WISCONSIN NEWS ROUNDUP: Construction companies awarded bid for St. Croix River bridge
It appears that two road builders will work together to install the main part of the new four-lane bridge over the Saint Croix River between Hudson and Stillwater Minnesota. The Badger and Gopher state D-O-T's said today that a joint venture between Ames Construction of Burnsville, Minnesota and Lunda of Black River Falls submitted the low bid of 380-million dollars. That's for the so-called "super-structure" that will rest on piers which are already being placed into the Saint Croix River. The bridge lanes will also be connected with ramps connected to Highway 36, a four-lane structure between the Wisconsin-Minnesota border and the Twin Cities. Officials in both states say they'll review the bid to make sure it meets the project's specifications. If so, the firms will spend about three years working on the new bridge. It's due to open in late 2016.
It may have seemed like a warmer-than-normal October in much of Wisconsin -- but it really wasn't. The National Weather Service said La Crosse had average temperatures and above-normal precipitation for the month. The average temperature in the city was about 51 degrees -- six-tenths of a degree above normal. La Crosse received just over three-point-eight inches of precipitation for October -- about one-and-two-thirds inches above the norm. A trace of snow was recorded on the 21st and 23rd in La Crosse. Parts of far northern Wisconsin had over three-inches on the ground for brief periods. That was earlier than normal, since most parts of the state don't get their first significant snows until November. Temperatures are cooling down somewhat after a mild week. Highs during the weekend are expected to be in the 30's-and-40's, with occasional snow showers mixing in with possible light rain at times. Milder temperatures return early next week.
Wisconsin taxpayers are not the only ones spending more money to give health care to convicted criminals. The Pew Charitable Trust and the MacArthur Foundation said 44 states increased their prisoner health budgets from 2001-through-'08 -- and the median increase was just over 50-percent. Wisconsin had a smaller increase than that -- around 31-percent over the eight-year period. The total prisoner health care spending in the Badger State was about in the middle of the pack. In 2008, the Pew report said about one-sixth of the 37-billion dollars spent on prisons went to inmates' health care.
Eau Claire can promote one of its own for its new police chief -- or it can choose someone who's been-on-the-beat in Milwaukee, Chicago, or Alaska. Eau Claire's Police-and-Fire Commission has announced the names of four candidates it will soon interview to replace Jerry Matysik. He retired last month after 10 years heading the Eau Claire police department. The city's deputy chief, Jerry Staniszewski, is one of the finalists -- along with retired Milwaukee police captain David Zibolski of DeForest, Chicago police lieutenant Maurice Richards, and Anchorage Alaska deputy chief Steven Hebbe. Officials hope to have a new police chief on the job by the end of the year.
A compromise has been reached on a bill to keep protestors and others away from Gogebic Taconite's preliminary work for its new iron ore mine. It has the blessing of the original author, Hazelhurst Republican Tom Tiffany -- and a full Senate vote on it could come as early as Tuesday. Tiffany's original measure would have closed the entire 32-hundred-acre mining site in Ashland and Iron counties, where public access is granted under the state's Managed Forest Law. Tiffany said the closure was needed to avoid a repeat of a theft-and-vandalism incident at the mining site in June. After a committee endorsed the bill, sportsmen balked, saying it would cut off precious deer hunting territory. And the bill reached a snag in the Senate. Green Bay Republican Rob Cowles drafted the compromise. It would close public access within 600-feet of most mining equipment, and within 600-feet of roads used for mining. The landowners would have to pay more to make up for the closures, since they get tax breaks to keep it open. Also, the land would be open during the upcoming gun deer hunting season this month. Cowles said his compromise would balance the mining company's need to work in peace, while allowing folks to use the property for recreation. Tiffany says it doesn't go far enough to protect workers who roam on the property, but he'll go along with it.
As the talk continues about a new indoor arena for Milwaukee, the city will help keep the present arena in shape. The Common Council voted 10-to-5 today to include 175-thousand dollars in next year's city budget to help maintain the B-M-O Harris Bradley Center. Mayor Tom Barrett included the money in his proposed 2014 budget, but the city's finance panel took it out. Supporters said the maintenance funds are an investment for Milwaukee. Opponents joined other critics in saying that tax money should not spent on sports. They also said other institutions would approach the city with their hands out -- including Milwaukee Public Museum and the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts. Critics of a new arena say taxpayers should not provide a playground for the Milwaukee Bucks -- but supporters say the arena is also the home of Marquette basketball, Admirals' hockey, concerts, and a host of other events.
Wisconsin's "Family Company" is slimming down. S-C Johnson, the household products' giant based in Racine, says it will cut 100-to-200 jobs on a gradual basis during the next fiscal year that begins July first. The layoffs will represent 3-to-6-percent of Johnson's 35-hundred Racine area employees. Other Johnson plants will also have layoffs, but the firm is not sure how many. Spokeswoman Kelly Semrau said some workers were surprised when they heard the news yesterday from C-E-O Fisk Johnson. The company has had five straight years of record sales and profits, and its last fiscal year was its best. However, Semrau said the home products' industry is changing quickly -- and Johnson needs to be in a better position to keep up with familiar household companies like Procter-and-Gamble and Clorox. Semrau said Johnson is trying to set aside cash for strategic acquisitions that can help the company grow. S-C Johnson gets high national ratings each year as a great place to work -- but Semrau says it's not immune from corporate pressures. In her words, "People misinterpret that if you to go S-C-J, it's lifetime employment. We've had layoffs. We're a normal business." She said employees are getting a long advance notice so they can plan their futures. Semrau said they'd be treated with "dignity, respect, and generosity."