WISCONSIN NEWS ROUNDUP: Another couple of weeks to re-open the Mississippi to barge traffic near Red Wing
The Army Corps of Engineers says it might take another couple weeks to re-open the Mississippi River to barge traffic at western Wisconsin's border with Minnesota. Dredging work is underway. Heavy flooding in June caused soil to wash into the river, creating sandbars that have grounded tow-boats from about Red Wing to Winona. The Army Corps now says that almost 200 scheduled barges have not been able to go south. Channel maintenance coordinator Dan Cottrell says the Corps conducts dredging every year -- but they've never seen the sediment this bad. He said parts of the Mississippi have been impassable for 12 days. Cottrell expects the Winona area to re-open by Monday. Upstream, it might take a couple weeks to complete the project at Red Wing. Cottrell says the barge companies can feel the delays in their bottom lines. One tow-boat that holds 15 barges has about the same maximum load as 870 semi-trucks.
Marshfield Clinic will close its rural primary care facility at Elk Mound, between Eau Claire and Menomonie. Clinic officials say a reduction in patients is one of the main reasons. It's a common concern in the industry, as higher deductibles and health costs are making folks more careful about planning their doctor visits. The Elk Mound center will shut down September 19th. It has five employees, and they'll get a chance to get similar jobs at other nearby Marshfield Clinic locations. Patients will be directed to the clinic's other facilities in the area, including Eau Claire and Menomonie.
A Wisconsin faith-based coalition has asked Governor Scott Walker to seek a federal investigation into the alleged abuse of prisoners at Waupun. WISDOM has been pushing for a host of reforms at the state's lock-ups. Yesterday, the group wrote Walker to ask for a probe into suspected abuses by staffers in Waupun's segregation unit. The Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism cited 40 abuse allegations this month. Twenty-eight involved one guard who's suspected of slamming inmates into walls, choke holds, hitting prisoners' knees, touching genitals in strip searches, and making racial slurs. WISDOM has asked Walker to transfer the guard in question until an investigation is finished. The group also asked that the state Corrections Department rotate guards in segregation units, improve training, and create an independent system for inmates to lodge complaints. The Reverend Jerry Hancock, who heads a prison ministry project in Madison, says it's clear that the corrections agency is "out of control." Walker's office did not comment on the request for a federal probe. A corrections spokeswoman said the Dodge County Sheriff's Department normally investigates prison allegations, and there's been no substantiated allegations of prisoner abuse by Waupun staffers.
A nine-year-old suburban Chicago boy was re-united yesterday with a Coast Guard crew that helped rescue him from Lake Michigan at Door County. Tommy Alter and other relatives met the chopper crew at the Chicago Executive Airport. Tommy thanked the rescuers who saved him, his nine-year-old cousin Zach Suri, and his aunt Allison Alter. They rented kayaks on July 10th and were only planning to be gone for just over an hour from the small bay in western Door County where they took off. Instead, they got caught in waves of up to two-feet -- and they were found about 14 miles away in the Bay of Green Bay. A search plane from the Royal Canadian Air Force located Tommy Alter and his relatives about 15 hours after they initially got on the water. They were checked out at a hospital and released the same day. Young Zach and his mother Allison Alter used to live in Madison, where she and her husband worked at the U-W.
Several hail-storms went through Wisconsin late yesterday. The National Weather Service reported no major building damage. McKinley in Polk County had two-and-three-quarter-inch hail, almost the size of a small softball. The Appleton area had quarter-sized hail. Pellets covered the ground at Fifield in Price County. Smaller and lesser hail came down at Marshfield, Black Creek, Suring, Plymouth, and parts of Ashland County. Ashland had 48-mile-an-hour winds. Trees fell at Waukesha. One tree fell on a car near Silver Lake in Kenosha County. Most storm-related power outages have been resolved. The only noticeable outage this morning was in the New Berlin area, where We Energies said more than 80 customers were in the dark. An upper-level low pressure system is expected to hang over Wisconsin for the rest of the week, with stormy conditions possible each afternoon and evening. Highs today are predicted to be near 80 except along Lake Michigan.
Voters in Crandon have removed their mayor from office. Rob Jaeger was recalled yesterday, losing to Dennis Rosa 378-to-184. Over the half the city's eligible voters had their say. Recall supporters had accused the first-term mayor of trying to fire certain city employees, working around committees, and not letting people speak at public meetings. The City Council originally decided against a recall vote. But the state Government Accountability Board said the city had no choice, because the number of people who petitioned for it exceeded the state's minimum of 200. City officials said it was a new experience for Crandon, after the city lengthened the mayor's term from two years to four. Recalls are generally not needed for two-year office holders, because they must serve at least one year before they can eligible for recall.
Two Wisconsin F-F-A members are up for national honors. Thomas Allen of the Reedsburg F-F-A and Thomas Larson of the Viroqua chapter are among 16 finalists for four American Stars in the agricultural education group. Allen is among four finalists for the American Star Farmer award. He breeds, raises, and markets his dairy cattle -- and then sells the animals at shows and sales. Larson is one of four final nominees as the American Star in Agri-business. He started a business to fix machinery, and re-sell repaired items like chainsaws, lawn-mowers, and more. Each finalist has received two-thousand dollars, and the four winners will get another two-thousand. They'll be announced November first at the National F-F-A Convention in Louisville.
Thanks to a state grant, Fox Valley officials will try to establish consistent bicycle-and-walking trails between the Oshkosh and Appleton areas. The state D-O-T has provided 120-thousand dollars to help connect existing trails between the two cities -- and a number of places within those areas. Regional transportation planner Melissa Kraemer Badtke says there are too many places where bike paths are interrupted by street facilities, and vice versa. She said a rebuilding project on Highway 41 resulted in a new-and-improved trail at Lake Butte des Morts near Oshkosh -- but it does not connect with either U-W Oshkosh or the city's downtown. Besides trail plans, the grant may also cover things like trail safety tips and recreation classes.