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Eau Claire City Council
Veterans park naming request delayed

A decision on renaming riverfront land in Eau Claire’s downtown as Veterans Tribute Park is postponed for two weeks — a delay sought by the very group that requested the name change.

Upon conferring with fellow board members of the Eau Claire County Veterans Foundation, the group’s vice president Angela Deutschlander said in an email that the delay would be in the best interest of all parties.

“This gives the Foundation time to explore all of our options and make the right decision about the project going forward,” she wrote in the message delivered Tuesday to Eau Claire city leaders.

After debating whether to postpone for a longer time, the City Council decided unanimously Tuesday to agree to the foundation’s request for a two-week delay on a vote to rename the Forest Street Special Area.

“They are the only applicant that we’ve heard from and made this proposal, so I would think at this time we should be respectful of their wishes,” council President Terry Weld said.

The naming request had created controversy in recent weeks because the Forest Street Community Gardens have used a portion of that 16.8-acre swath of land between an Xcel Energy substation and the city’s Central Maintenance Facility. While the gardens and their shelter will remain intact alongside the $2.2 million project planned by the veterans group, gardeners and representatives of the North River Fronts Neighborhood Association felt the proposed name was not inclusive of all park users.

Councilwoman Kate Beaton felt a longer postponement — two months — would be needed so the park users that have vigorously debated at recent public meetings can come to an accord.

“Based on where tensions are and relations are right now, I don’t think two weeks is enough to solve that,” she said.

Beaton ultimately agreed with the two-week postponement, but the council could again delay making a decision at its July 23 meeting depending on progress made between the different park user groups.

Councilwoman Laura Benjamin said granting the delay the veterans group sought shows the city is still in support of the project.

“It’s my feeling we want to ensure they have the confidence to move forward with the project,” she said.

City Manager Dale Peters pointed out that delaying the naming decision more than two weeks could impact whether the project could be started this year.

The city is scheduled to get contractors’ bids back in early August both for road work on Forest Street and also the first phase of the foundation’s tribute trail.

Councilwoman Emily Berge wanted to know if trail construction will proceed even if the naming issue isn’t resolved.

“That would be up to the veterans foundation,” city community services director Jeff Pippenger said.

The group would need to give the city the “green light” and transfer funds to pay for the first phase of the project — the paved trail and gathering area valued at $700,000.

The project also will include military monuments and future years will add a paved parking lot, trail lighting and public restrooms.

Councilwoman Catherine Emmanuelle voiced concern that the controversy over the naming could jeopardize the project.

“What happens if the applicant says we’re not interested in the project any more at this location?” Emmanuelle said. “I would sincerely not want that to happen.”

The notion of having separate names for the veterans area and gardens was dealt a setback on Tuesday.

During Monday night’s public discussion on the renaming, Deutschlander said the foundation had only wanted the Veterans Tribute Park name to apply to amenities it would put there, not the gardens. Pippenger said Tuesday that the original request from the foundation was to rename the entire area.

And in a memo to the council on Tuesday, Peters stated there are no city-owned public areas subdivided with multiple names and starting now is not advised.

“Staff has reviewed this suggestion and would not recommend splitting the parcel as it would be difficult to delineate and manage the boundaries and provide clear signage as well as being confusing to our park users,” he wrote.

Other business

Also decided during Tuesday’s meeting:

• A month after cancelling plans to build a roundabout, the council unanimously approved a new design for the intersection at Roosevelt Avenue and State Street that mostly keeps the same traffic flow that exists there now but with a few safety improvements. A pedestrian refuge island between State Street’s traffic lanes on the north end of the intersection, a blinking light pedestrians can activate to cross the street, and more signs cautioning drivers to beware of pedestrians and bicyclists will be added to the intersection that is part of a road construction project already in progress.

• The general public will be able to get guided tours of the renovated Eau Claire City Hall, 203 S. Farwell St., from 3 to 7 p.m. on July 25. Visitors will be able to get a good look at the building improvements during the open house, as furniture, office equipment and city staff will move into City Hall in August.

Century-plus sports fan: Altoona man to celebrate 104th birthday this week

An 80-year resident of Altoona with a passion for Eau Claire area athletics will turn 104 on Friday.

Even at 103, Wisconsin native Harry Boehm still makes it to many Altoona and UW-Eau Claire sporting events, said Kevin Boehm of Eau Claire, Harry’s son.

“He loves all of the sports in Altoona,” Kevin said.

Harry, several family members and Grace Lutheran Communities staff and residents celebrated his upcoming birthday with a celebration Tuesday at Prairie Pointe Rehab Suites in Altoona.

Before moving to Prairie Pointe, Harry happily lived on his own, said Harry’s son-in-law James Ganrude of Eau Claire.

But the move hasn’t stopped Ganrude and Harry from heading to Harry’s favorite place: The front rows of local gyms, courts and ballfields.

“I retired in 2011 and since then, we’ve just been on the trail,” Ganrude said Tuesday. “It’s the UW-Eau Claire Blugolds, all the softball whenever the weather (allows), women’s basketball, volleyball and all the Altoona sports, boys and girls.”

Harry’s love of baseball stemmed from his childhood: Born near Mosinee on July 12, 1915, Harry was a star hitter on his town’s baseball team, Ganrude said.

Though he didn’t attend UW-Eau Claire, Harry has forged a longtime relationship with the university: His late wife Rose Boehm and his seven children are all alumni.

His children all work in teaching and administration, Kevin said.

Harry attended so many on-campus sporting events that several Blugold athletics staff members and athletes consider him the program’s top fan, said Blugold Marketing and Promotions Director Clare Hohman.

“We don’t charge him any admission, ever,” Hohman said. “He’s older than the university and he paid for all those kids to go to school here. He gets to come to any sporting event free.”

Hohman even nominated Harry for the university’s Honorary Alumnus Award. He received the honor in May.

The UW-Eau Claire Alumni Association gives the award people “who have demonstrated great love of and service to UW-Eau Claire or the greater community,” according to the university’s website.

Harry’s dedication made him an obvious choice, Hohman said.

“He came to every home volleyball match, climbs the bleachers and goes right to the top,” Hohman said. “The guy is unbelievable.”

After injuring himself in a fall, Harry could no longer attend the games without a wheelchair, but that didn’t stop the athletes from coming to him.

“When he was in the hospital after he got hurt, several (women’s volleyball) players and the coach visited him in the hospital, and had their photos taken with him when they won the conference title,” Hohman remembered. “The teams have embraced him.”

After the fall, Harry moved in late 2018 to Prairie Pointe Rehab Suites in Altoona.

“He’s a wonderful, appreciative, sweet man,” said Prairie Pointe activities director Linda Holzhausen. “He’s got a deep faith and he reads the newspaper every single day.”

For Harry, who celebrated an early birthday with Mass Tuesday morning, there’s no magic secret to living over a century.

“I eat the right foods, and my wife and I walked for 20 years,” he said. “Walking every day helps very much.”

Backlash continues over Minn. city council's vote to stop reciting pledge

MINNEAPOLIS — The St. Louis Park, Minn., City Council’s decision to stop reciting the Pledge of Allegiance before meetings continues to incite critics of the move.

The City Council voted 5-0 on June 17 to do away with the pledge at most meetings due to concerns that some residents in the “increasingly diverse community” may find it unwelcoming.

On Monday night in St. Louis Park, nearly 100 often raucous protesters jammed into the council chamber to urge the city to keep saying the pledge. Angered that the city had voted to nix the pledge, members of the group recited it several times and waved American flags as they confronted the council and called on them to resign.

No vote was taken, but two proposals were introduced to reverse the decision or continue the discussion with involvement from the community.

Hundreds of people have called or emailed the city to protest the vote last month. Mayor Jake Spano announced on Twitter later that week that the council would be revisiting its decision.

President Donald Trump now has joined those seeking a reversal of the decision.

Trump said in a tweet Tuesday morning: “Outrage is growing in the Great State of Minnesota where our Patriots are now having to fight for the right to say the Pledge of Allegiance. I will be fighting with you!”

Trump included in the tweet “@foxandfriends,” the all-news network where he often gives interviews.

As is the case with many of the president’s tweets, this one collected replies, retweets and likes by the thousands right out of the Twitter gate.

Trump has nearly 62 million followers on Twitter, and his morning menu of topics was varied, ranging from Britain’s effort to leave the European Union to federal aid for California after the recent earthquakes.