where they provided physical and spiritual care to those less fortunate and witnessed cultural differences firsthand.

The trip was rescheduled twice due to the coronavirus pandemic-related travel restrictions. It was supposed to occur last March and then in August, before finally happening in mid-January

Dr. Paul Nelsen, a Ripon resident and retired doctor, has been going on mission trips for more than a decade. Ahead of his most recent excursion, local photographer Steve Hollenback asked if he could tag along to document the trip.

Nelsen’s mission trips have been through New Life Community Center, which operates an orphanage in Kenya where much of the service work takes place.

They treated around 626 individuals, ranging in age from 3 months to 86 years old.

To learn more about the trip, click here.

Written By

Joe Schulz served as the reporter of the Green Laker in 2019 and 2020, before being hired as a reporter for the Commonwealth in October 2020. He is from Oshkosh and graduated from UW-Oshkosh in December with a bachelor's degree in journalism.

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