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State News Roundup: Temperatures inching closer to normal

It's a little warmer than yesterday in Wisconsin. But it's still downright cold going into the first weekend of spring. Yesterday's high temperatures were 10-to-20 degrees below normal, as most places struggled to reach 30. And a few places dropped below zero overnight. Hayward was at minus-three at six this morning, and New Richmond was at two-below. But there were no severe wind chills to speak off. And in general, the southern half of Wisconsin was in the teens, while the north was in the single digits. Forecasters say it will be dry and little warmer, at least through the weekend. But daytime highs will still be in the mid-30-degree-range - up to 10 degrees colder than the norm. Light snow is expected to return Sunday to far southern Wisconsin, and Monday in the far north.

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Looking for a great small town to visit this year? Look no further than Baraboo. Smithsonian Magazine ranks the Sauk County seat at Number-Four on its list of the "20 Best Small Towns to Visit in 2013." The magazine says Baraboo offers "powerful moments of déjà vu" at Circus World Museum, antique shows, and bookstore showings of the Masterpiece Classic show "Downton Abbey." Gettysburg Pennsylvania is Number-One. Fairfield in neighboring Iowa is ranked seventh. Galena Illinois, just a few miles south of the Wisconsin border near Platteville, is Number-11.

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There's a silver lining in Wisconsin's long, snowy winter - the state's intense drought conditions are finally starting to ease up. The U-S Drought Monitor says 77-percent of the state's land area is abnormally dry or worse. That's down by seven-percent a week ago. Almost a quarter of Wisconsin is no longer in drought - mostly in eastern and south central areas, along with a small patch in the far southwest. All of Milwaukee County has finally escaped the drought, along with Madison and the Wisconsin Dells area. But 21-percent of the Badger State remains in a severe drought, in far west and northwest regions. Much of Wisconsin had snow-and-or-freezing rain on most days in March. But that's eased up for now. Clear-to-partly cloudy skies are expected statewide through most of the weekend. The Wisconsin-Illinois border could get light snow on Sunday, and lake-effect snow could return early next week close to Lake Superior in the far north.

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The Wausau Paper Corporation has announced plans to sell its specialty paper business - including its Rhinelander and Mosinee mills - to a new investment firm. K-P-S Capital Partners of New York is forming the new company. It plans to buy the division that makes Wausau's printing-and-office papers for 130-million dollars. Folks in Rhinelander and Mosinee have feared the worst over the past few months, as Wausau Paper and its future got tangled up in a power struggle with its biggest investor. But the United Steelworkers union says the K-P-S deal gives them "cautious optimism" that the two plants can move forward. They employ around 900 workers. K-P-S has also signed a letter-of-intent to buy another company that will be combined with Wausau's specialty paper operation. The Wausau sale is contingent on the purchase of that firm. Also, the new business would have to ratify collective bargaining agreements with the Steelworkers' Union - and Wausau Paper would keep its obligations to provide post-retirement benefits, including pensions. Wausau would have the option to own up to 25-percent of the new company. Wausau Paper put three of its specialty paper mills up for sale in January, during a battle by its largest investor to take control of the firm and sell everything but its tissue paper production. K-P-S would not buy Wausau's plant in Brainerd Minnesota. That plant is due to close this spring.

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