WISCONSIN NEWS ROUND-UP: NWS says Mississippi River to avoid flooding but not smaller rivers
WAUSAU - The National Weather Service does not expect major flooding on the Mississippi River this spring. But smaller rivers could get the liquid leftovers from the foot-and-a-half of snow that fell in far northern Wisconsin a week ago.
The Wisconsin Valley Improvement Company of Wausau says flows are higher than normal on the hydro-electric dams it operates along the Wisconsin River. Manager Peter Hanson says anglers will be tempted to take advantage of good fishing near the dams, where high waters and flows could make things risky. He said dams need to be respected -- and anglers should pay attention to their surroundings, and be on the alert for official warnings. Forecasters expect highs in the 50's-and-60's through tomorrow, with a slight cool down and statewide rain showers during the weekend. Cooler highs in the 40's are predicted for Monday.
A fungus that has killed almost six-million bats since 2006 has arrived in Wisconsin. The DNR said today that white nose syndrome was found in 11 bats hibernating last month at an old mine in Grant County. The DNR's Erin Crain calls this a "sad day for Wisconsin." That's because farms, forests, and people could face new problems from what's feared to be a potential loss of bat species. Bats protect people by eating insects which damage farm crops, and transfer diseases like West Nile. Experts say up to a half-million bats hibernate in Wisconsin each winter before spreading out to other Midwest states. White nose syndrome was first discovered in New York eight years ago, and has spread throughout the U-S and northeast Canada. For a long time, the DNR has warned that Wisconsin would get the disease sooner-or-later. It's been found close to the Badger State in recent years in Illinois and Iowa. The Wisconsin discovery was made near the end of the DNR's fourth annual inspections of caves where bats hibernate. DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp says the Grant County discovery appears to be isolated -- but experts say the mortality rate will grow once white nose gets a foot-hold. Wisconsin is the 23rd state to have the disease. Officials say people who see dead bats should report them to the DNR. Visitors to caves are often asked to wipe off their shoes before going in-and-out, to prevent anything from spreading. A few years ago, the DNR sought the ability to close commercial tourist caves -- but that was scrapped due to heavy opposition from cave owners.
A Chippewa County woman will spend five years in prison for killing a bicyclist while driving drunk. Circuit Judge James Babler handed down the sentence against 28-year-old Krista Holler of Cadott. She must also spend five years under extended supervision once she leaves prison. Holler pleaded guilty to drunken homicide in the death last June of a popular dentist in the area, 71-year-old Robert Tschabrun of Stanley. He was riding a bicycle on a rural road at 5 a.m. last June first, when Holler's car struck and killed him. Holler cried while apologizing. The judge told her that Tschabrun's death was not an accident, because she chose to drive while drunk. Her blood alcohol level was point-one-two-three about nine hours after the crash. That was about 50-percent above the legal limit of .08.
A two-year-old boy is expected to survive, after he was wounded by a gunshot fired into his house. Milwaukee Police said somebody fired bullets from an alley around 9:30 last night. A bullet went through the walls of a north side house and struck the toddler. Police continue to investigate. No arrests were reported as of mid-morning.
Governor Scott Walker will make his re-election bid official on Tuesday, when he holds a series of events throughout the Badger State. It's the first day that candidates for the state's fall elections can circulate nominating petitions. The Republican Walker will start his day at at a Dane County site near Madison, and end at State Fair Park in West Allis. Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch will join the governor. His camp says they're planning a "special announcement" about the campaign. Walker won his first term by defeating Milwaukee Democrat Tom Barrett by almost six percentage points in 2010. Walker also survived a recall attempt against him in 2012, defeating Barrett by nearly seven points. This fall, the governor is challenged by Democrat Mary Burke, a former Trek Bicycle executive and state Commerce Secretary during the Doyle years.
Military cutbacks are forcing another ripple effect at the Oshkosh Corporation. The company said today it would layoff about 700 hourly employees and 60 salaried workers beginning in June. The head of the Oshkosh defense division, John Urias, said the firm went to "great lengths" to delay the impact of lower defense spending on the Oshkosh workforce. He said the firm carried out alternatives like not filling vacancies and using outside contractors -- and it has tried pursuing relevant international opportunities for making vehicles. But now, Urias says Oshkosh must re-shape its workforce and return to peace-time operations. Once the layoffs are complete, the company will have about 1,850 employees at its Oshkosh facilities.
A plant near Appleton that makes envelopes is closing for good. The Cenveo Corporation said today it would shut down the former National Envelope plant in the town of Grand Chute. About 150 people will be put out of work. Cenveo bought the facility last September, after National Envelope had filed for bankruptcy. However, the company said it could not reach a lease agreement with the building's owner, Spirit Leasing of Arizona. Cenveo blamed the landlord for what it called a difficult decision to shut the plant down. Spirit Leasing has not commented.
The Wisconsin Business Hall of Fame will get four new members tonight. Terry Growcock, William Specht, Marvin Schuette (shoo-tee), and Nathaniel Zelazo will be recognized during a banquet in Milwaukee. Growcock is with the Manitowoc Company, Specht with Cousins Subs, Schuette with Wausau Homes, and Zelazo with the Astronautics Corporation. Hall of Fame officials say all four are laureates whose innovations, management styles, and civic involvement have made a difference in their companies and communities. Also at the banquet, Helen Johnson-Leipold (ly-pold) of Johnson Outdoors will be given the Distinguished Executive award. Cecilia Gore of the Milwaukee Brewers' Community Foundation will be given the Peak Performer award.
Wisconsin's Tax Freedom Day will be on April 22nd. It's the day you start working for yourself, after making enough money since January first to cover your federal, state, and local tax obligations for 2014. The Tax Foundation says Wisconsin's Tax Freedom Day is one day later than the national date -- and the national date is three days later than last year. That means the average American's tax burden is up from a year ago, and Wisconsin's paying more the national average. But a dozen other states are still paying more than Wisconsin, since the Badger State has the 13th latest Tax Freedom Day. Connecticut and New Jersey are tied for the latest, both on May 9th. In Louisiana, you only have to work until March 30th to make enough to cover the year's tax burden.
Natural gas service in New Holstein was expected to be fully restored this afternoon, after about 700 residents were cut off when a gas main broke. The Wisconsin Public Service utility said about two-thirds of the affected customers got their natural gas back by mid-morning. It was taking quite a while for crews to re-light furnaces and appliances at each house. Police said the gas main broke around 3:30 yesterday afternoon, when a road construction crew struck the major gas line. No one was injured or sickened. About 30 homes were evacuated, and those residents were allowed to return last night.
Where heroin goes, more meth follows. So says former drug agent Currie Myers. He told an audience in Green Bay that a spike in heroin cases is often followed by increases in meth-amphetamine cases. Myers used to solve drug crimes with the Kansas Bureau of Investigation. He says users find meth to be less expensive than heroin, and it's often easier to get. Myers also said meth has been popular with motorcycle gangs and others, often because it's a drug they can make themselves. Wisconsin authorities have seen a rise in heroin abuse and overdose deaths the past few years. As a result, seven bills to fight the heroin trend were passed by the Legislature, and signed into law this week by Governor Scott Walker. Myers said the Wisconsin Justice Department has had an 86-percent jump in meth arrests from 2011-to-'12, and it's clear that the drug is gaining in popularity.
The Medical College of Wisconsin plans to start recruiting students this summer for a new doctor training facility in De Pere that's due to open in 2015. School officials say they're completing a fund-raising effort for the new medical school, and wrapping up the process of getting accredited. The first class will have 20-to-25 students, who are scheduled to begin classes in the fall of next year. The goal is to help Wisconsin train enough doctors to treat the expanding senior population caused by the baby boom. The state's hospital association says Wisconsin is training about 100 fewer doctors than are needed to maintain current staffing levels around the state. The Medical College said it was responding to the shortage when it announced new training centers in the Green Bay and Wausau areas a couple years ago. College vice president Joseph Kerschner said mental health would be a major focus of the De Pere school. He said the school is developing seven mental health residency programs in the Green Bay area.