WISCONSIN NEWS ROUND-UP: Fire destroys businesses in Sturgeon Bay
STURGEON BAY - Several businesses were destroyed in a building that caught fire overnight in Sturgeon Bay.
Fire-fighters were called the Harbor Place Shoppes just after midnight. The Steel Bridge Cafe and the Ranly Maritime Gallery were among the shops that were damaged. There were no reports of injuries. Red Cross personnel were on hand to help emergency crews. A nearby bridge on Michigan Street was closed -- but it was expected to re-open yet this morning.
Plans to add bacteria to a Florence County lake to try-and-kill invasive zebra-and-quagga mussels have been dropped due to local opposition. Even some county officials took issue with the project from the U.S .Geological Survey and the state DNR. The proposed experiment was first announced a few weeks ago. It would have been the first time in Wisconsin that the biological pesticide C-L-145-A would have been used on an open water. It would have gone on Keyes Lake, which first became infested with zebra mussels in 2010. Chuck Henrichs of the lake association said the mussels were getting worse, and the experiment would have tried to protect native species. The DNR's Bob Wakeman said his agency didn't mean to upset people, and they'll look for another lake. Henrichs said folks were caught off-guard by the idea. The Florence County health officer, parks director, and conservationist were among the opponents. About 15 letters of opposition were written to the state Agriculture Department, which must approve any such experiment. One letter had 77 signatures from local residents concerned about the safety of using the bacteria.
Four U.S. postal distribution centers in Wisconsin escaped the chopping block over the past two years -- but they might not avoid it next year. The Postal Service now says four large mail distribution facilities will close for good by the end of 2015 in Eau Claire, La Crosse, Madison, and Rothschild near Wausau. It's part of the second phase of a national effort to consolidate postal facilities and cut costs. The newest round of closures will involve 82 facilities, with a goal of saving three-quarter million dollars in costs. The Postal Service says all the workers at the affected centers would be re-assigned. Newspapers in Eau Claire and Wausau say the mail that's distributed in their areas would be handled in Saint Paul Minnesota and Green Bay instead. The change at Eau Claire is expected to increase delivery times for first-class letters from an average of two-point-one-four days, to two-and-a-quarter days.
For the second day in a row, Governor Scott Walker spent his lunch hour touring storm damage in Wisconsin. Today, he inspected an area near Spring Green where one of two tornadoes touched down on Sunday evening in rural Iowa and Dane counties. Yesterday, Walker toured parts of La Crosse, where high winds caused thousands of power outages on Saturday. The Milwaukee area still had 28,000 electric customers in the dark late this morning. That was after high winds caused 114,000 outages yesterday throughout southeastern Wisconsin. We Energies said it was the largest number of outages for a single incident in a decade -- and about one of every ten customers in the area were affected. Time Warner also reported scattered cable TV and Internet outages in the Milwaukee region.
A former Milwaukee County court commissioner had her law license suspended today, after she was convicted of filing false income tax returns. Fifty-year-old Geneva McKinley agreed to the State Supreme Court's 60-day suspension. It begins July 31st, and it does not require her to pay restitution or the cost of the state's enforcement action. McKinley served five days in jail, and is completing a year-and-a-half of probation. She pleaded no contest to reduced misdemeanor charges of submitting false tax documents. Two felony counts were dropped in her plea deal. McKinley was convicted for not reporting almost 68-thousand dollars in private legal fees and rental income in 2005-and-'06. Allegations that she failed to report another 60-thousand in rental income were dropped. McKinley had been a court commissioner in Milwaukee from 2007 until she was fired after last year's sentencing.
A Milwaukee man will spend just short of 20 years in prison, after being convicted for a second time in the killing of a Minnesota man in 2008 near Appleton. Thirty-one year old Michael Potts was originally given a life prison term for shooting Pierre Peeler to death over a loud party that Peeler was having at an apartment complex. However, an Outagamie County judge threw out the conviction and ordered a new trial. That's because Potts' lawyer never brought in witnesses who could have testified that a co-defendant killed Peeler. The co-defendant, Keith Birr, was found innocent. Instead of going through the trial, Potts pleaded no contest to a reduced charge of reckless homicide. He was sentenced yesterday to 25 years in prison, minus five-and-a-half years in which he was previously behind bars. He'll also be under extended supervision for another 20 years once he gets out.
Two Wisconsin high school bands are heading to the nation's capital to march in the National Independence Day Parade on Friday. About 15 bands from throughout the country will march -- including students from Green Bay East and Hortonville high schools. Youngsters from both schools will see some of Washington's top attractions -- including the U.S. Capitol, the Smithsonian, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and a number of national monuments. The Hortonville band also plans performances at the Armed Forces Retirement Center and the National World War Two Memorial. Green Bay East band director Karen Iken says it might be the only chance for some of the youngsters to visit Washington -- and it will be important to put their best feet forward for both their school and themselves.
Starting next month, Milwaukee will no longer have the nation's largest Indian casino that doesn't have its own hotel. The Potawatomi Tribe said today it would open its new 381-room hotel on August 18th, in Milwaukee's industrial Menomonee Valley between downtown and the Miller Park stadium. A private ribbon-cutting event is set for October first. The 19-story hotel will have a direct walkway to the casino. The tribe expect to expand its customer drawing area from a 25-mile radius, to around a 100-mile radius. Right now, the casino attracts an estimated six-million visitors each year. Officially, the hotel will not be on tribal land. That means it will pay property taxes, and its users will pay Milwaukee's room tax.
If you're looking for a place to open a business, you might get some help from a division of the company that operates Sears and K-Mart. SHC Realty is offering space that can be sub-leased in 58 Sears and K-Mart properties in Wisconsin. The leases can take a variety of forms -- such as leasing part of a store or an outlot, or "in-store leasing" in which the new business operates completely within an existing K-Mart or Sears. In some other states, the retailer has leased space to stores like Whole Foods and Dick's Sporting Goods. Five closed properties in Wisconsin are among the sites available. They're in Brookfield, Racine, and Fort Atkinson. More information is available online at SHCRealty.com.
The Regal-Beloit Corporation is getting bigger. The company said this morning it acquired Benshaw Incorporated of Pittsburgh for $50-million. Benshaw makes custom voltage drives for manufacturing equipment. Regal-Beloit CEO Mark Gliebe said Benshaw is an "excellent fit" for Beloit's custom electronic drive business. The Curtiss-Wright Corporation of North Carolina is selling Benshaw, after owning it since 2007. Regal-Beloit makes a host of electric motors, mechanical-and-motion controls, and other industrial power generating products.
You say "tomato," I say ... well, a Wausau police officer said it was pot. Officials said a 60-year-old man claimed he was growing tomatoes on his upper level patio, while an officer recognized the plants as being marijuana. Police said they were tipped off about the marijuana patch last Saturday -- and a 53-year-old woman fessed up and said the drug was for her own use. The couple faces possible charges of manufacturing marijuana, and possessing drug paraphernalia.