WISCONSIN NEWS ROUND-UP: DNR to use discretion on removing ice shanties from state waters
LA CROSSE - The state DNR said today it promises to use discretion in enforcing rules that require ice-fishers to remove their shanties from Wisconsin lakes.
Some folks are finding the task impossible, considering the massive cold-and-ice this winter. The deadline was last Thursday to remove shanties from waters at the state's border with Iowa. Tomorrow is the deadline to remove ice houses on the boundary waters with Minnesota. Folks in the La Crosse area wonder how that will happen, with ice still up to 30-inches deep on Lake Onalaska. Chief DNR Warden Todd Schaller tells the La Crosse Tribune they'll grant discretion -- but only to those who call the DNR and say they cannot possibly remove their structures. Local bait shop owner Tony Christnovich says some anglers use wooden blocks to keep the structures from sticking on the ice. But many don't bother, and Christnovich says metal runners can melt-and-freeze in the ice as the weather changes. Long-time angler Harold Lynch wonders why the DNR cannot just extend the deadlines. Schaller says an administrative rule would have to be changed, and that's a long process.
A new state Senate bill would give communities more of a say over the disability benefits for their police, fire, and rescue personnel. That's after the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel found that at least five Milwaukee police officers had duty disability benefits approved while they were under disciplinary investigations. Some of the cases ended with discipline while others didn't -- and the five officers received $948,000 in disability pay as of last summer. Senate Republican Glenn Grothman of West Bend says he's heard of other such problems around the state -- and he hopes his bill would address some of the more egregious ones. Emergency personnel still have collective bargaining privileges under the state's Act-10. Grothman's bill would allow officials to have more control over things like eligibility rules for duty-disability. With just over a month to go in the current session, Grothman admits he's being late with this -- but he still plans to give it a hearing in the Senate's labor committee which he chairs.
A week-long trial is scheduled to begin June 16th for a Sheboygan high school student who allegedly killed his father and hid the body in their apartment. Dorian Torres, who turned 18 this month, has pleaded innocent to a first-degree intentional homicide charge. A status conference in the case is set for April 24th in Sheboygan County Circuit Court. The defense wanted Torres' 750-thousand-dollar bond reduced, but a judge said no to that. Torres was 17 when he allegedly beat his 41-year-old father Emilio in January. Authorities said the body was wrapped in two blankets, a shower curtain, and part of a tent -- and was then placed under a bed's box spring. Officials said the father might have been dead for a week before his body was found.
A man killed in an industrial accident in Fond du Lac County was identified today as 42-year-old Anthony Shields of West Bend. Authorities said he became entangled in a piece of industrial equipment late yesterday at the Seneca Foods corn-processing plant in Oakfield. The incident remains under investigation. Sheriff's officials said autopsy results were not expected until early next week. Shields was on the company's maintenance staff.
The head of a well-known Wisconsin law firm entered into a deferred prosecution agreement today, after admitting that he beat his wife with a cane. Dane County Circuit Judge William Hanrahan allowed Daniel Rottier to take part in a program for first-time domestic violence offenders. The 62-year-old Rottier pleaded guilty to misdemeanor battery. The conviction was put on hold while he works to meet various conditions of a nine-month program. If he completes it successfully, the charge will be dropped. If not, he gets nine months in jail. Rottier is the president of the personal injury law firm of Habush, Habush, and Rottier. Prosecutors said he returned home drunk on February seventh, after taking his children to a movie -- and he struck his wife in the back with his cane as she tried turning away. Media reports said Rottier blamed his drinking on his fight against a life-threatening cancer.
A new type of pollution control system at a coal-fired power plant near Wausau will cost about 25-percent more than originally planned. The head of the Wisconsin Public Service utility's parent company said the scale of the project at the Weston-Three plant was expanded after state officials had approved it. As a result, the projected cost is now $345-million -- up from the $275-million that the state Public Service Commission had approved. The new pollution control technology is called "Re-ACT." It's designed to clean up sulfur, mercury, and nitrous dioxides from the coal-burning process. The utility hopes to sell the by-product of the sulfuric acid to vendors for use in batteries, fertilizers, and food production. Charles Schrock of the Integrys Energy Group told investment analysts said more pollutants would be collected as a result of the higher price-tag. He said engineering-and-design costs had risen as well. He said the utility says the new system still provides the least expensive alternative to its customers for meeting pollution limits. The new system is expected to be in place in 2016.
One of the nation's largest organic farming conventions is being held in La Crosse. The Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service is hosting the three-day gathering, which began yesterday. About 34-hundred organic farmers, researchers, and others are attending. Today, North Dakota brothers David and Dan Podell and their wives were named as the group's farmers-of-the-year. They were recognized for a solid national reputation as experts in preserving seeds. Education group director Faye Jones praised the Podolls' stewardship of soil, water, and other natural resources while supporting diversity in their crops.
A lot more than tundra is frozen in Green Bay. The National Weather Service said today was the 49th day this winter that temperatures fell below zero at the home of Lambeau Field's "Frozen Tundra." The previous record for Green Bay was 48 sub-zero days, set in the winter of 1976-and-'77. Meanwhile, an Alberta Clipper is about to bring some snow into most of Wisconsin. Northern and central Wisconsin can expect 1-to-4 inches this afternoon into tonight, and perhaps another inch tomorrow. Three-to-five inches are forecast in Door County. The southern half of Wisconsin could get the most snow -- 2-to-6 inches in the southwest, and 2-to-5 inches through tomorrow in the rest of the south. Highs are expected to be in the teens for the most part, with colder temperatures due in Sunday after the snow leaves.
Arnold Schwarzenegger quietly slipped in-and-out of Oshkosh yesterday, where he test-drove military vehicles made at the Oshkosh Corporation. Company spokesman John Daggett tells the Oshkosh Northwestern that the "Terminator" toured the main plant, and took a 13-ton mine-resistant ATV for a ride on a test course. Daggett said Schwarzenegger became acquainted with Oshkosh military vehicles when the firm entered a concept unit in a race across the Mexican desert a few years ago. Schwarzenegger, a former California governor, could not have bought one of the vehicles he saw yesterday. Daggett said the design is the property of the Defense Department -- and the company cannot sell the military products to private persons or businesses.
The American Civil Liberties Union has asked a federal judge to temporarily halt Wisconsin's ban on gay marriage, while the group challenges the ban in court. Madison Judge Barbara Crabb will hold a hearing on the request March 27th. The ACLU filed the lawsuit February third, with four same-sex couples listed as the plaintiffs. The group says it's entitled to a preliminary injunction, claiming it will probably win the lawsuit. The plaintiffs also said Wisconsin's gay marriage ban poses irreparable harm on same-sex couples. The state Justice Department is defending the lawsuit. It does not plan to disclose its response until the federal court hearing. Wisconsin's constitutional ban on gay marriage and civil unions has been in place since 2006.
The only person who challenged his denial to get a Wisconsin concealed weapons permit has lost another court battle. The state appellate court in Madison has upheld a Dane County judge's ruling that Robert Evans of Cottage Grove was not entitled to a concealed carry permit. That's because he was convicted of a disorderly conduct-domestic violence in 2002, when he pleaded no contest. The 68-year-old Evans was among 5,800 people rejected for state concealed carry permits, and nobody else has challenged those denials. Evans joins national gun rights' supporters in challenging the federal Lautenberg Amendment which Congress passed in 1996. It prohibits those convicted of domestic violence from possessing guns. Evans claimed his conduct did not rise to the federal threshold for domestic violence, but the courts have disagreed. He said he merely pushed his step-daughter outside a door, and he claimed he did not have a domestic relationship with the victim as the law requires. The state Justice Department said the disorderly conduct law includes physical force, and Evans' relationship to the victim qualifies under the federal definition.
Starving ducks are once again jumping into Lake Michigan at Manitowoc to look for food. That's after a trawler was used to break up ice on the harbors at Manitowoc and nearby Two Rivers. The cold winter has caused larger-than-normal ice build-ups. It's preventing ducks that don't migrate south from reaching the food they normally rely upon. Animal rehab clinics are treating a larger-than-normal number of malnourished ducks this winter. Conservationist Tom Kocourek said enough was enough. He called a marine contractor which broke up the ice in the harbors. Mike LeClair, who runs a fish company in Two Rivers, said they had to do something. Jim Knickelbine of the Woodland Dunes Nature Center in Two Rivers tells the Manitowoc Herald-Times Reporter he was quote, "blown away" by the effort. He said it reflects "good things about the community."