Blanchardville received brownfield awards totaling approximately $75-thousand
from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to help clean up
contaminated properties and spur redevelopment.
A Spooner property known
locally as the "roundhouse" is the focus of future redevelopment with
the assistance of a DNR brownfields award.
The award, from the department's Remediation and Redevelopment Program,
will help local officials determine if the property contains any contamination
in the soil or groundwater.
Valued at approximately
$45,000, the award comes from the department's Wisconsin Assessment Monies
program. The award provides contract
services for assessing conditions at closed or closing industrial sites.
The Spooner roundhouse
property was the site of a former creamery and, most recently, a construction and
wood processing facility. It is located
next to the popular Wild Rivers State Recreational Trail and city leaders hope
to turn the property into a public park and historical site.
In Blancardville an old
creamery is about to be razed after not being used for about twenty years. The $30-thousand brownfield award comes in
the form of contract services for assessing conditions at the site and will
help village officials determine if the property contains any contamination in
the soil or groundwater.
Protection Officers Wages Reduced
The Wisconsin State
Patrol is rescinding pay raises for officers who provide security to Goovernor
Scott Walker after federal regulators said those officers are due overtime pay
dating back to May 2013.
The Dignitary Protection
Unit normally consisted of a captain, a lieutenant and eight sergeants. The captain position is vacant and the team
will be reduced on September 20th to a lieutenant and four sergeants, State
Patrol spokeswoman Peg Schmitt said Tuesday. The team will be augmented by
other troopers, Schmitt said. The four
other sergeants now on the team will be moved to regional offices to do other
work, she said.
Wisconsin Department of
Transportation spokeswoman Peg Schmitt said Tuesday that, in light of the
determination by the US Department of Labor that the officers are due overtime,
the $4-an-hour raises given the officers in February will be withdrawn.
The ten officers in the
Dignitary Protection Unit provide protection to the governor around the clock,
including when he is outside of Wisconsin running for president. They also protect Lt. Governor Rebecca
Kleefisch and visiting dignitaries.
The raises that took
effect in February had increased salaries for most officers in the unit from around $32 an hour to about $36
Sept 1, 2015
Board Committee of the Whole Meeting
The Polk County Board of
Supervisors Committee of the Whole meets tonight at 6pm in the West Conference
Room of the Government Center in Balsam Lake. The Board of Supervisors Committee of the Whole will discuss
participation in, and appropriations to, organizations affiliated with Polk
County; the organizational structure of County Board committees; and the County
Board operating budget for 2016.
Aug 31, 2015
Wis. Must Pay Overtime
The US Department of
Labor (USDOL) is requiring the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WISDOT)
to award retroactive overtime pay dating back to May 19, 2013 to nine Wisconsin
State Patrol officers who serve as bodyguards for Governor Scott Walker and other
state dignitaries. Those officers
comprise the state's Dignitary Protection Unit (DPU), which provides security
for Governor Walker 24 hours a day, seven days a week. That includes his protection on the
presidential campaign trail. Since the
State Patrol is a division of WISDOT, the officers are paid out of that
agency's budget. WISDOT Spokesperson Peg
Schmitt said the agency was verbally notified of the decision by USDOL on
Monday, August 24, but said officials have not yet determined how much it will
cost state taxpayers.
The cost for Gov.
Walker's security detail jumped from $1.6 million in 2011 to $2.4 million in
2014. The out-of-state portion of that
2014 tab was $89,454, a number which is expected to rise exponentially in 2015
with his run for the GOP presidential nomination.
Revived After Going Under Water
A man whose kayak tipped
over at Whitewater Park in Wausau was rescued by fellow kayakers and first
responders. Wausau police Lt. Nathan
Pekarske says that the 55-year-old Minnesota man appeared to have a medical
issue, causing him to roll over in his kayak around 11:30am Saturday. The man was pulled from the water by
kayakers, who saw that he was turning blue.
A doctor and nurse who were at the scene performed CPR on the man, and
he was revived by first responders using a defibrillator. The man was taken to a hospital. His condition was not known.
Aug 26, 2015
Contract Oshkosh Corp
The US Army has awarded
a contract to Oshkosh Corporation that could be worth up to $30-billion and
provide years of work to thousands of Wisconsin employees building a new type
of armored truck in Oshkosh. The Army
plans to buy up to 50-thousand of the vehicles, at a cost of about
$250-thousand each, while the Marine Corps would purchase 5,500. In addition, there could be years worth of
parts and services for the multipurpose vehicles, which are meant to replace
thousands of military Humvees.
analysts say it's the largest military vehicle contract in the foreseeable
future, and the competition for it was intense.
Oshkosh beat out a team made up of Lockheed Martin Corporation and BAE
Systems PLC, as well as bidder AM General LLC, which built Humvees.
Vehicle production will
start slowly, but the contract will provide a big boost for the company's
defense division, which employs about three thousand people, as well as for
hundreds of suppliers. "This is the
long-term stability that our production employees have been looking for, and
frankly all of our salaried employees also have been looking for. It is the base business that will sustain our
Oshkosh Defense segment for years to come," said Oshkosh Corporation CEO
"It's an eight-year
contract, but in addition to the US requirements there will be international
demand for this vehicle as testing is concluded and production ramps up,"
Szews said. The initial contract is for
$6.75-billion to build 17-thousand of the vehicles. However, over time it could
top $30-billion for 55-thousand vehicles and associated services.
Graduates Rank 2nd on ACT
Wisconsin’s 2015 high
school graduates had steady overall results on the ACT with an average
composite score of 22.2, which tied with Iowa for second place behind Minnesota
among states where 50 percent or more of students take the assessment.
Approximately 73 percent
of the state’s 2015 public and private 46,738 high school graduates took the
ACT during high school. Their average
composite score was the same as in 2014. Nationally, 59 percent of graduates took the ACT; that’s 1.9 million
students. Their average composite score
was 21.0, also the same as last year. With virtually all of Wisconsin’s public school 11th-graders having
taken the ACT this past spring as part of statewide assessments, ACT
participation will rise dramatically next year and scores are expected to
decline. Those results for last year’s
11th-graders will be reported later in fall.
Aug 18, 2015
Police Install Camera At Lakefront Park
Hudson Wisconsin police
are installing a surveillance camera to help with issues in one of the city's
parks. Hudson Police Chief Marty Jensen
says there have been a number of calls for vandalism and disorderly conduct
recently at the bandshell at Lakefront Park; and families have been
The chief said it was
not possible to have an officer patrolling the area 24 hours a day, seven days
a week, so they are installing the $8,000 camera. The Hudson Daybreak Rotary Club gave the
police department a $5,000 grant to purchase the camera and the city gave
Workers are expected to
install the camera in the next two weeks.
Police officers will be able to operate the camera from their squad cars
to watch over the area.
Considers Fewer EMTs
A bill that would reduce
the number of emergency medical technicians required to be on an ambulance for
municipalities with a population of less than ten-thousand aims to help rural
areas deal with EMT shortages. The
legislation is set to hold a public hearing today at the state Capitol.
Some small communities
in Wisconsin are having difficulty finding enough emergency medical
technicians. Rep. Jeff Mursau of Crivitz
said he hopes the measure he authored will help, by allowing sparsely populated
areas to use just one EMT, along with a first responder. He said local officials in his northeast
Wisconsin district came to him because they found it hard to find enough emergency
Invites Public Commnent
The public is invited to
provide comment on a strategic plan addressing aquatic invasive species
throughout the Saint Croix River watershed.
Public meetings will be held in various locations throughout the
watershed. The fifth of these public
meeting is scheduled for Thursday, August 20th at 5:30PM at the Hudson Public
Library in Hudson, Wisconsin.
The strategic plan outlines
steps to prevent, contain, and control aquatic invasive species throughout the
Saint Croix watershed – from Moose Lake, Minnesota to Cable, Wisconsin and all
the way south to Prescott, Wisconsin.
Aquatic invasive species in this region include zebra mussels, Eurasian
water milfoil, purple loosestrife, bighead carp, and rusty crayfish.
The plan is now
available to the public for review.
Local citizens, river users, government staff, business-owners, and any
other interested parties are encouraged to attend the meeting. To view a copy of the plan, visit
Network Settles Consumer Protection Lawsuit
An investigation of
consumer complaints by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and
Consumer Protection (DATCP) has been resolved through a stipulation with DISH
Network LLC. (DISH). The settlement
includes $225-thousand in civil forfeitures and assessments and a $4.25
bill-credit to thousands of eligible customers.
“Wisconsin satellite and
cable consumers must be made aware of the option to cancel without penalty when
there is a material change to contracted services,” said Frank Frassetto, Division
Administrator for Trade and Consumer Protection. “The steps DISH will take moving forward will
go a long way toward keeping their Wisconsin customers informed of their rights
upon any change in their service.”
The settlement requires
DISH to make changes to its communications with Wisconsin customers whenever
DISH increases prices on satellite television offerings that are subject to an
early termination fee. The written
notice must state: all satellite television programming offerings that will be
affected by the price increase; the effective date of the increase; the new
price for each offering; and the cancellation procedures for customers who wish
to end services without paying an early termination fee.
The $4.25 bill-credit
will be applied within sixty days of the entry of the consent judgment to
current DISH subscribers who: were affected by one or more price increases to
their satellite television core programming packages that went into effect from
January 2010 to February 2013; or who were subject to an early termination fee
at the time of the price increase. DISH
customers who are eligible for the credit will likely see it listed on an
upcoming bill as “WI Settlement Credit.”
Aug 12, 2015
Impact of Proposed Badgerwood Hog Farm
The public is being
asked to help determine the scope of a draft environmental impact statement for
the proposed Badgerwood swine operation in the town of Eileen in Bayfield
The Department of
Natural Resources is seeking input on the project, proposed by Reicks View
Farms, LLC. The proposal includes
construction of three barns, which would house more than 26-thousand hogs. Enclosed concrete manure storage pits would
be constructed under each building.
Manure would be spread over 800 acres of land owned or leased by the
Individuals can submit
comments about what topics they think should be addressed in the environmental
impact statement: these comments will be accepted through September 30th. The department has already received input
from citizens, organizations, municipalities and tribes identifying a range of
issues for the project. All interested
individuals have the opportunity to identify topics to be addressed in the
draft environmental impact statement.
The agency's draft
outline for the environmental impact statement is available by searching the
Wisconsin DNR website for the word, “Badgerwood.” Comments can be mailed to Bill Clark, DNR,
810 West Maple Street, Spooner, WI 54801.
prices have dropped by 17-cents a gallon over the last month, and they might
fall a lot more by the end of the year, if there are no unexpected refinery
problems. The price of American-made
crude oil slipped to its lowest level in six years yesterday, to just over
43-dollars a barrel in New York. The
Brent crude benchmark for foreign oil dropped another dollar-and-a-quarter to
49-dollars a barrel in London.
For motorists across the
nation, the federal government says it could mean a drop in monthly average gas
prices to $2.11 in the final quarter of 2015.
The Wisconsin Triple-"A" reports a statewide average of $2.58-a-gallon
this morning for regular unleaded. That's down from $2.75 a month ago, and $3.48 at this time last year.
However, that report
does not take into account the reported problems experienced at a BP refinery
in Indiana over the recent weekend that is expected to drive up retail gas
prices by 15 to 30 cents for drivers in the Midwest and Great Lakes area. That forecast is over concerns of a reduced
supply of refined gasoline.
Impact of Algae In Dunn Co. Lakes
A group of ten
undergraduate students from across the US have spent the last two summers
studying how outbreaks of noxious blue green algae in Tainter Lake and Lake
Menomin have impacted the city of Menomonie and neighboring communities. The research is part of a $280-thousand
National Science Foundation Grant. University of Wisconsin-Stout professor Nels Paulson, who directs the
study, said one main finding was how much economic impact algae free lakes
could have. "Conservatively, the
estimates from a really, really thorough economic analysis was about
$36.6-million a year of economic input to the community if we were just to
clean up this watershed," Paulson said.
Researchers estimate an
additional 3,000 UW-Stout students would stay in Menominee over the summer if
it weren't for the toxic algae.
Aug 10, 2015
USFS Good Neighbor Authority
Wisconsin will be the
first state east of the Mississippi River to participate in forestry management
under an expanded federal-state partnership effort that aims to increase and
streamline work on federal lands. The
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources will be working side by side with the
US Forest Service to ensure the program delivers environmental as well as economic
benefits here in Wisconsin.
Called the Good Neighbor
Authority, the program was expanded nationally in the 2014 Farm Bill and allows
the US Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management to enter into cooperative
agreements with states to perform forest, rangeland and watershed restoration
projects on federal and non-federal lands.
In Wisconsin, leaders of the state and federal agencies anticipate the
partnership will facilitate forest and watershed work on the 1.5-million acre
Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. As
part of the national forest's approved forest management plan, the results will
create economic opportunities through increased timber sales which supports one
of Wisconsin's largest economic sectors.
Under the agreement, the
amount of timber offered for harvest under approved forest management plans is
anticipated to increase by approximately 25 percent to more than 100 million
board feet in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest in 2016. That is still below the level authorized in the
approved plan for the forest.
The DNR's work will
focus on preparing, awarding and administering timber sales that have already
had all the inventory and planning work completed, said Paul DeLong, chief
state forester with DNR. "Most
people don't realize that Wisconsin forests grow one and a half times more wood
than is harvested each year. Managing forests to create desired habitat while
removing forest products to meet the needs of a growing population and to
sustain local communities is an environmental, economic and social
win-win-win," DeLong said.
A portion of the
receipts from Good Neighbor Authority timber sales will reimburse the state for
its costs to do this work, with remaining funds available to be used by the
state of Wisconsin to conduct additional restoration activities that will be
identified through a collaborative process.
Aug 7, 2015
& Semi Crash
The Wisconsin State
Patrol reports an accident on I-94 near Woodville just after 11pm last
night. A van, driven by an 83-year-old
man, had slowed down and almost stopped in the traffic lane. A semi-driver swerved to avoid hitting the
van, but still hit the van, pushing it into the ditch. The driver of the van had life threatening
injuries and was taken to the hospital. The semi driver was not hurt.
Names have not been released. The
crash remains under investigation.
Do More To Prevent Cancer
The American Cancer
Society has released its annual report on what states can do to prevent and
fight cancer. Among the recommendations
for the state of Wisconsin is more physical education in schools and tougher
laws on indoor tanning beds.
restrictions are just one criteria the American Cancer Society used to assess
state's ability to prevent cancer. In
Wisconsin, one must be 16 years or older to use an indoor tanning bed. In eleven states and the District of Columbia
one must be at least 18 years of age to use an indoor tanning bed.
The American Cancer
Society report gives Wisconsin high marks for its cigarette taxes and
smoke-free laws. The state got lower
ratings for allowing some minors to tan indoors and for its funding of quit
smoking programs. Overall, Wisconsin
scored worse than Minnesota, Illinois and Michigan.
Ash Borer Found in Chisago County
officials have discovered emerald ash borers for the first time in Chisago
County, northeast of Saint-Paul. They
expect to place the county under quarantine to restrict the movement of wood.
Minnesota has roughly
1-billion ash trees, more than any state in the nation, and the trees are
"highly susceptible" to destruction caused by the emerald ash borer,
according to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. Emerald ash borers have reached a critical
mass and could rapidly become a much bigger problem in the state, said Mark
Abrahamson, a department entomologist. Emerald ash borer larvae kill ash trees by tunneling into the wood and
feeding on the tree's nutrients. It was
first discovered in Minnesota in 2009.
The biggest risk of ash
borers spreading comes from people unknowingly moving firewood or other ash
products harboring larvae, the department said.
A quarantine will likely be imposed in order to limit the movement of any
items that may be infested with ash borers, including ash trees, ash tree limbs
and all hardwood firewood. Officials
again urged people not to transport firewood and "burn it where you buy
Aug 6, 2015
Wisconsin Department of
Natural Resources biologists have confirmed two cougar sightings in Langlade
County in northern Wisconsin. On July
27th, the department received a trail camera photo from a Langlade County
landowner of a cougar taken July 9. On
August 3rd, a second Langlade County landowner submitted a trail camera photo
of a cougar which was also taken on July 9th. After site evaluations, DNR staff confirmed the location of each
photo. These photos were taken roughly
six miles apart at a 20-hour interval.
suggests cougars known to have entered Wisconsin are male cougars dispersing
from a breeding population in the Western United States. There is currently no evidence that cougars
are breeding in Wisconsin.
Cougars are a protected
species in Wisconsin and hunting is not allowed. Cougars are not considered a threat to public
safety. In the unlikely event that you are
confronted by a cougar, you should face the animal and spread your arms and
open your coat or jacket to appear larger. If a cougar approaches, make noise and throw rocks or sticks.
Aug 4, 2015
Fishery Area Improvements
During the month of
August, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources staff, including the Spooner
heavy equipment operations crew, will be doing trout habitat improvements in
the North Fork of the Clam River on the Clam River Fishery Area in southeast
Burnett County. Work will occur in two
stretches of the river between Heart Lake Road and Highway H. Both stretches are shallow, sandy areas that
lack depth and quality fish habitat. The
habitat improvement will include placement of trees and brush in the stream to
deflect flow, increase depth and increase habitat for adult trout. Heavy equipment will be used to move trees
and place them in the stream.
July 29, 2015
Killer Seeks Release
A 68-year-old man is
trying again to go free, after killing four men in the 1980s in western and
southeast Wisconsin. A judge in
Washington County ordered two psychiatrists to check out Alvin Taylor. He's been at the Mendota Mental Health
Institute in Madison since the late '80s, after being found not guilty by
reason of mental disease for killings in Eau Claire and Dunn counties. Taylor had also pleaded no contest to an
attempted murder in Washington County, where his latest case is being
heard. Taylor was a nightclub singer who
worked throughout Wisconsin, and has been seeking a conditional release from
Mendota since 2010. If it's approved in
Washington County, judges in the other two counties would also have to agree.
law For Hitting Deer
If you hit a deer with
your car or truck and want to claim it for the meat, you no longer have to call
police to come and tag it -- thanks to a new state law. You can call the DNR AT 608-267-7691 to
provide your vehicle information, address and where the collision
occurred. If you are just claiming it,
you provide the location of the incident.
You can claim the deer without needing to wait for law enforcement to
arrive. The notification must be made
before taking the carcass from the scene.
The changes do *not* apply to bears and turkeys that are killed by
vehicles. Those must still be tagged by
a law enforcement officer. Also, if you
plan to file an insurance claim for your vehicle because of damage from hitting
a deer, you will need to call police so there is a report on file, the officer
Passed Bucks Arena Package
Almost seven months
after Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker proposed public money for the new
Milwaukee Bucks arena, the Assembly Tuesday returned a $250 million bill to
him, completing the last of the legislative challenges the Governor laid out
this year. The Assembly approved the
bill on a bipartisan vote of 52-34, leaving a healthy margin to spare because
of absent lawmakers. The measure passed
the Senate on July 15 and now it goes to Walker. While campaigning at two South Philadelphia
cheesesteak joints, the governor said he would sign the much-revised measure,
calling it a good deal for Wisconsin. "It's critical not only for those who love sports, but the main
reason I got into it was because it protected state revenues," Walker said,
citing the income taxes Wisconsin would lose if the team leaves the state.
"That just (would have created) a big hole for everything else. ... This
was really about protecting the taxpayers of the state," Walker said.
Blackmour State Trail Grand Opening
The grand opening of the
Newton Blackmour State Trail, a new state recreational trail in northeastern
Wisconsin, will be celebrated with a public event beginning at 1 pm on Sunday,
August 2nd, at Lake Park in Shiocton, Wisconsin. While nine miles of the trail were already
open to the public, this event is to celebrate 14 additional miles recently
The Newton Blackmour
State Trail crosses the Wolf River on an abandoned railroad trestle. The 23-mile trail connects the cities of New
London and Seymour via the villages of Black Creek and Shiocton. East of Seymour, it links to the Duck Creek
trail, which extends into Brown County and is anticipated to eventually connect
to Pamperin Park in Green Bay.
The Newton Blackmour
State Trail becomes Wisconsin's thirty-seventh state rail trail, and the
twenty-fourth that is cooperatively managed with counties and other
This year is the 50th
anniversary of Wisconsin rail trails.
Wisconsin became the first state to convert an abandoned railroad
corridor into a recreational trail, the Elroy-Sparta State Trail in 1965. The "rails to trails" movement has
since spread across the state, nation and the world.
July 23, 2015
For Selling Illegal Narcotics At Tomah VA Hospital
Charges are pending
against three people suspected of selling illegal narcotics to veterans at the
embattled Tomah V-A Medical Center. A
V-A spokesman said the drugs did not come from the facility's inventory. The Tomah center has been the focus of state-and-federal
investigations into the over-prescription of painkillers which led to the death
of a Marine last summer. Yesterday, the
Tomah V-A said that two people -- including a center employee -- were arrested
Monday for trying to sell outside drugs at the center. A third arrest was made Tuesday. Tomah Police and Monroe County sheriff's
deputies helped the V-A investigate. Officials said 60-year-old Bernard Jackson, a center employee, was in
custody along with 49-year-old Alisa Hamley and 61-year-old Elija Pates. All three are from Tomah, and were expected
to have court appearances in Monroe County. Online court records do not list any charges yet.
Unemployment Rate Up in Many Counties
increased in most Wisconsin cities and counties in June. The state Department of Workforce Development
reported the latest figures Wednesday. Unemployment rates increased in 27 out of 32 of the state's largest
cities. Racine had the highest unemployment rate at 7.6 percent and Milwaukee
was the second highest at 7.4 percent.
Unemployment rates went up in 51 of 72 counties.
In Polk County the
unemployment rate in June was 4.7%.
Barron County was at 4.9%. Burnett County was at 6.9%. Saint
Croix County was at 3.8%.
Menominee County had the
highest unemployment rate in June at 11.1 percent followed by Iron County at
9.2 percent. Madison and Dane County had
the lowest unemployment rates for both a city and county at 3.5 percent.
The local unemployment
rates are not seasonally adjusted and therefore not comparable to the state
unemployment rate which was 4.6 percent in June.
To Eating Infected Venison
A recent health study
could have more Wisconsin deer hunters testing their animals for chronic
wasting disease this year. For the first
time, scientists say there's a possible health link between humans and the
venison they eat from deer infected with the fatal brain disease. Earlier this year, Case Western Reserve
researchers said they found signs of C-W-D infection in a small percentage of
mice that ate meat from diseased deer -- and it has the potential to infect the
human central nervous system and "peripheral lymphoid tissues." A peer review on that finding is due out
Chronic wasting disease
was first discovered in Wisconsin in 2002 -- putting a seismic scare into the
state's billion-dollar-a-year deer hunt.
Since then, no human got sick from it -- but the state has long urged
hunters to test deer from the infected zones before eating the venison. Few do.
Only 54-hundred deer were tested last year. Six-percent of them turned up positive.
Kills Armed Suspect in Monroe
A sheriff's officer
shot-and-killed a suspect in Monroe last night, after the suspect reportedly
killed one person and wounded another.
Police Chief Fred Kelley said his officers were called to the first
shooting incident around 7:15pm at a mobile home, and they were told that the
suspect ran off. Twenty minutes later,
somebody found an armed person and called 9-1-1. When they responded, Kelley said the suspect
pointed a gun at the officers -- and a deputy shot the suspect, who died later
at a hospital. Kelley said no police
officers were injured. The State Justice
Department has been called in to investigate. The police chief said it's the first such incident he could remember in
35 years in Monroe, a city of around 11-thousand people, which serves as the
county seat of Green County.
July 21, 2015
Confirmed in Dunn County
The National Weather
Service confirms that, at 1:47am Saturday morning, an EF-1 tornado formed four
miles west-northwest of Eau Galle and continued east-southeast to four miles
east of Eau Galle. The tornado was on
the ground for just over eight miles. The greatest damage happened just north of Eau Galle where trees snapped
and were uprooted. A home weather
station reported winds of 88 miles per hour. An EF-1 storm has wind speeds of between 86-110 miles per hour.
Allow Refusal of Flu Shot
A bill introduced in the
state Legislature would permit more health care workers in Wisconsin to refuse
flu shots. Some hospitals, nursing homes
and clinics require workers to receive the flu shots. A lawmaker wants them to be able to refuse a
flu shot for personal reasons. State
Representative Jeremy Thiesfeldt, a Republican from Fond du Lac, calls it a
matter of personal freedom for health care workers to forego a flu shot.
The Wisconsin Hospital
Association opposes the bill. Steven
Rush, of the Wisconsin Hospital Association, said it's a public health
issue. "In Wisconsin last year,
3-thousand individuals were hospitalized due to influenza," said Rush. "400 of those were so sick they had to
be in ICUs. Especially at risk are the
populations that are most vulnerable: elderly, children and those who are
Rush said hospitals use
a variety of approaches to encourage flu shots, sometimes requiring them. He said last year, 93 percent of hospital
workers got the flu shot. Thiesfeldt
said workers shouldn't fear demotion or dismissal if they refuse to get a flu
shot required by their employer.
Wisconsin law does not require flu shots for health care workers; only a
handful of states do. This bill seeks to
limit mandatory flu shots for health care workers. A previous bill authored by Thiesfeldt sought
to outlaw workplace flu requirements.
Supreme Court Candidates Raise Money
Milwaukee County Circuit
Judge Joe Donald has raised the most money among those running for a seat on
the Wisconsin Supreme Court next spring.
New filings show that Donald raised 109-thousand dollars since he filed
paperwork last month to run for the state's highest court. State Appeals Judge JoAnn Kloppenburg -- who
lost in a statewide recount to Justice David Prosser in 2011 -- reported
raising 27-thousand dollars since announcing her candidacy in June. All but two-thousand of that was her own
money. Donald put in 75-hundred dollars
from his own pocket, and he said four donors gave him the maximum of
10-thousand. Donald and Prosser are
running for the Supreme Court seat now held by long-time Justice Patrick
Crooks. Crooks has said he'll decide
this fall whether he'll seek re-election to a third 10-year term.
July 20, 2015
Bicyclists Hit in Iowa
Two bicyclists from
Hudson Wisconsin were hit by a suspected drunk driver in Iowa yesterday morning
and one remains in the hospital in fair condition. Bruce and Barbara Blair, both of Hudson, were
taking part in the Des Moine Register's Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa. Officials said they were among a group of
riders turning at an intersection in Sioux City when a motorist ignored an
officer who was controlling traffic.
Thirty-six year old Charysse Chavez of Sioux City reportedly drove
through and was arrested a block away. The Register said Bruce Blair may have
suffered a broken leg. Barbara was
treated at a hospital for minor injuries and was later released. Chavez was charged with two-time drunk
driving, failing to obey a police officer, and driving without insurance.
Marine Killed in Chattanooga
A northwest Wisconsin
Marine killed at a Navy facility in Tennessee will not come home until an
investigation ends. Folks in Grantsburg
in Burnett County continue to mourn the death of 26-year-old Carson
Holmquist. He was among four Marines
killed last Thursday by a gunman at the Navy's Chattanooga operational
center. A fifth Marine died over the
weekend. Holmquist was a diesel mechanic
specialist who played football in high school.
He was in training when he was killed. Holmquist's wife and two-year-old son were living in Georgia. But folks in-and-around Grantsburg in Burnett
and Polk counties are hurting. Several
Grantsburg High School graduates sign up for the military each year, and every
one of them gets a send-off by the local American Legion Post. They also get a welcome-home. Holmquist
served two previous military deployments in Afghanistan and Okinawa in Japan.
20 Weeks To Be Signed
Governor Scott Walker is scheduled to sign a bill banning abortions at or
beyond 20 weeks of pregnancy. The bill
is among four Walker plans to sign Monday in Oshkosh. Walker, a longtime abortion opponent, has
said he would sign the proposed 20-week ban on non-emergency abortions.
The military's new F-35
fighter jet will put on its first civilian air show this week in Oshkosh. Over a half-million people are expected to
attend the Experimental Aircraft Association's week-long Air-Venture, which
begins today. As always, a number of
military aircraft will be featured -- including the new F-35 Lightning
Two. Some rare war planes will help
commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of World War Two -- and the 75th
anniversary of the battle of Britain. Also, the B-52 bomber -- which has flown over the Oshkosh show in the
past -- can be seen close up.
Air-Venture will also feature a salute to aviation pioneer Burt Rutan,
an effort to break the record for the number of people in a single sky-dive,
and a 45th anniversary reunion of Apollo 13's astronauts and flight control
Wis.’s 8th Tornado
tornado of the year has been confirmed.
The National Weather Service yesterday said that an E-F-One twister was
on the ground for five miles from Avalon in Rock County to north of Darien in
Walworth County. It landed around 2:40
Saturday afternoon -- and officials cited two main areas of damage, with farm
field damage in between. Rock County
authorities said the storm mainly caused fallen trees and power lines. A barn was destroyed in town of
Johnston. No injuries were
reported. The Weather Service said the
E-F-One tornado carried winds of up to 100-miles-an-hour. It was relatively minor, considering that the
E-F-tornado rating system goes from zero-to-five.
July 17, 2015
U-W Madison's faculty
governance group is the latest to criticize a professor who warned incoming
freshmen about changes in shared governance and faculty tenure rights on
campus. Sara Goldrick-Rab said students
were not being told about the changes, so she tweeted them about it. The messages got back to the U-W College
Republicans, who criticized Goldrick-Rab on Wednesday. Yesterday the faculty's University Committee
said it was "deeply dismayed" that Goldrick-Rab "discouraged
freshmen from coming to the U-W" -- something she denies. The faculty also said she made
"inaccurate statements and misrepresentations.” The new state budget removed tenure from
state law and lets the U-W establish those rights. The budget also gives officials more power to
lay off tenured faculty, allowing it when program-and-budget cuts arise.
Sentence For Execution Shooting
A Milwaukee man has been
sentenced to life in prison for executing a witness to a shooting
incident. The judge gave 30-year-old
Robert McCorckle a chance for a supervised release staring in 2060, if he lives
that long. McCorckle would then be 75
years old. He shot-and-killed
26-year-old Richard Conn last July, after Conn had identified one of
McCorckle's friends in a trial, for which that friend allegedly shot at Conn
the previous May. Circuit Judge Daniel
Konkol said the killing showed a "total disregard for human life and the
prosecution system." He was also
sentenced to three additional years behind bars on a related felony count.
Marine To Launch Ship
Marinette Marine will
launch a new littoral combat ship tomorrow.
The USS Little Rock will hit the water on Saturday. It belongs to a class of small warships that
have had problems with weaponry and other systems. The company says it's confident the US Navy
will continue the program even though problems were reported with previous
Joe North, vice
president of littoral ships for contractor Lockheed Martin, downplayed the
seriousness of the problems.
"There were a couple of smaller systems that weren't performing to
the performance level that the vendors quoted," he said. North said the company changed vendors to
ones that "made the mark."
Marinette Marine employs
1,600 people and 400 more work for contractors. There are seven littoral combat
ships in production at the yard now and more to come.
A former high school
math teacher in central Wisconsin has been sentenced to seven months in jail
for sexually assaulting two of his former students. Andy Follen of Spencer was given work release
privileges in a jail term that begins August first, ten days before his 27th
birthday. Follen must also spend four
years on probation, and a Clark County judge told him to get counseling. He struck a plea deal in May that convicted
him of exposure and fourth-degree sexual assault. Authorities said he had sexual relations with
a pair of 17-year-old girls at Abbotsford High School -- including a volleyball
player during a Saturday basketball tournament.
Officials also said he also asked one of the girls to urge prosecutors
to reduce his charges. Follen still has a
case pending in Marathon County, for allegedly having sexual relations with one
of the girls in late 2013 and early last year.
A pre-trial hearing in that case is set for August 7th.
July 16, 2015
For the first time in
many years, a Wisconsin property assessor has had his state certification
terminated for six months. The state
Revenue Department said James Danielson of the Accurate Appraisal firm
volunteered to temporarily give up his certification starting November
first. That's after the agency said it
had enough evidence which could have resulted in a full revocation.
A property owner in
Germantown filed a complaint two years ago.
The state said it found that Danielson did not properly validate land
sales -- and he changed values of individual properties in what's known as a
"maintenance year" when most values do not normally change. The agency said it gave Danielson a second
chance in 2013 -- but when the same problems cropped up a year later, the state
took action. Accurate Appraisal is the
property assessor in almost 100 Wisconsin communities.
Arrested For Theft & Attempted Murder
Two Madison area
teenagers are under arrest for a shooting which apparently stemmed from a
shoplifting incident in Beaver Dam. An
assistant manager at Fleet Farm was wounded late yesterday afternoon in the
store's parking lot. Police said he was
helping another employee detain a 17-year-old from Fitchburg, who allegedly
stole ammunition. Officials said the teen
shot the 31-year-old assistant manager in a wrist and shoulder. Police said the suspect then sped away on
Highway 151, and was picked up a short time later. An 18-year-old Verona man was also
arrested. That person was thought to be
an accomplice. Both teens were booked in
Dodge County on possible charges that include attempted homicide, reckless
endangerment, and retail theft. The
assistant store manager's wounds were not said to be life-threatening.
Approves Bucks Arena Package
Wisconsin senators ended
lengthy closed-door negotiations before approving a new Milwaukee Bucks' arena
late yesterday. The vote was 21-to-10 in
favor of a public financing package to cover half the cost of the 500-million
dollar arena. Six Democrats and 15
Republicans voted yes. It now goes to
the Assembly. The package includes borrowing and a host of tax options. Democrats were able to drop the idea of
having the state collect outstanding debt owed to Milwaukee County for the
project. Instead, a two-dollar ticket
surcharge was added. Green Bay
Republican Rob Cowles (coles) said it was not fair for the entire state to help
keep the Bucks in Milwaukee, after people in Brown County used their own sales
tax to pay for the Packers' Lambeau Field upgrade. Senate G-O-P leader Scott Fitzgerald said the
whole state benefits from a strong Milwaukee, and the out-state lawmakers who
voted yes showed courage.
July 15, 2015
For Moving Business to Wis.
A Pennsylvania company
will get up to two-million dollars in state tax breaks for moving its
headquarters to Milwaukee. It was first
announced in June that Zurn Industries would move into a water technology
business park near downtown Milwaukee. Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch said yesterday that Zurn would
have 120 employees making an average of 36-dollars an hour. She said Zurn's owner -- Rexnord of Milwaukee
-- would be eligible for up to two-million dollars in state tax credits
depending on the final numbers of jobs created. Also, Zurn will get a forgivable loan from the city of Milwaukee for
900-thousand dollars. To avoid paying it
back, they must meet job targets in 2017 and 2021. A Milwaukee committee will act tomorrow on a
proposed million-dollar city grant to help pay for Zurn's new building.
Worker Hit & Killed
A highway worker in
north central Wisconsin was killed by a motorist. It happened around three yesterday afternoon
on Highway 17 near Merrill. Authorities
said a 50-year-old Lincoln County Highway Department employee was on a roadside
flagging southbound traffic, when an 84-year-old woman from Antigo struck
him. Her vehicle then veered into a
ditch and rolled over several times. She
had to be extricated, and was taken to a Merrill hospital. Her condition was not disclosed. Other highway employees performed C-P-R on
their injured colleague, but could not revive him. He died a short time later at the Merrill
hospital. No names were immediately released. The cause of the crash remains under
Lodged Against State Budget
Two of Wisconsin's five
constitutional officers have filed lawsuits against state budget approvals by
Governor Scott Walker and his fellow G-O-P lawmakers. Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel
asked a federal judge yesterday to strike down new drug testing requirements
for food stamp recipients. And
Secretary-of-State Doug La Follette sued in Dane County against sizable cuts to
Schimel's lawsuit said
the federal government warned Wisconsin in May that the law bars the state from
requiring drug tests for food stamp recipients -- and the state could lose
federal money if it doesn't comply. The
attorney general said another part of the law could be used -- one that lets
states test welfare recipients.
La Follette, a Democrat,
is down to one assistant. And he
recently had to move to smaller quarters in the Capitol basement. In his suit, La Follette said the cuts made
it "practically impossible" to do his job.
July 10, 2015
Be Held In Jail
A Tomah man accused of
threatening to kill President Obama will stay in jail until a possible
trial. Federal Magistrate Judge Stephen
Crocker of Madison ruled yesterday that 55-year-old Brian Dutcher is a danger
-- and there's a risk he would flee if he's released. At a detention hearing yesterday, the
defendant's lawyer asked that his client be released to a friend's
custody. Secret Service agent Jeffrey
Ferris testified that Dutcher planned to kill Obama with a slingshot when the
president was in La Crosse eight days ago. Authorities said Dutcher telegraphed his intentions in advance to a library
Abortions Before 20 Weeks
The state Assembly gave
final legislative approval yesterday to a bill banning all non-emergency
abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Governor Scott Walker has promised to
abortion limits could end up in the federal courts. Wisconsin's previous attempt to limit the
procedure was blocked after a federal judge said it was unconstitutional to
make abortion clinic doctors have hospital admitting privileges. Fourteen states have banned abortions after
18-to-20 weeks, and courts in Georgia, Arizona, and Idaho blocked them. The Guttmacher Institute said allowable
plaintiffs could not be found to challenge the other eleven, and abortion
clinics did not have the legal standing to sue.
A relatively small
number of Wisconsin abortions occur after 20 weeks. Eighty-nine of almost 65-hundred abortions
were in that category in 2013.
The University of
Wisconsin System will use its reserves to off-set a huge cut in state funding
-- at least for the coming year. The
Board of Regents approved a budget yesterday for its 26 campuses of just over
six-billion dollars. That includes the
first of two 125-million-dollar cuts in state funding approved by lawmakers as
part of the new state budget. Also, the
U-W cannot count on higher tuition revenue from in-state undergraduate
students. Governor Scott Walker and lawmakers froze that tuition two years ago,
after learning about the reserves the university is now using. A similar two-year tuition freeze is part of
the new budget, although tuition is going up for graduate and out-of-state
students. U-W President Ray Cross
allocated 180-million dollars from campus reserves to make up for the revenue
cuts. Campuses have also been laying off
some staffers and offering early retirement packages to others.
Women Found in Wyoming
Wisconsinites found safe in the Wyoming wilderness apparently gutted out heavy
rain storms when they were missing.
Trail guide Nate Suter spotted one of the three sisters yesterday, about
a mile from where he was clearing a flooded-out trail which his outfitting
company owns. He said he was impressed
that former Glendale residents Megan, Erin, and Kelsi Andrews-Sharer
"toughed it out" on Wednesday night.
Suter tipped off rescuers, who found all three cold-and-hungry but
otherwise safe. Officials said they
stayed together, and they were found seven miles from where their vehicle was
seen Wednesday. Authorities said the
sisters did not tell anyone where they were hiking -- and that made it tougher
for the rescuers. They would not say how
the women got lost, but the head of the search team hinted at a wrong turn. The hikers thanked the searchers in brief
remarks to reporters.
July 8, 2015
Tornadoes in Wis. Monday
Four tornadoes have been
confirmed in Monday night's storms in northeast Wisconsin. All were relatively low on the National
Weather Service severity scale. E-F-One
tornadoes touched down near Marion in Waupaca County and Gillett (jill'-ett) in
Oconto County. A second storm near
Gillett was rated an E-F-Zero, the lowest on the scale. Pella in Shawano County also had an E-F-Zero
tornado. The Weather Service said the
Marion twister caused the most damage. It destroyed a barn and a garage, tore
part of the roof from a house, and damaged windows to another house. The other storms damaged part of a barn, caused
minor damage to a house, and destroyed a number of trees. Monday night's
thunderstorms also caused power outages to over three-thousand customers in
southern Wisconsin. About 400 were still
in the dark this morning.
Murder Rate Up
Over 100 people attended
a vigil last night in Milwaukee to mourn the killing of a 14-year-old boy. Just
hours later, a 13-year-old boy was murdered. The latest incident occurred around 12:30 this morning near Milwaukee's
Lincoln Park. Police said they identified
a suspect, and are still looking for that person at last word. They gave no other details.
Eighty-three people have
been killed in Milwaukee this year, just three short of the total for all of
last year. Last night's vigil was in
memory of Tariq Akbar, who was shot last Friday night right after the city's
July Third fireworks show. Activists
again pleaded for an end to gun violence. Poet Kwabena Nixon said Tariq's death "robbed" the world of a
"young Barack Obama." The
killing was the result of an online fight on Facebook over a girl. Police said Tariq was not involved in that
Quality Back to Good
You won't have to worry
about breathing smoke from Canada's wildfires this morning. The state D-N-R says the state's air quality
is good -- and we're not under any official advisories like we were yesterday,
when a cold front pushed heavy rains through the Badger State, and then brought
the Canadian smoke down to the surface. Folks saw a red, hazy sun-and-moon -- and the smoky air caused health
concerns for those with heart-and-lung issues, those who perform strenuous
activities outdoors, and more. A
statewide air alert expired yesterday afternoon. Lightning caused most of the Canadian fires,
and a drought in Saskatchewan was also said to be a major factor.
Hearing Tomorrow For Assassination Threat
A detention hearing is
set for tomorrow in federal court for a Tomah man accused of threatening to
kill President Obama. Fifty-five year
old Brian Dutcher made a brief initial appearance yesterday before a magistrate
judge in Madison.
He wrote on Facebook that
it's our "constitutional duty" to kill the president, and he planned
a "clear shot" last Thursday when Obama spoke in La Crosse. According to authorities, Dutcher told a La
Crosse library security guard and Secret Service agents about his plans and he
reportedly told La Crosse Police he wouldn't have made the assassination threat
if he didn't mean it. Dutcher was taken
to a mental health facility, as prosecutors sought a civil commitment.
July 6, 2015
The National Weather
Service said storms began around midnight in western Wisconsin. By 6 o'clock this morning, 5-to-7 inches fell
across parts of Pierce and Saint Croix counties, with 1-to-2 inches more in the
forecast. River Falls reported just over
six-inches. Saint Croix and Pierce
counties have flash flood warnings until 8:30 this morning. Nearby Chippewa, Dunn, and Eau Claire
counties have warnings until 8:45. The
region also has a flash flood watch until one p-m, as far north as Polk and
Barron counties. The storms are the
result of a cold front that's expected to go through much of the Badger State
today, with showers and thunderstorms moving through until early evening. Once the storms go through, a sunny day and
cooler day is forecast for tomorrow.
Budget Expected To Be Signed This Week
Governor Scott Walker
says he hopes to sign the new state budget into law late this week, prior to
his expected announcement next Monday on his likely White House bid. The Republican Walker plans to meet today
with G-O-P legislative leaders to hash over the budget and separate financing
plans for a new Milwaukee Bucks arena that were taken out of the budget last week. The Joint Finance Committee finalized its
version of the two-year budget early Friday, and passed it on to the full
Legislature for action this week.
On Saturday, after a
loud outcry from the attorney general and many others, lawmakers promised not to
move forward with a sweeping budget plan to close public and litigants' access
to a host of government documents that have been open for decades. Walker told reporters in Wauwatosa this
weekend he'll be happy to get through this week, saying "There's been very
little focus on the good things in this budget."
In Prison For Drunk Driving & Killing
An Oshkosh man will
spend 23-years in prison for driving drunk and killing a motorist who was
stopped for a train. Thirty-two year old
Joshua Ronnfeldt has been sentenced, after striking a plea deal that convicted
him of homicide-by-operation-while-intoxicated and driving without a
license. Three other counts, including
hit-and-run causing death, were dropped in a deal with Winnebago County
prosecutors. Authorities said Ronnfeldt was speeding before he rear-ended a
vehicle stopped at a railroad crossing in Oshkosh last October. Fifty-three year old Carmine DeAngelis of
Winneconne (wih'-neh-cah-nee) was killed. Ronnfeldt had a blood alcohol level of point-156 at the time, almost
twice the state's minimum for driving drunk.
Online court records display a laundry list of traffic offenses for
Ronnfeldt. A criminal charge from last
year, accusing him of driving with a revoked license, is still pending.
Cheese Production Increasing
cheese production has risen every month in 2015. New figures from the U-S-D-A show that the
Badger State pumped out over 251-and-a-half million pounds of cheese in
May. That's four-percent more than a
year ago -- more than twice the national increase of one-point-eight
percent. Italian cheeses made up just
over half of Wisconsin's total output. Mozzarella, American, and Cheddar cheese production were all up as well. The Badger State had just over 25-percent of
the nation's total of 989-million pounds. Second-place California had around
21-percent of the country's cheese total for May, with a much smaller increase
than Wisconsin and the nation -- just four-tenths of a percent.
July 2, 2015
Obama To Visit La Crosse
President Barack Obama
will visit the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse this afternoon to lay out
proposed changes to over-time payment rules.
The president’s plan would extend overtime compensation to salaried
workers making up to $50,400 annually — more than double the current
limits. That means an estimated 5-million
workers could be compensated for all the hours they work. It’s likely the US Department of Labor would
take action on the plan, and it would then be up to Congress to decide to
change or block the law.
spokeswoman said the Governor plans to greet President Obama when he arrives in
Signed Several Bills Into Law
It is now illegal for
most of us to track others by putting G-P-S devices on their vehicles. The measure was among 30 signed yesterday by
Governor Scott Walker. The bill's
author, Senate Transportation chairman Jerry Petrowski, calls it a precaution
to protect folks from stalkers. Police
can still use G-P-S to track criminal suspects. Parents can still use it to keep track of their kids, and businesses can
use the devices to keep track of their vehicles. Also, Walker signed bills to let motorcycles
have non-flashing lights of any color, let businesses keep supplies of
epinephrine (epp'-ih-neff'-rin) injectors to treat potentially fatal allergic
reactions, ban pollution-causing micro-beads from personal care products over
the next few years, and make it a crime to lie about serving in the military to
get false benefits.
Governor Scott Walker
also signed a bill yesterday that ends the long-running "SAGE"
program. The new law bans new contracts,
or renewals beyond a final year of extensions. For years, SAGE has provided extra state aid to schools that maintain
ratios of 18 students to one teacher, or 30-to-2 in kindergarten through third
grade. The program which replaces SAGE is called
"Achievement Gap Reduction."
SAGE schools can still get state aid with more tutoring, and coaching
for teachers. They can also get extra
funds for meeting the old SAGE ratios, but not necessarily in all the younger
Market Best in 8 Years
The Wisconsin housing
market continued to expand in May according to the most recent analysis of home
sales released by the Wisconsin Realtors Association. Statewide existing-home sales increased 7.8%
between May 2014 and May 2015. This is
the strongest 5-month start to the year since 2007, before the Great Recession
began, and it is the strongest sales for the month of May since 2006. The solid sales have also continued to fuel
prices. Median prices increased 6.7% to
$160,000 over the same period.
The North region as a
whole was up by the largest margin, growing 16.1% in May 2015 relative to May
2014. Also increasing by double-digits
over that period was the Central region, which grew 11.5%. “The solid growth in both the Central and
North regions suggests a very healthy second home market,” said Dan Kruse, the
chair of the WRA Board of Directors.
remains high in the state. Although
median prices are up, this is offset somewhat by modest improvements in median
family income, and mortgage rates which were 3.84% in May, about a third of a
percent lower than this time last year.
Rallied Ten Thousand
Bernie Sanders said he
made a little history last night, by attracting the largest crowd of any of the
presidential candidates so far. Over
10-thousand people filled the coliseum in Madison to hear the US senator from
Vermont spell out his democratic-socialist views. In an hour-long speech, Sanders spelled out
his agenda, which reportedly consists of closing the gap between the
rich-and-poor, doubling the minimum wage, raising taxes on Wall Street, and
reforming criminal justice. Sanders, who
is well-behind Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton in the polls, also took
swipes at Governor Scott Walker's near-elimination of public union bargaining
and abortion limits. Sanders called both
"extremism." In a statement,
Walker said Sanders is in "stark opposition" to most Americans on
almost every issue. But Walker did agree
with Sanders on one thing. In his words,
"We don't need another Clinton in the White House."
home-grown bank plans to cut 14-percent of its employees in a money-saving
move. Anchor Bank says it will eliminate
101 jobs in the next three months. Six
branches will close, affecting 23 workers.
Another 78 have agreed to take voluntary separation packages. They'll be out by September 30th. Anchor's parent firm says about
five-point-four million dollars a year will be saved through the job cuts, and
an expected sale of its branch at Winneconne. A bank spokeswoman said that some of the eliminated jobs will be
replaced eventually -- and others will be either consolidated or left vacant.
Budget Committee Continues Work
couples might get a big tax break in the new state budget to be considered
today by the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee. Republican panel members, who are
accountants-by-trade, have talked about adding a couple of major tax
changes. One would increase the standard
deduction by 550-dollars for married couples who file joint tax returns.
The other possible tax
change would put the state's alternative minimum tax in line with the federal
tax code. The tax is applied to those
with large amounts of deductions. Married couples making 78-thousand-750-dollars
a year would not be subject to the state's minimum.
Assembly Republican Dale
Kooyenga of Brookfield says he'll try to add both measures to the budget today.
They would be paid for by delaying increases in current manufacturing and
farm-related tax exemptions.
4th of July Picnic Costs Up
With inflation almost
non-existent, a new survey shows that the standard Fourth-of-July picnic costs
five-point-three percent more than last year in Wisconsin. The Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation says the
average price of 14 food items in 25 cities is $58.86, almost three-dollars
more than last Independence Day. Ground
round, American cheese, and buns all cost 20-plus-percent more. Ketchup and mustard are cheaper. And so are corn chips, chocolate milk, and
watermelon. Wisconsin's picnic costs
three-dollars more than it does nationally. But the Farm Bureau says farmers don't even get 10-dollars of this --
while middlemen and others get the other $49.
Food continues to take a larger share of people's budgets, as inflation
actually fell below zero this spring. Even so, the Farm Bureau's Amy Eckelburg says that's hardly a reason to
go without the July Fourth picnic -- and it's still cheaper than the
June 30, 2015
Energies New Name
The parent company of We
Energies has a new name and a much larger corporate profile this morning. The former Wisconsin Energy has completed its
nine-point-one billion dollar purchase of the Integrys Energy group of Chicago.
It puts We Energies of Milwaukee and the Wisconsin Public Service Corporation
of Green Bay under the same umbrella, along with gas utilities in Minnesota,
Illinois, and Michigan. However, all the
utilities will keep their same names and identities. Chairman Gale Klappa says the immediate plan
is to be what he called "one company with seven customer-facing brands,
all focused on customer satisfaction and operational excellence." Integrys cut off its stock trading
yesterday. Its shareholders will get
18-dollars and 58-cents for each share they held before the merger was
finalized. They'll also get just over
one-and-a-quarter shares of stock in the new company, known as W-E-C Energy
Group. Customers and employees should
see little change, for now. W-E-C has
promised not to cut its union workers in Wisconsin and Illinois -- and for the
next two years, the only jobs to be lost will be through retirements and other
attrition. W-E-C becomes the nation's
15th-largest investor-owned electric and natural gas utility system -- and it's
the eighth-largest gas utility.
The school board
president accused of stealing money while she worked at UW-Stout was free on
bond Monday night.
43 year old Colleen
Davis was arrested last Friday after being suspected of theft from the University
Davis worked as an
office manager and testing coordinator at the university's counseling center
before her arrest on Friday. She's accused of taking cash from money collected
in classes and other fees.
An internal audit
provided the dollar amounts of missing funds. According to the investigation it
appears the thefts have been going on for a significant amount of time; around
six or seven years.
Monday a Dunn county
judge set bond for the Menomonie School Board president and former UW-Stout
The defendant estimated
the funds were around $20,000. The University of Wisconsin-Stout is still
trying to finalize their numbers. This happened in Dunn County at the
University of Wisconsin- Stout.
At this point,
prosecutors are considering possible criminal charges against Davis.
A woman who died while
taking scuba-diving lessons in a Jackson County lake was publicly identified
yesterday as 54-year-old Wendy Fassbender of Lodi (low-die). It happened Saturday in Lake Wazee near Black
River Falls. Authorities said she
stopped breathing while underwater in Wisconsin's deepest inland lake. The
artificial lake is nestled in a former quarry.
It's 355-feet deep at its lowest point, and is therefore a popular spot
for scuba-training. Jackson County
parks' officials said there were over 15-hundred registered divers at Wazee
Mequon's police chief
and one of his officers told a federal judge yesterday they did not illegally
strip-search a female suspect, as she claims in a lawsuit. Lauren Laur's trial
is about to enter its second day before Milwaukee Federal Judge Rudolph
Randa. She was taken to jail for
marijuana possession in 2011 -- and Laur claimed that officer Michael Kranz
violated state law by photographing tattoos in her breast and pubic areas,
without trying to have a female officer do that task. Her attorney also said it violated Laur's
constitutional right to illegal searches.
Mequon Police Chief Steve Graff testified there was "nothing
inappropriate" in the photos that required a female officer to take them
-- and Kranz's actions did not constitute an illegal strip search. Graff said his department does not train
officers to conduct proper strip-searches, and they leave that task to the
Ozaukee County Sheriff's Department.
City attorney Peter Farb raised questions about Laur's credibility,
saying she was only searched once -- and not multiple times, as she indicated. However, Mary Kate Howie -- Laur's mother and
a trained psychotherapist -- said her daughter became anxious, and wanted to
leave Mequon for fear she would run into the officers again.
State Budget Impasse
state budget impasse could come to a head this week, as majority Republicans in
both houses are about to discuss their options. Senate Republicans are
scheduled to meet in a caucus today, and G-O-P Assembly members are due to meet
tomorrow. Democrats can only sit on the
sidelines and point out trouble spots as Republicans continue to disagree over
delays in highway projects, the funding package for the Milwaukee Bucks' arena,
and a scaling back of the state's prevailing wage. Yesterday, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said
it's possible his house could move forward with its own budget bill -- instead
of trying to work out a final deal with the Senate. Senate G-O-P leader Scott Fitzgerald's office
would not comment on that. Vos proposed
a compromise on the prevailing wage. His
measure would remove 60-percent of public works projects from the long-standing
minimum wages for those projects which are higher than today's market values. Senate Republican Steve Nass (nahss) of
Whitewater said it was not enough -- and he kept pushing for a full repeal, at
least for local government and school projects.
The new budget is supposed to take effect tomorrow, but state spending
will continue at current levels until a new two-year package is hammered out.
June 26, 2015
Sues City Over Annexation
A second Trempealeau
County city is being sued for what is being called an illegal annexation of
property for a frac sand mining operation.
The City of Whitehall recently annexed a zigzagging 12-hundred-acre
parcel from its neighbor, the Town of Lincoln, for the development of a frac
sand mine proposed by Whitehall Sand and Rail. However, a review by the
Department of Administration found the annexation wasn’t contiguous, and now
Lincoln is filing suit. Lincoln Board
Chairman Jack Speerstra said they’re trying to protect town residents. "The whole idea of annexing to the city
for the purpose of getting easier regulations to mine sand and taking away the
voice of the folks out in the township is really our big concern," said
Speerstra. Whitehall Mayor Rod Moen said
he's confident the annexation will hold up in court.
Prison Job Training
The best predictor of
success for inmates after release from prison is whether or not they find a
job. That shouldn't be a problem for the
eight men at the Racine Correctional Institution who just completed a six-month
training course in computer-controlled machining. They celebrated their graduation at a
ceremony this week. They marched into
the prison visitors' room single file wearing blue gowns and mortarboards with
tassels instead of their prison greens. Course instructor Kevin Fulsom handed out the diploma's to the inmate
graduates who were greeted with applause.
The certificate those
eight inmates earned qualifies them for entry-level positions with starting pay
likely ranging from $12 to $20 an hour.
Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch was a guest speaker at the
graduation. She said the best way to
reduce recidivism in the state prison system is to treat inmates like they are
Recidivism rates in
Wisconsin have dropped by 10 percent over the past decade. Still, a recent
study found that more than one-third of the inmates released in 2010 were back
in prison three years later. Department
of Corrections secretary Ed Wall said vocational programs like this one can
help change that. But he said it's
costly. The mobile machining lab these
inmates studied in cost $300,000 and can only handle a class of 12 inmates at a
time. The mobile training lab will stay
at the Racine prison for at least another six months. Twelve more inmates have already signed up to
take the computer machining program.
at Minnesota Interstate Park
The public is invited to
join experts and enthusiasts for the “All About Insects” Bio-blitz on Saturday,
June 27, from one to 5pm at Minnesota Interstate State Park in Taylors
Falls. The public is invited to join the
National Park Service, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, and the Bell
Museum of Natural History for an afternoon of exploration to discover the
insects that call Minnesota Interstate State Park home. This bio-blitz will
feature guided walks and opportunities to assist in catching and identifying
What exactly is a
bio-blitz? It is an intensive survey,
led by biologists, to count as many species as possible in a particular area
within a set time frame. This bio-blitz is a mini version, focusing only on
insects and lasting just four hours.
Each guided walk will
last about an hour. At 1pm Joel Gardner
from the University of Minnesota Bee Lab will look for bees and other insects
on the Railroad Trail. At 2pm Ron
Lawrenz, Director of the Warner Nature Center, will lead a foray looking for
dragonflies on the River Trail. At 3pm
Joel Gardner will lead a second foray looking for bees on the Picnic
Grounds. At 4pm Val Cervenka of the
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will lead a look on the Railroad
Trail; she specializes in beetles.
afternoon, the Bell Museum of Natural History will display insect collections.
Learn how to pin insects for collections.
event will take place at the Picnic Area (southern entrance) of Minnesota
Interstate State Park. A vehicle sticker
is required to enter the state park. Come prepared to spend the afternoon outdoors by bringing sunscreen, a
hat, and plenty of drinking water.
June 25, 2015
Energies To Complete Merger
The parent firm of
Wisconsin's largest electric utility could be just days away from completing a
mega-merger. Wisconsin Energy's
nine-point-one billion dollar acquisition of the Integrys Energy Group was
given final approval yesterday by the Illinois Commerce Commission. The merger puts We Energies and the Wisconsin
Public Service utility under the same ownership -- along with electric and
natural gas utilities in three other Midwest states. The merger has been approved by regulators in
Wisconsin, Michigan and the federal government. Wisconsin Energy says it's now waiting for a final written notice of
approval from nearby Minnesota -- which is expected in the coming days. Then Wisconsin Energy will finalize the
acquisition in just two business days. The new company will have three presidents covering various states and
The Illinois approval
turned out to be tricky, due to a major replacement by Peoples Gas of its
underground natural gas mains in Chicago that's said to be behind schedule and
way over budget. Wisconsin Energy has promised to right the ship with new
executives for the operation. The
Illinois agency is making Wisconsin Energy file reports by early September on
its schedule, scope, and cost estimates for the project. The most recent cost figure was almost
four-and-a-half billion dollars.
Seeks Lake Michigan Water
Waukesha has cleared a
major hurdle in its effort to get safer drinking water for its 71-thousand
residents. The state D-N-R said
yesterday that Waukesha's long-running request to tap into Lake Michigan could
be approved under the seven-year-old Great Lakes water protection
agreement. The D-N-R released its
preliminary findings after it spent five years reviewing the ramifications.
Waukesha is under a
court order to remove excess radium from its drinking water by 2018 -- and the
city says it can no longer use nearby wells which are drying up and bringing
radium to the surface. Because Waukesha
is just outside Lake Michigan's natural basin, it needs approval from all eight
Great Lakes states to tap in -- and the city must return what it takes, by
sending an equal amount of clean wastewater to the big lake. The city plans to do so by discharging it to
the Root River in Franklin.
The D-N-R has started a
60-day public comment period on Waukesha's proposal. The agency expects to act on the request in
December -- and if it's approved, it would go to the other Great Lakes
states. Waukesha could become the first
U-S city that's entirely outside the basins, to bring in Great Lakes water
under the 2008 protection compact.
Gun-Related Laws Signed
Wisconsin Governor Scott
Walker signed two gun-related bills into law yesterday. There will no longer be a 48-hour wait period
to buy a handgun. Walker said current
gun selling procedures, using up-to-date technology, help make sure guns don’t
get into the wrong hands. Walker said,
“This allows Wisconsin law to catch up with the 21st century. Today there's a national instant criminal
back(ground) check system that enables us to get instant information (on)
whether or not someone is eligible to possess a handgun.”
Another bill Walker
signed into law on Wednesday allows retired offic ers to carry guns on school
Tomah VA Over-dosing Was Known Earlier
Administration's in-house watchdogs knew as early as 2012 that excessive
painkillers were given out at the VA hospital in Tomah -- and they kept it
under wraps, according to a new report to be released today by the US Senate
governmental affairs committee. It said
the VA Inspector General asked for outside opinions from pharmacists about what
was going on at Tomah. One pharmacist
said the amount of opiates prescribed was so high, that the government could
revoke the hospital's licenses for dispensing prescription medicines. None of those warnings were in a VA report on
the Tomah situation in 2014. Instead,
the inspectors appeared to trust VA officials to fix the problems, with
Congress and the public none-the-wiser.
Senate committee chair Ron Johnson of Wisconsin said it was another
example of investigators protecting the VA and sweeping negative evidence "under
the rug." He again called on the
interim inspector general to replaced by someone who would be more
independent. The VA did not comment on
the report, but it again defended current inspector general Richard
Griffin. The revelations came on the same
day that Wisconsin Senate Democrat Tammy Baldwin introduced a bill to order
safer and more effective pain management for veterans at VA facilities.
June 23, 2015
Budget Impasse Unresolved
Republican leaders of
both houses met again late yesterday with key lawmakers to try-and-resolve the
party's three-and-a-half week old impasse over the new state budget. It remains possible that the Joint Finance
Committee could meet this week to finalize a budget that majority Republicans
in both the Assembly and Senate could accept.
In the meantime,
Assembly Republicans solidified their stance on which highway projects should
be cut. A majority of the house G-O-P
caucus -- 33 members -- signed a letter yesterday demanding that cuts be made
evenly throughout the state. Governor
Scott Walker and Senate Republicans want Milwaukee's Zoo freeway interchange
project to keep going without delays, but those who signed the letter said
safe-and-reliable transportation is a concern throughout Wisconsin, and not
just in Milwaukee. Walker's office has
said lawmakers should leave it to the D-O-T to determine which projects should
be delayed in a likely cut in highway borrowing. The governor's office repeated that stance
Addicition Treatment Expanding
People in rural northern
Wisconsin will have better access to treatment for addiction to opioids like
heroin or prescription painkillers under a new program, according to the
Wisconsin Department of Health Services.
The department is awarding grants to three providers in areas where
treatment options are lacking. Family Health Center in Marshfield, North Lakes
Community Clinic in Ashland and Saint Joseph Hospital in Chippewa Falls will
provide medication, counseling and more to treat addiction.
Joyce Allen with the
Wisconsin DHS said they hope to see a drop in opioid-related deaths. She said
they also hope to "improve the quality of life for those individuals who
are addicted to opioids, and to really have better access to these treatment
services in regions of the state that currently do not have easy
access." Allen said treatment will
be provided based on an assessment of each individual’s needs.
Providers will receive
roughly $688-thousand each year for up to five years to offer treatment. The state saw 324 opioid-related deaths in
2012, according to most recent numbers from the department.
Patrol Contract Hearing
Wisconsin state troopers
have yet to negotiate a new contract that would take effect July first. But at least they're in line for retroactive
pay, under an agreement to be considered this afternoon by the Legislature's
Joint Committee on Employment Relations.
The panel will hold a public hearing on a proposed three-percent pay
raise for the year ending last June 30th -- and an additional three-percent for
the year ending next Tuesday. Troopers
would get their raises in lump sums for each year -- plus the raises would be
reflected in their paychecks after July first until a new deal is put
together. They'll also have to
contribute more toward their health insurance, just like other state employees
have had to do. The State Patrol was
among the law enforcement agencies exempt from the Act-10 collective bargaining
limits passed in 2011. The troopers have
not had a raise since 2009. A 17-percent
catch-up raise was turned aside in March, after the employment relations panel
said lawmakers would never support such a large increase.
Programs & Benefits Explained
Representatives of Veterans organizations and programs
that serve Saint Croix County will be on hand this Tuesday afternoon, from one
to five PM, at the Saint Croix County Services Center in New Richmond. Presentations will begin at 1pm from those
organizations, followed by question sessions and a time at the end for
individuals to meet with them one-on-one.
For more information call 715-386-4759.
June 22, 2015
Crash Near Menomonie
A single-vehicle crash
on eastbound Interstate 94 near Menomonie Sunday afternoon has resulted in one
fatality and another person hospitalized with serious injuries. A passenger, Vera M. Scoles, age 85 of
Baraboo, was killed in the crash. Jerome L. Thiessen, age 74, also of Baraboo,
was driving a 1951 Studebaker pickup and towing a 1948 camper trailer, when he
lost control and rolled into the ditch. Suffering from life-threatening injuries, Thiessen was taken to Mayo
Clinic Health System-Eau Claire. According
to the Wisconsin State Patrol, the crash caused major traffic delays as far
west as the Saint Croix County line.
Republicans continue their impasse over the new state budget, lobbyists are
quietly working to have their own proposals put in. The Joint Finance Committee has waited for
over three weeks for GOP leaders of both houses to agree to a final
package. In the meantime, opponents of
last-minute items have caught wind of measures they said would hurt their
constituencies -- and they are asking their legislators to oppose them. They include another effort by the
rent-to-own industry to stop disclosing interest rates to their customers --
require more frequent reporting of what insurers pay to pharmacists, which
could affect drug prices -- and make health insurers pay chiropractors the same
rates as doctors for similar services. Last-minute budget surprises have been a hallmark in Wisconsin for
years, no matter which party is in charge. In just the past few weeks, the Joint Finance Committee voted to relax
training requirements for public school teachers -- and told cities to use more
of their hotel room tax revenues for tourism. Senate finance chair Alberta Darling said that the pharmacy and rent-to-own
changes are being discussed as part of the budget negotiations. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said he does not
expect approval of some other last-minute budget proposals to scale back the
state's Family Medical Leave Act for employees -- and to let liquor wholesalers
keep all their clients when their businesses are sold or passed down in their
Driving Loophole Proposal
Two state legislators
say they want to close a loophole in Wisconsin's drunk driving laws. It affects those who have been ordered to
breathe into sobriety tubes before they can start their cars. Racine Senator Van Wanggaard and Wausau
Representative Dave Heaton say those drivers only get traffic citations when
they're caught using other vehicles without the interlock devices. The lawmakers say they want to close that
loophole by creating special drivers' licenses with "Ignition Interlock
Restrictions." Wanggaard and Heaton
say the current law allows drunk drivers to re-offend by using somebody else's
vehicle -- and the new license status would require them to use interlocks all
the time, no matter which vehicles they drive. If they don't, they would face criminal penalties for violating court
orders. Heaton says a variety of police,
medical, and anti-drunk driving groups have come out in favor of the
measure. He expects it to go through the
committee process this summer, with action possible this fall.
Wis. Milk Production Jumped in May
production continues to grow by leaps and bounds. New figures from the USDA show that the
Badger State raised its output by more than three times the national increase
in May. Wisconsin cows pumped out
two-and-a-half billion pounds of milk last month, four-point-four percent more
than the same month a year ago.
The state remains second
in milk production behind California, where a massive drought continues to hurt
dairy producers. The Golden State made two-point-nine percent less milk in May,
at three-point-six billion pounds. California's dairy herd remained steady, but its output per cow dropped
by 60 pounds to two-thousand-50 per animal.
nine-thousand cows in May, making its new total one-million 278-thousand cows.
Each cow made 70 more pounds of milk in May, increasing to 19-hundred-55. Wisconsin has had huge increases in milk
production throughout 2015, with just over twice the national jump through the
first quarter of the year. Neighboring
Michigan has also had a large hike in its dairy output, at seven-point-six
percent in May to 887-million pounds.
June 17, 2015
Law Expanded To Waterways
over law" to protect roadside emergency responders expands to the state's
waters this summer under revisions to the boating rules and regulations code,
also known as chapter NR 5 of the Wisconsin Admininstrative Code.
Warden Roy Zellmer,
Department of Natural Resources boating administrator, says the law's expansion
to add a slow-no-wake buffer around emergency vessels was in response to
concerns about officer and public safety.
"The purpose is to create a safety buffer for emergency responders
to work without risk (of) being struck or maneuvering in big wakes by boats
passing too close to an emergency site," Zellmer said. "The DNR asked for the law change out of
concern for public safety and law enforcement officer safety."
The law's revision adds
a slow-no-wake within 100 feet of patrol boats displaying emergency
lights. The revisions took effect on
June 1st and the DNR efforts this summer will be to inform and educate boaters
on the change.
Other changes to the
state's boating rules and regulations affect the use of blue lights and noise
levels. Zellmer says boaters can no
longer display blue colored lights. "The blue LED lighting had been
mistaken for law enforcement lights at night and was causing some confusion to
the public," he said.
For more information
about boating in Wisconsin, search the DNR website, d-n-r-dot-wi-dot-gov for
the keyword "boat."
Introduced Would Criminalize Drunk Driving
A recent study found
that Wisconsin has the most lenient drunken driving laws in the country. A bill introduced by Madison state
Representative Terese Berceau could change that. Berceau's bill would criminalize first-time
drunken driving offenses by increasing the current fine of $300 to $500 and
imposing up to 30 days in jail. This is
not the first time Wisconsin lawmakers have tried to crack down on first-time
drunken drivers, but past efforts have stalled because of concerns over the
cost of sending more people to jail.
Berceau said Tuesday
those cost estimates have been unrealistically high. "They also have not taken into account
that we do have alcohol drug courts in some parts of the state. There are alternatives other than
confinement, and those are lower-cost," she said.
The bill already has
cosponsors from both sides of the aisle.
Berceau said support is growing for holding first-time drunken drivers
more accountable for their actions.
Budget Process Criticized
A county board in
Wisconsin's Northwoods is criticizing a last-minute state budget item in which
shore-land zoning along lakes-and-rivers would fall under state standards. The Oneida County Board voted yesterday to
ask the state Legislature's Joint Finance Committee to drop the measure,
inserted by Senate Republican Tom Tiffany of Hazelhurst. Hazelhurst says it creates much-needed
uniformity in zoning throughout the state and its 15-thousand-plus waters. But residents and county supervisors said it
would create more development and dirtier water, by prohibiting counties from
having more stringent rules than the state's minimum standards. Supervisors also called the move another
back-door effort by Madison to seize local control. The Wisconsin Counties Association and others
have said the measure should not have been placed in the massive state budget
without public debate. That's been a
common theme of critics -- including educators who took issue with a
last-minute budget item to relax teacher licensing standards.
Meanwhile, the state's
finance committee is expected to meet only one more time. They're waiting for the Republican-controlled
Legislature to hammer out an agreement on the budget -- including major
unresolved issues like borrowing levels for highway projects.
Investigating Fatal ATV Crash
The Wisconsin D-N-R
continues to investigate an all-terrain vehicle crash in central Wisconsin that
killed a 12-year-old boy and seriously injured his 11-year-old sister. It happened Monday night on private land in
the Portage County town of Sharon, northeast of Stevens Point. The boy was driving the A-T-V. When paramedics got there, sheriff's
officials said an off-duty nurse had been on the scene, using C-P-R to try and
revive the boy. Their efforts were not
successful. The boy's sister was flown
to a Marshfield hospital. The extent of
her injuries was not disclosed. The
victims' names were not immediately released.
PublicLands Board Allowing Global Warming Work
The Wisconsin public
lands' board backtracked yesterday, and voted to stop barring staff members
from working on issues that involve global warming. Secretary of State Doug La Follette proposed
a compromise in which the nine staffers on the Board of Commissioners of Public
Lands could still work on climate change matters -- but not lobby
for-or-against such policies in state government. La Follette said part of the board's work
deals with land issues and timber harvests, and it makes sense that climate
change would be involved in those matters.
The work ban was imposed in April, after State Treasurer Matt Adamczyk
(uh-dom'-chick) learned that agency secretary Tia Nelson served on a state
global warming task force a number of years ago. Democrats and environmentalists called the
move a "gag order" on any talk of global warming. They also called it an attack on Nelson,
whose late father Gaylord Nelson is the founder of Earth Day. Attorney-General Brad Schimel cast the
deciding vote for the compromise, saying it's what he wanted in the first
place. Adamczyk voted no. He asked what would happen if Nelson worked
on another global warming task force.
Schimel and La Follette agreed that would not be allowed. Nelson has stayed above the fray throughout
the controversy, not commenting on the board's actions. She refused comment again yesterday.
June 16, 2015
Season for Maple Syrup
Wisconsin maple syrup
producers had an extremely productive season this year, thanks to ideal weather
conditions and a growing number of producers.
According to the US Department of Agriculture, Wisconsinites produced
215-thousand gallons of maple syrup, the second-highest amount on record.
Wisconsin Maple Syrup
Producers Association Executive Director Gretchen Grape said the weather was
perfect for the short production season, with warm days and freezing
nights. The number of maple trees tapped
was at an all-time high, with 760-thousand drilled this year — 60-thousand more
than last year. Grape said there are a
lot of newcomers. Grape said the sugar
content was low in most parts of the state, but that doesn't affect the syrup's
Signs Going Up On Wis. Interstates
County highway workers
in some parts of Wisconsin will begin installing 70 mph speed limit signs along
about 810 miles of interstate highways in Wisconsin this week. Rob Miller, a state Department of
Transportation spokesperson, said the work will primarily take place today and
tomorrow. He said the department is asking drivers to remember that new speed
limits only go into effect after the new speed is officially posted, and to be
alert during the sign installation process. "Slow down, move over, for all of our roadside workers," he
said. Miller said crews will post around
470 speed limit and related signs.
Gov. Scott Walker signed
the speed increase law last month, which allows the DOT to raise the speed
limit to 70 mph on four-lane roads that have entrance and exit ramps. Limits on roads with at-grade access cannot
be increased. Miller said the cost of
producing and installing the signs is around $134-thousand. He also said the DOT is analyzing some
non-interstate freeway segments that do not have at-grade access to see if they
could have their speed limits increased to 70 mph in the future.
Crops Ahead of Schedule
Wisconsin crops continue
to grow ahead of schedule, although most fields are getting really wet. All but three-percent of the state's corn has
emerged after being planted. That's 12
days ahead of the average for the past five years. Wisconsin soybeans are nine days ahead of
their normal growth, with 89-percent of the crop emerged. The quality is pretty good. Eighty-six percent of soybeans are rated
good-to-excellent, along with 84-percent of the corn. Officials say oats and winter wheat are also
in good shape. Wisconsin farmers are
also making good progress in harvesting their first hay crop, despite recent
heavy rains. Seventy-six percent of the
first alfalfa crop is in. That's 15-percent more than a week ago, and it's five
days ahead of the five-year average.
Twenty-one percent of the state's farm fields have a surplus of
moisture. Central and southeast areas
have surpluses of up to 35-percent.
Bucks Arena Costs Debated
might not be on the hook for the Milwaukee Bucks' current arena if the team
leaves Wisconsin. Governor Scott Walker
said high debts and maintenance costs at the BMO Harris Bradley Center are partially
why it would be cheaper to fund a new facility for the Milwaukee Bucks. But attorneys for the state's independent
Legislative Council said it appears "unlikely" that a court would
hold the state responsible for the debts and obligations of the 27-year-old
Bradley Center. The opinion was sought
by Assembly Republican Dean Knudson of Hudson, an opponent of the arena funding
package. He said the estimated
maintenance costs are exaggerated -- and taxpayers would not be held
responsible anyway. If that's true, it
could take away the Republican governor's "cheaper to keep 'em"
political argument for supporting the arena funding plan. The governor’s plan includes 250-million
dollars in public financing and support, which could end up being 400-million
dollars when interest is added in. A
representative for the governor said it would cost 419-million dollars for
things like maintenance costs and lost income taxes from N-B-A players, if the
league takes over the Bucks and moves them in mid-2017. The league has clauses for that, although
N-B-A Commissioner Adam Silver remains confident a deal will get done. The Walker administration claims that the
state would be the only remaining "solvent owner" of the Bradley
Center if the Bucks leave, thus making it liable.
Almost 900 Wisconsin
high school juniors are spending the week learning how their state-and-local
governments operate. The state American
Legion is holding its 74th Badger Boys State program in Ripon. The boys are setting up their own
local-and-state offices and governing bodies that do everything from passing
ordinances, to balancing a budget, to amending the Boys' State
constitution. They've elected 27 mayors,
including Ian Smith of Hudson -- who represents the Boys' State community of
Davidson. The past couple days, he's
been scheduling events and organizing local meetings for over 45 residents. Also, various community and business leaders
are teaching the youngsters about possible careers in numerous
government-related fields from campaign strategies to policing. Badger Boys' State runs through the end of
the week. You can follow the proceedings
online at BadgerBoysState-Dot-Com.
June 12, 2015
General Obligation Bonds Rated AA
A long-term rating of AA
with a stable outlook has been assigned to the State of Wisconsin’s
$89.96-million General Obligation Bonds of 2015, Series B, by the Kroll Bond
Rating Agency. That agency also affirms
the long-term rating of AA with a stable outlook on the Wisconsin’s outstanding
General Obligation Bonds, excluding bonds backed by a letter of credit or
liquidity facility, unless otherwise noted. As of June 1st, Wisconsin has
$7.6 billion of outstanding General Obligation debt.
from the national recession continues to be moderately strong, as evidenced by
ongoing increases in employment and lower unemployment rates than the region
and the nation. The Kroll Bond Rating Agency views the financial performance of
the State of Wisconsin to be strong, based on sound budget management by the
State Department of Administration and action taken by the administration and
the Legislature in the last few years to maintain balanced operations.
Population Rose 13 Percent
population rose by 13-percent over the past year -- the first such increase
since a hunting season for the animals began in 2012. The Wolf Advisory Council said yesterday that
the Badger State has between 746-and-771 gray wolves. David MacFarland of the DNR said part of the
reason for the increase was a lower hunting quota of 150 wolves last fall. That was due to declines in wolf numbers the
previous year. Also, MacFarland said
fewer wolves were killed in conflicts with farmers and their livestock. He said the DNR originally predicted a
14-percent mortality rate for human-caused incidents -- but the final rate was
lower, at eight-and-a-half percent. A
federal judge re-instated a protected status for wolves last December in
Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan. That
ended the wolf hunts for now -- along with the ability by farmers to kill
wolves which hurt their livestock and farm crops.
Hmong soldiers served
side-by-side with Americans during the Vietnam War. Now, Hmong veterans who
re-settled in Marathon County will be immortalized on a statue in Wausau. Peter Yang, who heads the Hmong-American
Center of Wausau, says the project has been in the works for a couple years --
and a design has just been completed. The North Central Community Foundation has started a 240-thousand-dollar
fund drive for the new statue. An
anonymous donor has agreed to match up to 100-thousand dollars for donations
made by this fall. A black granite base,
eight-feet tall, could be in place this fall.
Organizers then plan to add three bronze statues of Hmong soldiers at
the top of the granite base by next spring -- just in time to celebrate the
40th anniversary of the arrival of Wausau's first Hmong refugees. The CIA recruited Hmong residents in Laos to
help the US fight against communist North Vietnamese and Pathet Lao
forces. Some were as young as ten years
old. When communists later took over
their homelands, they sought refuge in the US.
Wausau was among the first Wisconsin places to accept them.
Wisconsinites appear to
be more at risk of getting Lyme Disease this summer, if a new study in Madison
is any indication. UW scientists found
that some parts of the Madison area have ten times more deer ticks than a year
ago -- and that has officials concerned, because tick-bites cause Lyme
Disease. Dane County had six confirmed
Lyme cases last year. Three cases have already been reported in the first ten
days of this month, and Lyme Disease normally reaches its peak in July. UW entomology professor Susan Paskewitz
predicts that the numbers of infected ticks will keep growing in the Madison
area this summer. She says those who
venture outdoors should wear long-sleeved shirts and pants to protect
themselves, wear insect repellents with the chemical DEET, and check for ticks
once you get back inside. Back when Lyme
Disease was first discovered in the 1970s, cases were generally confined to
northern Wisconsin -- but now they're reported in all parts of the state. There were over 34-hundred cases of tick-borne
diseases in Wisconsin last year, most of them Lyme cases.
Return Unclaimed Property
The Wisconsin Department
of Revenue has launched its unclaimed property matching program which matches
unclaimed property in Wisconsin against the agency's tax records. Some owners will get a check for their
unclaimed property, while others with property value amounts larger than 2-thousand-dollars
will get a letter with information about how to file a claim.
By the end of the year,
the Department of Revenue anticipates that it will return approximately
$13.6-million to more than 97,000 owners in previously unclaimed property
because of the new matching program, after offsetting delinquent taxes and
other debts. With the modernized
matching initiative, the agency is able to process claims more efficiently.
The unclaimed property
includes funds from savings or checking accounts, uncashed dividends, insurance
policies or other accounts of which the owner may have forgotten. Institutions such as banks, credit unions,
insurance companies, or other businesses are required to report unclaimed
property to the Department each year by November 1. The Department then holds the property for
safe keeping until it is claimed by the owner.
For more information go to revenue-dot-wi-dot-gov-slash-ucp.
New STAR Computer System Requires More Training
The Wisconsin state
government will use an older patchwork of computer systems up to three months
longer than expected. A new, more
comprehensive computer system will still begin July first as planned. But a consultant has recommended more
training for state employees on the new system -- plus more input from state
agencies on what they need from the new network. The older patchwork of 120 systems will
continue to serve as the state's official records until the new system is up to
speed. The change to the newer computer
system will cost up to three-and-a-half million dollars more than expected --
but the Walker administration says cost savings from earlier in the project can
make up for the added expense. The
massive computer changeover is called "STAR," or State Transforming
Agency Resources. The legislative
committee which oversees the project has not met for years -- but the Joint
Committee on Information Policy and Technology will hold a briefing on the
project for legislators on Tuesday.
June 9, 2015
Co. Search for Kidnapper In 2nd Day
A manhunt continues this
morning in Eau Claire County for a 24-year-old kidnapping suspect who is armed
and dangerous. Sheriff's officials said
Mitchell Owens is wanted for abducting a 21-year-old woman who was on a break
from her job at the Walmart in Mukwonago in southeast Wisconsin. He drove her for seven hours yesterday
morning, until they stopped at an Eau Claire convenience store and she
escaped. Police said they kept track of
the victim during her abduction by tapping into her cell phone, as she was
texting her boyfriend with cries for help. Authorities said she is safe.
Officials said Owens fled, and a high-speed police chase followed at speeds
of over 100-miles-an-hour. The vehicle
crashed out of the city, and officials said Owens ran off into a wooded area
while carrying a rifle. Law
enforcement from Polk County and throughout western Wisconsin have joined local
police and sheriff’s deputies in searching for Owens with the help of aircraft
and police dogs. Sixteen homes were
evacuated last evening -- and the residents were not allowed to return last
night. The Fall Creek School District
said it would not pick up students on two bus routes this morning, due to what
it called "the uncertainty of the chase."
Officers Could Carry Guns In Schools
Legislature is scheduled to pass a proposal that would allow off-duty and
retired officers to carry guns in schools.
The Senate and the Assembly both plan to take up the bill today.
Current state law
generally bans people from possessing guns on school grounds as well as within
one thousand feet of school grounds. The
prohibition doesn't apply to police officers acting in their official capacity.
Approval from both
chambers would set up the bill for Gov. Scott Walker's approval.
Houses of Legislature Meet June 9
The Wisconsin Senate
plans to vote today on banning all non-emergency abortions in the state after
20 weeks of fertility. The Senate's
health committee endorsed the measure last week with Republicans voting yes and
Democrats no. The bill's main sponsors
and opponents argue over whether an unborn child can feel pain after 20 or 27
weeks. Supporters are trying to get the
bill passed before the Legislature starts dealing with the new state budget
later this month. However, Assembly
Speaker Robin Vos has not said when-or-if his house would take up the 20-week
abortion ban once it gets to his chamber.
Both houses of the Legislature will be in session today -- and they're
both expected to vote on letting businesses keep supplies of epinephrine
(epp'-ih-neff'-rin) injectors to treat potentially fatal allergic reactions.
Packets Will Be Handed to Anglers
Volunteers on 16 Polk
County Lakes and Rivers will be handing out ice packets and reminding anglers
and boaters to drain their gear this weekend before hitting the road.
Some of Wisconsin’s
worst aquatic invasive species (AIS) can spread through transported water. Invaders like zebra mussel larvae or spiny
water fleas – too small to readily see – can survive to the next lake when
water is left in a livewell, buckets, bilge, motor or equipment.
Some folks are used to
taking their catch home in livewells, but ice is a legal and better way to get
those fish home. It stops any bacterial
growth, and then your catch isn’t ingesting the fish toxins that concentrate in
fouled, low-oxygen water on the way home, which some say affects the
taste. You also don’t want that water
making it to a new lake. Fish diseases or very small invasive species can get
around that way.
Prairie Island Nuclear Plant Shutdown
Operators have safely
shut down Unit 2 of the Prairie Island nuclear power plant near Red Wing. Minneapolis-based Xcel Energy Incorporated
says there was no risk to the public or employees from the condition that led
to the shutdown Sunday morning. The company says the unit was shut down in
response to a turbine trip caused by low oil pressure. Plans are underway to make repairs and return
the unit to service.
This is the sixth time this year that one or another
of the reactors at Prairie Island needed to be shutdown for maintenance or
repairs. Just the week before, on May
31st, a water pump at one of the units at the Prairie Island plant shut down,
leading to a reactor shutdown.
During outages, Xcel
Energy purchases electricity from the Midcontinent Independent System Operator
or other utilities or increases electricity production at its other plants to
ensure an adequate power supply for customers.
The two reactors at Prairie Island generate 1,076 megawatts of
electricity, enough to power nearly 1 million homes.
June 4, 2015
Milwaukee Bucks Stadium Agreement
Key stakeholders agreed
to a deal to build a new stadium for the Milwaukee Bucks, though it remains to
be seen whether the Wisconsin Legislature will agree with them. The arena deal would call for an up-front
public investment from the State of Wisconsin of $250-million, before interest
costs get figured in. Part of that would
include $55 million in bonding from the state.
Milwaukee County would
contribute its share through uncollected debt.
The City of Milwaukee would pay its share by building a $47-million
Governor Scott Walker
told reporters at a state Capitol news conference that it was cheaper to keep
the Bucks, because if the team would leave Wisconsin, it would take tax revenue
along with it. "For lawmakers
anywhere in the state, Republican and Democrat alike, the fact is if we do
nothing, that revenue goes away and we have a huge hole," said Walker.
While key principals
have now signed onto the deal, it still has to pass the state Legislature. Its passage is far from a sure thing, with
many rank-and-file lawmakers uneasy about subsidizing a professional sports
Germain Woman Imprisoned For Embezzlement
A northern Wisconsin
woman has been sentenced to a year and a day in federal prison for not declaring
income from an embezzlement on her tax return.
Madison District Judge Barbara Crabb sentenced 58-year-old Corneila
Mutter of Saint Germain yesterday. The
IRS said she embezzled over a half-million dollars from the T-A Solberg Company
in Minocqua from 2004 to 2010 when she worked there. Prosecutors said she used company checks for
her personal credit card bills, groceries, and medical expenses. Solberg did not press charges, but the I-R-S
did. They said she never declared
embezzled money as income on her 2008 federal tax return.
Rhubarb Days Presents:
The Elvis Experience with Steve and Tommy Marcio on Saturday, June 6 at 2pm in
the Mill Pond Park at Osceola.
Rhubarb Days is today through Sunday, June 5-7, in Osceola
and will feature a free concert by Elvis at the Mill Pond Park, next to the
Osceola Public Library, on Saturday, June 6, at 2pm. Steve and his son Tommy Marcio (older and
younger Elvis) put on a wonderful show complete with all your favorite Elvis
hits and swagger! The two perform both
locally and throughout the nation and will amaze fans with their award-winning
tribute of Elvis. Bring your friends,
family and a lawn chair for a day of family fun with Elvis at the Mill Pond
Park in Osceola. More information is
online at rhubarb-days-dot-com.
Weekend On Trails
Recognizing the Wisconsin DNR-sponsored
“Free Fun Weekend,” state trail passes for bike riders will not be required on
the Stower 7 Lakes, and the Gandy Dancer State Recreation Trails, this Saturday
and Sunday, June 6 and 7.
Both trails normally require a
Wisconsin state trail pass for bike riders 16 years of age and older. The passes, available locally, are good on
all state trails.
The Stower 7 Lakes Trail, the newest Wisconsin state
recreation trail, opened in 2010 and offers a very scenic 14 mile ride from the
trailhead in Amery to just outside of Dresser, passing next to Nye, Deronda,
The Gandy Dancer State
Trail has been operating for 18 years and offers a longer 47 mile route from
its trailhead at the Polk County Information Center in Saint Croix Falls to
Danbury. Four villages and the
unincorporated Lewis are located on the trail in Polk County, and they are all
less than six miles apart. Siren and
Webster are on the trail leading north to Danbury in Burnett County.
The Gandy Dancer Trail follows the Soo Line railroad
corridor that founded and served the small towns in Polk County. In Frederic, the 1901 Soo Line Depot was
refurbished and serves as a rest stop for the trail as well as the museum of
the Frederic Area Historical Society.
The Frederic Depot is the last remaining depot of this rail line, and is
open as a trail rest stop weekends from Memorial Day through leaf season in
Trail maps and more information for the trails are
available on-line at polk-county-tourism-dot-com.
Man Kills Wife & Holds Police At Bay
A central Wisconsin man
is under arrest for killing his wife and then holding police at bay at his home
for four-and-a-half hours. The main
street in Bancroft –which is south of Stevens Point-- was closed for most of
yesterday, while a standoff ensued. Portage
County Sheriff Mike Lukas said 55-year-old Larry Sanchez was being cooperative,
after negotiations resulted in his arrest.
A sheriff's SWAT team and other law enforcement officers were called to
the home, after a report of gunshots around 11am. Lukas said the suspect's wife, 44-year-old
Lisa Sanchez, died from a gunshot wound.
There was no immediate word on what caused the shooting. Larry Sanchez was booked on a possible
homicide charge. The nearby Bancroft
elementary school was evacuated, along with homes and businesses.
Fatal House Fire in Rothschild
A woman died in a house
fire south of Wausau last night.
Fire-fighters from four departments were called to a home in Rothschild
around 8:45pm. Interim Rothschild fire
chief Jim Schmidt said the fire appeared to have started in the kitchen, and
had extended to the attic. When crews
arrived, he said light smoke was emerging from the eaves on all four sides of
the home. The woman was later found
inside the home, and was taken to a hospital where she died. The state fire marshal's office is helping
local authorities determine the cause of the fire.
June 3, 2015
Species Monitor Training
The River Alliance of
Wisconsin, Saint Croix River Association, National Park Service, Polk County
Land and Water Resources Department, and Wisconsin DNR will host two classroom
trainings and a paddle on the Saint Croix River to teach citizens how to
monitor for invasive species in rivers.
Paddlers, fisherman, water quality monitors, shoreline owners, and river
enthusiasts are encouraged to attend. The classroom and field trainings will be held Thursday, June 11th and
Tuesday, June 16th, both nights from 6-8pm at the St. Croix River Association,
230 South Washington Street in Saint Croix Falls. A paddle on the St. Croix River (weather
permitting) will be held on Tuesday, June 23rd to practice monitoring protocols
in the field. All equipment, including
canoes and life vests, will be supplied.
To reserve your space, please contact the Saint Croix River Association
at 715-483-3300 or sign up online at:
The River Alliance of
Wisconsin’s Project RED (riverine early detectors) is a monitoring program that
trains citizens to identify and report invasive species within river corridors
statewide. During the free training, the
St. Croix River Association, National Park Service, and Polk County Land and Water
Resources Department will teach you to monitor your river by canoe, kayak, or
on foot for species of concern. They
will help you choose locations and a monitoring schedule that are convenient to
you. The protocols are easy and
fun. In addition, you can use this
activity to become more familiar with your river or stream and to engage your
friends and neighbors!
Species of concern
include garlic mustard, oriental bittersweet, purple loosestrife, Japanese
knotweed, Japanese hops, yellow iris, curly-leaf pondweed, Eurasian water
milfoil, zebra mussel, quagga mussel, and New Zealand mudsnail.
To learn more about
invasive species in our river corridors and how you can help in the fight
against invasive species, visit wisconsinrivers-dot-org online.
Island Nuclear Power Plant Shutdown For 5th Time This Year
Nuclear reactors at a
power plant near Red Wing, Minnesota have been shut down for the fifth time
this year. On Sunday night a water pump
at the Prairie Island Nuclear Generating Plant shut down, causing a chain
reaction that led to a reactor being turned off. The cause is still under investigation.
This is the fifth time
this year that technicians have had to shut down either of the reactors for
maintenance or repairs, but Nuclear Regulatory Commission Senior Inspector
Karla Stoedter said the issues have been minor.
"Well, the number of shutdowns that have occurred at Prairie Island
is more than what we would like to see," said Stoedter. "However, in
each case we have found that the plant has operated safely and continues to
operate safely and public health and safety have been maintained."
The reactors at Prairie
Island are 41 years old and have been granted a permit extension until the year
June 2, 2015
Committees Consider Banning Abortions After 20 Weeks
The Wisconsin state
Assembly and Senate health committees will hold a joint public hearing today to
consider banning all abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
Doctor Steven Leuthner,
a pediatrics and bio-ethics professor at the Medical College of Wisconsin, says
the ban could lead to more abortions early in women's pregnancies. He said that some diagnoses of major fetus problems
are not reliable by 20-weeks -- and instead of getting extra monitoring and
counseling help, a woman in that situation may simply choose to end the
pregnancy early. Leuthner also says
women in rural areas may have a hard time getting counseling and screening
services before 20-weeks
But Julaine Appling of
the Wisconsin Family Action group says other states with 20-week bans have not
seen such trends. The Guttmacher
Institute says ten states have approved 20-week bans.
The previous standard
for a baby's viability outside the womb was 22-to-24 weeks. The bill's sponsors claim that unborn babies
can feel pain after 20 weeks. The bill
does not include exceptions for rape-or-incest.
Governor Scott Walker says he'll sign the measure, regardless of whether
such an exception is included.
Development, Recreation & Education Committee Meets
The Polk County
Conservation, Development, Recreation and Education Committee will meet
Wednesday morning, June 3rd, at 9am in the County Board Room at the Government
Center in Balsam Lake. A public hearing
will be held in regard to changing a private property in the Town of Alden from
general purpose to commercial. Various
reports and an appeal from River Valley Dairy of 2014 wildlife damage will be
heard. Modifications to the Gandy-Dancer
Trail and a comprehensive revision to the county zoning ordinance will be
3 Who Died of Gunshots or Fire Near Birchwood
A woman who called
police Saturday and reported that her adult son had killed her husband and set
fire to their home in Sawyer County lost her life in the fire. Marilyn Werachowski, age 60, called sheriff’s
dispatchers at about 11am Saturday, reporting that Eric Werachowski, age 41,
shot Richard Werachowski, age 62, in the abdomen in the Town of Edgewater home
which Eric shared with them, then set fire to the house, according to chief
deputy Brigette Kornbroke. Dispatchers
then lost contact with the woman. When
deputies responded to the scene about 26 miles north of Rice Lake, they found Eric
dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound outside the residence. The bodies of his parents were found inside
the burned house. Autopsy results showed
that Marilyn died in the fire and was not shot. Richard either died from the gunshot wound or the fire. Barron County Circuit Court records state
that Eric was convicted in 2007 of operating a firearm while intoxicated.
May 29, 2015
Highway 41 Designated
Wisconsin has another
interstate highway. What was once state
Highway 41 now has another designation. The 175-mile stretch from the Illinois border north to Green Bay is now
officially Interstate 41. Wisconsin
Transportation Secretary Mark Gottlieb had the honor of uncovering the red,
white and blue I-41 shield.
development in this corridor, the Fox Cities and the southeastern part of the
state where this passes through is really important," Gottlieb said.
"And we recognize the importance of the interstate designation." Gottlieb said a $1.5 billion upgrade between
Oshkosh and Green Bay played a role in getting the interstate designation.
The I-41 signs will go
up this summer, along with other signs upping the speed limit to 70 mph.
Possible Job Cuts In Budget Proposal
More people could lose
their jobs than expected, under Governor Scott Walker's budget proposal to
reduce the D-N-R's science-and-education sectors. Walker wants to cut 30 permanent positions in
the two sectors, as part of an overall plan to cut 80 jobs in the agency. The non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau
said limited term, probationary, and project employees with the same job titles
would be laid-off first. There are 49 of those non-permanent jobs in
the D-N-R's research sector, and 41 more in the educational division. The Legislature's Joint Finance Committee
will consider the proposed job cuts today, as it makes its final revisions in
the proposed state budget. The finance
panel will also act on Walker's request to stop buying nature-and-recreation
lands in the D-N-R's Stewardship Program until at least the year 2028. Republicans have long criticized the
program's borrowing. The Walker budget would
put a moratorium on land purchases until the D-N-R's debt on previous purchases
falls to one-dollar to every eight-dollars spent during the Stewardship
Program's 26-year history. Assembly
Speaker Robin Vos has said he'd like to see a smaller restriction.
Results Of Woman Found In St. Croix River
A western Wisconsin
native was heavily intoxicated after she was found dead in the Saint Croix
River. New toxicology test results show
that Abbey Russell had a blood alcohol level of point-three-three-six -- more
than four times the minimum level for drunk driving in Wisconsin. The 24-year-old Russell disappeared April
24th. Her body was found eight days later
in the river north of Stillwater Minnesota. A medical examiner in Saint Paul Minnesota ruled that Russell died from
freshwater drowning -- foul play was not suspected -- and there were no drugs
in her system. Russell was originally
from Fall Creek. She had recently moved
to Stillwater from Florida, to live with a friend from Eau Claire. Russell worked as a server at a downtown pub
in Stillwater for about two months before she went missing.
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