OSHA Fined Chippewa Falls Business
In Death Of Employee
The federal Occupational Safety and Health
Administration has proposed a fine of $135,804 for Huffcutt Concrete of
Chippewa Falls after an employee died there in August 2016. Otto Kolpien was killed when a 3,000 pound
steel concrete form fell on him.
OSHA has proposed two citations against Huffcutt
Concrete, including one citation for failing to provide a safe working
environment, saying the employer did not use support for the suspended load
prior to letting Kolpien work under it.
OSHA said the other citation is because the company failed to conduct
periodic inspections of energy control procedures, a violation for which the
company was also cited in 2013. Huffcutt
Concrete has 15 business days to comply or contest the findings.
February 20, 2017
Driver Of Stolen Vehicle Fled
Pursuit, Was Arrested
On Friday February 17th at 3:04pm, a Polk County
Deputy on patrol observed a vehicle on County Highway E at Highway 48 east of
Luck. The Deputy recognized the vehicle
as having been reported stolen from Oakdale Minnesota. The Deputy attempted to conduct a traffic
stop on the vehicle. The driver
immediately fled from the Deputy. The
pursuit continued for several minutes and concluded when the suspect and
vehicle entered a dead end at 50th Street, north of 270th Avenue. The suspect vehicle slid off the road into a
snowbank where it became stuck. The
driver fled on foot northwest into a wooded area. Responding units, including assistance from
the Barron County Sheriff’s office, set up a perimeter around the last know
location of the suspect. A concerned
citizen notified dispatch that the male suspect just came running from the
wooded area across their property and onto the deck at the residence, which was
approximately a half mile away from the end of the pursuit. Polk and Barron deputies immediately
responded and took the suspect into custody.
The arrestee was identified as Terrell Buechner
of Crystal Minnesota. Buechner was
transported to the Polk County Jail and charged with Knowingly Fleeing an
Officer, Operating a Vehicle without Owner’s Consent, Resisting Arrest, and
Possession of Marijuana. Buechner had
outstanding warrants for his arrest from Burnett County.
February 10, 2017
Deer Overpopulation Harms Soil
& Limits Plant Growth In Forests
New research out of the University of
Wisconsin-Madison suggests an overpopulation of deer is having a long-term
impact on the state's forests.
Biologists have long known that an overabundance of deer negatively
affects the number and diversity of plants in our forests. But a new study headed by PhD candidate Autumn
Sabo of UW-Madison suggests it's also changing the soil beneath the forest
floor. She took samples from test plots,
which have been fenced off from deer for up to 20 years and found less soil
compaction and a thinner layer of depleted soil called a leach zone. "So, the thickness of this low-nutrient
layer appears to influence the abundance of forest plants including species
like lilies and violets," Sabo said.
Sabo said she suspects this is because deer eat hardwood tree saplings,
which lead to thinner "leach zones" but to find the exact correlation
more study is needed.
Sabo said that, before European settlement, it
was estimated there were around eight deer per square mile in Wisconsin; but
there were twice that number near the test plots she studied. In some counties Sabo said there are now as
many as 72 deer per square mile. She
said her findings show that the impact on forests from an overpopulation of
deer go far beyond what they eat.
Gov. Walker Explained Lincoln
Hills Plan & State Park Fee Hikes
Governor Scott Walker was in Milwaukee Thursday,
where he expanded on part of his budget, including his plans to improve two
juvenile correctional facilities and increase admission fees at some state
parks. Walker said a state budget plan
to put more money into two juvenile correctional facilities near Wausau would
improve the sites.
The Lincoln Hills School for Boys and Copper
Lake School for Girls are the focus of a federal investigation and an ACLU
lawsuit over alleged mistreatment of inmates.
But the governor's budget proposal would provide more pay for staff at
the schools. Walker said he's trying to
retain and attract good workers.
On Thursday, Walker also defended a proposed
increase in admission and camping fees at some state parks, saying it will help
improve the facilities. The governor's
budget plan would allow the Department of Natural Resources to raise admission
and camping fees at some high-demand state parks, including Devil's Lake and
Governor Dodge. Walker said the parks
would still be a good deal.
February 7, 2017
Veterinarian Funds Dog Training
A Vietnam veteran is getting a four-legged
comrade to help in his fight against PTSD through the effort of the Owner Training Academy offered by Custom
Canines Service Dog Academy. The academy
is a non-profit agency that helps raise and train service dogs.
Veternary Doctor David Menard at Northside Pet
Hospital in Eau Claire is paying the $2,500 tuition for Vietnam veteran Larry Seefeldt’s
Golden Retriever/German Shepherd mix puppy.
“It struck a nerve with me because he is a veteran,” said Doctor
Menard. “With veterans who give so much
to our county it's just something I can do to give back.” Doctor Menard said he will also provide free
vaccinations and check-ups every three to four weeks to make sure the duo is
Gloria Helmbrecht with Custom Canines said the
training can help veterans with PTSD, teach dogs how to use compression therapy
to calm veterans down, as well as help war vets with their stability. Leerburg Training in Menomonie will also be
offering free obedience training for Jasmine and Seefeldt.
Walker Proposes $649 Million Boost
To K-12 Schools
Governor Scott Walker wants to pump $649-million
more into K-12 schools, with more than half a billion dollars of that targeted
to spend in the classroom rather than diverted to lowering property taxes. Walker's proposal will be released Wednesday
and he is also expected to announce this week that he will seek a third term in
If approved by the Legislature the increase
would raise the state's share of total education costs to 64.6-percent, its
highest level since 2009. The
per-student funding increases match what was requested by the state Department
of Public Instruction. Walker said an
improved economy makes it possible to increase spending now.
February 3, 2017
Nestlé Announced Plan To Expand
Its Eau Claire Plant
Nestlé announced yesterday its plan to expand
its manufacturing facility in Eau Claire.
Nestlé said its Wisconsin factories are currently used to manufacture
more than 200 products - including infant formulas, medical nutrition products,
and nutritional drinks. The company said
the planned expansion of the facility is expected to increase production from
100,000 tons to approximately 120,000 tons.
As a result of this new investment, Nestlé expects to create additional
temporary construction and facility jobs.
Wis. DOJ Investigates
Officer-Involved Shooting In Walworth Co.
The Wisconsin Department of Justice responded to
an officer-involved shooting Thursday night in the town of Geneva in Walworth
County. It happened at Highway H and
Petrie Road. "A deputy with the
Walworth County Sheriff's Office and patrol officer from Elkhorn Police
Department were involved in an on-duty, officer-involved shooting,"
Walworth County Sheriff Kurt Picknell said.
An adult male was shot and killed. The deputy and police officer were not injured. The Walworth County Sheriff's Office called
DOJ investigators to the scene. The
names of the man and the officers are not yet being released.
Walker Appoints Zimmerman To Head
Governor Scott Walker has appointed Daniel
Zimmerman to head the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs and immediately
review operations of the state's veterans’ homes. Walker announced the appointment
Thursday. Zimmerman is a retired
lieutenant colonel and military intelligence officer. He replaces John Scocos, who resigned amid
allegations of mismanagement at the Wisconsin veterans’ home at King.
Walker said that he has directed Zimmerman to
immediately conduct thorough assessments of state veteran homes and improve
communication between the agency and veteran service organizations.
Zimmerman has worked for the US National Guard
and the Wisconsin Department of Military Affairs since retiring from the Army
in 2008. The appointment is effective
February 1, 2017
Plant Research Facility Donated To
A $10-million plant research facility in
Middleton that first opened in 1982 with the help of UW-Madison scientists, has
been donated to the University of Wisconsin.
The plant lab was donated to UW-Madison's University Research Park by
Monsanto Company. It will become the hub
of the new Wisconsin Crop Innovation Center.
The facility features 20 greenhouses
encompassing 28,000 square feet, 15,000 square feet of controlled environments,
shade houses, and light rooms, and 50,000 square feet of high quality
laboratory space on nearly five acres.
University officials said crop species likely to
be under the microscope include corn, sorghum, soybean, and small grains such
as oats, barley, and wheat.
Private Schools Register For Wis.
Parental Choice Program
One-hundred-sixty-three private, nonsectarian
and religious schools and school systems registered with the Wisconsin
Department of Public Instruction by the January tenth deadline to accept
students for the 2017-18 school year through the Wisconsin Parental Choice
Eleven schools that previously participated in
either the Milwaukee or Racine Parental Choice programs or both are registering
to join the Wisconsin Parental Choice Program for the first time in
2017-18. In addition, there are 31 new
private schools applying to participate in the statewide voucher program. The
only school in this program in Polk County is the Valley Christian School in
The Wisconsin Parental Choice Program began in
the 2013-14 school year. For the current
school year’s third-Friday-in-September enrollment count, the statewide voucher
program had 3,061 students. Taxpayer costs for the 2015-16 school year were
There are income and other requirements to
participate in this program. More
information is available at dpi-dot-wi-dot-gov.
January 25, 2017
Liberty Mutual To Build
$50-Million Building In Wausau
What's being called the most valuable building
in Wausau history will soon be built in the city. Liberty Mutual is planning a $50-million
facility which would commit to keeping 900 jobs in the city. The Wausau City Council voted to approve the
plan Tuesday night. The insurance
company will build the facility on Bridge Street in Wausau.
Currently, Liberty Mutual rents two buildings
owned by Aspirus. Several months ago
Liberty Mutual sold 40-acres of land to Aspirus, keeping 20-acres for
themselves. That's where they want to build the facility.
Liberty Mutual will not borrow any money from
the city for the project, but the developer will get nearly $5-million from the
TIFF district. Construction is hoped to
begin next year.
January 19, 2017
Minn. Legislation Would Pay For
Wis. Tax Losses
The Minnesota House Taxes Committee Chairman,
Greg Davids, has drawn up a provision that he plans to insert into his tax bill
this year that would reimburse Minnesotans who pay higher taxes working in
Wisconsin, than if they worked in Minnesota.
The legislation would resolve a decade-long dispute between the states
with Minnesota taking unilateral action.
For years, the states had a deal that allowed
people in one state working in the other to pay the lower of the two income tax
rates, and to just file one tax return.
Under the so-called reciprocity agreement, Wisconsin made annual
payments to Minnesota. Wisconsin fell
behind in its payments, but the two states could not agree on how much and
then-Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty ended the agreement in 2009. Minnesota officials say Wisconsin owed
Minnesota up to $100 million a year.
Without reciprocity, those living in one state
and working in the other must file tax returns in both states. About 56,000 Wisconsin residents work in
Minnesota, with 24,000 Minnesotans working in Wisconsin. Davids' legislation would pay no Wisconsin
resident. Low- and middle-income
Minnesotans are especially affected with Wisconsin taxes that are higher than
in the Gopher state. Minnesota taxes are
higher for those with bigger incomes.
Former Tomah VA Chief Surrenders
The former Chief of Staff at the Tomah Veterans
Administration Medical Center has agreed to give up his medical license. Doctor David Houlihan permanently surrendered
his license in an agreement with the Wisconsin Department of Safety and
Professional Services, filed Wednesday. Houlihan agreed to never apply for another license for medical care
through the state department. Despite
surrendering his license, the order states that Houlihan "denies any
unprofessional conduct" in response to the counts of misconduct filed
Houlihan was fired from the Tomah VA in 2015
based on an investigation into the over-prescription of narcotics and other
misconduct at the facility. Houlihan was
known among patients as the "Candy Man" for his liberal prescribing
The state's Medical Examining Board suspended
Houlihan’s license to practice medicine in March. In documents from the decision, an attorney
for the state said his conduct created an "unacceptable risk of harm to
patients." But a judge reinstated
his license a month later while the ruling was appealed.
January 16, 2017
Affordable Care Act Supporters
Rallied In Eau Claire
On Sunday, more than 100 supporters of Obamacare
from around Western Wisconsin gathered on the front steps of the United States
Federal Building in Eau Claire in support of the health care plan. It was one of several rallies held nationwide
Sunday. Some attendees said they are
afraid new leadership in Washington will mean the repeal of Obamacare, even
without another plan in place. Many
Republicans have stood strong against Obamacare, including Representative Sean
Duffy, who earlier this week said that the plan is not working because
healthcare costs continue to rise for people.
Crews Battle Apartment Building
Fire After Explosion
Fire crews were called to battle a fire this
Monday morning at an apartment complex on South Main Street in Rice Lake. According to Captain Tracy Hom of the Rice
Lake Police Department, the fire was the result of an explosion. Officers were called to 1030 South Main
Street in downtown Rice Lake around 11pm Sunday night. They were told that
someone was threatening to "blow up the place". When officers arrived, they evacuated all
apartment residents. Hom said about 12
to 14 people were evacuated and assisted by the Red Cross.
The explosion happened inside one of the
apartment units after everyone was outside.
Hom said the whole complex was on fire, and he predicts it to be a total
loss. Hom said one officer was injured from glass from the explosion, but was
treated on scene and is expected to be okay.
The Rice Lake Police Department said they are
looking for the suspect, but do not believe the public is in any danger.
Another Business Will Move To Wis.
Diversified Manufacturing Corporation will be
leaving Newport Minnesota for Prescott, Wisconsin in June, taking about 120
jobs with it. The company — a
private-label manufacturer that started in Eagan in 1987 — moved to Newport in
1994. It produces and packages various
items, including cosmetics, over-the-counter drugs and industrial products for
Ram Motilall, owner of Diversified Manufacturing
Corporation, said the growing company is out of space to expand in its Newport
location. To accommodate past growth,
the company opened a second location in Cottage Grove in 2010. By June, the two facilities will be merged in
the new Prescott, Wisconsin location.
Motilall said the Prescott officials were very responsive to inquiries,
unlike cities in Minnesota.
January 12, 2017
Rep. Duffy Introduces
Congressman Sean Duffy has introduced
legislation to take gray wolves off of the endangered species list. This comes after several other politicians
urged Wisconsin lawmakers to take a stand on the issue. Supporters said the population has grown and
now they are becoming a threat to farmers.
“This is really about the farmers, the power to protect their livestock
from the gray wolf,” Representative Sean Duffy said. “I feel pretty good that we're going to be
able to get this through Congress and signed into law.” Duffy also said he believes the measure will
move forward because it is bipartisan.
Meth Use Rising In Wis.
New statistics on methamphetamine use in
Wisconsin show it's surging to the same level as heroin use, according to the
findings of a study conducted be the Wisconsin Department of Justice and the
FBI's Milwaukee division. The report
revealed the highest use of the drug is in Northwestern Wisconsin, based on
meth-related case statistics from state law enforcement. It said the meth, made in Mexico, is shipped
into Wisconsin from Minnesota and California.
The report said high availability of the drug has lowered the cost.
January 11, 2017
Final Costs Of Recount Are In
The Wisconsin Elections Commission announced
yesterday that all 72 counties have submitted actual costs for the presidential
recount that was requested by Green Party candidate Jill Stein, and that the
total cost of the recount was $2,005,603.
That is about one-and-one-half million dollars less than originally
projected and the State will refund the difference to Stein, who has said that
she might use the money to fund an organization she is launching to ensure
every Wisconsin vote counts.
Gov. Walker Emphasized Workforce
Governor Scott Walker made his seventh State of
the State Address Tuesday, focusing primarily on workforce and education. He said he's pleased with the progress the
state has made since his administration took over. "The state of our state is strong,"
he said, particularly when it comes to employment. The state saw its lowest unemployment rates
in history last year.
Moving forward, Governor Walker said his top
priority of 2017 is filling jobs and keeping workers in Wisconsin. Education plays a key role in building that
workforce. "It is a moral
imperative that every child has access to a great education. But it is also an economic imperative, as we
need to grow the workforce in Wisconsin," said Walker. "We invested more resources this past
year into college and career readiness initiatives, including dual enrollment,
FAB labs and youth apprenticeships."
Additionally, Walker announced plans to cut
in-state tuition for UW students.
The governor invited his wife to the podium and
she spoke about mental health.
Former State Natural Resources
Leaders Urge Not Split-up DNR
A group of former Wisconsin Department of
Natural Resources secretaries are urging Governor Scott Walker and legislators
to reject a proposal to divide the agency and spread its responsibilities
across state government.
State Representative Adam Jarchow has proposed
splitting the DNR into a new Department of Fish and Wildlife and a new
Department of Environmental Protection. Three existing agencies would assume
forestry, park and land acquisition duties.
The former secretaries sent a letter Tuesday to
Walker and legislators warning the move would confuse the public, create a
coordination nightmare and a number of new supervisors that would need
compensation, force environmental groups and outdoor clubs to deal with five
agencies rather than one.
January 4, 2017
Presto Sells Part of Business To
National Presto Industries, Incorporated
announced the sale of its absorbent product segment to Drylock Technologies, a
private Belgian company. The transaction
is valued at $71-million. Drylock will
operate the business in Eau Claire out of the current Presto Absorbent Products
facility, with plans to make that facility its US headquarters. Drylock said it has formed a multi-year lease
for the plant with National Presto and will offer employment to all current
Presto Absorbent Products employees.
Wis. Traffic Deaths Rose 6%
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation
released preliminary statistics on Tuesday showing the state ended 2016 with
588 traffic deaths. That was 33 more
than in 2015 and 40 more than the five-year average. This represents an almost six percent
increase. Officials said traffic deaths
in 2016 were the highest since 2012 when 601 people died on Wisconsin roads.
Director David Pabst of the Wisconsin Department
Of Transporation, Bureau of Transportation Safety, said low gas prices and an
improving economy in 2016 likely meant more vehicles on the road and more miles
traveled. Pabst said an increase in
miles traveled can increase the risk of crashes. He also said most crashes are caused by bad
decisions and dangerous habits by drivers, including cellphone use behind the
Walker Appoints Tolan as Polk
County Circuit Court Judge
On Tuesday Governor Scott Walker appointed Polk
County Assistant District Attorney Daniel Tolan to serve on the Polk County
Circuit Court, replacing retired Judge Molly GaleWyrick.
Tolan, a resident of Luck, has over nineteen
years of legal experience in private practice and state service. During his time in private practice, Tolan
was involved in a wide range of practice areas including family, real estate,
and criminal law. Tolan has also been an
Assistant District Attorney in Burnett, Washburn, and Polk Counties.
December 22, 2016
Globe Univ. & Minn. School Of
Business To Close
Globe University and Minnesota School of
Business will be shuttering their Minnesota campuses, the Woodbury-based
schools announced on Tuesday. The
for-profit schools have been cut off from federal funding and were stung by a
lawsuit that found they had committed fraud in their criminal justice program.
The schools said they will begin implementing
"teach out and articulation agreements" for remaining students to
allow them to transfer to other institutions to complete their degrees.
In letters to students and employees, the
schools announced that most Minnesota campus workers will be out of work by
December 31st and that the schools will shut their doors at the end of
January. Students will need to transfer
schools at the end of the current quarter in order to complete their degrees.
Record Number of Eagle &
A record number of occupied eagle nests were
observed in spring surveys, signifying the state's largest population since
surveys started in the 1970s, according to the 2016 released this week. The survey results continue to document the
raptors' comeback from the brink of extinction in the 1960s and 1970s, to
removal from the state threatened and endangered species list in the 2000s, to
healthy and growing populations today. The aerial surveys, conducted in late March and April, confirmed 1,504
occupied eagle nests, 39 more nests than the previous year and compared to 108
in 1973. In Polk County, 38 occupied
bald eagle nests were counted; there were 79 in Burnett County, 29 in Barron
County, and 15 in Saint Croix County.
Eagle nests are federally protected by the U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service's Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the
Migratory Bird Treaty, which celebrated its centennial in 2016.
Osprey nests also were found in record numbers
in the month of May: 558 occupied osprey nests were observed in 58 of 72 (81
percent) counties, up from 542 in 2014.
Osprey populations in Wisconsin declined dramatically from the 1950s to
early 1970s in response to pesticides and the loss of suitable nest habitat -
tall trees or snags - as lake shorelines were developed and trees were
removed. Now, 75 percent of Wisconsin
osprey nests are built on artificial platforms erected on utility poles, cell
phone towers and other tall structures.
In Polk County, 19 occupied osprey nests were counted; 13 in Burnett
County, 14 in Barron County, and one in Saint Croix County.
December 21, 2016
Wis. National Guard Armories Being
Wisconsin National Guard officials said crews
are cleaning all affected areas of armories that tested positive for lead at
levels higher than the federal safety standard.
Federal documents showed that hundreds of
armories nationwide had high levels of dust made from the metal. Lead levels are a concern in armories because
many had or have an indoor firing range.
Of the 39 Wisconsin armories with testing
records, all showed traces of lead. But
spaces in 18 armories tested significantly higher than the federal standard.
Wisconsin National Guard Deputy Director Captain
Joe Trovato said all affected areas have been or will be cleaned. He said community facility rentals will be
suspended until the work is done.
Six Homes With Major Damaged From
At least six homeowners in northern Chippewa
County were forced out of their home after a home exploded near New
Auburn. Crews responded to a home near
Long Lake shortly after 9pm Monday night. The New Auburn Fire Department said it was a brand new home, still under
construction. The explosion destroyed it.
Officials on the scene said no one was home at
the time, and no injuries were reported from any of the surrounding homes, but
the explosion was reported affecting homes up to one-half mile away from
explosion. Fire officials said at least
six homes had major damage and forced out families, who are now getting help
from the Red Cross. "We do have
houses on the north side of Highway 40 about half a mile from either side of
the house that exploded, where it took out the windows, it actually has knocked
some garages off their foundations, knocked walls off the side of local houses…. We do have a lot of damage that's going to
have to be boarded up and cleaned up so that we don't have freezing water
pipes," said New Auburn Fire Chief Thomas Bischel.
Officials said no fire was reported at the time,
and the cause of the explosion is believed to be accidental. Construction workers stated they were putting
in a furnace hours before the explosion. The investigation is still ongoing.
December 15, 2016
Slight Hiring Slowdown Forecast
A Wisconsin hiring survey showed a positive
picture for the next three months, but one that's weaker than the national
forecast. According to the latest report
from Milwaukee-based temporary services firm ManpowerGroup, 17-percent of
Wisconsin employers interviewed expect to add workers, while 5 percent forecast
layoffs. More than three-quarters
predict no change in staffing.
Manpower's Chris Layden said the state's net
employment outlook of 12 percent puts it 4 points below the national employment
outlook. Layden said most employment
sectors in Wisconsin predict job growth but durable goods manufacturers plan to
reduce staffing. Hiring in construction,
information and government is expected to remain flat. Some of the expected hiring slowdown will be
in the Milwaukee market, Layden said.
Good Samaritans Rescue Woman From
Sinking In Icy Pond
Motorists stopped to rescue a woman whose car
had gone off the road and was sinking in a pond of water Tuesday morning in
Bloomington, according to the Minnesota State Patrol. The 23-year-old woman, Ann Lund of
Minnetonka, said the windows of her Chevrolet Suburban fogged up and she tried
to pull off the roadway on the ramp from southbound US 169 to eastbound
Interstate 494 at 8:12am, according to state patrol Lt. Tiffani Nielson. Nielson said the woman didn’t realize she had
driven into an icy holding pond until she saw water filling the car.
As Lund grabbed a fire extinguisher to break out
a window in the vehicle, four or five other motorists on the ramp stopped to
help. The good Samaritans included some
truck drivers who used a pallet from one of their trucks to support them as
they helped the woman out of the back window of the sinking vehicle.
Nielson said the woman received some cuts from
broken glass. Her husband arrived and
picked her up. Nielson said a state
trooper on the scene plans to submit paperwork for a lifesaving award for the
2 Suffer Serious Injuries In
Two drivers were transported to the hospital
with serious injuries after a head-on collision in Trempealeau County
early this morning. The Trempealeau
County Sheriff's Office responded to a two vehicle head-on crash on State
Highway 93 in the Township
of Arcadia. A vehicle driven by Moises Salas-Cervantes,
age 27, crossed the center line and collided with another driver, Pao Moua, age
49. The sheriff's office said they
suspect alcohol was a factor in the crash, which remains under investigation.
December 8, 2016
Driving Drowsy As Dangerous As
A new AAA study shows driving tired can be as
dangerous as driving drunk. "A
driver that has slept for less than five hours has the crash risk comparable to
someone driving drunk," said Brent Dabler, a Wausau AAA agent. "Some of the most shocking numbers are
16-21 percent of all fatal accidents involved a drowsy driver." The study was conducted over a period of
two-and-a-half years across the United States. Drivers are urged to take this warning seriously and get seven or eight
hours of sleep.
Drugged Driving On Increase
Yesterday Wisconsin justice and transportation
officials unveiled a public service announcement as part of the Department of
Justice “Dose of Reality” Campaign to combat prescription drug abuse. The radio and TV messages make the point that
drugged driving is just as illegal and dangerous as drunk driving.
Wisconsin Department of Transportation officials
estimated that about a quarter of people pulled over for impaired driving are
on drugs, and while alcohol remains the main culprit, there’s been a dramatic
increase in drug-related traffic crashes.
State Transportation Secretary Mark Gottlieb said there were 149
crash-deaths related to drugged driving in 2015. That’s a 200-percent increase over 10
years. Gottlieb said public education
campaigns have helped reduce alcohol related crashes and they’re hoping to have
the same effect with drugs. "In
fact alcohol related deaths are down 38 percent and alcohol related injuries
are down 50 percent over the last 10 years," he said.
David Pabst, director of the DOT’s Bureau of
Transportation Safety, saud Wisconsin is training officers how to better detect
drugged driving. He said the state has
235 drug recognition experts, putting it in the top five per capita in the
United States for such positions.
December 1, 2016
Plan Needed To Reduce
Flame-Retardant Chemicals In Great Lakes
A US-Canadian agency said both nations should
develop a plan for dealing with flame-retardant chemicals that have turned up
in the Great Lakes. The chemicals are
poly-brominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs. They're found in electronic devices, appliances, carpets and a variety
of other products. Many have been banned
or are being phased out. But they still
are being detected in the Great Lakes at levels that could endanger human and
The International Joint Commission advises both
nations on boundary water issues. It
said a strategy should be developed over the next year to reduce the presence
of the chemicals in the lakes. The
commission said the plan should include further restrictions on making, using
or selling the chemicals and measures for eliminating releases during recycling
Large Farms Will Write Own
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
said large livestock operations will be allowed to draw up their own pollution
permits under a plan to reorganize the agency.
The DNR announced the plan Wednesday. Agency Secretary Cathy Stepp said
that, under the reorganization, the large farms could create permits for
projects such as manure lagoons and manure spreading. DNR officials will still approve or deny
permits but handing most of the work over to the industry will free up more
time for field compliance checks.
A state audit in June found the agency wasn't
following its own policies for policing pollution from large farms and
wastewater treatment plants and the agency had been extending permits without
review for years.
November 30, 2016
Judge Rules Against Requiring Hand
Late Tuesday night, Judge Valerie Bailey-Rihn
ruled against a hand recount statewide, allowing county clerks to determine how
they want to proceed. Bailey-Rihn said
there was no clear and convincing evidence that there was a defect or mistake
in the voting process in Wisconsin. Although a hand recount would be more accurate and could possibly change
the outcome of the election, according to state law there had to be evidence of
a problem during the voting period.
Bailey-Rihn said Stein's attorneys didn't prove there was any such
Micahel Haas, the administrator of the state's
Elections Commission, said 19 counties have already implied that they will use
machines for the recount. The remaining
53 counties will likely recount ballots by hand, with some using both
procedures. Regardless, the recount is
set to begin Thursday morning with a current deadline of December 12th at 8pm.
Drug-Resistant Salmonella Cases
Linked To Wis. Calves
A multistate outbreak of salmonella bacteria
that is resistant to several drugs has been linked to infected dairy bull
calves purchased in Wisconsin, according to federal and state health
officials. According to the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention, 21 people were infected in eight states from
January 11th through October 24th. Eight
of the 21 people sickened were hospitalized, but no deaths have been
reported. Those who were sickened ranged
in age from 1 year to 72. Minnesota and
South Dakota each have two cases and California, Iowa, Idaho, Missouri and
Oklahoma each have one.
Wisconsin had the most cases with 12 people
infected in eight counties. Among the
Wisconsin patients, more than 90 percent had direct or indirect contact with
dairy bull calves and more than half the illnesses occurred in children under
10 years of age, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.
In Minnesota, health officials said a
16-year-old boy was sickened with the Salmonella Heidelberg strain in July
shortly after purchasing calves from a Wisconsin dealer for a 4-H project. The boy recovered from his flu-like illness
The CDC said its investigation identified dairy
bull calves from livestock markets in Wisconsin as the likely source of
infections. Federal and state health and
agricultural officials are investigating where calves associated with the
bacteria were sold or originated.
November 29, 2016
Wis. Holds Its First Presidential
For the first time ever, Wisconsin will carry
out a presidential election recount after lawyers for Green Party presidential
candidate Jill Stein and independent candidate "Rocky" De La Fuente
filed separate requests with the state Elections Commission on Friday. The commission met Monday to established
deadlines and set timelines for the recount to take place in each of
Wisconsin's 72 counties. The commission
also rejected a request to hand count ballots, leaving that decision up to
county clerks in Wisconsin's 72 counties.
County clerks statewide had until noon Monday to
submit their estimated costs for conducting the recount. The anticipated cost of the recount had to be
paid yesterday before the recount begins, the Wisconsin Elections Commission
Under the timeline established by the commission
Monday, clerks in Wisconsin's 72 counties and their board of canvassers will
participate in a webinar to discuss the rules for the recount, which would then
begin on Thursday, and continue to its anticipated completion at 8pm on
December 12th. Under federal law, the
election must be certified by December 13th or Congress would not be required
to recognize the votes and Wisconsin’s ten electoral votes.
Gov. Walker Requests Disaster
Relief For Ten Counties
Governor Scott Walker requested a Secretarial
Disaster Designation from the US Department of Agriculture for producers in ten
Wisconsin counties who suffered crop losses following freezing temperatures
last May. The counties included in this
request are Polk, Chippewa, Columbia, Eau Claire, Jackson, Jefferson, Pierce,
Sauk, St. Croix, and Trempealeau.
The ten counties experienced frost and freezing
temperatures recorded on the nights of May 13 and 14, 2016, with temperatures
reaching as low as 25 degrees. Due to
the low temperatures, certain crops were affected, such as apples and other
perennial crops that had begun to blossom or bud. All counties impacted experienced harvest losses
of 30 percent or greater for apples, asparagus, blueberries, hops, and strawberries.
Governor Walker asked USDA Secretary Vilsack for
the disaster designation following the harvest so crop losses could be fully
November 28, 2016
Gun Deer Hunt Sees Fewer Deer Harvested
According to the Wisconsin Department of Natural
Resources, the number of deer harvested this year is down from 2015. Preliminary numbers report only 140,638 deer
were harvested across Wisconsin this year, as compared to 144,199 in 2015. Fewer tags were issued for antlerless deer
this year, but the buck kill was up a little over last year.
A reason for a lower harvest number right now
could also be due to hunters not registering their deer. This year's new tagging rules could also have
played a role.
This year's season was also one of the
safest. Last year there were five
hunting-related fatalities in Wisconsin. This year, none were reported.
The Muzzleloader deer season begins today and
continues until the 4-day statewide antlerless hunt which runs December
8-11. The archery and crossbow deer
season remains open through January 8th.
Wis. Homelessness Down 6%
Homelessness in Wisconsin is down about
6-percent this year compared to 2015.
This decline is more than double the national rate, according to figures
from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. Department spokeswoman Gina Rodriguez said
the number of people in Wisconsin who are chronically homeless has dropped by
about 62 percent since 2010. She said
the overall decline showed that government efforts across the state which
focused on reducing chronic homelessness are paying off.
Wisconsin Coalition Against Homelessness
executive director Joseph Volk said that he continues to worry about homeless
youth in the state. He said families
with children need more attention, even though helping groups is more
challenging than helping individuals.
UW Drops In Research Ranking
The University of Wisconsin at Madison has
fallen out of the National Science Foundation's top five research institutions
for the first time in over 40 years because the school has decreased spending
on research. The university's spending
on research declined by over $100-million between 2012 and 2015. Campus officials highlighted the falling
expenditures when they encouraged lawmakers to increase funding for the
University of Wisconsin System in the next state budget.
Vice chancellor for research and graduate
education Marsha Mailick said years of funding cuts have made it more difficult
for the university to recruit top researchers.
Mailick said the state needs to reinvest, to make sure the institution
has faculty positions and conditions necessary to attract and retain the best
November 17, 2016
Wis. Law Requires Headlights On In
With recent foggy weather, the Wisconsin State
Patrol reminded drivers of a new law being enforced that requires drivers to
turn on headlights in inclement weather.
Governor Walker signed the rule into law in late February, requiring
drivers to turn on headlights when visibility is 500-feet or less, which is a
little smaller than two high school football fields.
"Even if it seems like you can see more
than 500 feet, have your headlights on" Wisconsin State Patrol Sergeant
Kirk Danielson said. "Reduce your
speed. Pay attention to the vehicles around you. Keep an eye out for people who don't have
their headlights or tail lights turned on."
Capitol Christmas Tree Arrived In
The 2016 State Capitol Christmas Tree arrived in
Madison. On Monday, the tree, which was donated
by Bruce and Charlotte Carey, was harvested in Eagle River. The Balsam Fir from Vilas County was then
transported by Great Lakes Timber Professionals Association.
Governor Scott Walker said in a press release he
is excited to see the tree in the Capitol.
"Thank you to Bruce and Charlotte for donating this tree. We
especially look forward to seeing it decorated with ornaments showcasing
"Wisconsin Wildlife" from school children around the state," he
November 15, 2016
Strikes Cost Allina $104 Million
Allina Health spent more than $104-million to
keep its Twin Cities hospitals open during two nursing strikes this year,
according to a financial report released Monday. An Allina official called it a regrettable
but necessary expenditure in the organization’s effort to hold the line against
costly health insurance plans used by the nurses.
The two sides reached a deal in mid-October that
moves the nurses from their union health plans to Allina’s own plans in
exchange for other benefit concessions from Allina.
Allina spent $20-million on more than 1,200
replacement nurses and related expenses during a seven-day strike in June, and
then $84-million for the September portion of a strike that started September
5th and ended October 16th, according to the third-quarter financial
report. Strike spending in October won’t
be publicly reported until Allina releases its year-end financial details for
Many of the replacement nurses came from other
states and commanded premium wages, especially as the second strike dragged on,
and Allina also had to train, transport and house them.
As a result, Allina reported an operating loss
of $13-million through the first three quarters of 2016, compared to a
$102-million gain over the same time period in 2015, when there was no
strike. The health system still made
money, though, thanks to a healthy stock market in early 2016 and $73-million
in investment returns.
MSP Airport Workers Unionize
The 600 minimum wage workers employed by AirServ
Corporation at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport have now unionized
under Service Employees International Union Local 26. Those workers include baggage handlers, cabin
cleaners, cart drivers and unaccompanied-minor escorts, a union spokesman
said. Many of the workers are immigrants
from East Africa.
Last year, Ibrahim Mohamed, a cart driver, took
a seat as a member of the airport’s governing body. Another cart driver, Abdi Ali, said he and
his group have protested and attended airport administrative meetings in order
to unionize. The next step for the new union members is to formally negotiate
their contracts, but they have not set a date.
Last month, a group of mostly Hispanic and
Latino minimum-wage janitors unionized under the same union local.
November 3, 2016
Wrong-Way Driver On I-94 Kills 4,
Hurts 2 Others
Four people were killed and two more critically
injured in a crash the Wisconsin State Patrol says was caused by a wrong-way
driver on Interstate 94 near Deerfield.
Officers responded to a complaint of a sport utility vehicle being
driven erratically about 10:15pm last night. The SUV turned around and headed against traffic, colliding with two
Three passengers in one car were pronounced dead
at the scene: 26-year-old and 28-year-old women from Milwaukee and a
26-year-old man from Waterloo. The
driver of that car suffered life-threatening injuries. The driver of the other car died at the
scene. He was a 23-year-old man from
Northbrook, Illinois. The driver of the
SUV was identified as a 32-year-old man from Waunakee. He also suffered life-threatening injuries.
Wis. DOJ To Monitor Polling Places
On Election Day
Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel
announced Wednesday he will continue the practice of sending Wisconsin
Department of Justice election observers around the state on Election Day.
The department's election integrity teams are
made up of two election monitors. Monitors are either an assistant attorney
general or special agent from the state Division of Criminal
Investigation. The teams will visit polling
places to monitor for election law violations including interference by
election observers, electioneering, voter intimidation and voter fraud. Election integrity teams will focus on the
state's biggest cities, but will also make stops in smaller communities
including Racine, Stevens Point and Waukesha.
Stops at polling places will be brief, said
Assistant Attorney General Roy Korte, who is overseeing this year's
efforts. Korte said observers will do a
quick "spot check" of locations, check in with each site's chief
inspector and offer support if needed. Korte said 16 teams will make polling place stops across the state
November 2, 2016
More Flood Disaster Aid Announced
Governor Scott Walker said the US Small Business
Administration will make low-interest disaster loans available for people and
businesses in western Wisconsin affected by flash flooding in September. The SBA listed Vernon County, along with the
contiguous counties of Crawford, Juneau, La Crosse, Monroe, Richland and Sauk.
Allamakee County in Iowa and Houston County in Minnesota also are listed.
President Barack Obama declared a federal
disaster late last month in 10 western Wisconsin counties hit by torrential
rains, opening the door for federal aid to help cover the cost of more than
$11-million in damage to roads and public infrastructure. But that aid is not for private businesses or
Under the SBA program, homeowners can get loans
of up to $200,000 and business owners up to $2 million.
UW-Stout Dies Of Injuries From
The University of Wisconsin-Stout student
assaulted in downtown Menomonie early Sunday morning has died. Unconscious and bleeding from his nose and
mouth, Hussain Saeed Alnahdi, age 24, was airlifted to Mayo Clinic Health
System in Eau Claire and regained consciousness early Monday morning, but his
condition worsened and he died late Monday afternoon.
The Menomonie Police Department is now treating
what began as an assault by an unknown man as a homicide. The investigation into Alnahdi’s death is
being conducted in partnership with the Dunn County Medical Examiner’s Office
and the UW-Stout Police Department. Alnahdi’s body has been taken for an autopsy to the University of
Wisconsin Madison Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine.
An international student from Saudi Arabia who
came to UW-Stout in 2015, Alnahbi was a junior majoring in business
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