By Joe Bachman
The three mayoral candidates for Wisconsin Rapids discussed an array of issues facing the community on Wednesday night.
Many residents were in attendance in the forum hosted by the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin Rapids, held at the River Cities Community Access Center inside the Rapids Mall. The three candidates — incumbent mayor, Zach Vruwink, former longtime alderperson, Robert Nash, and newcomer Chris Marceau, discussed a multitude of important issues facing the Wisconsin Rapids community.
Of the many questions and topics addressed, two stood out as the more pertinent of issues — the riverfront project, and the ongoing heroin epidemic.
“I feel very strongly that our solution needs to be a multi-pronged approach in education, and in mental health issues that is connected to the use of illegal drugs and painkillers in the community.” said Zach Vruwink in regards to the question of quelling the heroin problem facing Wisconsin Rapids. “Something that we’ve spent a considerable amount of time on is pulling and convening meetings together to address the issue. It’s something that isn’t going to get solved overnight, and we can’t arrest our way out of the problem.”
However, candidate Chris Marceau had a different take on the issue.
“It’s the punishments that are laid down; they’re not very harsh at all, and these drug dealers know that. That’s why they keep coming back.” said Marceau. “I did see my son, who almost died, hooked up to life support from an overdose, and I made several calls for six hours until someone finally found my son on the bike trail, unconscious.”
Candidate Robert Nash gave his full support to the Wisconsin Rapids Police Department, and that any and all resources should be utilized in efforts to help solve this epidemic. “Drugs have been in the area for years, and this isn’t something new. I’m glad that the city council decided to add to the police department, because they need the tools to solve this problem.” said Nash.
The riverfront project has been another topic of debate in Wisconsin Rapids, and Robert Nash weighed in his thoughts on the issue. “The pictures drawn up for the project don’t seem to fit to scale, and I’m not on board with the buying of the downtown properties, because I don’t know what the discussion was. We don’t know what the plan is.” Nash also cited the spending to bring in New York landscaping and architectural firm Supermass Studios to help draw out the riverfront project as a waste of city money.
“I’d like to leave it where it is.” said Marceau. “We have enough bike trails and other recreational places that can draw the attention away from there, and frankly, I don’t think it’s a safe place for kids to congregate with the rising and lowering of the river.”
Mayor Zach Vruwink emphasized the very reason that the city received a $500,000 grant from the state is because of the success of other communities who have invested in their local riverfronts.
“Nobody s saying that we’re going to tear up the beautiful riverfront or pubic spaces we have today. We are going to enhance them and we’re going to make them better.” said Vruwink.
Check back for updates on Wednesday night’s forum.