WISCONSIN NEWS ROUND-UP: Cornell couple found safe in Montana
KALISPELL, Mont. - A northwest Wisconsin couple is safe-and-sound, after being missing for six days in the area of Yellowstone National Park.
KAJ-TV in Kalispell, Montana said Mark-and-Kristine Wathke of Cornell were found by a rancher around 8:30 this morning. The station said their vehicle got stuck in heavy snow -- and they had enough fuel over the past six days to occasionally start their car and keep it warm. Sheriff's officials said the Wathkes had food on them, and they did not require medical attention. Their vehicle was discovered on the Beartooth Highway near Long Lake. Earlier, it was reported that the couple told relatives last Tuesday they were expected to be home the following day -- but some time after that, their car got stuck. Earlier reports said the Wathkes had hotel reservations last Tuesday night in Miles City, Montana, but they never showed up there.
A group of frac-sand miners says local governments are overreacting against a proposed bill to let the state take over much of the companies' regulations. Rich Budinger of the Wisconsin Industrial Sand Association tells the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram his group is not asking for a decrease in government rules -- but it does want rules which are more consistent across the state. The bill would nullify a State Supreme Court ruling which gave local towns the ability to use their police powers to set things like hours of operation and blasting. Budinger says the state Safety and Professional Services agency already regulates blasting -- and towns still have lots of power through zoning and county reclamation permits. The bill's chief sponsor, Hazelhurst Republican state Senator Tom Tiffany, has said that frac-sand companies find it very hard to deal with a hodge-podge of local rules -- and many are more stringent than they need to be. The bill was on a fast-track in the Senate this month until Tiffany said he wanted to review concerns that have been raised. He now expects it to get a vote early next year. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Burlington) had already delayed consideration of the bill in his house until next spring, so all the possible effects can have time to be explored.
A town board in central Wisconsin is scheduled tonight to consider naming a temporary town clerk. That's after the elected clerk was arrested last week for alleged embezzlement. The Adams County sheriff said it might be awhile before Rome Town Clerk Deena Griffin can face charges his department is seeking -- theft, forgery, and misconduct in public office. The Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune dug up court records showing that Griffin had altered a $610 personal utility bill, marked it to make look like the town police force approved the payment, and then issued a town check that she reportedly cashed. Records showed that the town board found the discrepancy and sought an investigation. This evening, the board says it will consider candidates for what it calls a quote, "temporary town clerk, based on the temporary unavailability of the elected clerk." Griffin, the elected clerk, cannot legally be removed from office except by a judge or by the voters in a recall election.
Wisconsin's largest city is starting to come to grips with another major road-building project. Preparations are beginning today for improvements on Milwaukee's Hoan Bridge. It carries traffic along Interstate-794 from downtown Milwaukee to the south side and the suburbs beyond. The early work involves temporary cross-overs, new ramps, and improvements at intersections just off the bridge. The core of the project includes new bridge decks, cleaning-and-fixing steel girders, and painting. Folks expect more traffic tie-ups and long delays at times -- but that's nothing new in recent years. The city's Marquette and Zoo freeway interchanges have both have major repair work -- and work continues on improving Interstate-94 from Milwaukee southward to the Illinois line.
Residents of a town next to Stevens Point have had a water shortage for a month -- and at least some town officials blame a relatively-new city well. John Holdrige, the town of Hull's chairman, says Stevens Point has an obligation to investigate whether a city well installed last year caused almost 70 town residents to have problems with their private wells. The Stevens Point Journal says the problems are so severe that Hull residents sometimes cannot wash dishes, take showers, or do their wash. Holdrige asked Point Mayor Andrew Halvorsen to investigate. He says it's a huge issue, because around a-third of Portage County residents have their own well water. City utilities director Joel Lemke said he needs more information about what's happening. He said the city's monitoring showed that water levels had stayed within a few feet of previous levels, after the city's well began pumping. Hull town officials said 33 of their residents have replaced their private wells, and 34 others were still having problems at last word.
A Milwaukee-based internet security firm says a limousine software firm was hacked, exposing credit card numbers and information of nearly a million customers. Chief information security officer Alex Holden with Hold Security says the breach was discovered over a month ago. Information on several celebrities, sports stars and lawmakers were also exposed, according to reports. The breached company is Corporatecaronline, based in Missouri. The FBI is now investigating the case.
One of the first members of Wisconsin's Government Accountability Board had his latest nomination pulled, two years after the Senate never confirmed it. The Associated Press said the governor's office provided a memo of an October 24th letter that withdrew his nomination of David Deininger. He was one of the six retired judges who were originally named to the panel that replaced the former state Elections-and-Ethics boards five years ago. Deininger had also served as a GOP state Assembly member from far south-central Wisconsin. Republican Governor Scott Walker re-appointed Deininger in 2011 for a term that was supposed to end in 2016 -- but the Republican-controlled state Senate never confirmed him, and Deininger chaired the accountability board during Walker's recall election process around a year-and-a-half ago. Today, Walker asked the Senate to confirm former GOP congressman and Outagamie County judge Harold Froehlich. The 81-year-old Froehlich had been a judge for 30 years.
A Milwaukee man and woman are accused of forcing a woman into prostitution and raping her. Police say 40-year-old Michael Brown and 38-year-old Charlene Aitkin used a gun to force the victim into an online prostitution ring on August 19. The victim was able to text her boyfriend about being held against her will and was rescued by police. Brown has been charged with human trafficking, false imprisonment and first-degree sexual assault… Aitkin also faces human trafficking charges. The two also face robbery charges in a separate case.
Wisconsin's photo ID voting law could stay on trial for the next two weeks. Federal Judge Lynn Adelman of Milwaukee heard opening arguments today in two consolidated legal challenges to the 2011 ID law. Attorney John Ulm -- representing the ACLU among other plaintiffs -- said the law quote, "intended to prevent people from voting." He said voter fraud is not a problem, like state Republicans claim it is. Ulin also said he prove that minorities are less likely to have ID's, and the documents needed to get them. Among the plaintiffs is a now-deceased 77-year-old Brookfield woman who reportedly never received a birth certificate, and whose daughter was said to have fought the state for months before getting an acceptable ID for her mother. Assistant attorney general Clayton Kawski told the judge that the state has a quote, "legitimate and important interest" in preventing voter fraud. He said a law that protects the integrity of elections should not be invalidated -- even if there are people who lack I-D's. Kawski also said the state Motor Vehicle division has granted exceptions to its rules, to accommodate voters who've have a hard time getting ID's in what he called unique circumstances.
The numbers of babies killed by unsafe sleeping conditions in Milwaukee County has risen to 14. The medical examiner's office said today that two-month-old Isnino Muktar Salat died late Friday morning in a co-sleeping incident. Milwaukee fire investigators say the baby was wrapped in a blanket when they arrived. Relatives said the young Salat girl was sleeping with her mother on a couch. An autopsy Saturday did not uncover any signs of trauma.
A panel in Verona will be asked tonight to approve a famous-looking expansion for the electronic medical records company Epic Systems. Media reports say the company's fourth campus would have castle-like buildings and steeples which look like the Hogwarts school in the Harry Potter movies. Chief administration officer Stephen Dickmann has told Verona officials the expansion would look like structure in the British cities of Oxford and Cambridge. The new campus would have five buildings, with a total of around 1,600 offices. Verona's Plan Commission is scheduled to act on the request. Epic Systems has about 6,800 employees in Verona and Madison.
A seven-year-old Fox Valley boy is back at school for the first time in three years. Charlie Knuth of Darboy also trick-or-treated last week for the first time since 2008. Appleton Post-Crescent Media said Charlie's immune system is almost fully recovered, after he suffered a rare skin disease called Epider-molysis Bullosa, or E-B. Charlie's skin became very fragile due to a lack of protein between the skin layers. State Medicaid officials refused to pay for his initial operation in 2010, calling it an experimental treatment. But the state changed its mind after hearing from numerous people and officials which included former Congressman Steve Kagen. His treatments included two stem cell transplants in Minneapolis. The Post-Crescent says Charlie's entire blood and immune systems have been donated -- along with his marrow. His family says he still lives in pain all the time, but it's not nearly as bad as before his transplants.