Residents in this Langlade County city are reeling after drug charges were filed last week against local football coach and school principal John Lund. As the Antigo School District suspended five school employees on Monday, expanding the list of those allegedly involved in a marijuana distribution ring, locals wondered how to explain the situation to their children and what to believe.
Lund was charged Friday on four counts of manufacturing or delivering marijuana, three counts of possession of marijuana with intent to deliver and one count of maintaining a drug trafficking place. Scot D. Peterson, a former special education teacher with the district was charged with 26 drug offenses, including 23 counts of manufacturing or delivering marijuana, and Bradley J. Maahs, Lund’s brother-in-law, was charged with three counts of manufacturing or delivering marijuana.
Four Antigo School District employees and one Merrill Area Public Schools employee were placed on paid administrative leave on Monday when their names were linked to a Langlade County Sheriff’s Department investigation. “It’s a sad deal for the school district,” former Antigo School Board member Jim Tatro, 75, said, while seated at a table in Two Angels Family Restaurant north of downtown Antigo. “It’s a slap in the face to the good teachers.” Bob Breutzman, 71, of Antigo, seated next to Tatro, nodded and sighed. Breutzman has a grandson in his sophomore year at Antigo High School and is most concerned about the students who looked up to Lund as their football coach.
“Anyone who deals with youths has a responsibility to be a role model,” Breutzman said. Residents said there was no gossip or speculation about Lund until the school district suspended him in November. That decision set the rumor mill spinning, and people shared their own theories about the reason for the decision, said Linda Erickson, an Elcho resident who works as a waitress at Dixie Lunch restaurant. peculation that Lund got involved with drugs was the most common guess, Erickson said. “It’s a small place and everybody talks,” she said.
But most customers at Dixie Lunch, on Fifth Avenue in downtown Antigo, aren’t eager to chat about the charges that Lund bought and sold marijuana. Others simply don’t know about it. “What are you guys talking about? Lund?” Erickson asked several men sitting at a booth in the restaurant on Monday afternoon. “Who’s that?” one man answered.
Donna Welnetz and her daughter Khala, both employees at BB Jacks restaurant in downtown Antigo, said customers aren’t openly talking about the situation. As images of Lund’s first court appearance flashed across televisions in the restaurant during Monday’s 5 p.m. newscast, the people seated at most tables remained focused on their pizza or conversation. Friends on Facebook are another story, Khala Welnetz, 21, said.
“It’s all anyone can talk about there,” she said, adding that people are sharing and commenting on news stories about the charges. “(The men) all have families, so I do think it’s been too publicized.” Both Donna and Khala Welnetz worry that the news stories and chatter about the charges will harm their community’s long-term image. Several of the men now facing drug charges did help students, especially members of local football teams, including Donna Welnetz’s 12-year-old grandson, she said. “It’s sad for the kids,” Donna said. “You know, (my grandson) said to me that (Lund) really helped his game. You’re not sure what to say.”
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