Afternoon News Brief - Five alarm fire in Milwaukee's Riverwest neighborhood fueled by multiple hazards
No serious injuries were reported, but a five alarm fire has gutted a building in Milwaukee's Riverwest neighborhood. Two firefighters did have to be treated for heat exhaustion. The fire at the building which is home to Joe's East Coast Car Shop was reported a little after 9:15 a.m. Firefighters were forced to leave the building twice when the first floor became engulfed by flames. In addition to the car shop, apartments, art galleries and studios are located there. Many hazards made controlling the flames more difficult, including hydraulic fluid, gasoline, oil and oil changing pits. Dozens of people lined the streets watching the battle. Many of those living nearby brought ice and water to offer some relief to the emergency responders doing their job in mid 90 degree heat.
High temperatures are impacting the milk production of Wisconsin's dairy cows. Dairy farmers are trying to keep their herds cool in the extreme heat, but some report their production is off by 15 to 25 percent. One Cottage Grove farmer says his cows can drink up to 100 gallons of water apiece each day. When they are hot, cows eat less and that leads them to produce less milk. Food isn't a problem yet, but it could be soon in southern Wisconsin. The soil in Dane County reportedly holds moisture better than some areas, but the corn needs at least one more good amount of rainfall to make it through the next week.
The Walworth County Sheriff's office is trying to determine why a 17 year old boy was hit and killed by a train early this morning. The fatality was reported a little after 5 a.m. on the Canadian National Railway tracks between Interstate 43 and County Road "L" in the village of Mukwonago. First responders found the teenager dead at the scene, hit and killed by a southbound freight train. The victim's name is being withheld pending notification of next of kin.
Wisconsin leaders made no apologies this afternoon for luring businesses into the Badger State from Illinois even though an official in Chicago called it "mean-spirited" and "short-sighted." It was a main topic of discussion at a conference at Marquette University on ways to get Milwaukee and Chicago to work together, to better compete in the world economy. A seven county economic development group in the Milwaukee area started a campaign last year to "poach" companies from Illinois. Group leader Gale Klappa said companies move both ways across the border most notably, Milwaukee's Miller Brewing which moved its executives to Chicago after it merged with Coors in 2007. The Milwaukee group's industrial recruiter, Pat O'Brien, said competition is good. But Toni Preckwinkle, who heads the Cook County Board in Chicago, told the conference that Wisconsin's efforts to lure Illinois businesses were just plain wrong. Governor Scott Walker has publicly invited Illinois businesses to come to Wisconsin to escape tax increases in the Prairie State just over a year ago. Paul Jadin, head of the public-private Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, said the state does not have a policy to "poach" but his office will listen to any Illinois businesses interested in moving.
Wisconsin's first wolf hunt received its final approval today from state officials. The Natural Resources Board voted unanimously in Stevens Point to set a quota of 201 wolves for the initial hunting season from mid October to end of February. At a six hour public hearing, environmentalists said the quota was too high. But hunters and others said it was too low to make a real dent in the wolf population, which was estimated earlier this year at 850 statewide. DNR officials said they realized the quota was low, but they want to move cautiously in the first year of the wolf hunt. There are six zones in the state for wolf hunting, and wildlife officials said the quotas are higher in places where wolves cause the most problems by killing livestock and other animals. The governor and Legislature approved the wolf hunt earlier this year, after the federal government removed the grey wolves in the Upper Midwest from the endangered species list.
For the second time, a judge delayed the sentencing today of a former Scott Walker aide in Milwaukee County. Prosecutors have asked again that Darlene Wink's sentencing be held up, so she can keep cooperating with the district attorney's office as a John Doe probe continues. Assistant DA Bruce Landgraf told the judge that two investigations are still taking place. Wink's sentencing is now set for November 21st. Defense lawyer Peter Wolff said Wink is eager to have her case closed but she'll keep cooperating with investigators. The 61 year old Wink pleaded guilty in February to misdemeanor misconduct, for illegally helping Walker's campaign for governor on taxpayers' time in Milwaukee County. Prosecutors have promised not to seek jail or prison time in exchange for her pleas, and her continued cooperation in the Doe probe.
Wisconsin grocery prices rose by 1.6 percent from April through June. And according to the state's Farm Bureau Federation, shoppers won't notice drought related price increases until early next year. Casey Langan of the Farm Bureau says shoppers might be surprised that energy costs have a bigger impact on their grocery bills than the drought will have. But he does say that higher commodity prices will affect grocery prices in 2013. Still, Langan says the price of corn and soybeans is a minor thing, compared to the costs of processing and shipping the food to your grocery store, and eventually to your dinner table. The Farm Bureau said the price of 16 food items in two dozen Wisconsin cities was $50.32 at the end of June, up $.77 from the end of March. Ten of the 16 items cost more and the biggest price hikes were for sirloin tip roast, all purpose flour, and vegetable oil. Also, the Farm Bureau said the Wisconsin price index was about 1.2 percent less than it was nationally.
Governor Scott Walker's legal defense fund paid almost $10,000.00 to a public relations firm, in the weeks before his recall election on June fifth. Watchdogs from the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign reported the payment today. According to the report, an IRS filing showed that the Walker camp gave over $9,900.00 to the Chicago firm of APCO Worldwide. It did not say exactly what the money was used for. The expense came from a fund of around $160,000.00. Walker set up the fund for costs related to his handling of a John Doe investigation into Walker's aides when he was the Milwaukee County executive. A half dozen former aides and associates have been charged with crimes ranging from illegal campaigning to embezzlement. One of them, Darlene Wink, was due in court this afternoon for her sentencing. That's after she struck a plea deal in which she supplied information to investigators in the ongoing John Doe probe. In return, prosecutors promised to ask a judge to keep her out of jail.
Wisconsin senators elected a new president and welcomed two new members in a brief session this morning. Madison Democrat Fred Risser, the nation's longest serving legislator, was given another term as the Senate's president. It typically goes to the senior member of the party in power. And Democrats took over the majority after Racine Republican Van Wanggaard lost his recall election a month and a half ago. Democrat John Lehman was sworn in yesterday's as Wanggaard's replacement. And this morning, Supreme Court Justice Ann Walsh Bradley presided over a symbolic swearing in, as senators watched Lehman and Republican Jerry Petrowski take their oaths. Petrowski moves from the Assembly, after he won the seat that was vacated by Wausau's Pam Galloway when she resigned in March. Democrats will keep control of the Senate at least until the November elections.