Employee Health Insurance Costs
from Atlanta-based Segal Consulting show that Wisconsin could save
50-to-70-million dollars a year beginning in 2017. The Walker administration has considered
having the state pay its own health insurance benefits to about 240-thousand
employees and their families -- instead of buying coverage from 18 H-M-Os. The
Governor put the idea on hold last year, and called for further study after
hearing objections from the state's Association of Health Plans and the state's
largest employee union. A consultant
said Wisconsin state workers get better health benefits than those in
neighboring states. The report
recommends higher deductibles for state workers next year, higher costs for
brand-name medicines, and other changes to save about 42-million dollars for
2016. A leader of the health plans'
group, Phil Dougherty, takes issue with the notion that self-funding could be
viable in 2017. He said the current system gives state workers a choice of
plans from local providers. Dougherty
said self-funding would take away that choice, and create more risk for the
Killed Was On First Day Of Solo Patrol
Law enforcement officers
throughout the nation have expressed condolences to the family of Trevor
Casper. The 21-year-old state trooper
from Kiel, Wisconsin was in his first day of solo patrol, when he was killed in
a shootout in Fond du Lac late Tuesday. Officers around the state who never met Casper say they're taking the
loss hard -- because they know it could be them sometime. Captain Clay Schulz of the Everest Metro
police force near Wausau said the grief is something most people don't understand. In Schulz' words, "The general public
would be surprised (at) what happens when the street-lights come on at night
and (with) the types of situations we are dealt – (the) danger we are put in on
a daily basis." He says officers
are physically and mentally trained -- but they also have to prepare their
families for what could possibly happen. Funeral arrangements are pending for Casper, who died along with
suspected murderer and bank robber Steven Snyder of suburban Detroit.
Raised 28.6 Pound Cabbage
A third-grader from
Wausau has won a statewide contest for growing a cabbage that turned out to be
a whopping 28-point-six pounds. State
Agriculture Secretary Ben Brancel went to Newman Catholic Elementary School
yesterday to present Riley Olbrantz with a one-thousand-dollar
scholarship. Bonnie Plants provided over
11-thousand of its O-S Cross cabbage plants with oversized heads to third
graders around the state. Riley planted
her cabbage plant last April 14th, and she watered it every day until it was
picked on July 29th. The contest helped
raise awareness of Wisconsin's cabbage growers.
The Badger State leads the nation in producing cabbage for sauerkraut,
with 27-percent of the national total. The state harvested 29-hundred acres of fresh-market cabbage last year,
valued at over 10-million dollars.
Riley's cabbage is still being eaten by grateful folks in her
StanleyPlanning to Upgrade Wastewater Treatment
The City of Stanley in
Chippewa County, Wisconsin has requested approval from the Department of
Natural Resources to upgrade its existing wastewater treatment facility. The treatment facility has historically
performed adequately and complied with DNR discharge standards. However, the facility is more than 20 years
old and needs to be upgraded to provide the capacity needed for projected
future residential and industrial growth, and comply with new water quality
phosphorus standards. The proposed
project will be implemented in two separate phases, with the project expected
to be completed in 5 to ten years. The
treated effluent from the proposed upgraded treatment facility will continue to
be discharged to the Wolf River via the existing sewer. The estimated construction cost of the first
phase is $4,972,000. The estimated annual operation and maintenance cost is
$441,000. The city is seeking financial assistance through the USDA Rural
Development and the state's Clean Water Fund programs. A preliminary environmental assessment has
been conducted for the proposed project, and DNR has determined that completion
of an environmental impact statement will not be required.
March 25, 2015
Douglas County is
considering housing juvenile offenders in Minnesota because they are struggling
to meet standards on where minors can be held.
Douglas County Administrator Andy Lisak said the Sheriff’s Department could
contract with a juvenile detention center in Duluth. “What we’re currently doing is transporting
juveniles down to a detention center in Eau Claire,” Lisak said. Jail Administrator Robert Galovich said the
Douglas County Jail doesn’t meet regulations for housing young people, which it
needs to do in order to receive federal incentive money. It's part of an effort to get facilities to
comply with federal standards. The idea is
that separating juveniles limits exposure to threats or abuse from adult offenders. Wisconsin has 13 juvenile detention centers
but none are farther north than Eau Claire or Marathon counties.
Tree Pruning Minimizes Disease
To protect oak trees and
help prevent oak wilt, state forestry officials advise people with oak trees on
their property not to prune them from April through July. Spring and early summer pruning makes oak
trees vulnerable to oak wilt, a fatal fungal disease of oaks. Any tree damage during this time creates an
opening to expose live tree tissue and provides an opportunity for the oak wilt
fungus to invade and establish itself in the tree. "Just 15 minutes could be enough time
for beetles that are carrying oak wilt spores to land on a fresh wound and
infect your tree," said Kyoko Scanlon, DNR statewide forest
pathologist. "In general, spring
pruning of deciduous trees should be avoided.
Spring is the time when tree buds and leaves are growing, leaving the
tree's food reserves low," according to Don Kissinger, a Department of
Natural Resources urban forester. Oak
wilt is found in all but 12 Wisconsin counties.
More information about oak wilt and proper pruning techniques is
available at the DNR website, dnr-dot-w-i-dot-gov and from your U-W Extension
Rescued From Corn Bin
A man was rescued after
he became trapped in a corn bin in western Wisconsin on Monday. The Washburn County Sheriff’s Office received
a call for help around 1pm at the Frey Farm in the town of Sarona. Jim Frey was buried up to his neck in corn. He was conscious and responsive when a deputy
arrived. His legs were stuck under some
steel, which made the rescue more challenging.
Members of the Shell Lake Fire Department were able to put their corn
bin rescue training to good use. They
cut into the bin on multiple sides to remove as much corn as possible from
inside the bin. After several hours,
rescuers were able to remove Frey from the bin. He was flown to a hospital in the Twin Cities and was in good condition
considering his ordeal.
in Crime Spree
State investigators are
looking into a deadly series of crimes that ended in an exchange of gunfire in
Fond du Lac, where a state trooper and a bank robbery suspect died. A carjacked motorist was also killed, and
officials are trying to determine if a second bank hold-up was part of
yesterday's crime spree. A statement
from the Marinette County sheriff's department, comments from Sheriff Jerry
Sauve, and a late afternoon news conference by Fond du Lac and state Justice
officials provided at least a partial time-line. The State Bank of Florence in Wausaukee was
robbed about 1:40 p-m yesterday, where the robber fired a shot and nobody was
hurt. A pick-up truck was stolen at the
bank -- and it was later found abandoned nearby, still running, next to the
body of a man believed to be in his 60's.
The victim's vehicle was carjacked -- and a state trooper found it
almost 150 miles south in Fond du Lac. The officer was following the vehicle just before the shootout
occurred. The second bank hold-up was
reported late yesterday in Fond du Lac, but it was not certain if it was
connected to the other crimes. There are
no other suspects involved. The state
Justice Department is handling the investigation.
Heinz Ketchup Buys Kraft Food Group
The company that makes
Oscar Mayer hot dogs in Madison will soon be owned by the same firm which makes
the ketchup that's often poured on those wieners. The H-J Heinz company is
buying the Kraft Foods Group, which owns Oscar Mayer among numerous other
brands. The two parent firms say they'll
create the third-largest food and beverage business in North America. It was engineered by a Brazilian investment
firm that owns Heinz, along with Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway. Kraft stockholders will own 49-percent of the
merged company, and they'll get cash dividends totaling about 10-billion
dollars -- or 16.50-a-share. Both
companies' boards have approved the deal, and it still needs the blessing of
Kraft stockholders. It's expected to be
finalized in the second half of this year. Kraft also used to own Tombstone Pizza of Medford, but Nestle bought
that in 2010 -- along with Kraft's other frozen pizza products.
March 24, 2015
One of the state's
largest farm shows begins today in Oshkosh.
The Wisconsin Public Service utility is holding its 55th annual W-P-S
Farm Show through Thursday on the grounds of the Experimental Aircraft
Association. It will highlight the
latest in rural technology. Among other
things, speakers and exhibitors will feature the latest in solar electricity,
manure digesters, computer systems, and the use of drones. Organizer Rob Juneau says folks will notice a
bigger show this year, with the opening of a new 16-thousand square foot tent.
Almost 500 exhibitors will fill that tent -- as well as four hangers and the
outdoor grounds. The show normally
attracts visitors from throughout Wisconsin. Folks also travel from Canada, Minnesota, Illinois, and Michigan's Upper
To help prevent crashes
in road construction zones, Governor Walker has proclaimed this week as
"Work Zone Awareness Week" in Wisconsin.
According to the
Department of Transportation, last year there were more than 2,000 work zone
crashes in Wisconsin. A dozen people
were killed, and 800 more were injured.
The state reminds
drivers to slow down and keep an eye out for workers on the road. Additional enforcement will be patrolling
work zone areas, including by plane.
ID Law Stands
The U-S Supreme Court on
Monday decided not to hear a challenge to Wisconsin's voter ID law, allowing it
to be enforced. Attorney General Brad
Schimel says the April 7 election is too soon to enforce this law. Voters casting absentee ballots for the April
7th election will not need to show photo IDs.
Accountability Board director Kevin Kennedy says he expects there to be special
elections later this year where the IDs will be required. The next statewide election where it will be
in place is the spring primary nest February.
Guns &GPS Hearings
A Wisconsin Senate
committee will hear what people think today about letting retired and off-duty
police officers carry guns in schools.
The current law prohibits people from having guns within a-thousand feet
of school grounds. The only exception is for on-duty police officers. A bi-partisan group of lawmakers wants to add
off-duty and retired officers to that list.
The Senate judiciary panel will hold a public hearing on the measure
The committee will also
take testimony on a bill to prohibit most people from keeping track of other
persons' vehicles by putting G-P-S devices on them. Police officers could still do it -- and so
could parents, and business owners who track their company fleets. For others, it would be a criminal
misdemeanor with up to nine months in jail and a top fine of 10-thousand
dollars. The Assembly passed the bill
March 23, 2015
Voting Begins Today
Early voting begins
today for Wisconsin's spring general elections.
Voters can use the absentee process to cast their ballots at local
clerks' offices on weekdays through the end of next week. The spring elections have not attracted much
buzz statewide. The State Supreme Court
race between Justice Ann Walsh Bradley and conservative Rock County Judge James
Daley is getting more attention. There
has not been much talk lately about a constitutional amendment that could
result in Justice Shirley Abrahamson losing her long-time post as the chief
justice. Legislative Republicans rushed
an amendment onto the April ballot calling for the chief to be elected by the
justices on a regular basis, instead of being awarded by seniority. With four conservatives on the state's
highest court, Bradley and liberal advocates say Republicans should not use
constitutional amendments for political vendettas. G-O-P lawmakers say the vast majority of
states choose their chief justices through regular court balloting.
Hospital Administrator Change
The director of the
troubled Veterans Administration Medical Center in Tomah has been
reassigned. According to the Office of
Congressional and Legislative Affairs, Mario DeSanctis has been reassigned to a
position at the Great Lakes Health Care System network office. No reason was given to indicate why DeSanctis
The Tomah facility came
under scrutiny in January when reports of narcotic overprescribing practices
and retaliatory behaviors surfaced. The
hospital is under investigation by the VA, the VA Office of the Inspector
General and the Drug Enforcement Administration.
According to the Office
of Congressional and Legislative Affairs, the medical center will be under the
leadership of John Rohrer, who is currently associate medical center director
at the Madison VA Medical Center.
Wisconsin dairy cows had
a busy February. The state produced
four-point-three percent more milk last month than in February a year ago. That's about two-and-a-half times the national
increase, while California ,the nation's top producer, saw its milk output drop
by almost four-percent. The U-S-D-A said
Wisconsin made two-point-two billion pounds of milk in February -- more than
one-eighth of the nation's milk production of 16-point-two billion pounds. The national increase was one-point-seven
percent -- the same increase as the 23 major dairy states had. California made just over three-and-a-quarter
billion pounds, or about one-fifth of the national total. Wisconsin added six-thousand cows to its herd
last month, for a total of almost one-point-three million. The state's
production per cow increased by 65 pounds, to around 17-hundred-30 per animal.
March 20, 2015
Trooper Pay Remains At 2009 Level
legislature’s Joint Committee on Employee Relations voted against a 17-percent
pay raise, which the Wisconsin Law Enforcement Association had negotiated for
its state troopers with the Walker administration last year. That means roughly 360 Wisconsin State Patrol
officers will continue to work at the same pay level for which they were last
approved in June 2009. Republicans on
the joint legislative committee said the state simply cannot afford that much
of an increase right now. State Senate
Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald is looking for a three percent raise, maybe
more frequently. State Trooper
Association Vice-President Glen Jones told the committee that a number of
troopers will take jobs with other law enforcement agencies if the raise didn't
get approved and indicated that Senator Fitzgerald's three-percent suggestion
will not be accepted by the rank and file membership.
The Joint Committee on
Employee Relations did approve a one percent raise for about 700 other state
employees who are represented by the Building and Trades Construction Council
and the Wisconsin State Attorneys Association.
Law Not Blocked
Dane County Circuit
Judge William Foust rejected a request by three unions to temporarily block
Wisconsin’s new right-to-work law during a hearing on Thursday. The law will
remain in effect while the unions' lawsuit proceeds. The unions, including the Wisconsin AFL-CIO,
say the law amounts to an unconstitutional seizure of their property because it
allows workers who don't pay union dues to still receive union benefits. State attorneys say the law is constitutional
since it technically doesn't take any money out of union coffers.
March 19, 2015
Law Court Challenge
A court hearing will be
held this morning in a legal challenge to Wisconsin's new right-to-work
law. Dane County Circuit Judge William
Foust will consider a request for a temporary injunction to halt the new law
until a final decision on whether it's constitutional. The state A-F-L C-I-O and two local unions
filed suit soon after the right-to-work measure was signed into law last
week. The plaintiffs say it's an illegal
seizure of union property, because workers no longer have to pay union dues to
get the benefits those unions negotiate. State attorneys say the law does not remove anything from unions'
finances -- and challenges in other states based on similar grounds have
River Landing Host Volunteers Sought
The National Park Service
is seeking volunteers interested in serving as landing and campground hosts at
Earl Park Landing on the Namekagon River during the 2015 season. The primary responsibility of a landing host
is to greet and orient paddlers, boaters, and picnickers; answer questions, and
share safety information and rules in a cheerful and helpful manner. Volunteers will be trained and will also
perform light maintenance duties.
Volunteers must reside at the Earl Park Landing and a level parking pad
with full hook-ups is provided. Duration
of service ranges from four to 18 weeks in the period mid-May through
mid-September. For additional
information, contact Park Ranger Charlie Lundin at 715-635-8346, extension 426.
Justice Dept. Investigating More Officer Shooting Deaths
The Wisconsin governor's
office now says it is willing to add five state Justice Department staffers to
investigate the deaths of suspects by law enforcement officers. Governor Scott Walker did not include the
agency's request for three special agents and two policy analysts in his
proposed state budget. But after some
recent high-profile police shootings, Walker spokeswoman Laurel Patrick said
that the governor is willing to work with the Justice agency and the
Legislature on the matter. The budget
request was for 700-thousand dollars. Walker signed a law last April which made Wisconsin the first state to
require outside investigations into officer-involved deaths. Police departments must bring in at least two
outside investigators to examine their officer-involved deaths -- and most
police officials have made the Justice Department their agency of choice. Most recently, they've asked the state to
look into seven officer-involved incidents over a three-week period.
Supreme Court Candidates Contrast One Another
State Supreme Court
candidate James Daley says he's not running as a political partisan
candidate. But he said yesterday that he
is reaching out to those most likely to share his philosophies -- and they're
often Republicans. Daley, a Rock County
circuit judge, is running against 20-year incumbent Ann Walsh Bradley in the
April 7th Supreme Court election. He
said an in-kind contribution from the G-O-P helped gather nominating
signatures. Daley said Bradley got the
same help from Democrats -- something her campaign later denied. Bradley has made judicial independence the
centerpiece of her re-election bid, saying it's wrong for partisans to
influence the courts and erode the public's perception of a fair justice system. Daley called Bradley an activist judge, for
ruling against the Act-10 public union law, and allowing damages for those
poisoned by lead paint even if they cannot identify the companies which made
the paint. The 67-year-old Daley said he
would only serve one ten-year term if he's elected -- and he does not favor the
idea of limiting justices to a single term of 16 years.
March 18, 2015
Deadline Less Than A Month Away
The Wisconsin Department
of Revenue reminds us that the deadline for filing our income tax return is
less than a month away. Income tax
returns must be submitted or postmarked by April 15.
State tax officials
share some tips based upon the most common questions the Department receives at
this time of year. The status of your
refund can be checked online at revenue-dot-w-i-dot-gov. The best time to call for assistance is
Tuesday through Friday, especially in the afternoon. Please wait 8-to-12 weeks before calling
about your refund. Because tax
information is confidential, the Department can only discuss it with the person
who filed the return, not friends or family-members unless they have a Power of
Attorney document. If you will not meet
the April 15 deadline, then file a request for an extension from the Internal
Revenue Service; taxpayers who file an extension request with the IRS
automatically receive a state extension. Income tax forms and instructions and answers to common questions can be
Sends Education Report Requirement to Senate
It could soon be easier
to find out how many U-W students had to take courses to learn things they
should have learned in high school. The
Wisconsin Assembly passed a bill yesterday to require the state's public
university system to put out an annual report on the subject. Among other things, it would identify high
schools in which larger numbers of its graduates had to take remedial courses
in subjects like English and math. The
Assembly passed the bill on a voice vote. It now goes to the Senate.
Wisconsin Meth Use Rises
Western Wisconsin has
seen a dramatic increase in methamphetamine use. The number of meth cases seen by the state's
crime lab tripled from 2008 to 2014. The
lab processed 920 meth cases in 2014, with most of them concentrated in the
western part of the state. Officials
aren't sure what's behind the big jump in meth use. But they say the drugs come from Mexico and
are picked up in the Twin Cities before heading to western Wisconsin. The drug
scene in eastern Wisconsin is dominated by heroin from Chicago. Governments have clamped down on meth in the
past decade, passing laws to hinder homegrown production from
pseudoephedrine. But more and purer meth
has since come from Mexican cartels.
Debt Earns Double-A Rating
Kroll Bond Rating Agency
has assigned a long-term rating of AA with a stable outlook to the State of
Wisconsin’s $183 million General Obligation Refunding Bonds of 2015, Series 1
and affirmed the long-term rating of AA with a stable outlook on the State’s
outstanding General Obligation Bonds, excluding bonds backed by a letter of
credit or liquidity facility, unless otherwise noted. As of January 1, 2015, Wisconsin has $7.86
billion 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 to be strong, based on
sound budget management by the State Department of Administration (DOA) and
action taken by the administration and the Legislature to maintain balanced
Ashland Teen Pleads Guilty to Murder
An Ashland teenager
pleaded guilty to killing his custodial father in December 2013. Joseph Ackley, age 15, pleaded no contest to
charges of first-degree intentional homicide and attempted first-degree intentional
homicide Monday in Ashland County Circuit Court. Police said Ackley stabbed his custodial
father, 52-year-old William Saari, and also shot him in their Ashland home on
Dec. 16, 2013, just one day after his 14th birthday. Authorities said he also attempted to kill
Saari's wife and exchanged gunfire with officers who responded to the
scene. Police said Ackley also shot
himself in the stomach as officers were closing in; he was treated at a Duluth
hospital, but did not sustain serious injuries.
In pretrial proceedings, he was certified as an adult and ruled
competent to participate in his defense. As part of a plea agreement, prosecutors will dismiss an additional
charge of attempted first-degree intentional homicide at sentencing. Ackley is being held at the Marathon County
Juvenile Facility in Wausau. His
sentencing is scheduled for June 25.
Sends Speed Limit Increase to Senate
The state Assembly
approved a bill to increase the speed limit on certain four-lane highways on a
76-22 vote Tuesday. The bill allows the
Department of Transportation to increase speed limits to 70 mph in approved areas,
up from the current 65 mph limit. The
state's Triple-"A" opposes the increase. It says a five-mile-an-hour speed-up would
lengthen stopping distances for heavy trucks by up to 100-feet. The motor club also says semis cause a
smaller percentage of fatal crashes in Wisconsin than in Iowa and
Minnesota. The measure goes next to the
March 17, 2015
Non-Profit Ordered to Cease And Desist
After residents in the
middle of a Menomonie neighborhood raised concerns, the mayor says a cease and
desist order has been delivered to a home.
A non-profit group called Grassroots Wellness opened a home to serve those
with mental health or substance abuse issues. At the ribbon-cutting ceremony, neighbors in the residential area said
they were caught off guard and voiced concerns about safety. After speaking with the city's legal counsel,
Mayor Randy Knaack says he believes Grassroots Wellness is in violation of city
zoning ordinances. At Monday night's
Menomonie city council meeting the mayor announced that he has sent a cease and
desist order to the non-profit group. It
gives the group one week to respond or to dis-band. Funding for the home was included in Governor
Walker's mental health initiatives in the 2013 - 2015 biennial budget. The program is overseen by the Division of
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.
Legislature in Session
Both houses of the
Wisconsin Legislature go into session today.
The Assembly is scheduled to act on a bill to raise speed limits on
designated four-lane highways to 70-miles-an-hour, up from the current 65. The transportation committee in the lower
house approved the change on a 12-to-1 vote earlier this month -- but it
dropped an option for a lower speed for commercial vehicles. Meanwhile, the Senate will consider a bill that
would not give out school report cards for this spring's new statewide
achievement test. The exam is tied to
the Common Core education standards -- and with the future of those standards
at issue, many Republicans say schools should get a different test next
year. Concerns were also raised about
the way the new Badger Exam was implemented. The bill would prevent schools and teachers from being evaluated on the
state exam until 2016. Senators will
also consider bills to ban micro-beads, a key ex-foliant in soaps and
toothpaste -- and allow liquor-and-grocery stores to provide small free samples
of “hard” liquor, just like they can do now for beer-and-wine. The liquor bill also came up in the last two
legislative sessions, but did not pass.
Budget Public Hearings
The first public
hearings will be held this week on the proposed state budget -- and lawmakers
could get an earful from education leaders about an overall cut in school
aid. Republican Governor Scott Walker
proposed about the same amount of general school aid, but he eliminated a
special allocation of 150-dollars per student that was granted two years ago to
keep local property taxes in check. The
aid is due to return in two years. But
with no increase in state revenue limits, school officials say they feel a real
squeeze in their next budgets. Some
school boards have asked their legislators to restore the special aid. Other school leaders plan to
speak-their-peace at one of four public hearings, where the Joint Finance
Committee will hear people's concerns about the governor's budget package. Minority Democrats also plan their own series
of nine public hearings on the budget.
Permits Suspended in 22 Counties
The Wisconsin Department
of Natural Resources has suspended burning permits in 22 counties in the
northwestern and southern half of the state as strong winds and dry conditions
usher in what is expected to be Wisconsin's first widespread risk of high to very
high fire danger. DNR Forest Protection
Director Trent Marty said, "We have all the necessary ingredients for fire
weather. We have soil, leaf litter and
brush that is drying rapidly from winter's low snowfall and shallow frost. Add those dry conditions with strong gusty
winds, low humidity and anticipated warmer temperatures- and that's fire
weather." Residents are advised to
check with local authorities for additional burning restrictions. The DNR recommends holding off on any outdoor
burning until conditions improve. Debris
burning is Wisconsin's top cause of wildfires.
Kenosha Middle School Sportsmen
The City Council of
Kenosha, Wisconsin has honored three middle school basketball players who
defended a cheerleader with Down's syndrome from taunts during a game. Chase Vasquez, Scooter Terrien, and Miles
Rodriguez went up to opposing fans during a time-out during a basketball game
last season -- and told them to stop bad-mouthing cheerleader Desiree
Andrews. The players said they had heard
mean-spirited comments while they were on the court. The three players were honored by Kenosha
aldermen last night. The meeting also
featured a video message of praise from Lauren Potter, who plays a cheerleader
with Down's syndrome on the Fox T-V drama "Glee."
March 16, 2015
Lab Worker Charged
A former lab worker at
the Veterans Administration Hospital in Madison is facing almost two dozen
criminal charges for stealing patients' personal information to obtain credit
cards. Twenty-three year old Elizabeth
Feng of Madison was still wanted on a warrant at last word. Authorities said she used V-A hospital
records to obtain credit cards, and stole mail from her neighbors to gain
access to checking accounts. Police said
they caught wind of the scheme last spring, after Feng's boyfriend tried making
legitimate payments on parking tickets -- and he was ordered to pay in cash,
because fraudulent payments were made for previous tickets involving his
vehicle. Feng is charged with 17 felony
counts of identity theft, two misdemeanor theft counts, and two misdemeanor
charges of opening other people's mail without their approval.
Court Candidate Expresses Opinions
James Daley, who is a
candidate for the Wisconsin Supreme Court in the April 7 election, expressed
his support for Wisconsin’s Act-Ten public union limits and for the use of a
photo I-D for voting over the weekend. Both
laws have been upheld by the state's highest court, but are expansive enough to
possibly create future cases which the State Supreme Court might be asked to
handle. Daley has been critical of his
opponent, Justice Ann Walsh Bradley, for ruling against those two laws. Daley said Act-10 has saved the taxpayers
"billions" of dollars, while a lack of a voter I-D law would leave
the electoral system "wide open" for fraud and abuse. Bradley is seeking her third 10-year term on
the state's highest court. She's
considered one of two liberals on the seven-member court, but has made judicial
independence the cornerstone of her campaign. Wisconsin Supreme Court candidates generally shy away from saying how
they would rule on certain issues because it would be improper to pre-judge
cases without reviewing all the facts.
Saturday afternoon a
vehicle went through the ice on Potato Lake in Rusk County. All subjects were able to get out safely
before the vehicle submerged. The
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources was notified and arrangements will be
made to remove the vehicle. Rusk County
Sheriff Jeffery S. Wallace advises the public to be careful when going onto the
ice on the lakes and rivers as the ice has become unsafe due to warm weather.
March 13, 2015
Symphony Guest Conductor
The Red Cedar Symphony Orchestra has announced
its guest conductor for its Spring concert series entitled “Scandinavian
Treasures.” Kevin Hoeschen of the
University of Wisconsin-Superior will take the baton. He has appeared as guest conductor for the
Duluth-Superior Symphony, where he has been principal viola since 1982, and has
also directed the Duluth-Superior Youth Symphony. His music degrees are from the University of
Minnesota and he has conducted fieldwork in Ghana, West Africa, and in the
Upper Midwest, specializing in Norwegian immigrant music. He received a Fulbright grant to study at the
University of Tronheim in Norway. He
served as orchestra director for the Ashland and Superior public schools. He continues teaching music courses at
UW-Superior. The Red Cedar Symphony
Orchestra concert, “Scandinavian Treasures,” will be performed at 7pm March 28
at the Ladysmith High School Auditorium and 4pm March 29 at UW-Barron County
Fine Arts Center in Rice Lake. For
information visit redcedarsymphony-dot-org.
Taconite Mine Abandonment
The Wisconsin Department
of Natural Resources met with Gogebic Taconite yesterday to discuss the mining
company’s next steps in abandoning its proposed mine site. Gogebic Taconite has a number of things to do
at the site. There are 25 boreholes and 10 monitoring wells that will need to
be abandoned. The company also has
active stormwater permits that it would need to apply to terminate. If those applications are approved, the DNR
will then visit the site to see that vegetation has been permanently
established on the bulk sampling sites. DNR officials will meet with Gogebic Taconite officials until the company
finishes work at the site. The DNR won’t
release around $120,000 in bonds for the boreholes until work on the site is
complete and the DNR will provide another accounting of costs at the end of the
project. Gogebic Taconite has already
paid $350,000 to the DNR.
County Departments Moving
A new health care
center, called The Neighbors of Dunn County, was built on the land adjacent to
the old health care center. The vacated
building, located at 3001 US Highway 12 on the east side of Menomonie, has been
renovated to accommodate a number of county agencies that have been spread
throughout Menomonie. Many agencies for Dunn County will now be housed under
the same roof allowing easier access, more space, and the same great
service. This will include the
UW-Extension offices, including the departments of Family Living, 4-H Youth
Development, Agriculture and Natural Resources, and the Wisconsin Nutrition
Education Program. It will also include
the Dunn County Health Department, the Veternas Service Office, the Public
Works Deparment including its shop and its Parks Division office, the Human
Services and Home Health departments. The moving date is still being determined but should be completed by
Wis. Bill to End Gun-Buying Waiting Period
A bill to end
Wisconsin's 48-hour waiting period to buy handguns received its first approval
yesterday. The Senate Judiciary
Committee sent the measure to the full upper house on a 3-to-2 vote. It was not immediately determined when the
G-O-P-controlled Senate would act on it.
Racine Republican Van Wanggaard proposed the measure. He said the nearly 40-year-old waiting period
dates back to a time when it took days to conduct the necessary criminal
background checks for prospective gun buyers.
Now, those checks take just hours, and Wanggaard says law-abiding
residents shouldn't have to wait so long to obtain their weapons. Democrats call the waiting period a
cooling-off time, to prevent those who get into arguments from arming
themselves quickly as a knee-jerk reaction.
March 12, 2015
Treatment Programs in Northern Rural Wis.
People struggling with
opiate addiction in rural northern Wisconsin should have more access to
treatment by the year’s end. Wisconsin’s
Department of Health Services has been seeking providers to offer opioid treatment
programs in rural parts of the state. Last year, the Legislature approved funding for programs to treat
addiction to opiates like prescription painkillers or heroin in underserved
areas. Joyce Allen, with DHS's Division
of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, said they’ve been seeking
proposals from health care providers to offer programs that focus on individual
patients' needs.grShe said, “It will
range from behavioral counseling…to assist them in managing the symptoms of
their addiction, but it also includes the availability of various medications
that would help them overcome the cravings and help them be successful.” Allen said opiate addiction is a growing
problem with a rise in use among 18 to 25 year olds. She says they estimate
around 11 percent of young adults are using opiates like heroin. Allen said programs will be offered in or
near Douglas, Oneida and Marinette counties and receive around $680,000 each
year. She said the DHS hopes to
negotiate contracts with providers by the summer and have programs running by
the end of the year.
Double-Murder Investigation Continues
An Oneida County
prosecutor says the man found with the teen accused of killing her parents will
not face any charges in the tragedy.
Ryan Sisco was picked up in Indiana Sunday with 17-year-old Ashlee
Michael Schiek says Sisco has been cleared of any wrongdoing other than
violating his probation.
Martinson is charged in
the killings of Jennifer and Thomas Ayers, her mother and stepfather. The couple was found dead in their home
Sunday morning in the rural town of Piehl, which is east of Rhinelander.
Martinson is fighting
her return to Wisconsin. While the legal
battle plays out, the Oneida County Sheriff's Department continues its
investigation. FAt a news conference
Wednesday, Sheriff Grady Hartman did not reveal many new details from the
three-day-old investigation. He said
Thomas Ayers was shot and Jennifer Ayers was stabbed.
Martinson is also
charged with three counts of false imprisonment for locking her three younger
sisters in a room. Hartman did say that
the girls are safe and in the custody of Oneida County Social Services.ilThe sheriff's department has said it is
looking at Martinson's social media accounts and a blog she wrote. A hearing on Martinson's extradition is
scheduled for April 8th in Indiana.
Lake Garage Fire
The Pierce County
Sheriff’s office reports that there was a garage fire last night on 790th
Avenue in Spring Lake Township. The fire
was contained to the garage. The extent
of damage is unknown and the cause remains under investigation. The Spring Valley and Elmwood Fire
Departments responded to the fire.esNo
injuries were reported.
March 10, 2015
Murder Suspect Charged
A 17-year-old girl
fatally shot her mother and stepfather, locked three younger sisters in a room,
and then fled the rural Rhinelander home before being arrested in Indiana,
according to a criminal complaint filed Monday.
Ashlee Anne Rose Martinson, a junior at Rhinelander High School, was
arrested in Indiana Sunday night with a 22-year-old Wisconsin man, Ryan Daniel
Sisco, after officials put out a nationwide alert for the couple.amMartinson, accused of killing her parents,
Thomas and Jennifer Ayers, was charged late Monday in Oneida County Circuit
Court with two counts of first-degree intentional homicide and three counts of
false imprisonment. The five-page
document offers no indication of a possible motive in the killings.x8But on her blog she expressed a deep
fascination with torture and death. Many
posts also have dark, disturbing drawings signed by Martinson.
River Lock & Dam Still Closed
Thick ice on the
Mississippi River has delayed the re-opening of a lock-and-dam on the Wisconsin
border. The Army Corps of Engineers was
planning to re-open Lock-Five-"A" yesterday near Fountain City -- but
there was too much ice to open the structure. The Corps now plans to start it up no later than March 23rd. The
Fountain City lock-and-dam has been closed since December for maintenance and
renovations. Officials were not
expecting boats to move up the river this week anyway, due to heavy ice
discovered in tests over the last month on or near Lake Pepin.6)However, a burst of mild weather has moved in
-- and the mercury stayed above freezing last night at La Crosse, which is near
the affected lock-and-dam. Southern
Wisconsin could see temperatures in the low-60's today under sunny skies.
The Wisconsin Housing
and Economic Development Authority and its Foundation announce the availability
of grant funds, through the 2015 housing grant program competition. Grant funds totaling 500-thousand-dollars
will be awarded through the Persons-In-Crisis Program Fund to support the
development and improvement of housing facilities for low-income persons with special
needs. (The fund will support two
separate housing competitions, an emergency category and a permanent housing
category. Applications are due May
first.8The maximum grant available is
25-thousand-dollars and there is no minimum level. Grant awards will be announced about August
21st.6)For more information, go to
wheda-dot-com, that is w-e-d-a-dot-com.
Regulations Limit Wood-burning Stoves
A new federal regulation
limiting pollution from wood-fired appliances is generating some heat among
Wisconsin lawmakers. Wood burning is a
main source of heat for many residents, but it's also creating a haze of
concern among health officials. Anytime
you burn something it creates particles that float into the air. Data from 2011 show Wisconsin had the second
highest amount of pollution from wood stoves, furnaces and heaters out of all
The Environmental Protection Agency is
updating regulations that would limit the amount of pollution allowed from
wood-burning appliances manufactured after this year to four parts per million.
Eventually the EPA may want to lower the requirement below two parts per
million. Most wood stoves now are
between 1.5 to 4.9 parts per million.
Some Wisconsin lawmakers
are pushing a bill to prohibit the department of natural resources from
enforcing the tougher E-P-A regulations.
They worry it could dramatically increase the cost of wood-burning
stoves and furnaces, perhaps $800 or more per unit. The new E-P-A rules will be introduced over
the next 5 years.
Trails & Ice Caves Closed
The Spring season must be drawing near. Tiny Riley of Polk County Parks, Forestry,
Buildings and Solid Waste, has announced that all Polk County snowmobile trails
Yesterday the Apostle Islands Park service announced
that the Ice Caves are closed. During
the short nine day season this year, nearly 36 thousand people visited the ice
formations including 17 thousand this past weekend. The popularity of the ice caves in the last
two years has had an amazing affect on the regional economy according to the
Bayfield Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Bureau.
March 9, 2015
in Oneida County
Two people were arrested
in Indiana for the apparent murders of a man and a woman in Wisconsin's
Northwoods. Oneida County sheriff's
officials said they were called yesterday morning to a home south of Three
Lakes. Media reports said a relative,
17-year-old Ashlee Martinson, is the apparent suspect. Authorities said she was traveling with
22-year-old Ryan Sisco -- and both were apprehended after being stopped in
Boone County Indiana, northwest of Indianapolis. The public was asked to help find the
suspects, who were in a pick-up truck.
Oneida County officials said it was not immediately known how long the
two victims were dead. Their names and
ages were not immediately released.
By Coyote Hunter
The Rusk County
Sheriff's Office and Ambulance Services responded to a 911 call Saturday
afternoon in the Town of True. A male
subject was transported to Rusk County Memorial Hospital where he was
Investigation by the
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, with the Rusk County Sheriff's
Office, Wisconsin State Patrol, City of Ladysmith Police Department and the
Hawkins Fire Department, found the subject was shot by a hunter in the area
that was hunting for coyotes. Further
investigation is continuing. Names have
not been released.
Madison Police said
about 200 people attended a candlelight vigil last night to remember Tony
Robinson, the unarmed black teen shot by a white Madison officer on Friday
night. Police detoured traffic off
Williamson Street to accommodate the vigil. The city's mayor, police chief, and public school superintendent were
all in attendance. The 19-year-old
Robinson was shot-and-killed by officer Matt Kenny, who entered a home after
reports that the teen ran in and out of traffic, struck a friend, and may have
tried strangling somebody else. At last
night's vigil, Dane County Boys' and Girls' Club C-E-O Michael Johnson said
police-involved shooting deaths are a "humanitarian issue," not one
of race. About 100 protesters marched
down Williamson Street yesterday afternoon with a large banner reading
"Black Lives Matter," and signs stating "It's Not Fair,"
and "Not One More." Kenny is
on administrative leave, while the state Justice Department investigates the
shooting, which is normal procedure according to Wisconsin law.
State Supreme Court Challenger Will Hold Meetings
The co-chairs of the
Wisconsin legislature’s budget-writing Joint Committee on Finance are
announcing four public hearings on Governor Walker’s 2015-2017 budget
proposal. State Senator Alberta Darling
from River Falls and State Representative John Nygren of Marinette are
announcing these hearings. One hearing
is scheduled to be held in Rice Lake in the Fine Arts Theater at the University
of Wisconsin-Barron County campus on Monday, March 23, from 10am to 5pm. The other hearings are planned for Brillion,
Milwaukee, and Reedsburg.
March 6, 2015
rate dropped to 5-point-oh-percent, its lowest rate since August 2008, and
remains below the national rate of 5.7 percent, according to the US Bureau of
Labor Statistics. The Bureau also shows
that Wisconsin added 139,000 private sector jobs since December 2010.
There are other
indicators which help illustrate the state of Wisconsin’s economy. The Average Initial Unemployment Insurance
claims for the first 9 weeks of 2015 dropped to the lowest point since
1995. New business formations were up
6.1% in 2014 over the previous year, and the January 2015 total is running 3.2%
higher than 2014. According to Gallup's
annual rankings, Wisconsin's job market is tied for second best in the nation
with Texas and Nebraska, behind only North Dakota.
Falls Man Charged With Attempted Murder
A 23-year-old River
Falls man has been charged with first-degree attempted murder, mayhem,
strangulation and three other felonies in connection with an alleged attack on
his 19-year-old girlfriend in a motel last weekend. Benjamin E. Force was arrested at the scene,
taken to the county jail in Hudson and later charged with attempted murder.
The alleged victim was
hospitalized and released. The criminal
complaint against Force gives a long list of the woman’s visible injuries all
over her body, said to have resulted from being punched, bitten, gouged, choked,
scratched, pulled by the hair and head butted.
Force’s next court
appearance is set for March 12. His bail
is set at $100,000 cash bond.
A Wisconsin Rapids
woman, killed Wednesday after her car was rear-ended while she was stopped for
a school bus, has been identified as 56-year-old Mary Knuth. A 25-year-old Wisconsin Rapids man was cited
for following too closely behind the victim's vehicle. The crash happened late Wednesday afternoon
on the four-lane Highway 54 expressway west of Plover. Portage County sheriff's deputies said a
school bus was dropping off students on the right shoulder, and Knuth stopped
in the left lane where the truck rear-ended her. The truck driver was not hurt, and neither
were any of the students. The bus was
not involved in the collision.
Island Nuclear Plant Unusual Event Ended
Officials at the Prairie
Island nuclear generating plant near Red Wing, Minnesota have terminated a
Notification of Unusual Event. The
declaration was terminated today at 12:18am after plant officials were able to
safely enter the containment building and make visual confirmation that there
was no fire.
The event was declared
Thursday at 4:06am. Plant officials made
the declaration after an early morning fire alarm went off inside the
containment building. At no point was
there any release of radioactive materials and there was no danger to the
public or plant employees.
Plant officials will now
work to assess the conditions and make any needed repairs before the unit will
be safely brought back online.
A Notification of
Unusual Event declaration is the lowest of four emergency classifications
established by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The declaration indicates a potential
reduction in the level of safety at the plant but no threat to public
safety. The declaration’s purpose is to
have the plant’s operating staff reach a state of readiness for emergency
response if necessary.
The Prairie Island
nuclear plant is 28 miles southeast of Minneapolis-St. Paul and about six miles
northwest of Red Wing. The plant’s two
pressurized water reactors generate 1,076 megawatts of electricity. Minneapolis-based Xcel Energy owns and
operates the plant.
Change & Fishing Shack Removal
This is the weekend for
changes. The time change affects
everyone: we should turn our clocks ahead one hour before going to bed Saturday
Another change will affect many: the Department of
Natural Resources is reminding anglers to remove their ice houses from
Wisconsin lakes this weekend if they are below Highway 64. Those shacks located above Highway 64 have
until March 24th. Ice shacks left
unattended or with trash around it could result in fines up to $300. It is important to clean up after ourselves
for the benefit of our environment and other persons.
Many Drive Though License Suspended Or Revoked
Thousands of Wisconsin
motorists continue driving despite license revocations, suspensions and
fines. Law enforcement officials say
that a significant number of drivers simply ignore suspensions or revocations
and continue to drive. According to
Wisconsin Department of Transportation data, there were more than 114,000
convictions last year for operating while suspended, operating without a valid
license or operating after revocation.
More than half of those convictions stemmed from motorists who drove on
a suspended license. Sgt. David Lund of
the Appleton Police Department says many drivers cited for not having a valid
license also don't carry insurance.
March 5, 2015
A 56-year-old Wisconsin
Rapids woman was killed after her car was rear-ended while she stopped for a
school bus on a four-lane expressway. It
happened yesterday afternoon on Highway 54 west of Plover. Portage County sheriff's sergeant Nicki Lukas
said three children were leaving the bus on the right shoulder of the westbound
lanes, and the woman's car was stopped -- or nearly stopped -- in the left lane
when she was rear-ended. A pick-up truck
driven by a 25-year-old Wisconsin Rapids man pushed the woman's car into the
median. Lukas said bystanders and the mother
of the three children rushed to help the trapped woman. Rescuers from the Plover Fire Department
eventually extricated her. She died at a
Stevens Point hospital. The pick-up driver escaped injury, the bus was not hit,
and none of the children were hurt. The
crash remains under investigation. Lukas
says drivers need to pay attention and slow down when seeing school buses. State law requires motorists to stop when
busses are flashing their lights while dropping off or picking up children.
The Wisconsin State
Supreme Court has asked the parties in three cases stemming from a John Doe
investigation into whether Governor Scott Walker's recall campaign illegally
coordinated with conservative groups, how they want to handle oral arguments in
April given the secrecy surrounding the probe.
John Doe probes are
equivalent to secret grand jury investigations. Unnamed parties have filed two
lawsuits challenging the probe's validity. Prosecutors have filed another action
seeking to reinstate quashed subpoenas in the probe.
Yesterday the justices
sent a memo to the parties ordering them to confer and submit a brief on how
oral arguments April 17 and April 20 should be conducted, including deciding
whether all the arguments should be open to the public and whether the media
should be allowed to broadcast them.
Superior Ice Caves Reopened
The Lake Superior ice
caves near Bayfield in northern Wisconsin reopened this morning after
temporarily closing because of a winter storm.
The National Park Service feared high winds and blowing snow from this
week’s winter storm might have made the ice leading to the caves unsafe. About 12,000 people visited the ice caves
along the south shore of Lake Superior last weekend.
The park warns that an
expected warming trend could cut off access again. Highs in the 30s and 40s are
expected from Friday into next week. For
more information, call the 24-hour “Apostle Islands Ice Line” at 715-779-3397,
March 4, 2015
Drug Programs for Seniors
Wisconsin Health Services
Secretary Kitty Rhoades says no one will be booted out of the state's
Senior-Care prescription drug program under the governor's proposed
budget. Republican Scott Walker is
trying for a second time to make seniors get whatever medications they can from
Medicare Part-" (" before getting the rest from Senior-Care. Advocates for the elderly say it would force
seniors to pay higher fees under Part-"x8" Secretary Rhoades told the Legislature's
Joint Finance Committee yesterday that a cost increase would depend on a
senior's individual circumstances -- and what plan they choose under
Part-"6)" The cost concerns
are why Walker's proposed change was scrapped in 2011. Senior-Care has been in existence before the
federal Medicare drug plan came along, and Wisconsin has received waivers to
keep it going. It has about 85-thousand
The Wisconsin Department
of Natural Resources is awarding 36 grants totaling 2-point-3-million dollars
to develop management plans and improve water quality in lakes and rivers
across the state over the next three years with the help of DNR staff. Five of those grants are awarded in Polk
County, three in Barron County, and one each in Washburn, Dunn, and Saint Croix
counties. The grants are funded through
a tax on fuel used by watercraft.
In Polk County, the Bone Lake Management District is
awarded one grant of almost 3-thousand dollars and a second grant of nearly 25-thousand
dollars to update its management plan. The Church Pine-Round-and-Big-Lake District is awarded almost 3-thousand
dollars. The Big Round Lake District
will receive 3-thousand dollars for its comprehensive management plan. The Pipe and North Pipe Lakes District is
awarded nearly 23-thousand dollars for planning.
In Barron County, the Vermillion Lakes Association is
awarded 3-thousand dollars for a conference on management data sharing. The Beaver Dam Lake Management District will
receive over 24-thousand dollars for a storm-water facility.
The Deep Lake Association of Washburn County will
receive nearly 3-thousand dollars for a tributary study. The Tainter-Menomin Lake Improvement
Association of Dunn County is awarded nearly 22-thousand dollars for watershed
and lake management. The Saint Croix
County Community Development Department is awarded over 22-thousand dollars for
development of the Perch Lake management plan and to update the Bass Lake plan.
Ashley Furniture has
decided not to take state income tax credits for expanding its plants in
Whitehall and its headquarters' city of Arcadia. The State of Wisconsin agreed to give Ashley
675-thousand-dollars in tax breaks, if an eight-million dollar expansion in
Whitehall achieves its goal of adding 225 jobs by later this year. However, Ashley said yesterday it hired just
87 people -- and limited numbers of potential employees in the Whitehall area
hurt its ability to grow faster. The
company said it spent 200-thousand dollars to recruit new workers, and it did
get 256-thousand dollars in state tax breaks -- which Ashley agreed to give
It was reported last
summer that the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation would let the firm
keep the credits even if its workforce in the state was cut in half. Ashley said it was meant to protect the
company in the event of a worst-case scenario -- it had no intention to cut any
Wisconsin jobs -- and it planned to give the tax savings to the City of Arcadia
for flood control. Ashley said yesterday
it has added 350 total employees in the state over the past three years.
March 2, 2015
Two Falls From Skill
Hill Chair Lift
The mother of an eight-year-old Wisconsin boy
said a helmet saved her son from death or a serious brain injury, after he fell
25-feet from a chair lift at a ski hill. Cameron Jones of Solon Springs still suffered serious injuries that
included a broken pelvis, liver, and rib.
It happened Friday afternoon during a ski trip by home-schooled students
at Spirit Mountain in Duluth. It was the
second of two falls from chair-lifts at the ski hill on Friday. The other victim was not seriously hurt. Spirit Mountain said the two falls were
isolated incidents, and were not related.
Cameron's mother Donna Jones said Cameron would have died or a had a
traumatic brain injury had he not been wearing a helmet on the chair-lift.
Minn-Wi Income Tax
Reciprocity May Return
Wisconsin residents who work in
Minnesota could soon go back to filing just one state income tax return instead
of two. The Minnesota House Tax
Committee chairman, Greg Davids, has proposed a compromise bill. It would re-write the formula for determining
tax reciprocity, and would essentially drop the Gopher State's demand for an
additional five-million dollars a year from Wisconsin to make up for
Minnesota's loss of tax revenues under the arrangement. Wisconsin Revenue Secretary Rick Chandler,
who has balked at the extra payments, said the new discussions have "the
makings of a deal." Wisconsin and
Minnesota had income tax reciprocity for over 40 years until former Minnesota
State Governor Tim Pawlenty cut it off in 2009.
That was after Wisconsin got behind on the payments it made to balance
out the revenues both states receive without the reciprocity. Wisconsin was the paying party because more
of its residents work in Minnesota than vice versa. Former Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle held back
payments due to budget pressures. Current
Governor Scott Walker paid Minnesota back in 2011.
Milwaukee's police chief says
he'll keep focusing on repeat auto thieves
but residents need to do their part by not leaving keys in their
ignitions while unattended. It's been a
hot topic in Milwaukee, ever since 18-year-old Michael Hobbs allegedly stole an
empty S-U-V last Sunday with the keys inside, and got into a crash that killed
Bernard and Tina Hanson. Prosecutors
said Hobbs was driving at 80-miles-an-hour before he broadsided the Hansons'
vehicle at a west side Milwaukee intersection. Wisconsin had its coldest month of the winter last month, and many folks
leave their cars running unattended while warming them up on frigid
mornings. Yesterday, Milwaukee Police
Chief Ed Flynn said there were 22 vehicles reported stolen in the city last
week -- and all but two had the keys left in them. Flynn also said there needs to be more jail
space for repeat juvenile offenders, which would help his department be tough
on auto thieves. Police said Hobbs and
two other males in the stolen S-U-V were part of a vehicle theft group called
the "Cut Throat Mob."
Sheboygan Falls Farm
A 17-year-old boy was seriously
injured when he got stuck in a piece of farm equipment near Sheboygan
Falls. Sheriff's officials said the teen
was working on an auger in a silo, when he got caught in the equipment yesterday afternoon. Rescuers removed him from the auger and flew
him to Milwaukee Children's Hospital. There was no immediate word on the extent of his injuries, or his
Wausau Gang Stabbing Victim Named
Wausau Police have released the name of a
13-year-old boy killed in an apparent gang-related stabbing attack on Friday
night. Officials said Isaiah Powell was
stabbed twice in the back during a fight that broke out on a Wausau
street. According to investigators,
members of two groups argued on social media and then took their dispute to the
streets. Police said one of the
youngsters shot a B-B gun at others, and a fight broke out during which time
the stabbing occurred. A 15-year-old
suspect is in custody, and police say that youngster could make a court
appearance this week. Powell was a
student at Wausau's Horace Mann Middle School.
Officials said they've recovered the knife and the B-B gun from the
incident -- and they're asking for more information from witnesses.
February 27, 2015
UWM Ebola Researcher
A U-W Milwaukee researcher,
together with a collaborator in Georgia, will try to create a sensor in which
the deadly Ebola virus can be detected just by spitting. Junhong Chen, a mechanical and materials
engineering professor at U-W-M, is sharing a 100-thousand dollar federal grant
with Georgia Institute of Technology researcher Eva Lee. Chen says he'll try to incorporate sensor
technology that he first developed to detect water contamination. He'll try to create a sensor that can
identify seven proteins in saliva -- all of which are associated with the Ebola
virus. Chen and Lee will also develop a
modeling tool that can help medical workers make fast decisions on resources
that can prevent the spread of Ebola.
The Wisconsin state Assembly's
Labor Committee has scheduled a 10-hour hearing on Monday on the right-to-work
bill that's moving through the Legislature.
The committee announced Thursday that the hearing will begin at 10am
Monday. A Committee vote on the bill has
not yet been scheduled. The full
Assembly is expected to take up the bill later in the week, most likely on
Thursday. The State Senate passed the
right-to-work bill on Wednesday.
Republicans have a much wider majority in the Assembly, making passage there
Va Refusing Tomah
Investigation File To Senate Committee
U-S Senator Ron Johnson of
Wisconsin is threatening to subpoena the Veterans Administration if it doesn't
hand over an investigative file into the Tomah V-A Medical Center. Johnson, who chairs the Senate's homeland security
committee, is giving acting V-A Inspector General Richard Griffin until 5
o’clock this afternoon to turn over the document. The Senator said the V-A Inspector General
has repeatedly refused to cooperate with the panel. Johnson launched a committee probe into the
Tomah facility, amid reports that it was over-prescribing painkillers and
retaliating against those exposing the actions. A V-A spokeswoman said it would be against
federal law to give Johnson the records he wants, because they contain
veterans' personal medical information. She said her agency has consulted with
the Justice Department -- and it confirmed an obligation to withhold the
About 150-thousand low-income
adults in Wisconsin might have to start paying premiums to keep their
Badger-Care -- and they might have to pay more if they smoke, or engage in
other risky behaviors. The Legislative Fiscal
Bureau uncovered those proposals when it analyzed Governor Scott Walker's
two-year, 68-billion dollar budget package. It said a federal Medicaid waiver would be necessary to charge premiums
for the first time to the lowest-income childless adults on Badger-Care
Plus. The proposal did not disclose the
exact types of risky behavior that could trigger premium increases. Jon Peacock of the Wisconsin Council on
Children-and-Families says he wonders if a single person making less than
11-thousand-800-dollars a year could pay any premiums. He thinks the Obama administration would
probably not approve Walker's waiver request. Peacock said a few states like Iowa and Indiana charge premiums for
their Medicaid coverage -- but if they didn't pay, the poorest people still got
at least some care. Claire Yunker of the
state Health Services agency says the details for the waiver request are still
Gas Prices Going Up
It looks like gasoline prices are
set to rise over the next few weeks.
Every spring the price of gas rises when the transition to the “summer
blend” of gasoline occurs. But this week
saw a big price increase in the gasoline markets. Wholesalers are seeing huge increases, according
to GasBuddy. Wholesale prices have risen
10 to 27 cents per gallon across the country in addition to the price increases
at the beginning of February. It is not
helping gas prices that refineries in five states are having “operational
issues” and that there is a work stoppage by the United Steelworkers Union at 12 refineries in California, Texas,
Louisiana, Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio since February first. We can expect 10-cent increases in retail
gasoline prices for each of the next two or three weeks.
February 25, 2015
Man Killed Attacking Police
Green Bay Police
shot-and-killed a man last night, after he reportedly stabbed an officer in the
arm. Authorities said two officers were
called to an apartment building around 7:30 p-m, to check on a man who may have
been suicidal. Police captain Jeremy
Muraski said that when the two encountered the man, he produced an "edged
weapon" and stabbed one of the officers.
Both police officers then shot at the man, and he died at the
scene. The wounded officer was taken to
a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, and is expected to make a full
recovery. The state Justice Department
is investigating the officers' roles in the incident, as part of a new state
law on officer-involved shootings.
Hatcheries Will Be Upgraded
The fish hatchery in
Oneida County and the Govenor Tommy G. Thompson Hatchery in Washburn County
will receive important upgrades under plans approved by the state building
commission. The fish hatcheries,
operated by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, raise muskies,
walleye and suckers.
The Oneida County hatchery will receive
4-point-6-million dollars in improvements, including equipment to disinfect the
water supply, an egg disinfection room and new rearing ponds.
2-and-one-half-million-dollar improvements at the Tommy Thompson facility will
include a new automatic intake screen cleaning system, a new filtration system
for all incoming water and a new disinfection system for incoming water in the
building. The money also will repair
levees and settled pond areas and add a new bio-secure egg disinfection room in
the hatchery building. A truck and
equipment disinfection station will be built in an existing storage building.
Following a bidding
process, work on the projects is expected to begin in May.
February 23, 2015
Gun-Buying Waiting Period Hearing
A public hearing will be
held Thursday, February 26, on a bill to end Wisconsin's waiting period to buy
handguns. The Assembly's criminal
justice committee will hold the hearing on a measure that's winding its way
through both houses. Senate Republican
Van Wanggaard of Racine first proposed the bill a few weeks ago. He said the
state's 48-hour waiting period to buy a handgun is no longer necessary, because
background-checks are done almost instantly these days. Mental health advocates say those in emotional
distress need a cooling-off period before they should able to get a weapon, so
they're less likely to kill others or themselves. Wanggaard, a former police officer, does not
buy that line of reasoning. He said that
if somebody's thinking about violence, they'll use whatever is at their
fingertips at the time. The Law Center
to Prevent Gun Violence said Wisconsin is among ten states and Washington D-C
which have laws that set waiting periods to buy guns.
Mondovi School Superintendent
The Mondovi School
District has a new superintendent. Greg
Corning will start in the position July 1st. He is currently the principal at Wakanda Elementary School in the Menomonie
superintendent Cheryl Gullicksrud submitted her resignation last May. She was admitted to a doctoral program at
Maryland based John Hopkins University. She will stay in her position until June 30th.
Farm Accident Near Dallas
On Saturday evening,
February 21st, the Barron County Sheriff's Department was called to a farm
accident near Dallas. The Dallas Fire
Department, Dallas Ambulance, Gold Cross Ambulance and Life Link Helicopter,
and Barron County Medical Examiner's Office also assisted at the scene.roUpon arrival CPR was being performed on a
female subject who had been run over by a skid steer. All efforts to save her were attempted, but
she was pronounced deceased at the scene. The victim was Karen Haugen, age 60.
She slipped on ice as she was approaching the skid steer, and her
husband did not see her on the ground. After the investigation was completed, it was determined that this was a
very tragic accident.
Milk Production Is Up
production is off to a great start in 2015.
The U-S-D-A said the state's output rose by three-point-four percent in
January, compared to the previous year. That's a larger increase than the national jump of two-point-one
percent. The Badger State also had a huge
gain over top-milk-producer California, which saw its milk production drop by
two-point-six percent. Wisconsin cows made almost two-point-four billion pounds
in January, second to California's three-and-a-half billion.grNationally, just over 17-and-a-half billion
pounds of milk were produced last month.
Wisconsin added five-thousand cows in January, for a statewide total of
almost one-point-three million.amThe
average cow in the Badger State made 55 more pounds of milk than a year ago,
for a total of 18-hundred-80 per head.
That's a little less than the national average of 18-hundred-95 pounds
per cow. FThe U-S-D-A also announced
final production numbers for 2014.
Wisconsin had an increase of eight-tenths of one-percent, a third of the
February 20, 2015 (
Gray Wolves Are Again Protected
Gray wolves in the western Great Lakes region
are protected by federal law once more. The U-S Fish and Wildlife Service is
publishing a rule today which designates wolves in Michigan and Wisconsin as
"endangered" and those in Minnesota as "threatened."
The rule complies with a federal judge's order
of December that overruled the agency's earlier decision to revoke the
protected status of wolves and hand management authority to the states. This means sport hunting and trapping of
Great Lakes wolves is no longer permissible.
A spokesman says the agency hasn't decided
whether to appeal the court ruling. Legislation to overturn it has been
introduced in Congress.
More than 50 scientists this week signed a
letter to Congress saying wolves occupy a small fraction of their former range
and still need legal protection.
Superior Trolley Bridge Collapsed
Two contractors were hurt when a 102-year-old
trolley bridge collapsed at an industrial site in Superior. It happened yesterday afternoon at Graymont,
a plant along Superior Bay which provides lime and lime-based products.x8Plant manager Phil Marquis said the
contractors were preparing for a controlled demolition of the trolley bridge
when it collapsed. He said two workers
walked away from the collapse, and were later checked out at a hospital.6)The demolition had been planned for Sunday.
Durand Dairy Farm Suspension
One of Wisconsin's largest raw milk disease
outbreaks ever has resulted in a 30-day suspension for the dairy farm that
caused it. State officials announced the
suspension yesterday for a milk production permit at the Roland and Diana Reed
farm near Durand. Officials said they
provided unpasteurized milk to a Durand high school football team dinner last
fall, where 38 people got sick -- including many players. Some of the youngsters were
hospitalized. The potluck dinner has
been a tradition before Durand's football games. Officials said at least some of those who got
sick didn't know they were drinking raw milk -- but Diana Reed had said she
served the milk at team dinners in the past. The Agriculture Department said the farm can keep selling its milk for
cheese and butter production during the suspension.
Wisconsin Spear Fishing Season
Wisconsin's spearing season for sturgeon could
end as early as today. It began last
Saturday on Lake Winnebago and its connected up-river lakes. However, the D-N-R says spearers are close to
their limits in one-or-more of the various age-and-gender categories for
sturgeon -- a pre-historic fish that can often grow to 100-pounds or larger
before it can be harvested. D-N-R
biologist Ryan Koenigs says around two-thousand fish will be taken this
year. He said spearers have taken a
number of long-and-older sturgeon -- but they were not as heavy as in the past,
because their fattest source of food was limited. More than 13-thousand spearing licenses were
issued this year, which was a record.
State School Superintendent
The state Justice Department says it will appeal
a court ruling from yesterday, which upheld the elected state superintendent's
rule-making authority. The Fourth
District Appellate Court in Madison said it was unconstitutional to give
Governor Scott Walker the ability to approve-or-veto administrative rules from
the state superintendent, who's independently elected by the voters. In 2011, Walker and his fellow legislative
Republicans agreed to give the governor veto power over the rules that all
agencies adopt, to carry out the various laws that are passed. Walker addressed years of Republican
complaints that the rules set by bureaucrats often go beyond the intent of the
legislation. However, a 1996 State
Supreme Court decision affirmed that no other state official can have equal or
superior authority over education than the elected superintendent has. A circuit judge in Madison threw out the
governor's veto powers over the education department's rules.
February 19, 2015
Superintendent to Visit Amery & Ladysmith
State School Superintendent Tony Evers will
visit Career and Technical Education programs in Amery and Ladysmith on Friday,
February 20. Evers will be welcomed at
Amery High School at 10am and then will learn about the dual-credit agreement
that Amery has with Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College. In 2006 Amery was a pilot-school for
transcripted credit. Today students are
offered 18 courses which earn both high school and college credit.
At 10:30 on Friday morning, Evers will hear
success stories about Amery’s Career and Technical student organizations. Amery High School offers youth
apprenticeships in eight program areas. This year there are 36 students in youth apprenticeships at 14 different
At 10:45am on Friday Evers will hear of the
school’s partnerships with industry.
Then he will learn about Amery’s Career and Technical Education
graduation and personal finance requirements. Evers will conclude his visit by commenting upon his observations.
Evers will make a similar visit to
Ladysmith. These visits are conducted in
observance of “Career and Technical Education month.”
Baldwin fired Baylor
U-S Senator Tammy Baldwin has confirmed
that she fired her former deputy state director, Marquette Baylor, nearly a
month ago during the controversy over problems at Tomah's V-A Medical
Center. Meanwhile, the House Veterans'
Affairs Committee has agreed to hold a hearing in Tomah to take testimony on
the alleged over-prescriptions and other problems that reportedly led to three
patient deaths over the past several years. Four Wisconsin congressional members asked for the hearing. A date for the hearing has not been set.
Baldwin’s Washington attorney, Marc Elias,
issued a statement yesterday about Baylor's firing on January 22. The attorney said it was because "her
long-term performance on a range of issues did not meet with the senator's
expectations for effective constituent service." He confirmed that Baylor was offered a
severance package, which she rejected.
Baylor has hired her own lawyer to look into her termination. A V-A investigation last year turned up
alleged drug over-prescriptions at Tomah.
Baldwin called for investigations only after the Center for
Investigative Reporting exposed the issue.
The number of Wisconsinites who signed up
for Obama-care is 58-percent higher than a year ago. Federal health officials said yesterday that
almost 206-thousand Wisconsin residents either newly-enrolled for plans offered
by the federal purchasing exchange -- or renewed their existing coverage. The open enrollment period ended Monday for coverage that begins in March. Just over 130-thousand Badger State residents
received coverage from the Affordable Care Act in the first year of the
exchanges. They included those not
covered by private insurance, or by Badger-Care or other Medicaid programs.
Wisconsinites are waking up to their
coldest morning of the winter. It was
32-below at five o'clock in Land O'Lakes in Vilas County near the Upper
Michigan border. Fortunately for those
folks, there was no wind -- and thus, no wind chill. Rhinelander and Manitowish Waters were not as
fortunate. They had 40-below
wind-chills. Most of the Badger State
has some kind of breezes of up to 15-miles-an-hour About 30 customers of the state's
four largest electric utilities in Oconto and Shawano counties had power
outages this morning. The National
Weather Service has wind-chill advisories out until nine this morning for parts
of northwest Wisconsin -- and until noon for the rest of the state. Officials say frost-bite and hypothermia are
possible after exposure to these types of temperatures.
February 18, 2015
Monroe County K-9
The Monroe County Sheriff's
Department, headquartered in Sparta, Wisconsin, wants to re-establish a K-9
unit. A K-9 unit was started there in
1996, but was discontinued about 10 years ago, because of a lack of funding.
The sheriff's department is
currently trying to raise $40,000 which would cover costs such as a dog,
handler-training and equipment for the dog.
So far it's raised more than a $1,000.
Monroe County Sheriff Scott
Perkins said, “With the heroine epidemic in Monroe County, well actually all
over; our children are dying at a young age due to heroine overdose, and so
it's very important to get a K9 unit once again so we can help curb that.” The sheriff said a K9 unit is an invaluable
tool, because it can help find lost people, suspects and drugs.
Car Crashed into
Stopped School Bus
A Hartford, Wisconsin man was
killed yesterday, when the car he was driving rear-ended a school bus in the
Washington County town of Addison. Three
children were on the bus, along with the 54-year-old driver. A nine-year-old boy had a shoulder injury and
was taken to a hospital for treatment.
The others on the bus were not hurt. The crash happened yesterday afternoon on State Highway 83. Sheriff's deputies said the bus was stopped
to let a child out, when the car failed to stop from behind. The car driver died at the scene. His name was not immediately released. Deputies believe excessive speed and
inattentive driving were factors. The
crash remains under investigation.
Highway Patrol Pay
Wisconsin legislative leaders say
they'll reject a new contract for state troopers that includes an average pay
hike of 17-percent. The 360-member
Wisconsin Troopers Association was among the law enforcement unions exempted
from the Act-10 public employee bargaining limits. The leaders of both the Assembly and the
Senate say the Walker administration should re-negotiate the package. The two-year contract was supposed to take
effect in July of 2013, but the Legislature's Joint Committee on Employment
Relations never acted on it. Union
members ratified it about a year ago.
Troopers' Association president Glen Jones defends the 17-percent pay
hike, saying it's fair because officers have not received a raise since
2009. He also said the largest increases
would have gone to younger troopers to keep them from bolting for better pay
elsewhere. Most state employees got
one-percent raises in each of the last two years, but no pay hikes are included
for the next two years in Governor Scott Walker's proposed budget.
Highway Speed Limit Increase
A proposal to raise Wisconsin's
top speed limit to 70-miles-an-hour received little opposition yesterday at a
public hearing by the Assembly's Transportation Committee. D-O-T officials said they would most likely
increase the speed limit on rural four-lanes -- and they would test individual
highways to see which ones could best accommodate the higher speeds. Wisconsin now has a top speed limit of 65 on
rural freeways and expressways, while neighboring states are all at 70. The committee is expected to vote next month
on whether to recommend the proposal to the full Assembly.
February 17, 2015
Today is primary
election day, but there are few run-off elections in Wisconsin. Three republicans are competing in the State
Senate for District 20. Five non-partisan
candidates are vying for Jackson County Circuit Court Judge. Three non-partisan candidates are competing
for LaCrosse County Circuit Court Judge, Branch 5. Four candidates are competing for LaFayette
County Circuit Court Judge. Three
candidates are seeking the Branch 4 Sheboygan County Circuit Court Judge. There are also some local primary elections
in some localities.
in State Debt Payments
Lawmakers of both
parties were critical, after it was announced that the Walker administration
will delay 108-million dollars in state debt payments to help balance the
current budget. The non-partisan
Legislative Fiscal Bureau said the G-O-P administration will only pay the
interest on certain obligations that are scheduled in May. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel said it means
higher paybacks from taxpayers in the future, including an extra 19-million
dollars in the next budget which takes effect in July. Administration spokesman Cullen Werwie said
the delayed payment is allowed under the terms of its borrowing agreement --
and former Democratic Governor Jim Doyle did the same thing. It does not need legislative approval, but
that didn't stop Assembly Democrat Gordon Hintz of Oshkosh from accusing Walker
of borrowing from the future to pay for his tax cuts from today. Senate Republican Rob Cowles (coles) of Green
Bay called this "bad budgeting," regardless of which party is
Wrongful Death Suit Filed
Relatives of a Madison
man who died in a fire 16 months ago have filed a wrongful death suit against
Dane County. The family of Christopher
Williams said a delayed dispatching of fire-fighters contributed to his
death. They're seeking unspecified
damages, while alleging that 9-1-1 employees took almost four minutes to send
fire-fighters to the blaze. When units
got there, the 51-year-old Williams had collapsed at his front door. He died from smoke inhalation. Last year, changes were ordered at the
county's 9-1-1 call center to shorten the response times for emergency crews.
Gov’t Musical Chairs
Governor Scott Walker
yesterday changed the head of his administration and brought back a couple of
familiar names to state government.
Scott Neitzel (night-zel) is the new administration secretary, replacing
Mike Huebsch (hibsh) -- who held the post since Walker first became governor in
2011. Neitzel comes into State
Government from Madison Gas-and-Electric, where he was a senior vice president. Huebsch moves over to the utility-regulating
Public Service Commission, replacing Eric Callisto whose term is about to
end. Commissioner Ellen Nowak will chair
the P-S-C starting March first. Current chair Phil Montgomery becomes a regular
commissioner. Bob Seitz (sights) comes
in as Nowak's top aide. He used to be
with the state D-N-R, and was most recently a lobbyist for Gogebic Taconite as
it tries to open a new iron ore mine in northern Wisconsin. Also, former state treasurer, revenue
secretary, and Assembly member Cate Zeuske (zy'-skee) returns to state government
as Neitzel's deputy administration secretary. Tricia Braun gets a promotion in the Wisconsin Economic Development
Corporation as its new chief operating officer.
And G-O-P strategist Brian Schimming becomes the new C-O-O of the
state's Housing and Economic Development Authority, which Walker wants to merge
with the W-E-D-C.
Medicaid Funds Proposed Again
again are asking Governor Scott Walker to accept federal Medicaid funds from
Obama-care. They are requesting a
smaller amount than Walker rejected two years ago. A State Assemblyman and a Senator unveiled a
plan yesterday to seek a partial Medicaid expansion. It could cover many of the 77-thousand
childless adults above the poverty line who lost their Badger-Care last year,
many of whom were expected to apply for Obama-care and did not. One of the proponents said the Democrats' new
plan would generate 240-million dollars to off-set other cuts in the new state
budget the Republican Walker proposed two weeks ago. Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos
opposes the Democratic plan, saying Wisconsin has found a "good middle
ground" on Badger-Care. He referred
to Walker's plan from two years ago to give thousands of impoverished mothers
and children the state-funded care they had never received before.