Concrete block not first issue for Northwoods law enforcement - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Concrete block not first issue for Northwoods law enforcement

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RHINELANDER, Wis. (WAOW) -

The search continues for a suspect who threw a concrete block onto an Oneida County Sheriff's deputy car in Rhinelander.

But Rhinelander police said they've had issues before near a dark alleyway downtown. Rhinelander Police Chief Lloyd Gauthier said his department heavily patrols the alley at night.

"You can't be seen in that alley," Chief Gauthier said over the phone. "We would encourage anything that would increase safety."

Maggie Steffen is trying to do just that.

"I think this project has gone from a want to a need," Steffen said.

She wants to install LED lights in the alleyway, paint a mural and add other decorations.

 "It is in the middle of our downtown," Steffen said. "It is utilized by the public all the time. What's being done here is something for the downtown. It's not something for the betterment of an individual."

Steffen, former director of Downtown Rhinelander Inc., said DRI is going to pay the $2,800 installation cost for the LED lights. She said she wants the city to pay $230 a year for the electricity to keep the lights on.

 "Nothing would happen with this project unless we add lighting to it," Steffen said. "Dark places are just not good areas."

Alderperson Alex Young said the alley has been a problem for law enforcement for years. There have been numerous citations for public urination. Chief Gauthier said the darkness welcomes drug activity in the alleyway.

Both said that installing lights would deter such behaviors.

"Some of the things that [law enforcement has] had to deal with over the years differentiates this alleyway from other areas of the city and makes the case that, in these circumstances... that we should spend a couple hundred dollars to light this thing up," Young said.

Young said he's asked the mayor to bring the project to the city council during its August meeting. However, he said some council members have concerns about spending public money on a privately owned alley.

"I think, in light of especially some of the things that happened the past weekend with the cinder block getting thrown off the roof, that in this particular circumstance, the public safety consideration outweigh those concerns," Young said.

Steffen said she was hoping the project would be farther along than it is, but would be happy to get the lights installed by fall. She said other accents like the mural, benches and archways can wait until spring.

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