WISCONSIN NEWS ROUNDUP: March-like temperatures the last few days, not May
It got colder during the night in much of Wisconsin, causing folks to stoke up their furnaces for the first time in a while. The mercury fell into the 20's in north central areas. Land O'Lakes, next to the Upper Michigan border in Vilas County, was the state's cold spot at six o'clock with 26 degrees. Volk Field in Juneau County got down to 24 overnight. And with only a week to go before the Memorial Day weekend, the Wisconsin Dells outdoor water-parks felt a shiver as nearby Grand Marsh dropped to 25. Most of the state was in the 30's at six a-m. A few places were in the low-40's. Prairie du Chien was the warm spot at 41. The National Weather Service says a mid-level low pressure system over the Great Lakes will keep things cool and occasionally wet at least through tomorrow. Today's highs will only reach the 40's-and-50's. Patchy frost is due to return tonight, with lows dropping again into the 30's. Clear and warmer weather is expected on Sunday. Highs in the 60's are forecast at least through Tuesday.
A state office building will be closed all day, while crews clean up and investigate an overnight fire. It happened at the General Executive Facility on East Washington Avenue in Madison, close to the Capitol. Fire officials said a passer-by heard the building's alarm system sounding around 1:50 this morning. Crews later found ceiling tiles that were melted on the building's fourth floor. No injuries were reported. Media reports said smoke spread to most floors of the structure, which houses the headquarters of the state departments of Workforce Development and Children-and-Families. All other state office buildings remain open.
Governor Scott Walker will deliver his first college commencement address this evening. The Republican Walker will impart his wisdom on about 500 graduates at Concordia University in Mequon. His office said Walker has been invited in the past to make commencement speeches -- but this is the first one that has worked out. Walker recently said he wanted to become a college graduate himself, using the U-W System's new flexible-option degree program. He went to Marquette University in Milwaukee but life got in the way, and he left in 1990 while he was 34 credits short of a degree.
An economist says Wisconsin's unemployment rate is dropping for the right reasons, unlike the nation as a whole. Wells Fargo portfolio strategist Brian Jacobsen said employment is actually increasing in the Badger State -- while the national rate is dropping because more discouraged job-seekers are leaving the labor force. State officials said yesterday that the seasonally-adjusted jobless rate was five-point-eight percent in April. It's a half-point below the national rate, and the lowest figure since October of 2008 when the Great Recession was just starting to take hold. Marquette professor Abdur Chowdhury said the new numbers reflect a state economy that's recovering gradually. He did note a lack of job growth in the construction industry. Chowdhury also tells the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that Governor Scott Walker's campaign promise to create 250-thousand private sector jobs during his current four-year term seems "unachievable." State Workforce Development Secretary Reggie Newson hailed the creation of 101-thousand jobs since 2010 but said more needs to be done. The campaign of Walker's main Democratic challenger, Mary Burke, said last year's job numbers were worse than the previous two years -- and it shows that Walker's approach is not working.
If you think the cold winter reduced your chances of getting Lyme disease, think again. U-W Madison entomology professor Susan Paskewitz said she's heard from many people who hoped that the extreme cold might have killed off a lot of disease-carrying ticks. But it didn't happen. Paskewitz tells Wisconsin Public Radio that she and her team found 50 deer ticks early last month in a relatively small area in Dane County. She said the ticks have probably adapted to colder winters, staying warm and cozy even in harsh conditions. Paskewitz said Wisconsin's ticks are more likely to carry Lyme disease than in the past. A study from U-W Eau Claire released last fall bears that out. It said that just over a third of ticks collected in 21 counties tested positive for Lyme. A state health official blamed an expanding tick population at the time.
Most Wisconsinites know that the Danish kringle is a wildly popular home-grown pastry. Now, a Racine company wants to show us why that is. The O-and-H Danish Bakery plans to convert a former car dealership in Mount Pleasant into a new store -- plus a museum of sorts, which would highlight the history and popularity of kringle and the "artisan trade of Danish baking." That trade has been around for over a century in Racine. The Mount Pleasant Plan Commission will consider the proposal on Wednesday. If it's approved, it would open next spring as the company's fifth bakery -- and it would become the firm's flagship location. O-and-H said they need the facility to accommodate growth in its mail order business and retail sales of baked goods. O-and-H has been in business for 65 years. It's where President Obama bought the unique treat when he campaigned for re-election in 2012. Last year, the kringle became Wisconsin's official state pastry. But lawmakers had to quietly insert it into the massive state budget, after separate bills to create four other state symbols failed to pass since 2009.
A former Wisconsin entertainment official is retiring. Ray Ritari has spent the last seven years as the general manager of the Alaska State Fair. He says he'll retire once his contract runs out in November. Ritari says he and his wife will be able to pursue interests they've set aside during their busy careers. Ritari has spent almost 40 years in the public events industry in Wisconsin, Idaho, and Washington state as well as Alaska.