WISCONSIN NEWS ROUND-UP: Ashley Furniture denies allegations made by Madison newspaper
ARCADIA - Ashley Furniture says it's not true that it will reduce its four-thousand member workforce in half, while taking up to six-million dollars in state tax breaks.
The Wisconsin State Journal said the state's Economic Development Corporation quietly approved the tax breaks in January, as part of the company's plan to expand its headquarters. A WEDC spokesman was quoted as saying the firm needs to cut its rising health care costs, and it's considering the use of automated production equipment. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel was given a statement from Ashley saying it's not reducing its workforce -- and the numbers of job cuts listed in the approved agreement are "very conservative" projections which prevent the firm in case they economy goes south again soon. Also, Ashley took issue with the apparent assumption it would pocket the state tax breaks. It says they'll be donated to the City of Arcadia for a flood control project. Ashley Furniture said the company is in a flood-prone area -- and if nothing's done to control it, many jobs will be lost. A 2010 flood closed down the Ashley plant for a time.
A hiker missing in northwest Wisconsin has been found after a five-hour air-and-ground search. Barron County sheriff's officials said a 61-year-old woman called authorities yesterday, saying she got lost while hiking on a trail near Haugen. Deputies said the woman was nowhere near the trail when she was found -- but she was unharmed. The state DNR, the Blue Hills Mounted Search-and-Rescue team, Washburn County tracking dogs, a private plane, and Haugen and Bear Lake fire-fighters all took part in the search.
Two undisclosed targets of the John Doe probe into the state's recall elections have asked that a federal appeals court not release anything more about the case. That's after the Seventh Circuit Appellate Court in Chicago inadvertently posted four documents from the probe online. They were only up for a few hours on Friday. Media reports said they included excerpts from e-mails, showing that the Walker election campaign instructed donors to give funds to the Wisconsin Club for Growth -- and that Gogebic Taconite secretly gave the group $700,000. That donation was never made public until now. And it raised suspicions that the mining company was paying to win state approval of bills paving the way for the firm's proposed iron ore mine in Ashland and Iron counties. A mining firm official denied any "pay for play." Gov. Walker said he never asked for donations from the mining firm. He denied any wrongdoing in his relationship with the conservative Club for Growth. The unnamed parties went to court Saturday, saying the disclosure "caused real harm to real people." The John Doe probe was halted in May, pending an appeal from prosecutors. It was looking into allegations that Walker and other GOP recall candidates were illegally coordinating with the Club for Growth and other outside conservative groups on the 2011-and-'12 state Senate and gubernatorial recall elections.
Beloit Police now say a 30-year-old man turned himself in, after he allegedly killed his father overnight. Captain Bill Tyler said the younger man walked into the police station around 1:30 a.m. and said he committed a crime at his house. Police went there and saw his 58-year-old father dead. Tyler said two other people were in the house, and officers woke them up. The homicide comes a day after the Janesville Gazette wrote that Beloit was suffering through what it called "its bloodiest period in living memory." It's now eight homicides in the last four months. Before the incident early today, six-of-the-seven murder victims were killed by guns. That includes a 16-year-old boy shot in a park in Beloit, which has almost 37,000 residents along the state line with Illinois -- about ten miles south of Janesville and 20 miles north of Illinois' second-largest city, Rockford.
Top Milwaukee police officials are scheduled to meet this afternoon with protesters at a north side church. A police spokesman said the meeting will deal with ways for officers to address future demonstrations -- like the one last Friday that spilled into Milwaukee's Police Administration Building. Deputy Inspector Terrance Gordon and district captain Jukiki Jackson agreed to the meeting as a condition of getting protesters to leave police headquarters. The demonstrators have held several rallies the past couple weeks dealing with the police violence in Ferguson Missouri and the shooting of Michael Brown -- along with the deaths of several people at the hands of Milwaukee Police during the past few years.
About two dozen people showed up in Madison today to send off two same-sex couples who are participants in a federal appeals court hearing tomorrow on gay marriage. Virginia Wolf and Carol Schumacher boarded a bus to Chicago, along with Katy Heyning and Judi Trampf. They're among several same sex couples who joined the ACLU in a federal lawsuit to try and strike down Wisconsin's 2006 ban on gay marriage and civil unions. Federal Judge Barbara Crabb overturned the ban earlier this summer, and the Seventh Circuit appellate court will hear arguments tomorrow on similar laws in both Wisconsin and Indiana. Both are still being enforced while they get challenged in the Chicago appeals court -- and possibly the U.S. Supreme Court sometime down the line.
Trees and power lines fell early this morning as heavy thunderstorms went through much of Wisconsin. The National Weather Service said dozens of trees and power lines fell in both Baraboo and Lake Delton next to the Wisconsin Dells in Sauk County. Officials said a few trees fell onto houses at Lake Delton, and trees fell onto vehicles at Baraboo -- including a section of Interstate 90-94. Wisconsin Power and Light said almost 22-hundred Sauk County residents were still without power as of 1:30 this afternoon. About 130 electric customers in adjacent Columbia County were also in the dark. Almost 5,300 electric customers were still without power late this morning, after heavy thunderstorms rumbled through much of Wisconsin. As of 11:30, close to half the outages were in Sauk County -- where Wisconsin Power-and-Light crews are working to restore service. Almost 1,300 Public Service electric users were in the dark around Schofield, south of Wausau. Madison Gas-and-Electric reported its first outages of the storms this morning. Almost 230 customers were without service as the noon hour was approaching. The storms dumped small hail in parts of west-central Wisconsin. Many parts of the state had strong winds which toppled trees in parts of western, central, and northern Wisconsin. Most of the overnight storms are leaving the Badger State to the east this afternoon. It's supposed to remain sticky, with highs near 90 in the south. More thunderstorms are expected in southern areas after midnight.
Once again, you can expect to see more traffic on Wisconsin roads during the Labor Day weekend. The Triple-"A" predicts that 731,000 Badger State residents will travel at least 50-miles one-way during the holiday. That's 1.4 percent more than a year ago. And it's slightly higher than the national increase of 1.3 percent. AAA says almost 35-million Americans will hit the road this Labor Day, the highest since before the Great Recession began in earnest in late 2008. Almost 90-percent of Wisconsin travelers will head out by car. The travel period is defined as Thursday through Monday, the day before most Wisconsin schools open for the fall.
A suburban Milwaukee man claims he was insane when he allegedly voted five times in the 2012 governor's recall election -- and more than once on four other Election Days. Fifty-year-old Robert Monroe of Shorewood has pleaded innocent by reason of mental disease to 13 counts of illegal voting and registrations. A forensic psychologist will evaluate Monroe to see if he's competent to stand trial. A judge is expected to receive a report on Monroe's condition in October. Prosecutors said Monroe used addresses of relatives and a girlfriend's son vote multiple times in the Walker reclal -- twice in the last presidential election -- twice in the 2011 Supreme Court contest -- and once illegally in an August primary in 2012. He's also charged with registering to vote in more than one place, and giving false information to election officials. Monroe is due back in court July 31st for a preliminary hearing.
The Wisconsin Small Business Development Center has a new leader. The UW Extension service has announced the hiring of Bon Wikenheiser, who ran a similar center in North Dakota. She'll begin her new job next week. Wickenheiser will also head the Extension's Center for Technology Commercialization. The Wisconsin small business center provides free counseling and educational programs for entrepreneurs and other business owners throughout Wisconsin. Wikenheiser ran a network of 17 offices when she was the state director of the North Dakota Small Business Development Center. The UW Extension's Mark Lange said Wikenheiser "engaged business, government, and higher education leaders in her state" to ensure major impacts from numerous investments in the North Dakota program.