WISCONSIN NEWS BRIEFS: Two Milwaukee police officers deliver baby
MILWAUKEE - Two Milwaukee police officers were planning to ticket a speeding drive. Instead, they helped deliver a passenger’s baby.
Officers Adam Bradley and Xavier Benitez were on a downtown patrol Wednesday night, when they saw a car racing up Water Street. When they pulled it over, they saw 21-year-old Brenda Alva in labor. Benitez saw the baby coming out as he stepped up to the passenger’s window – so they called for help, grabbed plastic gloves, and handled the baby girl as she was entering the world. Minutes later, Isabella Alva was officially born. The challenge then was for the officers to get the family to Columbia-Saint Mary’s Hospital, darting as best they could through heavy traffic leaving the nearby Summerfest. Bradley says it’s something they don’t teach in the Police Academy. Both officers visited the hospital with presents yesterday, as Alva’s family looked on. Everyone’s fine. Bradley says it’s something they don’t teach in the Police Academy. Oh, and that speeding ticket? Of course, it was never written.
High water is forcing three locks on the Mississippi River to temporarily shut down at Minneapolis-Saint Paul – but no such closures are expected downstream in western Wisconsin. The Army Corps of Engineers says commercial navigation would be cut off at eight this morning in the Twin Cities area. The Corps’ George Stringham says the closures will continue until mid-to-late next week for commercial traffic – and later for recreational boats. He says there’s more room to absorb the extra water flows downstream on the Wisconsin-Minnesota border – and that’s why those locks will keep running. In southern Wisconsin, the Weather Service issued a more severe flooding forecast for the Rock and Sugar rivers in Rock and Green counties. They now predict moderate flooding instead of minor floods. In southwest Wisconsin, only two flood warnings remain on the Kickapoo River. A crest was expected today at Gays Mills, and the Kickapoo at Stueben is expected to drop back below its flood stage by tomorrow night. Also, a new flood warning was issued today for Spring Creek in Lodi.
A weather system that produced heavy thunderstorms over the last week is finally leaving Wisconsin today. The National Weather Service says an area of low pressure that hovered over the state all week will gradually move south over the next two days. There’s still a chance of more rain today – but by Sunday, all of Wisconsin is supposed to have clear skies and much cooler temperatures. Severe storms hit northern and eastern regions yesterday, with a number of trees and power lines down – plus hail of up two-and-a-half inches in Manitowoc. Elkhart Lake had 60-mile-an-hour winds. This morning, Hayward was the only Wisconsin city to report rain. The Wisconsin Public Service utility reports only a couple of people without power, after more than six-thousand customers were left in the dark yesterday morning in northeast and north central areas. State officials are still gathering damage estimates from the past week, with the possibility of seeking federal disaster aid for flood damage. Grant County in southwest Wisconsin was hit the hardest. It’s been muggy for most of the week, with highs in the 80’s in many places. The Weather Service says the frontal movement will make things at least 10 degrees cooler today. It might not hit 70 in many parts of Wisconsin today. Highs in the 70’s are projected for the weekend.
A man and a woman from Ozaukee County face numerous charges, after they allegedly entered the car of a deputy U-S Marshal and stole a rifle and other gear. 23-year-old Clifford Fiene of Port Washington is charged with five felony counts that include theft, and possessing an electronic weapon and a silencer. He’s due in court on July 10th on those counts, along with six previous charges of theft and forgery. Reports said Fiene’s 22-year-old girlfriend, Ana Radke, was also charged with theft. Online court records did not list that case as of this morning. The deputy Marshal, Zachary Kadish, is under an internal investigation – and that’s why his office could not comment on the incident. Prosecutors said Kadish’s car was parked in Saukville on June 20th, and he noticed the next day that his law enforcement items were taken. There was no word on whether the vehicle was locked at the time. Fiene was arrested the same day for previous warrants – and officials said his relatives called police after noticing that his cell phone had messages about the selling of a gun for drugs.
There’s apparently been a dramatic drop-off in the amount of timber harvested from the national forest that covers much of northern Wisconsin. Congressman Sean Duffy said on the House floor yesterday that the lumber harvested from the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest dropped from 150-million board-feet per year about a quarter century ago, to 98-million now. Duffy, a Republican from the Wausau area, says the current harvest is well below what the U.S. Forest Service suggests to keep the forest healthy and sustainable. That recommendation calls for an annual harvest of 131-million board feet. Duffy told his colleagues that the Forest Service should open up its national forests, instead of letting what he called a “noble resource” rot and burn. Duffy, a former lumberjack competitor, said more logging at the Chequamegon-Nicolet would be a big economic boost for Wisconsin. He said it could create up to four-thousand jobs, with a total economic impact of over 200-million dollars.
A 22-year veteran of the state DNR will oversee Wisconsin’s rapidly-growing frac-sand industry. Deb Dix has been named the interim lead official for handling inquiries about state frac-sand regulations and similar matters. She replaces Tom Woletz, who retired earlier this month as the DNR’s chief expert on frac-sand mining – the relatively-new phenomenon of digging for silica sand that’s used by the oil-and-gas industry to lubricate drilling equipment. Under Woletz, Wisconsin has developed over 100 frac sand mines – the most in the nation – plus 65 processing sites. Dix will be based in the DNR’s Wisconsin Rapids office, and will serve until a permanent lead official is named. She’s been with the agency since 1990, and was most recently involved in the DNR’s environmental enforcement program – including frac-sand enforcement actions. In a recent retirement interview, Woletz said no frac-sand company has ever been taken to the court by the state, but the Justice Department has several cases pending. He said Wisconsin has good frac-sand mining regulations, but the DNR can use more staffers to assure compliance.
The defense will make its case today in the trial of Rory McKellips, a former central Wisconsin girls’ high school basketball coach accused of sexually assaulting a player. Marathon County prosecutors rested their case yesterday, after more than three days of testimony. It was not immediately known whether the 56-year-old McKellips would testify in his own defense. He’s accused of having sexual contact three times in the summer of 2011 with a girl who was 15. He was coaching at Athens High School at the time. McKellips previous coached at Mosinee High School for 16 years, where he won a state Division-Two state championship. He also spent a year coaching at Wisconsin Valley Lutheran High School. In yesterday’s testimony, jurors were told that McKellips and the girl exchanged almost two-thousand text messages, and numerous phone calls – and he gave her a prepaid cell-phone after her parents expressed concerns about their repeated calls. The trial is scheduled to wrap up today, but officials say it could run into the weekend.
Want to buy a hotel? The Ramada Hotel and Convention Center in downtown Eau Claire will be auctioned off at a sheriff’s sale on Tuesday. The previous owner, S-B Hotel Management, owes more than one-point-six million dollars to its lender and Ramada Worldwide. A court-appointed operator is running the facility until it’s sold. That operator is reportedly looking into re-launching the hotel under a new name, after Ramada said it no longer wanted the downtown Eau Claire site in its chain. S-B Hotel Management tried delaying the sheriff’s sale, but a judge said the company would have to pay off its entire debt to avoid the auction.
Wisconsin cast a split vote yesterday, when the U.S. Senate passed an historic immigration reform package. Madison's Tammy Baldwin joined all 51 other Democrats in supporting the measure. Oshkosh's Ron Johnson joined 31 other Republicans in voting no. Fourteen GOP senators and two independents voted yes, as the reform bill passed 68-32. Johnson said there was a lot to like in the Senate package – including a more workable system for the 40-percent of Wisconsin dairy workers who are immigrants. In the end, Johnson said he concluded that the package would not solve the nation’s current immigration problem. He agreed with a Congressional Budget Office estimate that seven-and-a-half million more undocumented immigrants would move into the U.S. by 2033. Johnson said it would only cause more confusion and fear in the next generation of those immigrants’ families. The Senate endorsed a path to citizenship for the country’s 11-million undocumented immigrants – and it called for massive spending increases to secure the U.S. border with Mexico. Republican House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio now says his chamber will take up its own immigration package. He refused to say if anything could make him support a pathway to citizenship, but he said securing the border was a top priority.
Wisconsin’s public school superintendent will begin his second four-year term on Monday. Tony Evers will be sworn-in by Supreme Court Justice Ann Walsh Bradley during a ceremony at Madison La Follette High School. He also plans to deliver an inaugural address. Evers was re-elected in April, defeating State Assembly Republican Don Pridemore of Hartford with almost 61-percent of the vote.
A new federal indictment accuses the owner of four automotive businesses in Rhinelander of defrauding insurance companies of almost $20,000. 42-year-old John Henricks-the-Third has been charged in federal court with identity theft and three counts of mail fraud. That was after similar state charges were filed almost a month ago. Federal prosecutors said Henricks filed a false insurance claim using another person’s identity. An indictment said he also used one incident of vehicle damage to file multiple claims with different insurers. Henricks owns an auto body repair shop in Rhinelander, plus three towing businesses. The federal charges are the result of an investigation by the F-B-I and Oneida County sheriff’s deputies. Henricks also faces state charges of identity theft and three counts of making fraudulent insurance claims. He’s due in Oneida County Circuit Court Wednesday for a motion hearing on those felony charges. A preliminary hearing in the state matter is set for August 15th.
Governor Scott Walker says Wisconsin is making good progress in creating jobs, even though it’s only half the pace of what he promised before he was elected. A quarterly federal report yesterday said Wisconsin ranked 33rd among the 50 states in the growth rate of private sector jobs last year. That’s up from 44th three months earlier. The report said Wisconsin added just over 32-thousand private sector jobs last year, a one-point-four percent increase from the previous year. The national increase was two-point-three percent. In the past, the Republican Walker partially blamed the state’s slow job growth on the political turmoil from the recall effort against him. Yesterday, Walker tweeted that the 2012 job numbers reflected the recall fervor and now, quote, “We need to build off momentum.” Democratic Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca of Kenosha said he was pleased with what he called a “slight uptick.” He said Wisconsin has a long way to go to get back to the national norm, and the state’s goal should not be quote, “bringing up the rear.” In his 2010 campaign, Walker promised the state would create a quarter-million jobs by the start of 2015. Sixty-two thousand jobs were created in the first half of the term, putting Walker on pace for a total of 124,000.
Two people were injured after a chain reaction Interstate crash near Janesville that involved two military vehicles. The State Patrol said a car merged from Highway 26 onto Interstate 39-90 – and it stopped at the top of the ramp. A military Humvee hit the brakes to avoid hitting the car. A military tow truck swerved to avoid the Humvee, and it collided with a semi. The tow truck then broke through the wall of a bridge – and debris fell on Highway 26 below, damaging another vehicle. The two injured people, a man and his female passenger, were both in the tow truck that hung off the bridge overpass. They were taken to a Janesville hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. The crash happened about 11:15 yesterday morning. It tied up traffic for hours. One lane of the freeway was closed in each direction. They were expected to re-open last evening. Rock County public works officials said the tow truck put a large hole into the bridge wall – but the bridge itself did not have any structural damage.
An eight-year-old boy is hospitalized in Madison with second-degree burns from being struck by lightning. Blake Draeger was struck Wednesday night while riding a mini-bike on his great-uncle’s farm near Edgar, west of Wausau. WAOW-TV said holes were in the ground at the spot where the lightning hit. The great-uncle, Jim Draeger, said the hit occurred before it started raining. The boy’s father was working on a back-hoe on the farm when he suddenly ran to help his son. The father used CPR to revive him. Relatives said young Blake was thrown off his mini-bike – and he was knocked unconscious even though he was wearing a helmet. The family said the prospects are good that Blake will recover. They said he was in critical but stable condition at last word at the UW Burn Center in Madison. He has burns to about 15-percent of his body on his head, shoulders, and feet.
A Delta Airlines plane made an emergency landing in Milwaukee last night. Delta said the pilot noticed an indicator light flashing for a possible problem with the hydraulic system. The pilot declared an emergency as a precaution, and Delta said the plane landed without incident. It was Flight 927 from Minneapolis to Milwaukee’s Mitchell International with 160 passengers. Nobody was hurt. Officials said the Boeing M-D-90 aircraft was being inspected last night.
Wisconsin’s largest city might sue the state if Governor Scott Walker signs a budget measure which limits residency requirements for local government employees. The Milwaukee Common Council is scheduled to consider possible legal action on Tuesday. In his original budget proposal, the Republican Walker wanted to eliminate all residency ordinances statewide – including in Milwaukee, where all municipal employees are required to live within the city limits. The Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee later changed the measure, to allow cities to force police and fire personnel to live within 15 miles of the communities they serve. Walker said local employees should have the freedom to decide where they want to live. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said he feared that neighborhoods would decline if middle-class public workers left the city in droves. Also, Barrett accused Walker of paying back the Milwaukee police and fire unions who supported him in his election bids.
The Humane Society of the United States has put up a five-thousand-dollar reward for information about a person who shot a pit-bull-type dog in suburban Milwaukee. According to authorities, the person chained the dog to a cement pier at Sheridan Park in Cudahy last Saturday, and then shot the animal. The dog was taken to a veterinary emergency room – and it had to be euthanized due to the gunshot injuries.
Governor Scott Walker has received about 200 requests to veto individual items in the proposed state budget that was passed by the Legislature a week ago. Walker spokesman Tom Evenson says most of the veto requests involve the measures that have gotten the most publicity. The Associated Press says it’s still in the process of receiving all the veto requests. Walker has not said what he might veto – but the governor’s office says it might disclose some vetoes before Sunday afternoon, when Walker signs the two-year budget in Pleasant Prairie. In the meantime, minority Democrats are working to score political points by urging the Republican governor to veto some of the budget items he supports the most – like the income tax cut, the expansion of private school choice, the option to sell state-owned property, and the rejection of more federal Medicaid money under Obama-care. One of the most common requests for vetoes involves an item Walker did not propose – the return of bail bondsmen. The Wisconsin Catholic Conference is among those asking Walker to veto that. Conference director John Huebscher says the bondsmen would profit while poorer defendants would languish in jail. He wrote quote, “Our government should not enable some people to get rich at the expense of others’ freedom.”
A 19-year-old man will spend 26 years in prison for being a party to a double murder in Milwaukee that started out as a robbery. Maltese Williams must also spend six years under extended supervision once he’s no longer behind bars. Prosecutors said Williams and two others barged into a south side Milwaukee home on January 15th, looking for marijuana. Police said one of the men shot-and-killed Michael Parker and Arthur Robinson. One of the burglars said Williams was the shooter, but Williams and the third man said the defendant did not pull the trigger. He was convicted on two counts of felony murder.
A state appeals court ruled today that the Target department store chain destroyed crucial evidence in a consumer’s lawsuit in Madison. Cheryl Cody’s family filed suit in 2009, alleging that an air mattress they bought at a Madison Target store actually had a jar of roach killer in its box, which gave the family allergic reactions. According to court records, Cody returned the box to the store where they bought it, called a Target service center, and complained of the reactions. Several days after the phone call, Target allegedly destroyed the box and everything inside. A Dane County circuit judge said Target should have known the items would be potential evidence in some sort of action. The Fourth District Appellate Court in Madison ruled the same way today.
Hardly a biennium goes by without a legislator proposing the elimination of the Wisconsin Secretary-of-State and State Treasurer’s offices. This time, two newer Assembly members are taking up the cause. Freshman Republican Michael Schraa of Oshkosh and second-term Republican Tyler August of Lake Geneva say they’re drafting a constitutional amendment to abolish offices that they say cost thousands of dollars with no real responsibilities. Democrat Douglas La Follette, secretary-of-state for 34 years, calls the amendment silly. He says the governor and Legislature have hurt their quest for new businesses by transferring his old duties elsewhere, because firms don’t know where to go to seek official approvals for things like forming new corporations. Republican Kurt Schuller won the State Treasurer’s job three years ago on the promise that he’d try to abolish it – but he wanted voters to end it, not lawmakers chipping away at his duties. The Joint Finance Committee pretty much ended Schuller’s job when it used the state budget process to transfer the only program he had left – getting unclaimed property back to its rightful owners. La Follette’s only real job these days is to affix the state seal, and maintain the official acts of the Legislature and governor. Both men serve on the Board of Commissioner of Public Lands.
A third defendant was convicted today in the death of Milwaukee rap artist Emily Young. 19-year-old Ashanti McAlister was found guilty of first-degree intentional homicide. Jurors completed their deliberations this morning, after receiving the case yesterday following three days of testimony. Victor Stewart and Devin Seaberry, who struck plea deals in the case, testified against McAlister. They said McAlister and three other gang members were looking for marijuana on New Year’s Day, when they went to the home Young shared with co-defendant Billy Griffin. A scuffle followed, and Young – whose stage name was “Yung L-T” – was later shot. The murder victim was known as Evon Young before she changed genders. Griffin was found innocent of his charges last week. McAlister now joins Stewart and Seaberry in awaiting sentences. A fifth defendant, Ron Allen of Milwaukee, has a trial set for October seventh.
It’s been almost a year since 55,000 gallons of gasoline burst from a pipeline near Jackson in Washington County. Now, local residents are being told that it will be next spring before a new permanent water supply is put into place. Water from the village of Jackson is being extended to the nearby town of Jackson, to serve about 100 homes which have been using their own private wells. Almost 40 wells were contaminated with benzene from the spilled fuel. The pipeline’s owner, West Shore, paid to install carbon filters to remove contaminants from the well water until the village lines can be put in. The state DNR says it will order West Shore to also pay for the permanent water line extensions and installations. Residents will be billed directly by the village for the water they use. In exchange for the village water, town officials expect to negotiate a deal that prevents the village of Jackson from annexing property in the extended service area.
Fourth-of-July visitors to Door County will be happy to know that the Bayview Bridge on Highway 42-57 will be open again. The bridge has been closed since early March for repairs. The state D-O-T says it’s scheduled to re-open at six tomorrow morning. The sidewalk on the bridge will stay closed until July 28th so the finishing touches can be put on it. The project included an overlay, structural steel repairs, electric-and-mechanical upgrades, and painting. The price-tag was almost five-million dollars, and it was the first major repair work on the Bayview Bridge since 2004. The structure was opened in 1978.