WISCONSIN NEWS ROUNDUP: Schools taking advantage of not having to be in session 180 days
Wisconsin schools are wasting no time taking advantage of a new state law that threw out the required 180-day school year. Altoona, which is next to Eau Claire, decided not to make up two days of classes called off due to the excessive cold-and-snow from this past winter. District administrator Connie Bierdron said the last day of school is back to June 11th. Governor Scott Walker signed the new law a month ago, right after both houses quickly passed it. It still requires various numbers of classroom hours for certain grades -- and Bierdron says Altoona will have held those hours. Also, Cadott schools in Chippewa County will shut down earlier than they planned, by adding 10 minutes to each of their remaining school days. School officials said brutal winters require more flexibility for their class requirements. Rural schools also said the option for fewer-but-longer days will save gas money on their long bus routes.
Milwaukee is one of five cities where an H-B-O cable movie will get an early premiere. "The Normal Heart" will be shown May 21st at the Landmark Oriental Theatre, four days before T-V viewers get to see it. The film stars Kenosha native Mark Ruffalo along with Julia Roberts and Jim Parsons. "The Normal Heart" reminds us what the AIDS crisis was like in New York when the disease was first discovered in the early 1980's. The film is based on a Tony-award winning play by Larry Kramer. Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, and Atlanta will also have early premiers. Milwaukee was chosen as the result of a partnership between H-B-O and the Milwaukee Film organization. H-B-O also cites high viewership of its movie channels in southeast Wisconsin.
Wisconsin now has 27 confirmed cases of the mumps this spring. Milwaukee health officials confirmed four cases yesterday -- two at U-W-M and two elsewhere in the state's largest city. U-W Madison has also reported some new cases, bringing the total there to 12. It's the first time in two years that the state has seen any cases of the mumps, a highly-contagious disease spread by kissing, sharing food or utensils, or even talking to another person. Officials said young adults brought the disease to Wisconsin in late March, from the trips they took on spring break. All 27 cases involve young people, and about half are college students. Officials said three-fourths of the infected people were fully vaccinated -- but what was supposed to be lifetime immunity failed for some reason. Paul Biedrzycki of the Milwaukee Health Department fears that the mumps will spread once colleges finish their spring semesters soon. The disease incubates for up to three weeks before symptoms appear that include fever and body aches.
Wisconsin's railroad chief looked on, as folks near Stevens Point complained to the Canadian National about freight trains blocking their way for hours. Commissioner Jeff Plale, Portage County District Attorney Lou Molepske, and railroad official Kevin Soucie were among 65 people at a meeting at the Junction City Armory last night about the growing problems of trains blocking roads. Earlier this year, the A-P said engineers throughout Wisconsin were leaving trains seemingly anywhere at the end of their workdays -- partially because of a ten-hour federal driving limit, and partially because of the brutal winter. Soucie said the winter caused problems with air brakes, and it's partially why there are backlogs in rail traffic. Folks from Amherst to Spencer told how their lives have been affected by the road blockages. Molepske said a mother almost didn't make it to a hospital to have a baby. A man with a burning truck couldn't get the fire department to show up right away. And school kids in Auburndale have walked under railroad cars to get where they're going. Soucie said he heard many of the complaints for the first time. Molepske said the railroad pays fines for breaking local clearance rules. The D-A fears that the company just sees it as a cost of doing business, and that nothing will get done. Junction City Village President Peter Mallek said he's given the railroad some ideas -- like extending passing rails to the west of town. Mallek said he hoped the meeting would foster cooperation, but he still favors enforcement powers.
Most of Wisconsin escaped the severe weather that neighboring Minnesota had last night -- but far western Wisconsin did get some of the spillover. Almost two-and-a-half inches of rain fell near Hudson. Highway 29 near Menomonie had up to three-inches of water. In Pierce County, a fallen tree blocked Highway 35. Nearby Elmwood also had some trees down. Parts of southeast Wisconsin had hail last evening -- three-fourths of an inch at Jackson. Much of Minnesota had heavy storms -- including a tornado at Gaylord and 80-mile-an-hour winds at Waseca. Most of those storms fizzed out before they could head east into Wisconsin. A cold front will sweep across the Badger State today. Forecasters say light rain is possible until the front passes. After that, it should stay dry at least into Saturday night when another wave of thunderstorms could go through. There's also a chance of rain on Mother's Day. Highs are forecast in the 60's-and-70's in most of the state through the weekend. It's supposed to get cooler again on Monday.
About 36-thousand cubic yards of contaminated muck will be removed this year from the Milwaukee River. The state D-N-R says are nine areas of sediment contaminated with cancer-causing P-C-B's. They're located on a mile stretch of the river in Milwaukee, between Lincoln Park and the Estabrook Park Dam. The D-N-R's Marsha Burzynski says most of the muck will be disposed of in landfills -- and about 500 cubic yards of highly-contaminated sediment will have to go to licensed facilities outside the Badger State. The federal E-P-A will pay most of the clean-up cost, which is estimated at 15-million dollars. Previously, about 125-thousand cubic yards of sediment with P-C-B's were removed from the same area. An informational meeting on the new dredging will be held May 20th at Lincoln Park.
The show must go on -- and it did, after an S-U-V slammed into a building where a jazz concert was taking place last night at the U-W's two-year campus in Wausau. No one was hurt -- including the driver -- but part of the vehicle landed about two-feet inside the audio control room of the theater where 250 people were watching the show. Student Anne Jagler tells W-A-O-W T-V she was sitting near the back of the theater when there was a loud crash, and people scattered out of the sound-check room. She said everyone kept their cool, as the concert continued. The theater itself was not affected. Wausau fire officials said the crash damaged heat lines in the building, and maintenance crews quickly found a leak.
It took longer than expected, but the first ocean-going cargo ship of the year has finally arrived at Duluth-Superior. The 453-foot Diana had a hard time trudging through thick ice on Lake Superior. The saltie was supposed to reach Superior on Wednesday night. But it didn't get there until yesterday, when port officials held a ceremony to greet the captain and crew of a boat with flags from Antigua and Barbuda. It went under the Duluth Aerial Bridge before docking near the base of the Blatnik Bridge at the Wisconsin-Minnesota border.