WISCONSIN NEWS ROUND-UP: More storm damage in Western Wisconsin last night
The western half of Wisconsin had more thunderstorm damage yesterday and last night.
Tennis-ball-sized hail fell near Cornell in Chippewa County. Eau Claire had a number of vehicles damaged by hail. Parts of Pepin, Taylor, Monroe, Trempealeau, and Vernon counties also reported hail of up to an-inch in diameter. Winds hit 55-miles-an-hour at Ridgeville in Monroe County, and 50 at Bayfield. Marquette County reported heavy tree damage. Trees and power lines fell at Osseo and Hatfield, with lesser damage elsewhere. Gile in Iron County had two-and-a-quarter inches of rain in just two hours late last night. Mauston in Juneau County had two-point-one inches. Power outages are not a major problem this morning. Xcel Energy and Wisconsin Power-and-Light, the two largest utilities in western Wisconsin, had a combined 50-plus customers out around 6:30 a-m. A dry day is in the forecast for all of Wisconsin, with highs in the 60's-and-70's under partly to mostly cloudy skies.
A mostly dry Fourth-of-July weekend helped reduce flooding on the Mississippi River. The National Weather Service in La Crosse has flood warnings on only three parts of the Mississippi at western Wisconsin. The river at Wabasha is expected to return below its banks tonight, and by Thursday at Prairie du Chien and the Guttenberg Lock-and-Dam at Grant County. Only minor flooding is predicted. Flood warnings ended earlier today at La Crosse and Winona, after the Mississippi returned below its flood stages at those two cities.
All the rain we've had is not all that bad for the Wisconsin corn crop. According to the National Ag Statistics Service, 77-percent of the state's corn was in good-to-excellent condition as of Sunday. Much of it is well beyond "knee-high by the Fourth-of-July." The stalks are up to five-feet in the southern counties of Grant and Washington. However, low spots have yellow-and-stressed corn. Weeds have been a problem in places where farmers cannot spray. Also, Wisconsin soybeans continue to do well, as 77-percent of the crop is rated good-to-excellent -- along with 85-percent of oats and 72-percent of winter wheat. Farmers also made some hay last week, in between the raindrops. Ninety-five percent of the first crop was in by Sunday, along with 24-percent of the second crop. Fifteen-percent of that second crop came in last week, but the hay harvests remain behind the norms for the past five years.
Spraying resumes this week to cut down on the leaf-and-shrub killing gypsy moth caterpillar. State agriculture officials say low-flying planes will conduct spraying operations tomorrow through Friday in Grant, Crawford, Iowa, Richland, and La Crosse counties. Officials say the spraying can begin as early as sunrise -- and the applicator planes are loud but necessary to cut down on the invasive pests. Gypsy moths are known to feed on the leaves of many types of trees and shrubs. For more information on the spraying sites, go online to www.gypsymoth.WI.gov.
A man killed in an all-terrain-vehicle crash on the Fourth-of-July in northeast Wisconsin has been identified as 41-year-old Brandon Rindahl of Elcho. Forest County authorities said Rindahl's ATV veered off road and slammed into a tree. Sheriff's deputies and the state DNR continue to investigate the crash, which occurred late Friday night near Crandon in the town of Nashville.
A Madison man killed in a holiday weekend traffic crash was identified yesterday as 27-year-old Joseph Stehura. Authorities said his pick-up truck veered out of control on a curve, rolled over, and entered a creek in a farm field about 50-feet from the roadway. It happened Saturday morning on Highway 92 south of Mount Horeb. Investigators said Stehura was not wearing a seat belt, and he died at the scene.
A pedestrian was struck and killed by a semi-truck yesterday on Highway 29 in Howard, just northwest of Green Bay. Brown County sheriff's officials said the victim might have been attending to a vehicle on the side of the road, when the mishap occurred around 8:40 a.m. It happened on the westbound side of 29, near Brown County Trunk Double-"V." Sheriff's officials continue to investigate.
Milwaukee authorities are trying to determine how a man died yesterday morning, after his body was found in an alley. Police were called to neighborhood alley around 7 a.m. Officials of Milwaukee Police and the county medical examiner were trying to find out the man's identity, and the cause of his death.
A Wausau man has pleaded innocent to killing another man over an argument about money. Thirty-one year old John Lewis is charged with 26 counts -- including homicide for the shooting death of K.C. Elliott January third outside of the Sidetracked Bar in Wausau. The other charges include possession of heroin and marijuana with the intent to sell it, and possessing a firearm as a previously convicted felon. No new court dates have been set for Lewis, who remains in jail under a million-dollar bond. Prosecutors said a silencer provided by a Stratford man was used in the killing of Elliott. Tyler Jenkens was recently sentenced to five years and three months in a federal prison for selling the silencer -- plus guns and grenades to others.
A long-time religion teacher and soccer coach in Wausau has pleaded innocent to allegations of possessing child porn. Fifty-year-old Michael Switalski was originally charged in March with eight felony counts of possessing child porn. Two dozen counts were added since then, and Switalski was arraigned yesterday on all 32 charges in Marathon County Circuit Court. A trial date could be set at a status hearing in the case on September fourth. Switalski is on administrative leave from Wausau Newman Catholic High School, where he has coached the boys' soccer team for 20 years. His original charges stated that he allegedly possessed almost 100 photos and a dozen DVD's of child porn. At the time, officials said Switalski's name was found on a customer list of a video pornography firm that was shut down in Canada. Prosecutors said additional evidence was found since then on Switalski's electronic devices. Switalski is free on a $35,000 cash bond.
A former Green Bay elementary teacher has pleaded innocent to charges that he touched two students inappropriately. Fifty-eight year old Jer Lovaj of Oconto entered his pleas yesterday to two Brown County charges of first-degree sexual assault. He also pleaded innocent to a separate case charging him with repeated child sexual assault. Prosecutors said Lovaj had improper contact with youngsters at Green Bay's Anne Sullivan School, where he taught English as a second language. The contact was reported between last October and February. Officials say Lovaj no longer works in the Green Bay district. Trial dates could be set at his next court appearance on August 18th.
A convicted murderer killed himself in jail, less than two months before he was to be sentenced to life in prison for raping and killing a Plover woman. Thirty-three year old Jose Flores-Aca was found strangled late Sunday night in his Portage County jail cell. Sheriff John Charewicz said Flores-Aca used a strip of bed linen, and a two-inch screw that was not part of the jail's hardware. The sheriff wants to know how the prisoner obtained it. The Stevens Point Police Department is acting as an outside investigator in the jail incident. Flores-Aca struck a plea deal last week. He pled guilty to first-degree intentional homicide and sexual assault. A third count of hiding a corpse was dropped. Flores-Aca was to be sentenced September 30th. Prosecutors suggested life in prison plus 20 years for the sexual assault conviction. Authorities said Flores-Aca got angry with his 36-year-old apartment neighbor Jamie Koch last August. He then strangled her with her bra, wrapped her in a bed sheet, and drove her to neighboring Waupaca County where he burned her car to try and dispose of Koch's body.
A man shot-to-death by Racine police officers has been identified as 37-year-old Rajko Utvic. A 911 call on Sunday indicated that Utvic was suicidal. Officers said they went to a home where Utvic was armed with a knife. They told him to drop the weapon, and he didn't. When he stepped toward the officers, one of them shot and killed Utvic. The officers' names were not immediately released. The Racine County sheriff's department is the outside investigator in the case.
The boyfriend of a Milwaukee murder victim has been arrested. Police said the man awaits charges in the stabbing death of 18-year-old Justice McCoy. She was killed in the early morning of July Fourth in a home on Milwaukee's north side. Police said witnesses identified the killer as McCoy's boyfriend.
A baby-sitter convicted of killing a four-month-old girl has asked a judge for leniency. Twenty-seven-year-old Jeanette Janusiak of Reedsburg wrote a letter to Sauk County Circuit Judge Patrick Taggart, in which she claims that her jury wrongfully-convicted her -- and she should be paroled at the earliest date possible. Janusiak was found guilty last month of first-degree intentional homicide, after doctors said they found three fractures from three blows to young Payten Shearer. She'll be sentenced July 14th. Her conviction requires a life prison term, with a possible supervised release to be considered after 20 years at the earliest. Janusiak tells Judge Taggart she'll keep proclaiming her innocence and in her words, "The truth will one day prevail."
Wisconsin community bankers met with the chairman of the FDIC in Wausau yesterday. Martin Gruenberg heard concerns from smaller locally-owned banks on how a number of federal regulations affect their ability to compete. Gruenberg said many of the rules came in response to the "too big to fail" banks which almost collapsed and spurred the Great Recession and its related housing bubble. Wausau U.S. House Republican Sean Duffy, who arranged the visit, said Washington must be careful not to over-regulate community banks -- and the pendulum has swung to the conservative side. River Valley Bank hosted the meeting. Its CEO, Todd Nagel, said the regulatory-and-compliance department is one of his bank's fastest-growing sectors -- when in reality, he said the lending department should grow faster. Both Nagel and Gruenberg said banks have plenty of money to lend -- but the demand is not there because businesses remain conservative in their post-recession growth. Nagel says companies have held onto their cash reserves -- and now is the right time for firms to expand and buy new equipment, since interest rates are low and money is available.
Wisconsin's first enforcement action involving the Obama health care exchanges was taken two-and-a-half months ago -- and it's just now coming to light. The Wisconsin State Journal said Anthem Blue Cross-Blue Shield did not activate almost 300 stand-alone dental insurance policies through the federal exchanges. A company system error was blamed. The Madison newspaper said almost 300 people thought they had coverage when they learned they didn't. The Waukesha-based Anthem signed a stipulation in late April to stop offering inadequate insurance, adopt appropriate coverage, and re-process any claims denied due to the system error. A letter to the affected clients said the error was geographical, and it involved mixing statewide dental coverage with medical coverage offered in only certain counties. As a result, those who thought they had dental coverage were told in mid-April that they were not. The State Journal said Blue Cross did not discover the error until March 13th. Blue Cross Blue Shield is one of 13 Wisconsin insurers taking part in the Obama-care exchange.
Wisconsin's limit on medical malpractice awards will apparently be tested, after a jury awarded $25-million to a Milwaukee woman who lost all four of her limbs. Jurors agreed yesterday that doctors never found a strep infection in 53-year-old Ascaris Mayo. It led to "septic shock" which caused both her arms and both her legs to be amputated in 2011. Jurors awarded $15-million for pain-and-suffering, and one-and-a-half million for her husband's loss of companionship. Both are well above the $750,000 limit for non-economic malpractice damages set by majority in the legislature in the first session after Governor Scott Walker took office. Attorney Daniel Rottier who represented Mayo and her husband, expects the case to end up in the State Supreme Court. Jurors did not say that Doctor Wyatt Jaffe and his assistant Donald Gibson were negligent. They said both failed to give Mayo alternative diagnoses which could have caused her to seek other types of treatment. Jaffe was ruled 65-percent at fault, and Gibson 35-percent.
All four Republican candidates for the open U.S. House seat in eastern Wisconsin said they would impose their own term limits if they're elected. This comes about two weeks after a report that the man they hope to replace -- 36-year incumbent Tom Petri -- raised his family in Washington and spent only a third of his available free time back in his home district. Yesterday, State Assembly Republican Duey Strobel of Saukville issued a column promising he would serve as a "citizen legislator" like the Founding Fathers intended. Strobel later said he would serve no more than ten years in Congress, which would make him 64 if he serves that long. State Senate Republican Glenn Grothman of West Bend then said he, too, would impose a ten-year term limit, which would make him 69. State Senate Republican Joe Leibham of Sheboygan vowed a 12-year term limit, serving to age 57. Oshkosh Republican Tom Denow said he'd also agree to a term limit. Self-imposed term limits don't always work. State Assembly Republican Scott Krug of Nekoosa is running for a third two-year term this fall -- even though he promised to serve just two terms before he defeated 40-year incumbent Marlin Schneider in 2010.
The Wisconsin governor's election is 17 weeks from today. Both candidates have been criss-crossing the state to fire up their party bases, and attract a relatively small percentage of undecided voters. Republican Governor Scott Walker is back on the campaign trail today, with stops at powder-coating plant in Oregon and a maker of specialty wristbands in New Berlin. Democrat Mary Burke is touring a farm in Mazomanie that produces beer hops. She'll also visit the Food Enterprise Center in Viroqua. Burke, a former Trek Bicycle executive and state commerce secretary, faces a primary challenge from long-shot Assemblyman Brett Hulsey of Madison. The fall partisan primaries are five weeks from today, on August 12th.
A 12-year veteran of the Wisconsin State Assembly has been named to the Legislature's most powerful committee. Milladore Democrat Amy Sue Vruwink is replacing Milwaukee Democrat Jon Richards -- who left the Assembly to run for state attorney general this fall. WisPolitics.com said majority Republicans blocked the appointment when Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Burlington) called it a "last-minute request made for political purposes." But Vos okayed the Vruwink appointment last Thursday, and her party's leadership announced it yesterday. Vruwink has been in the Assembly since 2003. She lost the largest city in her district, Marshfield, in the 2011 GOP redistricting -- and WisPolitics says her seat is now a top target for Republicans in the fall elections.
You may have heard about this happening elsewhere. Now, a suburban Milwaukee school district wants Election Day polling places removed from its elementary buildings. That's due to security concerns prompted by the Sandy Hook school shootings from a couple years ago. Voting could continue at Greendale High School. The Village Board decided to give voters a non-binding say in a November referendum. Village Treasurer Kathryn Kasza says moving polling places from Greendale schools is not as easy as it sounds. She says there are not many places in the village which have lots of parking, and are handicapped-accessible -- the latter of which the federal government requires. Kasza says it would be wrong to keep moving polling places each election to find the right spot, because it would disenfranchise voters. She said the ideal thing would be to build a new community center, but the village cannot take that on right now. Trustees suggested that the schools close on election days, the School Board says it's not realistic.
A federal judge in Green Bay heard arguments today on the government's effort to throw out an Obama-care lawsuit filed by Senator Ron Johnson. The Wisconsin Republican from Oshkosh says an administrative rule makes it illegal to force him and his staffers to get coverage through exchanges which are designed for small businesses. Justice Department attorney James Luh (loo) told Judge William Griesbach that Johnson has no right to sue. The government says Johnson has not shown how the law would directly cause him harm. Johnson's lawyer, Rick Esenberg, said Johnson's being forced into illegal activity because the government is too big of an employer to sue the exchanges. Griesbach said he would issue a written ruling soon.
Governor Scott Walker's main Democratic opponent says she would repeal a pair of state laws that veterans opposed. The Republican Walker has said both laws were designed to address larger problems and had nothing to do with veterans directly. One law makes it harder for victims of asbestos exposure to win damages in court -- a bill aimed at preventing defense lawyers from double-dipping in damage awards. The other took away the right to win damages in state court for employment discrimination, returning to the old practice of using the more expensive federal court system. Mary Burke, the main Democratic candidate against Walker, said she would create a statewide group of veterans and military families who would help her in the campaign. If elected, Burke said she would add or restore a number of committees to work with the state Veterans' Affairs department. The former Trek Bicycle executive also announced several other veterans' initiatives -- including a new federal liaison office. Walker's office has listed a number of things it has done to help veterans -- including more educational opportunities, and improvements to the veterans' trust fund and the state veterans' nursing homes.
A Wisconsin tissue-maker will create about 300 new jobs in Mississippi. Green Bay Converting said today it would open a plant in Hattiesburg to make tissue and paper towels. Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant joined the company in today's announcement. The firm said it would invest $48-million in the new facility, which will turn paper into finished products like tissues. Green Bay Conveting was founded in 1999. It has over 300 employees.
If you get an e-mail offering you a job to ship and re-ship products to Russia, it might be a scam. The Better Business Bureau of Wisconsin says companies which call themselves "Send It Off" and "Pick-and-Send" are recruiting people to work-at-home, but they don't get paid. The bureau says the scammers are using a downtown Milwaukee office address, and three local phone numbers which are voice-over-Internet numbers. The consumer agency said it could not reach company personnel through any of those numbers. Those who take the bait could be at risk for identity theft. The bureau said people in Missouri and Kansas who took jobs as shippers were required to send copies of their drivers' licenses. They were then sent things like I-Pads to send to Moscow, with a promise of $1,700 a month in wages that were never paid. Also, job applications had spelling and grammatical errors. The Better Business Bureau says to watch for those when you apply for a job -- and you should never accept a post that doesn't require a face-to-face interview.