WISCONSIN NEWS ROUND-UP: Propane terminal to be built in Hixton
BLACK RIVER FALLS - A propane terminal will be built in west-central Wisconsin, to make up for the loss of a major pipeline that sent Canadian fuel into the Upper Midwest. CHS of Saint Paul and the Federation Co-operative of Black River Falls said the new terminal would be located along Interstate-94 at Hixton in Jackson County.
CHS vice president Drew Combs said it's part of a $24-million dollar investment to expand propane service in the region affected by the reversal of the Cochin pipeline. An outage in that line was partially blamed for this winter's propane shortage, which drove up prices for a quarter-million Wisconsinites who heat their homes with the fuel. The line's owner, Kinder Morgan, is reversing the pipeline's flow to send domestic propane to Canada instead of the other way around. Officials say the new Hixton terminal is due to open this fall. Meanwhile, a committee of the Midwest Governors Association was meeting in Madison today to discuss ways to avoid a repeat of the propane shortage. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker said he asked the White House last week for more flexibility in the use of funds for low-income heating assistance. The state is asking for eight-million dollars in advance on funds Wisconsin is due to get in the next fiscal year starting in October. The goal is to take advantage of lower wholesale propane prices in the summer.
An armed fugitive who's been the subject of a manhunt in northwest Wisconsin was identified today as 32-year-old Jared Brendel of Barron. He's wanted for fleeing police, and illegally possessing a firearm as a convicted felon. Barron County sheriff's officials said they tried stopping Brendel last Friday night near Dallas -- and he led officers on a chase for about 15 minutes before the vehicle crashed in a ditch. He fled on foot, and officers could not find him. Last evening, deputies were told that Brendel was seen with a gun outside a house near Dallas. A truck he was driving was later found stuck in a field. SWAT teams and a State Patrol aircraft then joined area sheriff's officers on a manhunt in what officials called rough, swampy terrain. Brendel was still at large at last word.
A 12-year-old Waukesha girl is getting better, after she was stabbed 19 times in an apparent fictional horror ritual. Officials at Waukesha Memorial Hospital said the girl improved to fair condition today. She was previously listed as critical but stable. Authorities said she was stabbed throughout her body last Friday night in a wooded area during a sleep-over. Two of her 12-year-old classmates at a Waukesha middle school told authorities they planned the killing for months, to be allegiant to the fictional Slender Man in the Creepy-Pasta Web site of horror stories. One of the girls told officers that a person must kill to show dedication to Slender Man, and to prove themselves worthy of him. According to prosecutors, the suspects believed that Slender Man lived in a mansion in northern Wisconsin's Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest -- and their plan was to kill the victim and walk to the mansion.
Prosecutors feared that publicity about the John Doe probe into the state's recall elections would taint the evidence they receive by making witnesses "less likely to be entirely candid." That's according to court filings made public today. It was first reported last fall that a number of conservative groups -- including Governor Scott Walker's campaign -- were under investigation for alleged illegal fundraising and coordination in Republican recall contests. Circuit Judge Rudolph Randa twice halted the probe last month, saying it violated the free speech rights of the conservative Wisconsin Club for Growth. Since then, prosecutors have said their cover was basically blown, and it asked that all documents in the John Doe be made public. The Club for Growth wants a number of records to remain secret. The issue is pending, along with the prosecution's appeal of the halting of the investigation.
The Wisconsin DOT says it will not propose tollways to help cover the state's road-funding shortfall. Department Secretary Mark Gottlieb tells the Wisconsin State Journal that his agency's next budget will include a long-term "sustainable" funding solution. He's not saying what the agency has in mind yet. They're still reviewing comments from nine community meetings and 24 smaller business group meetings around the state, which ended in late May. Wisconsin has seen its fuel tax revenues drop because we're using more fuel-efficient vehicles. The DOT says it adds up to a $680-million revenue shortfall in the projects planned for the next two-year budget through mid-2017. Of course, the state's taxing plans would depend on who's sitting in the governor's chair next February when the executive budget is proposed to the Legislature. Republican Scott Walker is in a close race with Democrat Mary Burke -- and she says she would have to review the budget and make "smart decisions." Gottlieb says he would personally won't rule out a gas tax hike, and-or a fee based on how many miles you drive. He emphasized that the latter would not put a GPS on your car -- since privacy concerns have already been raised in other states where a mileage fee has come up. A recent Marquette poll showed support for toll roads, but Gottlieb says they'd have to be approved by Congress -- and that takes time.
American Family Insurance of Madison is gearing up for thousands of damage claims connected with massive hail-storms from yesterday in Iowa and Nebraska. The company sent a catastrophe team to help its local employees deal with damage claims. The storms dumped baseball-sized hail. American Family alone expects up to four-thousand vehicle damage claims, and 4,500 property claims from the hail. The storms also dumped up to four inches of rain. Wisconsin has had its share of severe storms, too, during the past couple weeks. One storm in southeast Wisconsin had baseball-sized hail a few days ago. Three-and-three-quarter-inches of rain fell in parts of western Wisconsin Sunday and Monday.
Police in Watertown now say a 28-year-old woman found dead in a parking lot was murdered. Heather Stewart's body was found last Friday in her vehicle, in the lot of a former grocery store in Watertown. Officials have not said how she died. No one was in custody for the death at last word. Stewart was last seen last Wednesday at Clyman in Dodge County.
A man who was murdered in an alley in Milwaukee has been identified as 34-year-old Moses Ziebart. Police said he was shot late Monday morning behind his north side house. He later died at a hospital. Milwaukee Police had not made any arrests at last word.
________________________A pilot who was killed during the Stevens Point Air Show was an experienced military and commercial flyer. Police identified him today as 47-year-old William Cowden of Menomonie in western Wisconsin. Before his performance yesterday, Cowden told the Stevens Point Journal he flew "F"-16's in the Air Force, and he was a commercial pilot for Delta Airlines. He said he began flying aerobatic planes because it brought back the thrill he had in flying the F-16's. Wausau TV station WAOW was getting video from the air show for its Sunday evening newscasts when it happened to record the crash. It showed Cowden falling rapidly before doing a flip, and dropping suddenly into a wooded area about a fifth-of-a-mile from the runway. Two federal agencies are investigating.
A Wausau man has died in an SUV crash in North Dakota. The state's Highway Patrol said 58-year-old Timothy Stark lost control on a curve, veered onto the left shoulder, tried to over-correct, and landed in the right ditch where the SUV rolled over. Stark died later at a hospital in Valley City, North Dakota. The crash remains under investigation. It happened early Monday near Fingal, about ten miles south of Interstate-94 on Highway 32. Officers said Stark was not wearing a seat-belt at the time.
Milwaukee's Indian casino is looking for 250 people to staff a new hotel it's opening later this summer. A job fair is being held today at the Potawatomi Casino between downtown and the Miller Park baseball stadium. Another job fair will take place Saturday at the same spot. The Potawatomi is opening a 19-story hotel across from Marquette University's soccer field in the city's industrial Menomonee Valley. The hotel cost $150-million to build. Tribal officials say they'll need front desk personnel, house-keepers, food-and-beverage workers, door attendants, and others.
A larrge distributor of business packaging materials plans to double the size of its headquarters in Kenosha County. Governor Scott Walker made the announcement this morning at Uline's facility in Pleasant Prairie. The firm plans to add a second warehouse with a million square feet, plus a second office building with about 200-thousand square feet. In a statement, the governor said Uline would spend about 100-million dollars on the expansion -- and unlike the original project, taxpayers will not provide funding. The company received about six-million dollars in incentives to move its headquarters from Waukegan, Illinois to Pleasant Prairie in 2008. About a-thousand jobs were created in that project. In 2012, Uline moved another distribution facility from neighboring Minnesota to Hudson in far western Wisconsin.
Wisconsin's largest YMCA said today it would file for Chapter-11 bankruptcy. The "Y" of Metropolitan Milwaukee is about $30-million in debt, after it borrowed heavily on a series of new projects and expansions throughout southeast Wisconsin. The institution said it would sell most of its real estate assets outside the Milwaukee urban community. The "Y" would keep operating five recreation facilities in the city, plus Camp Minikani on Amy Belle Lake in Hubertus. The "Y" says it will sell its other Milwaukee area properties to operators which are in a better position to keep them going. CEO Julie Tolan said she fully expects that all existing facilities will keep running throughout the Chapter-11 restructuring process. YMCA leaders said the financial services crisis and the resulting Great Recession caused financial headaches that continue. At the same time, membership dropped by five-percent a year for the past three years as the comprehensive "Y" faced new competition from smaller and cheaper workout facilities.
Two men from Duluth-Superior who were caught transporting a large amount of marijuana will not spend any more time behind bars, as long as they stay clean. A judge in Rapid City South Dakota has sentenced 64-year-old Dennis Krivinchuk of Superior and 66-year-old Richard Ward of Duluth to the time they've already served -- plus fines and probation periods. The men were caught with 60 pounds of marijuana and 150 grams of hash when they were stopped for a traffic violation last November on Interstate-90 near Rapid City. They struck a plea deal with prosecutors in which they admitted their guilt. If they don't stay out of trouble, Krivinchuk would go to prison for up to two years. Ward could face a maximum of five years if he doesn't follow the terms of his probation.
__________________________Animals are the most likely to be killed by U.S. police officers -- and dog advocates are putting out a new series of videos to reduce quick shooting decisions based on fear. Milwaukee is one of the few cities where dog deaths by officers are tallied. That was after a lawsuit accusing officers of killing a woman's dog in 2004 while looking for an unrelated man with a pit bull. The city found that an average of 48 dogs a year were killed by Milwaukee Police from 2000-through-'08. But after officers received training, the number of deaths dropped. They fell to 28 in 2012, but an official of the National Canine Research Council says that's still too many. Her group took part in a study in 2011 which resulted in new videos that give police a better understanding of relationships with dogs. Connecticut dog behaviorist Brian Kilcommons is featured in the videos, which show officers how to interpret dogs' body language and other traits -- and to detect warning signs of an aggressive dog before deciding to use force. Rich Roberts of the International Union of Police Associations says the videos are good on-the-job training that can be shown at short daily police briefings. He said that in hostile situations, officers are better off the more they know about a dog.___________________________
The fire chief in Sheboygan wants to ban sky lanterns -- paper lanterns that rise in the air, like small hot air balloons. They're often released at Asian festivals, and they're becoming more popular in the U.S. at weddings and other events that wish good luck to people. Chief Mike Romas sees them as fire hazards, and he's not the only one. There's a statewide ban on sky lanterns in neighboring Illinois -- as well as in Maryland and Hawaii. The U.S. Fire Marshals' Association has asked all states to ban them. The Sheboygan Press says sky lanterns are getting more popular in that city. They were used at a fund-raiser to celebrate the Sheboygan Theater Company's 80th anniversary. The fire chief said there was not a specific incident that triggered his proposal. He said he saw a flier about sky lanterns at a hardware store where folks could buy them off the rack and light them up. He said that "in a city, there's just no way." Sheboygan's safety committee will consider the proposed sky lantern ban a week from today.____________________________
The Wisconsin elections' agency is getting heat for the way it's enforcing a new state law that requires those who sign nomination papers to print their names legibly. The State Journal of Madison said it found some legible names among 90 that were stricken by the Government Accountability Board's staff, after petitions for this fall elections were filed. The head of the state Assembly elections' panel, Chippewa Falls Republican Kathleen Bernier, said the board was going too far to enforce a law passed by her own party after the 2012 recall elections -- when Governor Scott Walker's people complained that too many signatures supporting his recall could not be easily identified. Board spokesman Reid Magney said the law is causing more names to be stricken, but he noted that the law requires each signer to legibly print his or her name -- and cursive handwriting is not printed, even if it's totally readable. Bernier said she'd ask the Board next week to accept all readable names, saying it complies with the law's intention that all signers be identifiable. Two candidates -- including Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Marcia Mercedes Perkins -- had nobody print their names. So all of those signatures were tossed out. Most candidates had well beyond the required numbers of signatures. Some didn't -- like Manitowoc Republican Senate candidate Barry Nelson. He said he was told that some of his printed names looked too squiggly, and they were construed as second signatures. He lost almost 100 signatures that way, and fell below the 400 he needed.
About two thirds of Wisconsin's 99 state Assembly seats will have contests this fall -- and almost half the contested races will have primaries in August. That's according to candidate filings made by yesterday's deadline. They show that 18 districts will have Republican primaries in August, and 11 will have Democratic primaries. In the state Senate, all but two of the 17 races up this fall have contests. There are four Democratic primaries, and three GOP primaries. The nominating petitions won't be finalized until next week, when the Government Accountability Board determines if they enough valid signatures. No matter what happens, we'll see lots of new faces in the Legislature. Twenty-two incumbent representatives are leaving their current posts after this year -- along with seven senators.
Making plea deals does not mean that prosecutors are soft on crime. So says Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm. He wrote a five-page response to Sheriff David Clarke, who recently said the DA should consider banning plea bargains for major crimes and sending all such offenders to prison. Chisholm said that if he took all murder cases to trial, his staff would miss deadlines for submitting evidence and legal briefs -- thus letting killers go free. The DA also said it would be a travesty to have trials for all sexual assaults, without considering the effects on victims and their families. Clarke said Milwaukee County has a "revolving door" justice system that fosters the kind of violence in which a 10-year-old girl was shot in crossfire while on a school playground last month. The same shooting spurred criticism of Chisholm from state Assembly Speaker Robin Vos of Burlington. He accused the DA of bargaining down serious crimes while spending too much with John Doe investigations into Vos' fellow Republicans. Chisholm called the speaker's claim "nonsense," while the DA had much stronger criticism for Sheriff Clarke Chisholm said Clarke spends too much time hosting talk radio shows, and has deputies watching guards check courthouse visitors instead of catching criminals in the streets.
A plea deal is being negotiated for an Eau Claire man accused of shooting an assault rifle at a sheriff's deputy several times, before he was shot back. Forty-seven year old Paul Lynch had pleaded insanity to Eau Claire County charges of attempted homicide, shooting while intoxicated, disorderly conduct, and possessing a firearm as a convicted felon. Yesterday, Lynch's attorney said two psychological tests of his client both came up negative. As a result, he most likely will not be able to use an insanity defense. Authorities said Lynch had threatened a female landlord after she told him to leave for violating her house rules -- and when officers responded, Lynch exchanged gunfire with a deputy who shot him. Lynch is jailed under a 25-thousand dollar cash bond. He's due back in court July 14th, when the status of his case will be reviewed.
A 37-year-old Milwaukee woman will spend 25 years in prison for smothering her 14-month-old son. Circuit Judge Jeffrey Wagner sentenced Nola Zylstra today to the term that was recommended by prosecutors. That was after she avoided a life term by pleading guilty to a reduced charge of reckless homicide in the death of Leonidas Fisher on March 9th. Her lawyer asked for a 15-year sentence -- ten years less than what she was given. The child's father, Lucas Fisher, pleaded for a 40-year term. He told the judge that "no words could express how broken" he felt. He said his estranged wife was controlling and manipulating, and he left her in February. Zylstra's lawyer said his client might have felt the same feelings of abandonment that she experienced as a child, when her father left her family.
A former information technology director at Ripon College has pleaded innocent to stealing over $400,000. Fifty-four Ronald Haefner of Mequon is scheduled to have a two-week trial starting January fifth. He's charged in Fond du Lac County with 64 felonies and misdemeanors. They include 10 charges of fraudulent credit card use, and 54 embezzlement counts. A criminal complaint has 18 pages of purchases that Haefner is accused of improperly making -- including computer, furniture, and other items. He worked at Ripon from 1999 until he was fired last November. The complaint quoted Haefner as saying he made purchases for himself and his family, and gave some of the items to a former Ripon College president who's now at a school in North Carolina. District Attorney Eric Toney said the thefts appeared to be for personal profit -- and the DA said he believed Haefner lied to the former Ripon president.
A prisoner is back in custody in Racine, after being on the lam for about 11 hours. Police said 36-year-old Jesus Arroyo was handcuffed to a belly-chain, when he managed to run from a state corrections' agent around one yesterday afternoon. The agent was escorting him to the Racine County Jail's entrance. Around midnight, police said they were tipped off about a suspicious person elsewhere in the city. The subject fled when officers got there, but he was captured a short time later. He was jailed for violating a previous probation. Police said he has previous convictions for burglary, reckless injury, possessing marijuana with the intent to deliver it, and escape.
Gas prices have been creeping up in Wisconsin since Memorial Day. The Triple-"A" said today's average statewide price was $3.70-a-gallon for regular unleaded. That's almost three-cents higher than yesterday, and seven cents more than a week ago. Nick Jarmusz of the Wisconsin Triple-"A" says it's not clear why prices are spiking. He tells the Wisconsin Radio Network the demand is clearly higher due to more travelers on the road -- especially after the state's rough winter. He said it's possible that refineries are struggling to keep up with the demand -- but the Triple-"A" says it's not aware of any refinery outages, shutdowns, or maintenance projects which might affect available supplies.
Madison's fire marshal says the May 16th fire that closed a state office building could have been prevented, had a sprinkler system been put in. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel quotes Ed Ruckriegel as saying the damage would have been only a few thousand dollars, and no one would have missed work. Instead, the building that houses the Workforce Development and Children-and-Families' agencies was expected to be closed for two months. And hundreds of employees have been asked to work from their homes or alternate locations while clean-ups and investigations continue. Ruckreigel said many state office buildings in Madison and Milwaukee do not have sprinkler systems. That's because they were not required when they were built. Now, he said Wisconsinites need to decide if it's better to "pay the money out front and have zero loss, or have something like this happen and we all lose out." An initial investigate said there was $350,000 in damage to the General Executive Facility-One at its contents -- but officials say a final estimate is not known yet. Officials say the fire did not disrupt the agencies' services.
UW-Green Bay's new chancellor will come on board August 1st. The UW Board of Regents has hired Gary Miller, who's now the chancellor at North Carolina-Wilmington. Miller will become the sixth campus leader in Green Bay's history. He replaces Tom Harden, who said last December that he would resign in August after five years in the post. Miller has been at Wilmington since 2011. During his tenure, the school created an online nursing program, and opened a marine biotechnology business research-and-development facility.
Gogebic Taconite has said it would drill more holes this summer at the site of its proposed iron ore mine in far northern Wisconsin. However, the DNR says it's still waiting for a required permit application. Hydrologist Larry Lynch says the company has yet to give his agency the locations of the holes to be drilled, how deep they'll be, and how related stormwater would be handled. Lynch says the company is currently engaged in other activities that don't need a state license -- like mapping streams and wetlands on the mining site, and collecting groundwater data. Lynch says the DNR is also performing some of its own data collection. Meanwhile, media reports said a forum on the mining proposal will be held in Minocqua on Thursday. A panel discussion will feature state DNR regulator Ann Coakley, plus Cyrus Hester from the Bad River Indian tribe which opposes the project -- and a couple experts from UW-Madison.
A nearly five-month-old male orangutan has been sent to the Milwaukee County Zoo, to try and find a suitable surrogate mother. Kecil (ka-cheel) rejected his birth mother after he was born on January 11th at the Toledo Zoo in Ohio. Zoo officials there decided to place the baby with a surrogate -- and they chose a female who's had experience in that role. M-J was the surrogate mother for Mahal, a baby orangutan who touched people's hearts when he was brought to Milwaukee in 2008. Mahal died last December from a tapeworm infection. Kecil is the second baby ape living at the Milwaukee County Zoo this year. The first was a female gorilla who was born March 19th. Kassiu died a month later, after being the first gorilla born in Milwaukee in 22 years.