WISCONSIN NEWS BRIEFS: Panel votes down proposed frac-sand mine
PRAIRIE DU CHIEN - A regional panel has said no to a frac-sand mine in a scenic part of southwest Wisconsin. After two hours of testimony and debate, the Lower Wisconsin State Riverway Board voted 6-2 in Prairie du Chien last night to reject a mining application from the Pattison Sand Company of Iowa.
Other agencies previously approved permits for the frac-sand mine in the Crawford County town of Bridgeport. The Riverway Board had the final say. Edie Ehlert of the Crawford Stewardship Project said the silica-sand mining would have taken away from the scenic beauty of the nearby Wisconsin River. The board's executive director, Mark Cupp, said he advised the panel to approve the new mine. He said the applicants appeared to meet visibility standards from the river. Cupp was also among those who believed the board had no choice but to approve the application, due to a loophole in state law. Local farmer Rod Marfilius supported the project on his property. He said his farm would have been left with better and more tillable land once the mining was completed and the site was cleaned up. The Stewardship Project and neighbors to the proposed mine filed suit this week to toss out two permits granted earlier by the Town Board. They alleged that two members had a conflict of interest by having relatives connected with the project. The lawsuit also accused the town of violating its zoning ordinances, by not considering potential negative effects from the sand mining.
The Coast Guard saved a 48-year-old woman who was suffering a heart attack on one of the remote Apostle Islands in Lake Superior off Bayfield. The Coast Guard did not identify the woman. They said she was on Stockton Island yesterday when her heart gave out – and her daughter waved at a nearby boater to ask for help. The man called the Coast Guard, which arranged for a rescue unit from Upper Michigan to respond. They treated the woman on the island, and then took her to a hospital. Her condition was not immediately reported.
A northwest Wisconsin man missing since Monday was found dead three days later where his motorcycle had crashed. Douglas County authorities said 38-year-old Brian Androski of the town of Superior apparently rode his bike off Highway 35 and was thrown from the unit. Deputies found Androski’s body yesterday morning near the fallen motorcycle. Sheriff’s officials said Androski was reported missing after he went for a ride Monday evening and never returned like he promised.
With school starting in a few days, at least some Wisconsin districts are putting the finishing touches on new security measures. The La Crosse school system is completing work on surveillance cameras, a video intercom system, a card-access control system that locks all exits during school hours. Many officials say they’ve never forgotten security lessons from the Newtown and Columbine school shootings of recent years. La Crosse school grounds manager Jason Showen tells WKBT-TV that his district is taking preventive steps – and he hopes students don’t realize the measures are in place, so they can pay more attention to getting a good education.
Authorities in Price County are investigating a death in Park Falls. Police say a body was discovered last night on Second Avenue. Authorities are not releasing many details, but they did search two homes and two vehicles for possible clues. Police Chief Scott Straetz says the situation is no longer a safety issue for residents there and that an investigation is ongoing.
A 60-year-old woman killed in an expressway crash in east-central Wisconsin was identified today as Mary Sawiki of Tigerton. She was flown to a hospital after the accident, and officials said she died from her injuries. Shawano County authorities said Sawiki’s vehicle was turning left onto Highway 29 from County Trunk “J” yesterday afternoon, and she was hit by a vehicle coming from her right. That driver, a 42-year-old Tigerton woman, was taken to a hospital with undisclosed injuries. Meanwhile, a man killed in Kenosha County after his SUV struck a utility pole was identified today as 27-year-old Anthony Giles of Kenosha. Authorities said the SUV left a wet road in the town of Somers late yesterday morning before striking the power pole. Investigators said alcohol was not an apparent factor.
A nonprofit group in Wisconsin is launching a statewide health information system – where hospitals, doctors, clinics and nursing homes can exchange patient information with ease. Wisconsin Statewide Health Information Network CEO Joe Kachelski says the database will help physicians have as much information about a patient to make critical decisions. Kachelski says there could be an instance where a patient comes to the emergency room and is unable to talk, so the database is there to assist those ER doctors. A majority of the health care systems have agreed to join the information exchange system. Patients do have a choice of whether or not to have their medical records sent to the network.
The man who went on a shooting rampage at Fort Hood Texas in 2009 was found guilty early this afternoon on 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted murder. Major Nidal Hasan is eligible for the death penalty, after a military jury unanimously convicted him for killing Wisconsin soldiers Amy Krueger of Kiel and Russell Saeger of Mount Pleasant, along with 11 others – and wounding six Wisconsinites among the 32 injured. A 13-member panel of high-ranking officers deliberated for seven hours before convicting Hasan. Next is a sentencing phase which could take up to two days. If he gets the death penalty, he would be the first offender the military puts to death in over 50 years. Hasan, who’s 42, acted as his own lawyer during the trial. He did not present any witnesses, and he did not give jurors a closing argument. Hasan had said earlier that he sided against the U.S. in what he called an American war against Islam. The military brought in 90 witnesses against Hasan. Prosecutors plan to bring in 16 more witnesses during the sentencing phase. Prosecutor Steve Henricks told jurors that Hasan turned Fort Hood into his “personal kill zone” on November 5th of ’09. A police officer ended the rampage, leaving Hasan paralyzed from the chest down. The Wisconsin victims were training to go to Afghanistan. They were part of a Madison unit that helped other soldiers deal with stress and personal problems while in the Middle East.
U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin is leading an effort to reject proposed cuts in federal reimbursements to rural hospitals that treat Medicare patients. Baldwin, a Wisconsin Democrat from Madison, joined 19 other senators in urging the Senate finance panel not to go ahead with cuts to critical access hospitals. Those facilities get higher Medicare reimbursements than most, because they serve rural patients with few other health care options. The Obama White House has proposed removing the critical access designation from any hospital that’s located within 10 miles of another hospital. Baldwin says at least eight facilities in Wisconsin, and 71 throughout the country, would lose their critical access status and get smaller reimbursements to treat Medicare recipients. Baldwin says the cuts would quote, “compromise access to health care, and weaken rural economies in Wisconsin and across the country.”
A possible Democratic candidate for governor next year has reportedly made almost seven-million dollars in the last five years. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel says retired Trek Bicycle executive Mary Burke paid almost $517,000 in state income taxes since 2008 – and the paper estimated her adjusted gross income at six-point-eight million dollars and possibly more. Burke told the Journal-Sentinel she shouldn’t be judged by her money – and those who know her best believe that what she gives defines her a lot better than what she has. Burke remains a large shareholder in Trek. State Republican Party director Joe Fadness said Burke spent $128,000 to win her current seat on the Madison School Board, and she’s given $229,000 to Democratic candidates. As a result, Fadness says Burke is out of touch with everyday Wisconsinites who are quote, “working to put food on the table.” Reports indicate that Burke will decide by the end of September if she’ll run against Republican Governor Scott Walker next year. Winnebago County Executive Mark Harris is also a potential Democratic candidate. There’s also talk that state Senate Democrat Kathleen Vinehout of Alma is considering a second bid for governor in 2014.
An independent review team from Fox Valley Technical College will examine Outagamie County’s response to five recent tornadoes that caused over $30-million in damage. County attorney Joe Guidote says the school has the expertise to help officials assess their response, and suggest improvements for the future. Six tornadoes touched down in northeast Wisconsin early on August seventh. Five of those went down in Outagamie County, including part of Appleton. County emergency officials have been criticized for not sounding outdoor warning sirens before the storms hit. Emergency Management director Julie Loeffelholz said a tower that controls the sirens lost power before she could order that the system be activated.
Three people are charged in federal court with bringing a 14-year-old girl from Milwaukee to the Twin Cities, and forcing her into prostitution. The victim told police in Bloomington, Minnesota she spent a week working from a motel as a prostitute, after being taken there from Milwaukee by two people. Those suspects – 23-year-old Brandon Gilmore and 19-year-old Dominique McKee – were arrested along with 20-year-old Angelica Carter. They all face up to 30 years in prison if convicted.
Six criminal charges have been filed against a disgruntled former employee of the De Pere School District, for allegedly destroying school computer records. 30-year-old Jared Carlson of Green Bay was let go from an information technology job last December. Prosecutors said he deleted many of De Pere’s school records for the past year, because he did not get a full year’s pay in the severance package he was given. The breach did not affect student grades. It did wipe out a range of information that included lesson plans, term papers, and athletic records. About 50 computer servers were cleaned out. Brown County District Attorney David Lasee said Carlson had a malicious intent to delete De Pere school records for personal reasons. He’s a graduate of the De Pere system. The charged with two counts of illegally accessing computer data, two charges of destroying data and equipment, and two counts of identity theft. Online court records did not say when he would make his first court appearance.