Friday State News Briefs: Funeral services for Orfordville soldier set for next weekWisconsin News
-- Funeral services will be held next week for a decorated soldier from southern Wisconsin who was killed in Afghanistan.
ORFORDVILLE - Funeral services will be held next week for a decorated soldier from southern Wisconsin who was killed in Afghanistan.
21-year-old Army Corporal Benjamin Neal of Orfordville died on April 25th after his unit was hit by a roadside bomb. His body is due back home tomorrow. A public visitation will take place on Monday from 4-9 p.m. at Orfordville Parkview High School. The funeral will be at 10 a.m. on Tuesday at Saint William Catholic Church in Janesville. Neal graduated from Parkview in 2009, and was a leader on the school wrestling team. He was on his second mission to Afghanistan in a parachute infantry regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Among Neal’s many awards were the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star, the Army Commendation Medal, and the Afghanistan Campaign Medal.
Republican U.S. Senate candidate Tommy Thompson says unemployed people should only get 36 weeks of benefits – but not until the economy gets better. At a candidate forum in Milwaukee, the former governor told an audience of business people that jobless benefits should be restricted to what they’re supposed to be – and not be constantly expanded to discourage people from finding jobs. Benefits were extended from 26 weeks in the recession-plagued year of 2009 – and they’ve been lengthened several times. Recently, Wisconsin’s maximum benefit was cut from 86 weeks to 73, because of the state’s falling unemployment rate. Thompson says many folks are still struggling – and his proposal would have to wait until things get better. Thompson is running against former Congressman Mark Neumann, of Nastosha, state Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald of Horicon, and Madison hedge fund manager Eric Hovde in the August 14th Senate primary.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court unanimously agreed today that a billboard company can file a lawsuit to try and get a share of a highway condemnation award. Lamar Advertising leases a small part of land from the Country Side Restaurant along Highway 41 in Oshkosh. And both are trying to get the courts to award them $120,000, after the billboard site was condemned by the state DOT for an expansion of the expressway. Two lower courts said the billboard firm could not sue, and the restaurant was entitled to receive the compensation – even though it was awarded two-million dollars a condemnation of other land on the site. The Supreme Court overruled the lower courts. Justice Annette Ziegler said Lamar was entitled to sue for a condemnation award for its billboard site, even though it received a relocation payment from the state.
Wisconsin communities are finding it more challenging to keep up with their street maintenance, after the state reduced its local road aids. This year’s total amount was cut by 30-million-dollars, to around $403-million. Many communities are at least trying to maintain their previous street improvement schedules by cutting corners elsewhere. Green Bay officials cut employee benefits and did not fill 12 vacant public works jobs. In the Green Bay suburb of Bellevue, some employees took a pay freeze to keep the roads from crumbling. Mary Forlenza of the state DOT said it’s true that road maintenance has suffered in some places – but the cuts in road aid were necessary to help the state get rid of its three-billion-dollar budget deficit a year ago. Forlenza says her agency is doing what it can to help, but it’s not a lot. She said if there’s a community that does not spend all its road aid, it could go to another place where it’s needed.
It appears that most of Wisconsin will get a one-day reprieve from the thunderstorms which dumped heavy rain and caused damage in many places the past couple days. Some cities throughout the Badger State had sunny skies this morning. And forecasters say there’s only a slight chance of rain today and tonight. But a large new wave of thunderstorms is due in from the west overnight. The National Weather Service says there’s a better chance of rain tomorrow. And most of the state is likely to get thunderstorms again on Sunday. Meanwhile, we keep hearing new reports of storm damage. Thirteen quarter-horses were killed near Oshkosh early yesterday, when lightning struck an electrical box on a barn. Lightning also destroyed a barn near Pittsfield in Brown County – and officials say the hit was so strong, that debris was blown across a roadway. In the Pulaski area, windows were blown out of a house – and a fire started in the home’s electrical wiring because the wet ground had been electrified. Pulaski-Tri-County Fire Chief Randy Wichlacz said it was first time he heard of that in his 35 years of fighting fires.
A man accused of killing his mother near Kaukauna is having his trial delayed, so his lawyer can have more time to show that somebody else could have done it. 35-year-old Randal Rosenthal was supposed to go on trial Monday for the shooting death of Kathleen Remter of Forest Junction. But Outagamie County Circuit Judge Michael Gage has postponed the trial until July ninth, after defense attorney Kevin Musolf asked for an extension. He said the 52-year-old Remter had told people she felt she was being stalked – and he wants to gather evidence showing that others might have had the motive to kill her. Musolf had asked last week that the jury hear the woman’s statements just before her death. Remter was found dead last July in the Fox River near the Rapid Croche Dam. Authorities said they found blood on jeans the defendant wore that day.
For the first time, a new poll shows how divisive Wisconsinites have become over state politics. This week’s Marquette University Law School poll said 29-percent of the 705 adults surveyed stopped talking to someone about politics, because of disagreements over Governor Scott Walker’s policies which led to his upcoming recall election. The question has never been asked before, and poll director Charles Franklin is guessing that the 29-percent number is higher than it would be in less tumultuous times. Franklin does not see it as people withdrawing from politics. In fact, he tells the Madison Capital Times it’s a sign that people are passionate on both sides. And they’ve stopped talking to someone because the other person won’t change his-or-her mind no matter what. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel analyst Craig Gilbert says other polls show how attached people are to one side or the other. Gilbert says Walker’s 50-percent support in the Marquette polls never changes much, despite the daily good-and-bad news about the governor – things like the state’s declining unemployment rate, the John Doe probe into his former Milwaukee County aides, or the 25-million he has raised to fight the recall effort. And everybody seems to have taken sides. When the Public Policy Polling firm asked 11-hundred-36 people what they thought about Walker’s job performance last month, only 13 said they had no opinion. Meanwhile, the new Marquette poll bears out Franklin’s contention that more of us are tuning into politics. 38-percent said they’ve signed recall petitions. 50-percent have tried to persuade others into voting for-or-against someone. 20-percent have given money to a candidate. And despite the divisiveness, 58-percent have talked politics to family-and-friends at least once a week.
The state Board of Nursing has reprimanded a former diabetes educator from Madison who let patients reuse insulin demonstration pens and finger stick devices. The board said yesterday that Stacey Anderson’s conduct increased the risk of blood-borne pathogens from one patient to another. As a result, Madison’s Dean Health System said last year that over 23-hundred patients might been exposed to HIV or hepatitis over the five years the devices were used. Anderson was fined 450-dollars and was ordered to take classes on infection control and medical errors. She told the board she let patients use the insulin sticks – and she cleaned the pen with alcohol between patients. But the nursing board noted that the demonstration devices were not supposed to be used on people, and some had labels to that effect. Anderson was fired from the Dean system – and she’s required to disclose her reprimand to potential employers for the next two years. A Monona man has filed suit, saying he suffered hepatitis after seeing Anderson.
The Manitowoc Company reports a slight increase in its quarterly profits, after losing over $52-million a year ago. Manitowoc said its sales of construction cranes rose by 29-percent in the last 12 months. And it helped the company make a $100,000 profit from January-through-March. There was no increase in earnings for stockholders, but at least they didn’t lose money. Earnings had dropped by 40-cents a share in the first quarter of 2011. Manitowoc also makes food service equipment – and its total sales were $860-million in the first three months of the year. That’s up 17-percent from the previous year.
Bond was set at $10,000 yesterday for a West Bend woman and her boyfriend suspected of causing the death of the woman’s three-year-old daughter. 25-year-old Leann Leszynski and her 24-year-old boyfriend Justin Streicher were arrested on Tuesday, after officers found that the girl had facial and body injuries. Charges are still pending against the two adults. Police are seeking counts of child abuse-and-neglect resulting in death.
Folks in Congressman Paul Ryan’s district apparently want to keep him all to themselves. The House Budget chairman from Janesville started holding two days of listening sessions in his district yesterday – and many preferred that Ryan stay where he is, and not accept a possible invitation from Republican Mitt Romney to become his vice presidential running mate. At Ryan’s first meeting in Muskego, Hugh Hancock drew loud applause when he told the congressman to quote, “stay with us here instead of going up on the hill as VP.” Ryan did not respond to Hancock – but he later said he’s flattered his constituents want him to stay in Congress. He also said it’s too early to decide whether he’d take the vice presidential post. Ryan said he still needs to discuss it with his family, and he’s been too busy doing his job. He drafted the GOP’s budget alternative which called for lower taxes, an overhaul of Medicare, and cuts in programs affecting the safety net for the poor. Hancock said Ryan’s making a difference as the head of the House Budget Committee, and he would not be nearly as effective as vice president. About 300 people attended Ryan’s meeting in Muskego – and about the same number showed up for a similar session in Elkhorn.
Governor Scott Walker has formed a new council that will try to make Wisconsin’s criminal justice system better. Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen and Corrections’ Secretary Gary Hamblin will co-chair the 18-member panel, which is called the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council. Walker says the panel will seek to improve the operation and outcomes of the justice system, while making that part of the government more efficient. The council was one of the recommendations in a report issued this week by the National Center for State Courts. It said Wisconsin should continue its efforts to improve public safety, reduce the numbers of repeat offenders, and choose new options to prison. But the national group said the programs need more evaluations to make sure they’re efficient. The Center for State Courts gave good marks to the community-based programs that rehabilitate offenders instead locking them away. They mentioned the dozens of specialized courts which address the unique problems of drug offenders, veterans, and others – assessments that determine the likelihood of a person re-offending – and councils in 30 counties which explore unique community challenges.
A former Oshkosh woman was ordered yesterday to stand trial for falsifying the nomination papers of former state Assembly Democrat Pedro Colon of Milwaukee. 44-year-old Yadira Colon – no relation – is scheduled to enter pleas May 21st in Milwaukee County to two felony election fraud charges and two counts of falsifying nomination papers. Authorities said she forged 10 of Pedro Colon’s nominating signatures for the 2008 election – and the lawmaker certified four of those signatures. The Justice Department investigated that. And they decided not to charge Pedro Colon, saying there was no evidence of intentional wrong-doing. He’s now a Milwaukee County circuit judge. Prosecutors said Yadira Colon also registered to vote in Milwaukee, even though she actually lived in Oshkosh. She voted absentee in Milwaukee in the 2008 fall primaries. Her charges were first filed in late 2009. Court records say she now lives in Penbroke Bines, Florida.
Overtime pay for Wisconsin prison guards went down by over two-million dollars in the first three months of the year, compared to the same time in 2011. Governor Scott Walker touted the savings. He said some prison workers had abused the overtime system in the past – and officials couldn’t do anything about it because of previous collective bargaining contracts. State officials said they spent six-point-nine-million dollars on overtime in the Corrections Department from January through March. That’s down from nine-million a year ago. The same law that ended most public bargaining also ended the practice of letting guards work back-to-back shifts and get time-and-a-half for one of them, while filling in for somebody who’s sick. Under a new change which took effect in January, the guards only get regular pay for both shifts. Union leaders said overtime had gone up dramatically in Walker’s first year in office, due to higher turnover and jobs going unfilled. As of last month, there were 209 vacancies for state prison guards – up from 118 two years ago.