Special report: In case you missed it - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Special report: In case you missed it

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They were some of the biggest stories that rocked our communities in the last few months. Newsline 9 peeled back the layers and looked deeper for new information. We went back to see what really happened and what's next.

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On a cold, snowy December night, smoke and flames shot up from the Days Inn Hotel in Wausau.

"The weather is working against us now but we're making headway at this time," said Deputy Fire Chief  Phil Rentmeester, on the night of the fire.

Part of the second floor collapsed during the fire.

"I think once we had the collapse that occurred between the second and third floor, that's when things started to flare up because there was a lot more access to oxygen and the flame took off at that point," said Battalion Chief Mark Krueger.

The fire was ultimately ruled accidental.

"We were able to determine the fire started in a plumbing wade space, a plumbing electrical space that services the mechanical areas for two rooms back to back," said Dave DeSantis, Wausau Fire Marshal.

According to public records from the State Fire Marshall, multiple companies had insurance policies on the hotel when it went up in flames.

The Wausau city inspector says that's partly what's holding up the repair.

Public records show the hotel had recently entered foreclosure and the management for the property was being transferred.

The city inspector says he has been in touch with lawyers from the insurance companies and they're sorting through who should pay for what.

For now, the hotel sits with no guests and a hole in the roof.

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The song list for a Wausau High School choir sparked a heated debate about religious music's place in public schools.

Phil Buch is the choir director at Wausau West High School. He says he was told by school district officials he needed to reduce the number of religious related songs during the group's holiday performances.

That turned a Wausau controversy into a national conversation.

Former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin came to town after hearing the fuss..

The choir was even temporarily disbanded while school leaders sorted through the rules.

"Before this year, we did not have a formal policy. We utilized administrative guidelines to um determine music selections," said Michelle Schaefer, Wausau School District Board president.

By the end of the year, the school board finally agreed on a policy.

"I think what the policy does is it defines what we value and recognize is important to music education and it defines how music teachers choose their music," said Schaefer.

But when you take a closer look at the new policy, you'll notice there is a lot that's not clearly defined. For example, the policy says excessive use of sacred music should be avoided but does not define how many songs that is.


Choir director Phil Buch said in a statement to Newsline 9 he's satisfied with the new policy. But he said the new guidelines are similar to the old ones.

Even Wausau School District Board president Michelle Shaefer said much of the policy is still fluid.

Begging the question, is the district still at square one?

--

In January, a house explosion in the Town of Wausau rocked a neighborhood.

When first responders arrived on scene, they found the home was rigged with improvised explosive devices.

"One of the firefighters caught his boot on this time fuze which was buried under the snow," said Detective Jim Armstrong with Marathon County Sheriff's Department.

Human remains, believed to be the homeowner, were found inside the home.

"The investigation has not extended beyond that property line meaning we don't think there's any outside persons or person responsible for the explosion at the house," said Armstrong.

While investigators haven't released a motive, Newsline 9 did discover some new details.

A closer look at the home and owner show there were delinquent taxes on the home back to 2009.

The Marathon County Treasurer says the homeowner signed a tax deed notice in October meaning if taxes weren't paid the county could take the home. Months after the explosion, the Marathon County Finance and Property Committee voted to take possession of the property.

"There is concern that there could have been contamination form all those gas cans and things that had been left on the property," said Lorraine Beyersdorff, Marathon County Treasurer. 

Neighbors say some days they can still smell the burnt debris.

Now the county is working to figure out how to clean up the property and who is going to pay for it.

In the meantime, detectives wait for the final piece of this puzzle - a positive identification on the remains found in the home. But they say that might not happen until July.

Here are the links to the stories: 

DAYS INN HOTEL FIRE
Initial Story
Follow-up

MUSIC CONTROVERSY
School board meeting set
Choir back together
Probe finished
Music policy set in school district

HOME EXPLOSION
Initial Story
Follow-up



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