Tuesday State News Briefs: Damaged pipeline could be repaired by tomorrowWisconsin News
-- A crude oil pipeline that sprung a leak in central Wisconsin could be running again by tomorrow night at the latest. According to Ed Culhane of the state DNR, Enbridge Energy was planning to finish its repairs today. And then the pipeline would have to be tested by federal officials before it could start up again.
A crude oil pipeline that sprung a leak in central Wisconsin could be running again by tomorrow night at the latest. According to Ed Culhane of the state DNR, Enbridge Energy was planning to finish its repairs today. And then the pipeline would have to be tested by federal officials before it could start up again.
About 50,000 gallons of crude oil leaked last Friday in the town of Grand Marsh in central Adams County. According to Reuters, officials of the U.S. Pipeline-and-Hazardous Materials’ Safety Administration have not decided whether Enbridge would have to take corrective actions before starting the oil line again. It’s one of four Enbridge pipelines that send Canadian crude oil from Superior to refineries in the Chicago area. The other three were also shut down when the line broke – but they’ve since been fired up again. Witnesses said the pipeline break caused oil to gush a-thousand-feet into the air – and one nearby house was covered with oil. Most of the oil spilled on the company’s right-of-way, and there have been no reports of environmental damage. The Adams County leak came almost two years before an Enbridge pipeline spilled over 20,000 barrels of oil, and polluted part of Michigan’s Kalamazoo River.
A hearing examiner has proposed a reduced punishment for Ken Kratz, who sexually harassed women while he was Calumet County’s district attorney. The state’s Office of Lawyer Regulation has asked the Supreme Court to suspend Kratz’s law license for six months. But after a hearing last month, special referee Robert Kinney has asked the court to consider a smaller suspension of four months. Kinney, a retired judge from Rhinelander, said six-month suspensions are generally given for more serious conduct – and he said Kratz is not likely to offend again. Kratz says he should only get a formal reprimand. He said he has suffered enough, and he should get a chance to get a fresh start as an attorney. Kratz has admitted violating the state’s code of judicial conduct. His case first came to light in 2010, a few months after he tried to strike up an affair with a domestic violence victim by sending her racy text messages. His charges also included allegations that he made sexual remarks to other women.
Two Wisconsin prison escapees remain in a Florida jail, after an extradition hearing scheduled yesterday was delayed until Thursday. Prosecutors in Broward County, Florida said there were not enough officers available to escort James Misleveck and James Newman from their cells to a courtroom – so the hearing was re-set. Both men walked away from a state prison boot camp at Black River Falls two weeks ago today. Authorities said they then went on a crime spree in Jackson and Monroe counties in which they stole four vehicles, kidnapped a casino worker, and led officers on a chase and a manhunt. Misleveck’s father was arrested the next day near Elroy, after officers who were looking for Misleveck found that his dad was reportedly growing marijuana in his home. Meanwhile, the two escapees went to Florida, where officials said the robbed a convenience store and beat a 71-year-old store clerk. They were arrested in Hollywood, Florida last Wednesday, not before one final chase. Misleveck and Newman were about to be released from the boot camp this summer. But now, they face a host of charges in both Wisconsin and Florida – plus federal weapons charges for stealing a shotgun from a vehicle near the Black River Falls prison.
Let’s keep our family squabbles to ourselves. That, in essence, is what Governor Scott Walker told the four Republican U.S. Senate candidates today. He told reporters that he wished Tommy Thompson, Eric Hovde, Mark Neumann, and Jeff Fitzgerald would put out positive messages instead of attacking each other – which has become increasingly common with their primary just two weeks away. Fitzgerald, the state Assembly speaker, has shied away from the partisan sniping – but he’s also running last in the polls, and he’s the only GOP candidate not to run a TV ad yet. Meanwhile, Thompson, Hovde, and Neumann have been sparring about things like each other’s ties to the Obama stimulus program – and the stands they took in their previous government positions. Walker said he would not publicly support any of the primary hopefuls, but he vowed to be a referee if the campaign were to get nasty. And today, the governor said he’s getting close to dropping a flag. Walker said the candidates should focus on their differences between them and Democratic nominee Tammy Baldwin. The governor called those differences “substantial and important.” Walker said he’s told people around the country that Wisconsin has four “extremely qualified” Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate – and any of them would do a “tremendous job.”
Eric Hovde’s U.S. Senate campaign says it’s not true that a computer security firm which is partially-owned by Hovde got two-point-three million dollars in federal stimulus funds. The candidate has criticized his Republican primary opponents for letting their businesses take stimulus cash. And the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel said Hovde did the same thing when the Virginia firm of E-Plus received stimulus money a couple years ago. The paper said the funding is listed on a federal Web site that tracks stimulus spending. It showed that E-Plus received multiple stimulus grants. But yesterday, Hovde’s campaign said the Web site is wrong. They said E-Plus never applied for stimulus funds or received them – but their customers may have done so. Edward Pound of the federal board that runs Recovery-Dot-Gov said the Web site merely reflects information submitted by recipients of stimulus money. E-Plus has refused comment. Hovde’s campaign says he owns less than a 15-percent share of the company, and it’s nowhere near a controlling interest. Hovde is one of four Republicans squaring off in a U.S. Senate primary two weeks from today.
The manufacturing economy in southeast Wisconsin has hit a wall. That’s according to a monthly index from Marquette University and Milwaukee’s Institute for Supply Management. The seasonally-adjusted index for July was 46.7 – much lower than the June index of just over 60. Anything lower than 50 reflects a decline of the manufacturing economy, while anything over 50 indicates growth. An index that measures new factory orders also took a big drop from nearly 56 a month ago to 41 now. The new report says factories have had orders pulled back from customers in China and Europe as well as in the U.S. – and things may not get much better until after the November elections.
Country music star Toby Keith has postponed his concert at the Army’s Fort McCoy near Sparta on Thursday night. He just had gall-bladder surgery, and his spokeswoman says he’s doing fine. Keith has re-scheduled his Fort McCoy concert for August 30th – and his Web site says tickets for the Thursday night show will be honored on the new date. Gretchen Wilson and other unannounced acts were also scheduled to perform at McCoy on Thursday night – and they’ll go on as scheduled. Keith’s Web site says Wilson’s show will be free, and no tickets are necessary.
Early voting is underway in Wisconsin’s fall partisan primaries. Absentee voting began yesterday in clerk’s offices throughout the state. Fewer than 15 people cast ballots at the Green Bay city clerk’s office – but officials expect business to pick up in the next few days. The Republican U.S. Senate primary will be the top item in most communities. Some have hotly-contested primaries for the state Legislature. This is also when county offices have their primaries. Election Day is on August 14th. And it’s the first time since World War Two that partisan primaries are being held in August. The state was forced to move the primaries from mid-September, because of new federal time limits for mailing November ballots to military-and-overseas voters. The state Government Accountability Board projects only a 20-percent turnout. Board spokesman Reid Magney says partisan primaries mainly attract people who are strongly interested in party politics. Voters are reminded they can only vote for candidates in one party – and if they cross over, their ballots will be rejected. Requests for absentee ballots by mail can be made through Thursday, August 9th. Early voting in clerk’s offices will wrap up on Friday the 10th.
Eric Hovde’s U.S. Senate campaign says it’s not true that a computer security firm which is partially-owned by Hovde got two-point-three million dollars in federal stimulus funds. The candidate has criticized his Republican primary opponents for letting their businesses take stimulus cash. And the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel said Hovde did the same thing when the Virginia firm of E-Plus received stimulus money a couple years ago. The paper said the funding is listed on a federal Web site that tracks stimulus spending. It showed that E-Plus received multiple stimulus grants. But yesterday, Hovde’s campaign said the Web site is wrong. They said E-Plus never applied for stimulus funds or received them – but their customers may have done so. Edward Pound of the federal board that runs Recovery.gov said the Web site merely reflects information submitted by recipients of stimulus money. E-Plus has refused comment. Hovde’s campaign says he owns less than a 15-percent share of the company, and it’s nowhere near a controlling interest. Hovde is one of four Republicans squaring off in a U.S. Senate primary two weeks from today.
Wisconsin’s Christmas tree farms are among the victims of this summer’s drought. Growers say you probably won’t notice the difference this year, because the older trees have extensive root systems which can survive the hot-and-dry weather. But many younger trees have died, and growers say they’ll have to grow twice as many next year to make up for the losses. Russell Kook of Merrimac says most of his 4,500 Christmas tree seedlings from this year have died. Wisconsin produces around a million Christmas trees each year on about 900 farms. That makes the Badger State the fifth largest tree grower in the nation.
A man in Waunakee has learned the hard way that what you post online is not anonymous. It all started when a man who called himself “Penn State Joe-pologist” wrote on ESPN’s Web site quote, “I’m going to shoot people at a Batman showing now!” The moderator of the site called police at ESPN’s headquarters in Bristol, Connecticut – and they traced the IP address to a computer in Waunakee where the threat was allegedly written. When police arrived, they saw a 27-year-old man at his computer. He admitted being on the ESPN Web site and commenting with others about this month’s Colorado movie theater shootings in which 12 people were killed. But he said he did not recall making a threat to shoot anybody. The case remains under investigation. The Wisconsin State Journal said it a dug up a search warrant explaining what happened – and police seized the computer so it could be checked for evidence.
The father of a young girl killed in a notorious 2008 rear-end crash in Oconomowoc is trying to make sure that some good comes from it. Brad Bella started the “Imagine a Day Foundation” soon after his daughter Courtney died. She played the violin, and was passionate about other arts including ballet. And the foundation’s main goal is to promote creative-and-performing arts in Oconomowoc schools. It sponsors a field trip each year to the Kettle Moraine State Forest for youngsters at Courtney’s former elementary school, with an emphasis on creative art in nature. Now, it’s considering giving a scholarship to a deserving Oconomowoc High School graduate sooner than a scheduled date of 2016 – when Courtney would have graduated. A golf event has raised about $30,000 for the foundation over the past three years, and the sign-up deadline is tomorrow for this year’s event on August 11th. Courtney’s mother was a popular teacher and administrator at Oconomowoc High School. Jennifer Bukosky, her unborn child, and Courtney were all killed when former doctor Mark Benson rear-ended their vehicle while he had excess prescription drugs in his system. He was later sentenced to 30 years in prison.
A few parts of Wisconsin got some badly-needed rain last week – and as a result, fewer farm fields are short-or-very short of moisture. Seventy-one percent of fields are in need of moisture. That’s a lot, but it’s down from 76-percent that were short of moisture a week ago. Over three-inches of rain fell in Fond du Lac and Calumet counties. Sauk, Dane, and Walworth counties also had showers worth mentioning. Forty-three percent of the Wisconsin corn crop is rated as poor-to-very poor – and that percentage has not changed over the last three weeks. Thirty-two percent of the corn is good-to-excellent, and 25-percent is fair. In the hardest-hit drought areas, there are more reports that southern Wisconsin farmers are chopping what’s left of their corn so it can feed their animals. Almost 40-percent of the soybean crop is in good-to-very good shape. 62-percent of pastures are rated poor-to-very poor. The oat harvest is two-thirds complete, well ahead of normal.
Parts of southeast Wisconsin were hit with storm damage overnight, as winds gusted to 57-miles-an-hour at Palmyra in Jefferson County. The National Weather Service said hail fell for three minutes straight near West Bend, and nickel-sized hail damaged vehicles in Sun Prairie. Some large trees blew down in Walworth and Racine counties. All those storms occurred between 11:30 p-m and two this morning. Northeast Wisconsin had a much worse hailstorm late yesterday afternoon. Baseball-sized hail fell in the Green Bay suburb of Howard, and Maribel in Manitowoc County had tennis-ball-sized hail. Parts of Door, Waupaca, Marinette, Forest, and Florence counties also had hail. The storms have since moved east, and forecasters say we’ll have a sunny and a little cooler day throughout Wisconsin. Highs are expected in the 70’s-and-80’s. The 90’s are due to return tomorrow through at least Friday, with a chance of rain each day through at least Saturday.
A new trial date of December third has been set for a former Walker aide accused of embezzling 21-thousand-dollars. Tim Russell was granted a delay of almost three months for his trial, so his new attorney can have time to catch up. Parker Mathers, who graduated from the Marquette Law School in 2010, is Russell’s fifth attorney in the case. The last one, Dennis Krueger, was dropped after he took a new job as a state prosecutor in Fond du Lac County. Judge David Hansher admonished Krueger for not telling him or Russell about his new job. The judge said it might be considered professional misconduct. The 48-year-old Russell was the deputy chief-of-staff when Governor Scott Walker was the Milwaukee County Executive. Russell is charged with stealing 21-thousand-dollars from an annual event at the Milwaukee County Zoo that salutes veterans. Prosecutors said Russell also took smaller amounts from the campaigns of two county supervisors.