Afternoon State News Briefs: Snowmelt could help drought situationWisconsin News
-- Wisconsin has lost tons of snow this week, due to the mild temperatures. And it will be interesting to see if all the melting will reduce the state’s heavy drought conditions.
Wisconsin has lost tons of snow this week, due to the mild temperatures. And it will be interesting to see if all the melting will reduce the state’s heavy drought conditions.
So far, there’s been no impact reported. As of Tuesday, the U.S. Drought Monitor said 88-and-a-half percent of Wisconsin’s land area is abnormally dry or worse. That figure has pretty much held steady over the last three weeks. About a quarter of the state’s land area remains in a severe drought status, including much of the northwest quarter of Wisconsin as well as the far south. About a dozen east central counties are not in any drought status – and that’s been about the same during the past month or so. The Drought Monitor takes its readings on Tuesday, so yesterday’s rain would not have been reflected in this week’s report. It will be considered for next week’s report, which comes out on Thursday – so we’ll see if anything happens. Only light and scattered drizzle and snow are in the forecast tonight and tomorrow. After highs in the 40’s most of the week, forecasters say it will start getting colder tomorrow afternoon – and Sunday’s highs will be lucky to reach 20.
A body was removed from a creek in Cedarburg late this afternoon, in about the place where rescuers have been looking for a man who’s been missing for 15 days. 24-year-old Robert Steinbrecker was last seen December 27th, while running on the ice of Cedar Creek. Some of the ice melted this week due to the mild temperatures, and a resident called 911 around nine this morning to say that a body might be in the creek. Ozaukee County sheriff’s divers had been searching the creek for most of the day, until the body was pulled from the water around 3:45. The body had not been formally identified as of late afternoon.
Seven drug charges were dismissed against a 25 year old West Bend woman who has pleaded no contest to a count of felony child neglect resulting in the death of her three year old daughter last May. Leann L. Leszynski will be sentenced April 12th. She could get up to 15 years in prison, though the prosecutor says he will ask for 10 years. The child died of a massive streptococcus infection. The mother refused to seek medical treatment for the girl, fearing she would be accused of child abuse. Her 25 year old boyfriend, Justin J. Streicher, has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled to go to trial in March.
The suspect in this morning’s robbery at the Summit Credit Union in Madison was wearing a familiar item of clothing. Witnesses say the man who handed a note to a teller demanding money was wearing a Bucky Badger hat. The note indicated the suspect had a gun. He was given money and he ran from the scene on foot. Police say they are looking for a white man, 40 to 45 years old, about five feet, 10 inches tall, to 5-11, with an average to heavy build. The Bucky Badger winter hat reportedly had pom poms at the end of two attached strings.
Groups that help the hungry say they could use thousands of dollars’ in dairy products that are going sour at a milk processing plant which abruptly closed a week ago. Employees of the Golden Guernsey Dairy in Waukesha say up to 200,000 gallons of milk and cottage cheese – plus butter and eggs – are wasting away. Milwaukee’s Hunger Task Force says it could go a long way to feed hungry people who show up at dozens of pantries, soup kitchens, and homeless shelters. Task Force director Sherrie Tussler says time is of the essence when it comes to serving perishables – and that time is running out. Former Golden Guernsey employee Robert Storm told WISN-TV in Milwaukee that it’s a huge waste – and the products could have been sold to pay the 100-plus employees the company left behind. The LA investment firm of Open-Gate Capital sought Chapter-11 bankruptcy for Golden Guernsey this week. And a federally-appointed trustee who controls the plant’s assets is worried about potential liability in donating the food. But Tussler says there’s a state law that anyone who donates food is exempt from liability. And she’s asked Governor Scott Walker – as well as the Hunger Task Force board members – to let trustee Charles Stanziale know about that law.
Wisconsin state Senate leaders say they’re considering a similar crackdown on the behavior of spectators that the state Assembly adopted for the upcoming two-year session. Both houses had to deal with rowdy galleries in the last session, during and after the massive protests over the law that eliminated most public union bargaining. Yesterday, the Assembly told spectators they could not use cell-phones, eat, or wear hats in the galleries – or else they could be removed. And anyone removed three times will be barred for the rest of the session. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) said he’s considering similar rules for his chamber. He said his main concern is to protect his members. The full Senate will consider that change, plus other rules for the new session on Tuesday.
State officials say a small number of birds have died from salmonella poisoning. The DNR says the recent mild weather is to blame -- along with dirty bird feeders where the bacteria have been known to build up. The DNR says gold-finches and sparrows have been poisoned to death in Crawford and Dodge counties, and some pine siskins have died in Dane County. The National Wildlife Health Center in Madison says birds are known to carry salmonella bacteria – and the spread it with their feces. Officials say humans can be poisoned the same way. The DNR is asking people to clean their backyard bird-feeders on a regular basis during the winter, using 10-percent bleach. Experts also say you should throw away empty seed hulls – replace water in a bird feeder every couple days when it’s above freezing – and move the feeders from time-to-time, so waste does not accumulate in the same area.
If you don’t like the Packers, there’s another Wisconsin-flavored national event you can watch tomorrow night. Kenosha’s Laura Kaeppeler will pass on her crown to the next Miss America, in a pageant that starts at seven o’clock on ABC. The 24-year-old Kaeppeler is finishing her one-year reign, after spending 340 days meeting celebrities, helping charities, and representing all that Miss America stands for. Kaeppeler is only the second Miss America from Wisconsin. Her father spent a year-and-a-half in prison for mail fraud when she was in high school – and her platform was to show support for youngsters like her. She said the Miss America program taught her that people can accomplish anything they set their minds to, regardless of their past. Kaeppeler plans to go to law school and keep working with charities, including one she created – Circles of Support, a mentoring group for children of incarcerated parents. During last year’s pageant in Las Vegas, she professed her love for the Packers and asked Aaron Rodgers to call her. He didn’t, but they met a few weeks later at a Milwaukee Bucks game. Kaeppeler said the spontaneous gesture still haunts her, and she thanked Rodgers for being a good sport. She won’t be able to watch the Packer game at the Las Vegas pageant – but during her moments off-stage, she hopes to get the score and highlights on her laptop. Wisconsin’s new contestant in the pageant is UW-La Crosse graduate Kate Gorman. Her platform is attacking childhood hunger.
State officials are planning a second trade mission this spring – this one to South Africa. The Council of Great Lakes Governors is organizing the trip, and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation is looking for businesses that want to take part. Business executives can use the trip to sell their products directly to South African firms. The trade mission will include stops in Johannesburg, Durban, and Cape Town. Several types of businesses will be encouraged to buy Wisconsin products – including farm machinery – mining, medical, and construction equipment – power generators and supplies – and consulting and engineering services. South Africa is a growing customer of Wisconsin goods. They imported 226-million dollars’ worth of state products last year, up 44-percent from the year before. Those interested in the trade mission are asked to contact Stanley Pfrang at the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation in Madison. A second Wisconsin trade mission is planned for China in mid-April, and Governor Scott Walker will lead that trip.
Programs that encourage Wisconsinites to turn in their unused prescription drugs are not working very well. State officials say only two-percent of Wisconsin’s unused medicines are taken to collection programs. The rest are either abused by somebody – tossed in the garbage – flushed down the toilet – or are still in medicine cabinets even though they’ve long been expired. For the last several years, many Wisconsin communities have had collection programs to make sure that old prescription pills do not get abused, or pollute local groundwater. But a study by the DNR, the UW Extension, and Product Stewardship Institute says only a relatively few bother to drop their pills off. According to the study, 119 million medications were sold in Wisconsin in 2010, either by prescription or over-the-counter. A third of those pills, weighing four-point-four million pounds, went unused. And only two-percent of the unused pills were returned to collection programs. Steve Brachmann, the study’s author, says it costs more than twice as much as it does in Canada to dispose of drugs. The study suggests funding for a statewide program – explaining to people why drugs shouldn’t be trashed or flushed – and making it easier for people to drop off old medicines for free.
All five candidates for two statewide offices this spring will be certified on Monday – and their names will be placed on the ballot. The state Government Accountability Board said the five candidates did not have any of their nominating signatures challenged. That means Supreme Court Justice Pat Roggensack and challengers Vince Megna and Ed Fallone will have a primary on February 19th – and state school Superintendent Tony Evers and Assembly Republican Don Pridemore will have their one-and-only contest on April second. All five candidates were supposed to file at least two-thousand nominating signatures by January third. Pridemore came the closest to the minimum, with 2,051. Megna had the second-lowest number of signatures with 2,124.
A Madison woman will spend a year-and-a-half in prison for a drunk driving crash that killed a man on a moped. 28-year-old Ekaterina Topolkaraeva was driving on the wrong lane of a frontage road near Madison’s Beltline expressway in October of 2011. She struck a moped driven by 37-year-old Jeffrey Droster. The woman pleaded guilty to reduced charges of negligent homicide and drunk driving. She was originally charged with OWI homicide. Besides her prison time, Topolkaraeva must also spend five years under extended supervision. Police said she was not arrested immediately after the crash, because she passed most of her field sobriety tests. She did not get a blood alcohol test until two hours later, and it showed that her alcohol level was half the legal limit. But the state Crime Lab said the figure would have been twice as high had the test been taken right after the crash.