WISCONSIN NEWS ROUND-UP: Trempealeau County committee rejects permit for proposed mine
WHITEHALL - Officials have rejected a proposed mining permit in Trempealeau County, citing environmental concerns as the key reason.
The Environment and Land Use Committee voted down the AllEnergy Silica request, saying the application felt rushed. The proposed 725-acre mine near Arcadia is also near the Trempealeau River and Trout Run Creek. Committee members say more data is needed to ensure mining won’t impact those waterways.
The Menominee Nation announced a partnership with Hard Rock International to manage a proposed Kenosha casino. Tribe chairman Craig Corn says the Hard Rock brand brings a sense of excitement and make the casino an attractive destination. The proposed Wisconsin-Illinois border casino was approved by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, but faces one more hurdle with Governor Scott Walker. The casino is facing some resistance from two other Wisconsin tribes. Governor Walker says he would consider the proposal if all tribes come to a consensus.
Authorities say a man use a Craigslist post to scout and burglarize a Pleasant Springs resident. The Dane County Sheriff’s office says a 67-year-old Sun Prairie man allegedly responded to an ad for auto parts, then returned a few days later to burglarize the home. Police say the suspect was caught entering the victim’s bedroom and took off when she called 911. The quick-thinking victim gave police a description of the suspect and vehicle… the unnamed suspect was arrested a short time later.
Governor Scott Walker says he'll ask legislators next week to provide $100-million in local property tax relief, by funneling the money to public schools. At a news conference today, Walker and GOP legislative leaders said the money would come from higher-than-expected tax collections. It would cut local property taxes on the average home by $13-dollars on the bills mailed out in December. The typical tax would go up the following year, but by $20 less than originally expected. Details won't come out until tomorrow, when the bill is formally introduced. From there, it would be an extremely fast track. The Joint Finance Committee plans a public hearing next Tuesday. The state Assembly is due to vote on the package next Thursday. The state Senate could approve it that day, or wait until the following week. Republican Senate President Mike Ellis of Neenah said he doesn't know anybody who could oppose such a large tax cut. Democrats had a skeptical reaction to the plan. They said were never in the loop on this. Whitefish Bay Representative Sandy Pasch said Walker was silent on the subject when he met yesterday with Democratic leaders of both houses and says "the devil is in the details." We won't know those details until after a special session bill is introduced tomorrow. Walker's announcement comes three days after former Trek Bicycle executive Mary Burke announced plans to run against Walker as a Democrat next year. Burke, who was campaigning in Green Bay today for Walker's job, said she's all in favor of helping public schools and cutting taxes but quote, "I'd have to make sure it's doing that. The fall session will have two other bills. One approves a tax incremental financing district for Kenosha's proposed Amazon.com distribution center. The one creates a new tax credit for historic buildings. State Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Burlington), and state Senate finance co-chair Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) rolled out the planned tax cut at a hastily-called news conference with not even two hours notice.
A key state Senate leader says giving huge pay raises to administrators is not the way to improve the UW's terse relationship with lawmakers. The university's Board of Regents is scheduled to vote tomorrow on a plan to increases pay ranges for top officials, and to grant raises for the current chancellors. The Regents' president says the increases are overdue, and they're needed to make sure top talent doesn't bolt for higher-paying jobs at other schools. Senate GOP finance leader Alberta Darling of River Hills says she understands the need to be competitive, but she does not believe double-digit hikes in the pay ranges are necessary. Darling says it's a sign that university officials quote, "don't get it," after lawmakers were incensed last year when UW schools were found to have $625-million in cash balances. That angered lawmakers so much that they refused to grant tuition hikes at the UW for each of the next two years.
A judge in Madison said a man accused of killing his two-year-old son with his SUV is not mentally able to stand trial. 31-year-old Jesus Castillo-Dimas was supposed to go on trial this month. But Dane County Circuit Judge Ellen Berz suspended the case today, to provide Castillo-Dimas with mental health treatment. He'll be institutionalized for a year, or until he's ruled competent. Castillo-Dimas is charged with first-degree intentional homicide, after he allegedly ran over two-year-old Yandel Castillo-Castillo in the summer of 2012. Authorities said he also tried to stab his son's mother and her new boyfriend, and was charged with two counts of attempted homicide for that. Castillo-Dimas is also charged with felony stalking. He pleaded innocent by insanity to all four charges. Prosecutors said he laughed at his ex-girlfriend and then taunted her, saying neither one of them would have custody of the child.
Wisconsin's latest consumer scam is an especially cruel one. It conned at least one widow out of $1,400 in the days after her husband died. According to state officials, a central Wisconsin woman got a call surprise call from a man claiming to be a life insurance agent for a policy her husband had at work. He told the widow that her husband had not paid his premiums for three years -- and she should put the money on a Green Dot Money-Pack card and send it to him. Of course, the man disappeared once he go this money. State consumer protection officials say anyone who wants to scam widows can get all the information they need from an obituary. To avoid such surprises, consumer officials suggest that couples write down all their policies and amounts while they're still alive. They say you should never send Green Dot cards or wire transfers -- because they can never be traced once they're stolen. Most of all, officials say you should never pay anyone on the basis of a stranger's phone call -- even if it sounds totally legitimate. Officials say most reputable firms put things in writing.
A Milwaukee man who's on trial for abusing and molesting five of his daughters was ordered today to have a standby counsel become his full-fledged attorney. The man was planning to represent himself at the trial -- this giving him a chance to question his daughters on the witness stand. Circuit Judge David Borowski said the questioning would amount to intimidation. So today, he ordered standby counsel Scott Anderson to serve as the defendant's lawyer. The defendant objected and yelled, "I'm calling the FBI." Anderson told the man to stop, and said he was being foolish. Judge Borowski called the defendant's actions "outlandish theatrics." He ordered Anderson and his client to spend the rest of the day working on their defense. Jurors were sent home, and the judge said testimony would most likely take place tomorrow and Monday.
About 85 northeast Wisconsin veterans are still planning to board a one-day Honor Flight next Thursday to see the nation's war memorials in Washington. However, they won't see everything if the federal government shutdown is still going on then. Organizer Diane McDonald says she's also looking into other details -- like getting to nearby restrooms and rain-shelters -- because she doesn't want any surprises. Also, she said the Vietnam Veterans and Iwo Jima memorials remain closed. The Honor Flights began a few years ago so the dwindling numbers of World War Two veterans could see their national memorial before they die. Now, veterans of other conflicts are invited. They go for free, while the chaperones must pay their own way. McDonald says she's spent about 100 hours checking ways to work around possible logistical problems once the veterans reach Washington. The government originally closed all the monuments when the shutdown began October first. But after veterans spent two days trying to get in, Park Service officials at least opened the doors to most memorials.
An effort to get tougher on bullies in cyber-space was unanimously approved today by the Wisconsin Senate's education committee. The panel endorsed a bill from Janesville Democrat Tim Cullen. It would ban the posting of messages that intentionally threaten people and property. Also, the state's model school policy on bullying would reflect the ban on student cyber-intimidation. The model policy helps local school boards approve anti-bullying policies that have been required by law for the past couple years.
Drought conditions improved in Wisconsin after last week's heavy rains. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, only eight-and-a-half percent of the state's land area is in a severe drought. That's down from 17-percent the past few weeks. Far western Wisconsin has been the driest. Today's map shows two smaller patches with severe drought -- one bounded roughly by Polk, Buffalo, and Clark counties -- and the other bounded by Mauston, Tomah, and Volk Field. All told, just over 40-percent of Wisconsin is abnormally dry or worse. That's down from 46-percent a week ago. Numerous rainstorms hit the Badger State last Thursday through Saturday as part of a massive Midwest storm system. Places with the deepest drought got the most rain. One storm in Galesville dumped more than four-inches. Milwaukee, Racine, and Kenosha are all drought-free for the first time in a while. Virtually everything is drought-free east of a line from the Danbury area in Polk and Douglas counties, to central Racine and Kenosha counties. It's been a mild and dry week in Wisconsin. Afternoon temperatures continue to be up to 15-degrees above normal, in the 70's. There's a slight chance for more rain tomorrow night and into Saturday. Cooler temperatures in the 60's are predicted for Saturday.
The next president of the University of Wisconsin System could make a lot more money than the outgoing president. The UW Board of Regents will consider higher salary ranges for all of its top executives, plus pay hikes for the current chancellors at campuses throughout the state. Regents' president Michael Falbo says UW chancellors, like other state employees, have not been given pay raises in five years. He says it's more economical to keep the UW's talented leaders, instead of watching them leave for other schools that pay a lot more. UW President Kevin Reilly, who's leaving at the end of the year, now makes $418,000. The proposed pay range for the next president would be between $399,000 and $598,000. The next provost at UW-Madison could also be in for a six-figure increase from the current range. The Regents' business-and-finance panel will consider the higher pay scales and chancellors' raises today. A final vote is expected tomorrow during the full Regents' meeting at UW-Parkside near Kenosha.