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The top 10 Press Times stories of 2019

By Ben Rodgers

BROWN COUNTY – Last year was eventful for us in many ways.

In 2019, The Press Times moved into Green Bay and continued to expand its subscriber base and overall readership by oftentimes being the only source covering local news.

In 2019, The Press Times website had more than 500,000 unique pageviews, and we posted somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,700 local, staff-written stories online and in print.

Those 2019 stories ranged from features about people in our community, deep dives into previously unreported happenings and important issues and trends that will impact the quality of life in Greater Green Bay for the foreseeable future.

We grew our staff and reputation in the community as a source for news coverage in 2019, but we lost one of our own to cancer along the way, and she is missed still to this day.

Based on analytics, here are the top 10 news stories from The Press Times in 2019 in no particular order.

Southern De Pere Bridge developments

After first bring reported by The Press Times in 2018, last year saw major progress being made in the development of a southern De Pere bridge to create a new corridor for travel through De Pere.

The blue line on this map represents that most feasible option for a southern De Pere bridge after review of traffic studies. Submitted Illustration

The project could create another bridge over the Fox River and a divided four-lane arterial street corridor between the intersection of County Highways GV and X in the Town of Ledgeview and the intersection of County Highways EB and F in the Town of Lawrence.

It could also include a new full-access interchange at Interstate 41.

Discussions on the bridge have been taking place for at least the past 30 years.

However, the project hit a temporary snag last summer after Gov. Tony Evers omitted the project in a line-item budget veto.

The veto deleted a specified interchange and called for input from highway engineers for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to determine the location of the interchange and bridge.

The DOT told Brown County the state would design and construct a $35 million I-41 interchange for the southern bridge corridor if the county gets an environmental impact study done before the DOT finishes environmental and design work for the expansion of I-41 between De Pere and the Fox Valley area.

Hobart and Oneida make waves

The aftermath of a lawsuit dating back to 2016 in which the Oneida Nation sued the Village of Hobart for Hobart requiring the tribe to apply for an event permit resulted in the diminishment of the tribe’s reservation by nearly 50,000 acres.

Chief U.S. District Judge William Griesbach ruled March 28 that any land held in fee by the Oneida Nation or its tribe members within the boundaries of the reservation, which includes all of Hobart, is no longer considered part of the reservation.


Any land the Oneida Nation has in trust, or non-taxable, remains part of the reservation.

The Oneida Nation announced April 11 it will appeal Griesbach’s ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago.

The case is currently being argued in the higher court.

In an reportedly unrelated move, the Oneida Nation purchased a farm field directly in the path of a new interchange project expected to help Centennial Centre in Hobart grow.

Two parcels of land totaling 79 acres at the corner North Overland Road and County Highway VV, or Triangle Drive, were sold by David Lewis to the Oneida Nation for $9.87 million, with the deed being recorded Aug. 23, according to records from Brown County Planning and Land Services.

According to the county, the land was valued at $176,000 in 2018.

An Oneida Nation budget document for the 2019 fiscal year obtained by The Press Times shows in 2019 the tribe budgeted $15.49 million for land acquisition.

The purchase from Lewis accounts to nearly 63 percent of the total budgeted amount for the year.

A members-only communication from the Oneida Land Commission, obtained by The Press Times, called the purchase “strategic.”

“The Nation’s intent is to prevent high-density urban sprawl coming from the east,” the document reads.

In November, Hobart approved a resolution which essentially states the village shall only contribute to land costs for the interchange project if the land is acquired outright and not for any easement.

Hobart officials believe the DOT and Oneida Nation is working toward an easement for use of the land for the interchange project, so the resolution provides the village with a layer of protection.

Thong-gate rocks Ashwaubenon

A male Ashwaubenon Public Safety officer who decided to wear a thong at an off-duty golf outing led to an anonymous person suing the village over a potential open records violation.

During the outing, according to a report of the investigation prepared by an outside attorney, Geoffrey Lacy, Officer Jamie Zynda “wore very short jean shorts and rolled his shirt into a halter top design” and “chose to remove his jean shorts to reveal that he was wearing a thong.”

A person who didn’t reveal his name, sought copies of billing records related to the Village of Ashwaubenon hiring an outside law firm to conduct personnel investigations on the case.

The individual, identified in court records as an adult citizen of Wisconsin with the alias John Doe, requested electronic copies of those records.

The anonymous individual accused the village and Village Attorney Tony Wachewicz of unlawfully denying his request for copies of the billing records and unlawfully requesting him to appear in person to inspect the records.

A judicial assistant with Brown County Circuit Court later confirmed a hearing on the matter in October was taken off the calendar because of an agreement being reached.

Superintendent search gains momentum

The third-largest school district in Wisconsin has started the process of searching for a new superintendent to lead the district.

Michelle Langenfeld

Current Green Bay school district Superintendent Michelle Langenfeld announced in early 2019 she will retire in 2020.

On Sept. 16, the school board approved hiring the firm Hazard, Young and Attea Associates, from Illinois, at a cost not to exceed $35,500 to conduct the search for the next district leader.

In December, the board outlined the traits it wants to see the next superintendent possess.

Those include:

• Highly skilled with board relations and governance.

• Successful experience with creating equitable practices.

• Relationship builder.

• Strong communicator.

• Demonstrate evidence of successful past performance.

• Celebrates diversity.

• Legislative advocacy.

• Community engagement.

• Leading systemic change.

• Visible and accessible.

• Operational skills required of a large district.

Initial interviews with candidates are scheduled for later this month.

Student speaker sparks controversy at Bay Port

The Howard-Suamico School District had speaker Jeff Yalden present to Bay Port High School students in May 2019 before his presentation at Bay View Middle School was cancelled due to concerns from students and parents.

Yalden’s presentation on teen mental health and suicide caused controversy with his tone and delivery.

Students reported he screamed into the microphone, singled out specific students, and according to some parents and students, an ambulance was called to Bay Port following the presentation for students experiencing panic attacks.

Yalden reportedly went into great detail about suicide and about 10 students got up to leave the presentation.

One student reported Yalden gave “an insufficient trigger warning” prior to his presentation.

STEM Center gives boost to the region

The Brown County STEM Innovation Center has 63,730 square feet available for the Richard J. Resch School of Engineering, the University of Wisconsin-Extension program, Brown County’s Land and Water Conservation program, and the Einstein Project. UW-Green Bay Photo

The Brown County STEM Innovation Center, part of Phoenix Innovation Park on the UW-Green Bay campus, is more than a host space for programs and classes.

The 63,730-square-foot building, dedicated in October, is host to the Richard J. Resch School of Engineering, the University of Wisconsin-Extension program, Brown County’s Land and Water Conservation program and the Einstein Project, which has driven interest and execution of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education in the Bay Area since 1990.

Together, the facility and the engineering program have potential to draw hundreds of new students to campus and provide area employers with a highly trained crop of employees right out of college.

The building is owned by Brown County, with construction funding of $15 million from the State of Wisconsin, Brown County, and private funds donated by residents, organizations and businesses interested in growing a partnership with the university, now in its second half-century.

Nouryon to open new operations in Howard

The site of the OMNOVA facility in Howard has been designated as the village’s ninth Tax Incremental Financing District, where Nouryon Pulp and Performance Chemicals LLP is interested in bringing a chemical production process.

One door closed and another is opening in Howard with the announcement in April that Nouryon Pulp and Performance Chemicals would be taking over the 80-acre OMNOVA site.

Brad Migdal, senior managing director of business incentives practice for the commercial real estate service firm Cushman & Wakefield, told the Howard village board that Nouryon would “manufacture a product that would be for the first time manufactured in the United States.”

To attract a business to the site, the village created its ninth tax incremental financing district.

In the agreement with Nouryon, the total amount listed for new development was $50 million.

In December, the village noted Nouryon would not open right away, but when it does, it will help the sanitary sewer fund because the plant will use an “astronomical” amount of water and power, said Midgal.

Pufalls have choir legacy at Bay Port

Michael Pufall instructs the Cantus choir in preparation for last year’s Pops Concert at Bay Port High School. The three Pufalls’ involvement in the choir was a top story for 2019. Ben Rodgers Photo

In preparation for the 2019 Pops Concert at Bay Port High School, The Press Times learned about a choir tradition at Bay Port High School going back the past 46 years.

David Pufall spent 35 years at Bay Port as director of a number of choirs, before retiring in 2009.

He then encouraged his son, Michael, to apply for the position. Michael is now in his 11th year as a choir director.

Michael’s son, Jonathan, is currently singing for his dad in the Cantus Choir.

The freshman said he knows he wants to keep music in his life after high school, but is unsure if he wants to walk the same path as his father and grandfather.

Owl Post comes to NEW Zoo

Bubo the snowy owl joined the NEW Zoo in early April, coming from the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago. Ben Rodgers Photo

The zoo doesn’t really have the wizarding mail system made popular by the Harry Potter books and movies, but it does have a snowy owl.

Bubo came to the NEW Zoo in April and was showcased in an Animal of the Month feature.

Here’s a shocker, the movies lied to Harry Potter fans as Hedwig was depicted as being all white, when in reality, only males like Bubo have a totally white coat when they get older.

Bubo is described as a “well-adjusted bird.”

The legend of Skinny Otter

Finally, former Press Times correspondent Melinda Anne Roberts gave readers a deep dive into local history with her story on Skinny Otter, a Memoniee medicine man apprentice, whose final resting place could be at the corner of a busy Howard intersection.

Story has it that before he become Skinny Otter, Hungry Boy camped for six days on an island long since washed away in isolation without food or water.

This cemetery located at the corner of Velp Avenue and Riverview Drive in Howard, was once a heavily wooded forest, and could be the final resting place of Skinny Otter, a medicine man apprentice. Melinda Anne Roberts Photo

He had a vision on how he would serve his people as a medicine man.

Skinny Otter eventually died in a bar brawl after being shot with a musket.

His grave has been lost to the ages, but some believe its location is Duck Creek Cemetery, located on the corner of Velp Avenue and Riverview Drive.

Melinda lost her own battle with cancer in July.

As the cancer was growing and she was dying, Melinda spent her last days on this earth chronicling the history of Wisconsin until the cancer got so bad she physically couldn’t work.

She didn’t want any obituary or funeral service, but instead asked that we share her story in hopes of legalizing medical marijuana.

Not a day goes by where she isn’t greatly missed.

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