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Waupaca opens Public Works building

Michigand and Harding Streets have been renamed Koronk Way and Haberkorn Court to honor two educators and coaches wholeft a mark on the Waupaca community. James Card Photo

Plus new street names, lights

By James Card

Tucked in a neighborhood off of Royalton Street, a small section of Waupaca got a big makeover. The new Public Works building is officially open and the city hosted an open house on June 14.

The main part of the building is the cavernous garage area and now all of the city’s vehicles and heavy equipment are under one roof.

Previously, employees had to bounce between four buildings to access equipment. It was estimated in earlier studies that this will save the city $30,000 per year now those back-and-forth inefficiencies have been eliminated.

Arranged with military-like order were excavators, skid steers, numerous work trucks, a street sweeper, dump trucks, mowers, a lift truck, front loaders, a tractor and trailers. The space is airy and open and there is enough room for drivers to park trucks or machines without feeling cramped or leaving door dings.

The other equipment is organized in a neat and efficient manner. Along the walls were racks holding a fleet of chainsaws and outdoor tools. There is a section of lockers holding muck boots, high-vis rain jackets and hardhats. There are pallet racks holding mortar mix and traffic paint. There are two side storage rooms containing street signs organized like library books. Numerous shelves held various machinery and oil filters like a tidy auto parts store.

Down a hallway are some offices and that leads to a break room that can be subdivided into a meeting room by using an accordion folding partition. There is a public entrance area and Director of Public Works Justin Berrens wrote a history of the site and a biography of LeRoy “Hobby” Haberkorn. It is framed and hangs on the entryway wall.

At a gathering of approximately 100 people in front of the Public Works building Mayor Brian Smith addressed the group: “It has been a long time coming and it’s an incredible building but we’ve made this even more of a special night because we’re not only recognizing the public works facility but we’re also recognizing the improvements at Lakeman Field and we’re also honoring two very special people that have been in our community over the years and that would be LeRoy Haberkorn and John Koronkiewicz.”

Berrens gave a speech detailing the long history of the site going back to the 1930s where the city designated that area of land as an athletic field. Year after year, the facility developed such as a cinder running track later improved with asphalt. Lakemen Field was created, along with the Haberkorn football field.

The Public Works building was part of this evolution of public space. Berrens said he was proud and humble to be part of the project.

“We will maintain the commitment to our community and drive in working with people now and the future to make Waupaca a great place,” he said.

Two streets, new names

City Administrator Aaron Jenson took to the podium and explained how city staff wanted to recognize the sporting history of the site.

Mayor Smith suggested renaming the two streets that intersected at the corner: Michigan and Harding.

“We gather to honor these two remarkable individuals whose dedications and contributions have left an indelible mark on our community. It is with great pride that we celebrate John Koronkiewicz and LeRoy Haberkorn by naming these streets in their honor,” said Jenson.

Haberkorn passed away in 1998 and he lived a rich life of many endeavors and accomplishments: as an athlete and Hall of Fame coach), as a WWII vet and Purple Heart recipient, Ripon College alumni, Waupaca High School teacher and as a volunteer with a giant list of civic activities where he held many leadership positions.

Jenson described a lengthy list of coaching accomplishments that Koronkiewicz pulled off while coaching in Waupaca such as 582 combined wins in baseball and football.

“When asked what he liked most about coaching, he said developing relationships with the kids,” said Jenson who noted that it was not a cliché. He said his athletes would run through a wall for him because he deeply cared about them as young men.

Berrens presented Koronkiewicz with a duplicate street sign of Koronk Way who stepped up to the microphone. He said he came to Waupaca in 1976 as a recent UW-Oshkosh grad. For the next 40 years he worked, played and raised a family. He said he was fortunate to teach and coach thousands of students.

Koronkiewicz paused as he got choked up. He froze his face to hold back some tears.

“I have to admit I like the name Koronk Way. Because there is a Koronk way: Work hard. Don’t give in. Try to see the good in people. Be humble. Laugh when you can. Cry when you need to,” he said. “I wasn’t born here and this might not be my final resting place but Waupaca will always be my home.”

On the street corner of the intersection formerly known as Michigan and Harding, two public works employees pulled off a fabric cover to reveal the new crossroad street signs of Koronk Way and Haberkorn Court. There was a big round of applause.

Lights at Lakemen

Shortly after the new signs were unveiled, the crowd filtered over to Community First Lakemen Field and the ballpark was packed for the official firing up of the new lighting system that was recently installed this spring.
As the Lakemen warmed up to play the Hortonville Stars, there was the sound of cracking bats and snapping glove leather mixed with music booming from the new speakers that came with upgraded lighting system.

The smell of bratwurst and popcorn filled the air. The bleachers were full along with the picnic tables scattered around the field. A couple of the new lights were turned on as shadows grew long in the infield as the sun went down over the treetops.

Speaking from the infield with a microphone, Parks and Recreation Director Laura Colbert said this was accomplished by the city staff, the players and fans who “understand the value of holding onto America’s favorite pastime.” She thanked Josh Peterson of the parks department for his determination on seeing this project through to the end.

A total of $469,000 was donated for the upgrades at the ballpark. A large sign listing the donors was attached to the rear of the grandstand. Major donors were presented with commemorative baseball bats in the infield: Musco Sports Lighting, Farmers State Bank, L&L Propane, the Anthony family and Community First Credit Union.

Koronkiewicz, a former Lakemen, threw out two pitches to start the game. With his sons Mike and Mark as catchers, his first throw was with a football and the second was with a baseball.

The next big event at the ballpark will be the Battle on the Chain Tournament on Friday and Saturday, June 21-22. According to the schedule the game times are to be determined. Live games and previously played games at Community First Lakemen Field can be watched by going to muscovision.com.

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