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WISCONSIN NEWS ROUNDUP: This winter has wiped out highway department's budget for snow-and-ice removal statewide

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news Ellsworth, 54011
Ellsworth Wisconsin 126 S. Chestnut St. 54011

The brutal winter had Wisconsin highway departments spending their entire year's allotment and more on snow-and-ice removal.  As a result, the state D-O-T will ask the Legislature to approve an extra 27-million dollars to cover the over-runs.  Ashland County whipped through its entire 350-thousand dollar snow removal budget for the year -- plus 20-thousand more -- by March 31st.  They don't know yet how much it will cost to remove April snows that were still coming down this week -- and they've got nothing for next fall's snowstorms.  The D-O-T contracts with counties to remove snow-and-ice from state highways -- and the state's cost took a big hit when they had to buy more salt at higher prices.  The state bought 150-thousand tons this winter -- and because of short supplies, just over 10-thousand tons were bought from a vendor at a mark-up of over 350-percent.  If lawmakers don't approve the extra funding, local highway officials and their state association say they'll have to cut down on road maintenance work this summer.  

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A frac-sand mine has turned into a legal landmine in Eau Claire County.  W-Q-O-W T-V said it all started last month, when the state D-N-R started getting dust complaints from residents.  The dust came from a 200-thousand-ton silica sand pile near Augusta that had not moved in a while.  The D-N-R told the mine's operator -- Five-Star Properties of La Crosse -- to explain what was going on.  And the company responded by saying it was a victim of fraud.  According to the T-V station, Five-Star was to deliver the sand to a plant in Oklahoma run by Cardinal Glass Industries.  However, Five-Star said it never received four-point-two million dollars that Cardinal Glass was supposed to give them.  The report said the glass company paid the money, but a man who was reportedly acting as the glass firm's representative apparently kept it.  W-Q-O-W said the man is now being sued by both Cardinal Glass and Five-Star.  Meanwhile, Five-Star says it's working with the glass firm on moving the sand that's been bothering local residents to a rail loading site.

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An Indian casino that's been proposed for a decade in southwest Wisconsin has suffered a setback.  Members of the Lac du Flambeau tribe voted 140-to-138 to stop funding a fee-to-trust application, to develop an off-reservation casino in Shullsburg.  Tribal spokesman Brandon Thoms (tomes) says the 132-million-dollar casino project is not dead -- but that's one possible option, as the tribe looks for other ways to pay for the application process.  The Lac du Flambeau bought 92 acres in Shullsburg in 2004, but its casino proposal was rejected four years later by the former George W. Bush administration after it tightened its guidelines.  The Obama administration later reversed those rules, and the Lac du Flambeau filed a new application in 2012.  If the federal government approves the Shullsburg casino, Wisconsin's governor would have the final say.  The Menominee Tribe is finding out how slow that is.  The feds okayed their Kenosha project last summer, but Governor Scott Walker says it might be until after the November elections to come up with his final decision.

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Land O'Lakes is planning to close a cheese plant in east central Wisconsin, and expand another in the same region.  The Minnesota-based co-op said yesterday it will stop processing milk at its Denmark plant near Green Bay on July first, and will start laying off 90 employees.  The plant makes provolone and mozzarella semi-soft cheeses -- and the firm said both have not been profitable.  Meanwhile, Land O'Lakes says it will build a multi-million-dollar expansion at its plant at Kiel in Manitowoc County.  New cheese vats and milk silos are planned over the next few years.  It was not immediately known whether any of the Denmark employees would be offered jobs at Kiel.

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Wisconsin cheese production is up, but at a slightly lower pace than the nation as a whole.  New U-S-D-A figures show that the Badger State made almost 249-million pounds of cheese in March.  That's an increase of nine-tenths of one-percent from the same month a year ago.  Nationally, cheese production was up by one-percent in March, to 964-million pounds.  Wisconsin is still the national leader in cheese, but second-place California had a much larger increase in March -- seven-point-six percent to around 206-million pounds.  Wisconsin increased its Italian cheese production by two-percent -- but its cheddar output was down 13-percent, while American cheeses were down seven-percent.

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It took only 40 minutes for a jury in Stevens Point to turn down a killer's latest request to be freed from a state mental institution.  Prosecutors successfully argued yesterday that 50-year-old Steven Feck is still too dangerous to himself or others to be considered for any type of release.  He was given a mental commitment after being found innocent by insanity in the 1989 slaying of his 76-year-old grandfather.  Feck stabbed 76-year-old Elton Favell with a pair of scissors at the victim's mobile home in Stevens Point.  The six-person jury pored over evidence from both sides, and psychology expert Mary Kay Luzi provided testimony.  Under current state law, judges are required to decide whether institutionalized criminals can get released.  Feck's case will remain grandfathered under a previous law which lets juries make those decisions.

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A man was shot and killed by two Dane County sheriff's deputies whom he stabbed after a domestic disturbance.  It happened early yesterday afternoon at a home near Belleville in the town of Primrose.  Media reports said Lieutenant Brian Hayes underwent surgery, and would spend several days at U-W Hospital.  Deputy Roger Finch stayed at the hospital for overnight observation.  Both were stabbed in their lower legs.  Dane County Sheriff David Mahoney said the officers were attacked with a sharp instrument when they entered the house and went up a staircase.  The officers apparently fired shots right after that.  The attacker was suspected of severely beating two elderly relatives -- a man and a wife -- and he reportedly lived with them.  Both officers have spent more than 20 years on the Dane County sheriff's department.  The shooting was the second by law enforcement in Wisconsin over the past two days.  Milwaukee officials said an officer killed a mentally ill man who attacked him on Wednesday in a downtown park.  Outside investigators are in the process of looking into both shootings -- the first ones under a new state law in which law enforcement agencies can no longer investigate their own officers who are suspected of killing those in custody.

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U-W Whitewater is one of 55 colleges under federal investigation for the way they handled sexual abuse complaints as part of Title-Nine -- the law that requires equal opportunities for male-and-female students.  Whitewater media relations director Sara Kuhl would not comment on the specifics of the school's complaint, since the investigation is continuing.  She said U-W-W investigates all reports of sexual-or-gender-based misconduct in a timely manner -- and the complainants are given a number of resources that include information about counseling, options for changing class or living arrangements, and help in making reports to law enforcement.  Kuhl also said Whitewater has ways to educate students and others about their rights.  The U-S Education Department said the list of colleges under investigation is designed to create greater transparency on the way campus sex assaults are handled.  Assistant secretary Catherine Lhamon said the goal is to spur community dialogue about the problem. 

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