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WISCONSIN NEWS ROUND-UP: Fire destroys part of Prairie du Chien mall

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PRAIRIE DU CHIEN - Much of Prairie du Chien's shopping mall is closed today, after a fire destroyed one of its larger stores.  

Firefighters from seven departments helped put out a blaze at Slumberland Furniture in in the Black Hawk Junction mall.  Units were called around 7:10 last evening.  Officials said strong winds carried the smoke to neighboring businesses, and they were damaged as a result.  There have bee no reports of injuries.  Prairie du Chien Fire Chief Harry Renz said officers started battling the blaze from inside the structure -- but they changed to an aerial attack amid fears that the roof would collapse.  Crews spent the night putting out hot-spots.  There was no immediate word on what caused the blaze.

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Parts of north-central Wisconsin got almost five-inches of snow -- and to the south, folks are trudging through five-inches of rain from the weekend.  In between, there are a number of icy spots.  In the Fond du Lac area, almost 2,500 Wisconsin Power-and-Light customers were without power as of early this afternoon.  Menominee County still had almost 300 customers in the dark.  Door County had almost 90 outages.  Just over 3,100 customers throughout the state were without power early this afternoon.  That's about two-thousand fewer customers than this morning.  Most of Wisconsin was dry after the lunch hour, with partly to mostly cloudy skies.  Light snow was still falling in far northern Wisconsin, and far south central areas with temperatures in the 20's and low-30s.  It's all supposed to clear out by the time the night's over.  Tomorrow, forecasters expect a dry day with highs in the 30's to near 40.  Snow could return tomorrow night into Wednesday.

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New flood warnings came out today for several Wisconsin places hit by heavy rains during the weekend.  The Manitowoc River reached its flood stage at mid-day in Manitowoc.  The Wisconsin River at Portage and the Chippewa River at Durand continued to overflow its banks early this afternoon.  Spring Creek at Lodi went above its flood stage today.  Minor to moderate flooding is predicted on those waters, plus others approaching their flood stages as of earlier today.  The Kickapoo River now has warnings out at Stueben, Viola, Soldiers Grove, and Gays Mills.  That river is not expected to reach its flood stage until Wednesday or Thursday.  The Kickapoo at Readstown was expected to go above its banks this afternoon, along with the Baraboo River in Sauk County.  The Fox River in Kenosha was expected to hit its flood stage in the next couple days, along with parts of the Milwaukee, Sheboygan, and Root rivers.

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Authorities said today that high speed and alcohol were factors in a January 5th SUV crash that killed four people, including one from Wisconsin.  Officials in Winona County Minnesota said the driver, 36-year-old Christina Hauser of Winona, had a blood alcohol level of point-one-six-eight.  That's just over twice the legal limit for drunk driving.  Hauser and three childhood friends were in a vehicle that slammed through a guardrail in Winona, and plunged through the ice on the Mississippi River.  Twenty-nine year old Andrew Kingsbury of La Crosse was the Wisconsinite who was killed.  Sheriff Dave Brand said the four were returning from Wisconsin, and Hauser was going 49-miles-an-hour in a 30-zone just before the mishap.  Because she died, officials said she could not face criminal charges.  Hauser and one man were in the SUV when it was pulled from the river the day of the crash.  Another man was found the next day.  Kingsbury was not found until two weeks later after an extensive search.

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Wisconsin taxpayers might give Amazon.com a total of over ten-million dollars, if the online retailer meets its job creation and production goals in Kenosha County.  Last November, Amazon was awarded up to seven-million dollars in state tax credits.  Now, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel says the company could get another $3.3 million for a second facility which is part of its new distribution and order shipment center in Kenosha.  If Amazon spends $155-million dollars on the project, and creates 1,250 over the next three years, officials say the company would be eligible to get ten-point-three million dollars in tax credits from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation.

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The dredging of old cancer-causing PCB's and the removal of shipwrecks has resumed in Green Bay.  Tetra Tech has resumed its work, after shutting it down for the winter on the Fox River behind its production facility.  It's part of a long-range effort to remove the PCB's that were dumped in the river in the 1950's-and-60's, as part of the process of making copy paper without carbons.  Since the project began in 2009, over two million cubic yards of sediment have been dredged from the Fox River.  Tetra Tech plans to remove another 670-thousand cubic yards this year.  Also, Tetra Tech has a sub-contractor removing a cluster of sunken tugboats at the site from the 19th century.  The boats went down in the 1940's in a spot that's now part of the National Register of Historic Places.  Because of that, the company reached an agreement with the federal and state governments on the clean-up work.  The recovered vessels will later become part of a Green Bay museum display.

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A Milwaukee FBI agent has been honored by his colleagues for refusing to testify against a wounded veteran who was training to become an agent.  The Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association has honored Mark Crider for showing quote, "moral courage and personal integrity in support of a wounded warrior."  Crider came out in support of former Army Ranger Justin Slaby.  He lost a hand in a military training accident, and he later won a lawsuit against the FBI which accused the agency unfairly rejecting him.  Slaby is expected to become an agent on June first.  The officers' group said Crider rejected his bosses' contention that Slaby was not qualified to be an agent -- and that he testified about Slaby's qualifications even though his former Milwaukee supervisor Teresa Carlson ordered him not to.  After the matter became public, Carlson was transferred to a deputy assistant F-B-I director in Washington, a post she still holds.

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A University of Minnesota student from Eau Claire is among those trying to convince the school to publicly release student evaluations of their professors.  Freshman Nicholas Ohren tells the Minneapolis Star-Tribune there's a huge demand by students to know more about instructors before they take their courses.  The school's Faculty Senate is considering a proposal to let students look up any class on a Minnesota Web site, and see what former students say about it.  Until now, the evaluations were for the instructors' eyes only.  U-of-Minnesota officials say the evaluations need to stay private, because they play a role in promoting instructors -- and deciding whether they should be tenured.  Ohren said students should not have to act blindly about choosing an instructor for a course.  He said that when he picked classes for his first semester, he didn't have much to go on except for what his faculty adviser told him.

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A state lawmaker plans to almost double his salary by leaving the Legislature, and taking a post with the Brown County government in Green Bay.  Assembly Republican Steve Weininger of Green Bay will become the county's director of administration, with a salary of just over $98,000 a year.  He currently makes almost $50,000 a year as a lawmaker, plus mileage and a living allowance for his time in Madison.  Weininger says he'll keep his state office open, and will donate his pay to a charity until voters choose his Assembly replacement in November.  He was first elected to Madison four years ago.  He becomes the 19th representative and the 13th Republican not to run for re-election to the lower house.

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A memorial service is planned tonight for a Kenosha minister who died in a freak car accident at a McDonald's drive-thru.  The Reverend Georgette Wonders will be remembered in a service that begins at six p-m at Saint Mary's Lutheran Church.  The 61-year-old Wonders served the Bradford Community Church Unitarian Universalist.  Police said she opened the door at the drive-thru to pick up a debit card she dropped last Tuesday night -- and her car rolled against the building, pinning her between the door and her vehicle.  Wonders was at Kenosha's Unitarian Universalist church since 2002. 

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State Assembly Republican Bill Kramer of Waukesha is free on a signature bond.  That's after he made his first court appearance this morning for allegedly groping a woman's breasts in 2011.  His attorney re-iterated to reporters that the 49-year-old Kramer would plead innocent to his two felony charges of second-degree sexual assault.  Before that can happen, though, a Waukesha County judge must agree that there's enough evidence to order a trial.  That ruling is expected during a preliminary hearing set for May 15th.  Kramer was charged last month, a few weeks after reports that he groped a woman and sexually-harassed another during a recent GOP fund-raising trip to Washington.  After that came out, an ex-congressional staffer came forward to say that Kramer groped her and asked for sex at a Republican event in Muskego three years ago.  Kramer told police he kissed the woman good-night but denied groping her.  Assembly Republicans have removed Kramer as the house majority leader.  He says he won't run for re-election this fall after eight years in the Assembly -- but Kramer says he won't step down now, as lawmakers of both parties have called for.

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A place where bombs and bullets were made for the U.S. military during the Vietnam War is now open for public recreation.  The Sauk-Prairie Recreation Area south of Baraboo will be open through May 27th -- and folks will be able to hike, bike, and ride horses and vehicles.  But the place is still being developed, so there are no road signs yet.  That means you might get lost if you don't keep track of where you're going.  The Badger Army Ammunition plant operated on the property until 1975.  A de-construction project has been taking place since 2004.  Steve Schmelzer, the superintendent at nearby Devils Lake State Park, is overseeing the Badger property as well.  He said the the would temporarily close May 28th, so piles of concrete from the old buildings can be consolidated.  The site is cut up into three areas.  The DNR is close to finalizing a master plan for a 3,800-acre park.  The Ho-Chunk Indian tribe has 15-hundred acres.  Over two-thousand acres are devoted to the USDA's Dairy Forage Research Center.

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