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WISCONSIN NEWS ROUNDUP: State has 60 bridges as "critical" or "structurally-deficient"

Wisconsin has about 60 bridges which are listed in a national directory as both "fracture critical" and "structurally-deficient." That's according to an Associated Press review of the latest National Bridge Inventory.

State officials say 10 of the 60 bridges in the report have been fixed. Eighteen others are scheduled for repairs between now and 2017. Three others are closed. Most of the bridges are in rural areas, but a couple are in downtown Milwaukee. "Fracture critical" means that a bridge could collapse if a component like a load-bearing girder fails. "Structurally-deficient" means that a bridge needs repairs, and could eventually need major reconstruction. Almost eight-thousand bridges around the country are in both categories. Scot Becker, head of the Wisconsin DOT Structures Bureau, downplays the new report. He contends that Wisconsin bridges are safe. Becker says the "fracture critical" status might sound ominous -- but it only means that if one part fails, the rest of a bridge is not designed to carry the rest of the load. He says the degree of deterioration in a structurally-deficient bridge may vary from rust-to-potholes. Becker says Wisconsin either closes a bridge or imposes weight limits if it's deemed unsafe. The state has no plans to repair 27 of the 60 bridges listed as deficient or fracture-critical in the new report. Wisconsin has over 14,000 bridges at least 20-feet long.

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The discovery of the emerald ash borer in Superior could be a problem for loggers and mills in neighboring Minnesota. Public Radio in the Gopher State says unprocessed ash trees cannot be transported through September. That's because of Wisconsin's quarantine placed on ash products in Douglas County, where Superior is located. County forestry director Jon Harris says every level of the region's supply chain for wood products will feel quote, "a certain level of pain." Logger Max Ericson of Minong says he might to have begin storing the timber he cuts during the summer, instead of shipping it right away. The movement of cut ash is restricted until October first, when the ash borer does not spread as easily. One mill across the Wisconsin border says it's doing okay for now -- but things could change if the quarantine zone is expanded into Minnesota. That would happen if the emerald ash borer is found in that part of the Gopher State. Business say it's only a matter of time until it happens. There have been reports that the tree-killing ash borer might have come from somebody hauling infected firewood from central Wisconsin. Ericson says he's disturbed by that because quote, "We're the ones who are going to have to deal with the consequences."

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It's been almost 30 years since a World War One cannon was stolen from outside the American Legion Hall at Plymouth in Sheboygan County -- and authorities are still trying to get it back. According to police, people thought four members of a moving crew were placing the cannon on a trailer, and then using a pick-up truck to pull it away. That was in early August of 1984. It appeared natural at the time, because the Legion was in the process of moving to a new location. But Legion commander Eugene Blindauer said the four men were not movers -- and nobody has seen the cannon since then. Over the last year, Plymouth Police and Sheboygan County sheriff's deputies have been looking for leads in an effort to get the cannon back. The statute-of-limitations in the case has long been expired, so the thieves cannot be criminally charged. Still, sheriff's sergeant Doug Tuttle hopes to bring the cannon back for the veterans.  

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Frost advisories are in effect until eight o'clock this morning for two dozen counties in the northern half of Wisconsin. It got down to 31 degrees in Rhinelander and Manitowish Waters at five a-m. Other parts of the region were at the freezing mark or just above it. Southern Wisconsin was much warmer, in the mid-40's to low-50's. Forecasters say all of the Badger State will enjoy a sunny, fall-like day today with highs in the 60's. The National Weather Service says a low-pressure system will bring new chances of rain to Wisconsin tomorrow night through Thursday -- along with warmer temperatures. The mercury could hit 80 again on Thursday. Meanwhile, much of the Badger State had soaking rains yesterday -- especially in western Wisconsin, where the current drought is officially listed as severe again. Around nine-tenths of an inch of rain fell yesterday at La Crosse, Alma, and Neillsville. Stueben in southwest Wisconsin had eight-tenths-of-an-inch.

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The Blood Center of Wisconsin has issued an emergency appeal for donations. The Milwaukee-based blood bank reports lower-than-normal donations this month, after a decline in donors over the Labor Day holiday. The Blood Center says it has a less than a one-day supply of several types of blood, including "O"-negative. Officials say all types of blood are needed. The Blood Center is extending its hours at some of its locations through Wednesday, in the hopes of getting more blood. 

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Wisconsin's entry in the Miss America pageant finished just outside of the Top-10. Paula Mae Kuiper of Mount Pleasant made it to the Top-15, and then the final 12 in last night's televised finals. She was eliminated when 10 women were picked for the talent competition. The 20-year-old Kuiper won the Miss Wisconsin pageant earlier this year as Miss Madison-Capital City. She was Miss Racine the year before. Miss New York won last night's pageant for the second year in a row. Nina Davuluri won the crown from Mallory Hagan. The pageant was moved back to its long-time home in Atlantic City after six years in Las Vegas.

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It’s National Child Passenger Safety Week, and officials are reminding Wisconsinites to use proper child safety seats. From a rear-facing car seat to boosters, Triple-A Wisconsin spokeswoman Pam Moen says it’s important for those seats to be installed properly. State law requires all children to be in a safety seat until at least eight-years-old or weighing 80 pounds and four-foot-nine-inches tall. Moen says anyone having trouble securing a safety seat in a vehicle can go online for advice at www-dot-SEATCHECK-dot-org (www.seatcheck.org).

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Bayside authorities say a thief took a picture of himself wearing designer sunglasses, then ran out of the store without paying for them. Police say the sunglasses, taken from Innovative Optique on September 4, are valued at over 21-hundred dollars. Surveillance video captured the suspect taking a selfie shot with his cellphone then running out of the store. Anyone with information is asked to contact Police.

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 John Menard is still the richest person in Wisconsin.  That's according to Forbes magazine in its annual ranking of the 400 richest Americans.  Menard, founder of his home improvement chain based in Eau Claire, is said to be worth seven-and-a-half billion dollars.  That's up from six-billion a year ago, but Forbes said Menard actually dropped one spot in the rankings.  He's now the 57th-richest in the country.  The improved housing market is said to have helped at least some of the state's richest individuals.  It certainly helped Herb Kohler.  The bathroom company magnate from the Sheboygan area jumped 105 places from a year ago -- and his estimated wealth soared from two-point-six billion dollars to six-point-four billion.  Diane Hendricks of ABC Supply in Beloit is the third richest at $4.4 billion.  She, too, gained a nice sum from a year ago.  Forbes said her fortune grew by $1.5 billion dollars.  Hendricks is 103rd on the magazine's list.  Further down Forbes' list are four people tied to the Johnson household products' fortune -- Fisk, Imogene, Curt, and Helen Johnson-Leipold.  James Cargill the Second of Birchwood is also on the Forbes' roster, along with Madison's Judy Faulkner -- the founder of Epic Systems.

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Fifty-four prospective jurors are being questioned in the trial of Jeffrey Trevino, the Saint Paul man charged with slaying his wife -- Wausau area native Kira Steger Trevino.  Jury selection began today in Saint Paul.  The process was expected to take two days.  Relatives said the 30-year-old Kira was having an affair when she was killed in February.  Her body was found in early May in the Mississippi River in downtown Saint Paul. Trevino apparently never sought a plea deal, and his lawyer says he won't ask for one now.  Defense attorney John Conrad calls a guilty plea "unacceptable."  The victim's family also opposes any plea bargain.

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Scientists from Canada say only a small number of Asian carp might be enough to pose serious threats to native fish in the Great Lakes.  Kim Cuddington of the University of Waterloo says there's a 50-50 chance of the bloated carp gaining a foothold if only 10 of them find their way into the Great Lakes.  If 20 fish make it through, she says the probability of major damage could be 75-percent under some conditions.  An electronic barrier is keeping the Asian carp out of Lake Michigan for now, but Cuddington says it's not likely that the fast-growing fish can be kept out of the Great Lakes forever.  She says the amount of time to create a large population of bighead and silver carp would depend on how old the carp are when they spawn.

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A Wisconsin company that makes loans to those who put up their cars as collateral has agreed to pay three-million dollars to settle a state lawsuit.  The state departments of Justice and Financial Institutions, and the Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee accused the Wisconsin Auto Title Loans company of adding extra costs to their loans, by enrolling borrowers into a motor club.  The lawsuit said the firm never told customers about the enrollment -- or else they said it was mandatory.  Under a settlement announced today, the firm will put two-and-three-quarter million dollars into a restitution fund.  The firm also vows to extinguish all finance charges accrued on open accounts -- and to release all existing liens issued from 1999-through-2010.  Wisconsin Auto Title Loans has 22 locations throughout the state. 

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A Milwaukee man is scheduled to go on trial September 30th for a traffic death in which an unborn child was killed.  Donovan Walker-Hall was expected to enter into a plea deal today.  But it fell through, so the case proceeded to a trial.  According to prosecutors, Walker-Hall was speeding on a north side Milwaukee street this spring when his SUV slammed into another vehicle and drove onto a sidewalk.  The SUV struck a 24-year-old woman who was nine months' pregnant at the time.  The unborn baby died.  A man who was walking with the mother escaped injury.  Walker-Hall was charged in May with negligent homicide, reckless driving, hit-and-run, and driving with a suspended license.  

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A 23-year-old woman has been arrested for a drunk driving death in central Wisconsin.  Portage County authorities said the woman collided with a vehicle that was pulling out a driveway late yesterday morning east of Stevens Point in the town of Lanark (lann'-ark).  51-year-old Daniel Wetzel of Lanark was killed.  He was a passenger in the car that was just leaving the driveway.  Wetzel's 31-year-old son Richard was the driver.  He was taken to Neenah hospital in an undisclosed condition.  The woman escaped injury, as did three passengers in her vehicle.  Officials said the woman had a blood alcohol level of point-15, almost twice the legal limit for intoxication.  She was arrested OWI, and criminal charges were pending at last word.  Investigators said both alcohol and speed were factors in the crash.

     
Jason Schulte

Jason Schulte is a reporter for the New Richmond News since February 2015. Prior to that he spent eight years at the Pierce County Herald in Ellsworth. His duties with the News will include covering news out of Hammond and Roberts along with action from St. Croix County court system. He lives in Roberts. 

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