Thursday State News Briefs: Local rescue squad goes out of businessWisconsin News
-- After almost 72 years of service, the Delavan Rescue Squad is going out of business at the end of March. Uncollected bills and unwise business decisions are being blamed
DELAVAN - After almost 72 years of service, the Delavan Rescue Squad is going out of business at the end of March. Uncollected bills and unwise business decisions are being blamed.
The nonprofit reportedly has about $800,000 of bills for service which have had to be written off the books. At one point in the recent past, the squad administration renovated a building for a new headquarters, then built a new garage it couldn’t afford. People living in Delavan won’t notice a difference and 911 calls will still be answered. Delavan Rescue says it is negotiating with five private ambulance companies which are interested in buying the company which also serves the Town of Richmond. One part of any deal would be the guarantee its 30 employees keep their jobs. Those workers were notified about the shutdown last Saturday.
Green Bay police report they were called to a home on the city’s west side a little after 9 a.m. today and found the bodies of a man and woman inside. The man’s employer says he had gone to the house to check on him and could see him lying on the floor. The employer says he was checking before the 49 year old hadn’t showed up for work in a couple of days. The victim’s 52 year old wife was found dead on a bedroom floor when authorities went inside. Autopsies are being performed, but police say there were no obvious signs of trauma on the bodies. The names have not been released while police notify relatives.
Wisconsin Senate President Mike Ellis (R-Neenah) says he’ll oppose any effort to expand the state’s private school voucher program, unless the affected residents agree to it. Ellis told the Associated Press today he would try to block any new communities from getting voucher schools unless they’re approved in local referendums. The program gives tax-funded vouchers to low-income kids to attend private schools, with the idea that kids would get a better education and a better chance to escape poverty. But Democrats and public schools disagree – especially because those schools lose state aid when students transfer to the private institutions. Voucher programs are now offered in Milwaukee County and Racine. There’s been talk of extending the program to Green Bay and other districts. Governor Scott Walker is among those favoring those extensions – but he has not said whether he’s support local approval first. Ellis said his bill calls for petitions to be circulated in the proposed voucher school communities. And once enough signatures are gathered, the matter would go to a vote.
A 90-year-old Fox Valley man killed on a freeway on-ramp has been identified as Giles Woolf of Menasha. Winnebago County authorities said Woolf’s vehicle lost control and overturned after hitting an icy patch on a ramp between Highways 41 and 10 in the town of Menasha. The crash happened Tuesday. Woolf’s 86-year-old wife suffered non-life-threatening injuries. She was taken to a Neenah hospital for treatment.
Two former politicians want Congress to require a means-test in order to receive Social Security and Medicare benefits. Former Democratic Governor Tony Earl and former House Republican Scott Klug of Madison urged Congress today to consider the controversial budget-cutter. Both men head the Wisconsin chapter of the “Campaign to Fix the Debt.” They say higher-age and means limits for getting Medicare and Social Security would reduce the numbers of Americans getting those benefits – and would save money. Congressional Democrats fear that means-tests in entitlement programs would reduce the public’s overwhelming support for them. But Earl said he refuses to buy that argument. He said a means-test would make sure those who are least able to support themselves would not live in poverty in their retirement years. Earl and Klug also said Congress blew a chance to reduce the national debt in the deal that averted the fiscal cliff. Klug said there should have been more measures to reduce the debt – and he said lawmakers from both parties need hear from people that more steps need to be taken.
Almost one-of-every-seven Wisconsin homeowners were underwater on their mortgages between July-and-September of last year. That’s according to a new report from Core-Logic, a business research firm. It said almost 15-and-a-half percent of Wisconsin homeowners owed more on their mortgages than what their properties were worth in the third quarter of 2012. The state’s underwater rate is lower than the national figure of 22-percent. And in Metro Milwaukee, just over 54-thousand properties were underwater in the third quarter, or 22-point-one-percent. That’s four tenths of a point lower than in the second quarter of last year. Anand Nallathambi, the CEO of Core-Logic, said there’s been steady progress in reducing negative equity – but with a quarter of homeowners still underwater, there’s a long way to go.
A state commission says the average Wisconsin motorist needs to pay an extra $120 a year in fees, just to maintain the state’s current transportation system. The Finance-and-Policy Commission endorsed its recommended fee hikes just before Christmas. Now, the Oshkosh Northwestern has dug up a more detailed report that the panel plans to submit to the Legislature next Wednesday. The commission looked for ways to cover a two-billion-dollar gap between today’s revenues, and the costs of maintaining the state’s existing roads, bridges, airports, railroads, bike paths, and mass transit. The proposals include a registration fee that hinges on how many miles you drive. Commission member Craig Thompson said motorists will report it on the honor system – and the state would not measure it with GPS monitors, thus alleviating privacy concerns. The fee would be just over a penny-a-mile between three-thousand and 20-thousand miles a year for car drivers, with a max of $204. It would replace the current $75 flat fee for cars. Trucks and other vehicles would have differing fee hikes with the same concept. The panel also calls for a five-cent-a-gallon hike in the gas tax, a 34-dollar jump in the driver’s license renewal fee, and the elimination of a sales tax exemption for trade-ins. Those things could bring in an extra $479-million a year.
State Assembly Democrat Gordon Hintz of Oshkosh said something has to be done. If more money doesn’t come in, he says new road projects would have to be delayed, and older facilities would deteriorate. Governor Scott Walker has spent his entire tenure fighting tax increases. But Hintz says the GOP is big on infrastructure, so it’s not likely they’ll reject the entire proposals out of hand.
Governor Scott Walker says the possibility of lawsuits should not prevent legislators from passing a bill that makes it easier to open a new mine in Wisconsin. Democrats said a Republican package proposed yesterday would drown in a sea of litigation – and Janesville Senate Democrat Tim Cullen said the only new jobs created would be those of attorneys. During an appearance near Wausau this morning, the Republican Walker said there would be lawsuits no matter what type of bill is passed – and they would come from those who don’t want any mining at all. He said the state would need to work through those issues – and the governor said they should interfere with the economic growth a new mine would generate. Walker also said he expects “reasonable adjustments” to the Republicans’ mining package. There are renewed concerns about a relaxing of environmental protections, and the loss of public input. Walker said he’s open to working with anyone on those types of concerns – as long as he gets his bottom line of creating new mining jobs.
Appleton’s most notable hotel has been sold. The Miami investment firm of LNR Partners bought the Radisson Paper Valley Hotel in downtown Appleton for almost $18-million. The hotel went into a court-ordered receivership, after its previous owner defaulted on a $27-million balloon payment. But the Appleton Post-Crescent said the Paper Valley took in $14-million in 2012, for its best year since 2006. Meanwhile, a $25-million exhibition center is being planned around the hotel – and the developer has been waiting for the hotel’s ownership concerns to be settled. Walt Rugland of the exhibition center said LNR plans to sell the hotel eventually, whether it be now or in three years or so. The Radisson Paper Valley is best known as the place where Green Bay Packers’ opponents stay the night before their games at Lambeau Field.
Milwaukee’s Harley-Davidson Museum is about to take fans behind-the-scenes, to show how the company’s anniversary celebrations take shape. A new exhibit opens tomorrow called “Designing a Celebration.” It features dozens of sketches that show how each anniversary’s logo is designed – as well as the manufacturing process in creating special anniversary parts. The exhibit will also show examples of Harley’s limited-edition anniversary motorcycles that were sold through the years. Some of the artifacts go back to 1913. Museum vice-president Bill Davidson says the exhibit will give folks a glimpse into Harley’s attention to detail. And it will include designs for promoting Harley’s upcoming 110th anniversary. The museum exhibit will remain on display through the Labor Day Weekend.
Milwaukee’s mayor says the killings of three women at a Brookfield spa might not have happened had President Obama’s new gun measures been in place. Obama unveiled a series of executive orders and congressional measures yesterday – one of which would require universal background checks for all gun sales. As the mayor of Oak Creek looked on, President Obama today called on Congress to approve the nation’s most sweeping gun regulations in at least 20 years. Steve Scaffidi said that as a Republican, he did not agree with all of the president’s ideas. But as the mayor of a city where six Sikh worshippers were killed at their temple last August, Scaffidi said it’s time to get past politics and start a discussion on gun control. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said the universal check would have stopped domestic abuser Radcliffe Haughton from getting a gun the day before he killed his estranged wife, two others, and himself in Brookfield last October. Barrett is a co-founder of the group Mayors Against Illegal Guns. More than 800 mayors are in that group, and they’ve supported some of the things the president called for – the universal background checks, a ban on assault weapons, and limits on high-capacity magazines. Barrett says he and Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn expect to hear plenty from pro-gun supporters – but the mayor says most Americans are ready for new gun control. Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke calls the Obama measures meaningless. He says they’re an emotional, knee-jerk reaction to last month’s Sandy Hill school shootings in Newtown Connecticut. Clarke says judges and prosecutors need more backbone to enforce what’s already on the books. He also wants to eliminate what he calls “watered-down sentences” for crimes that involve guns. Some sheriffs around the country have said they won’t enforce the president’s gun measures. Clarke said he wouldn’t go that far.
A small business task force has recommended about 200 changes to state government regulations – and some of them would make it harder to collect unemployment benefits. Republican Governor Scott Walker said during last night’s State-of-the-State address that he would pursue to rule changes, to make it easier to do business in Wisconsin and create jobs. Walker could approve one rule change himself – requiring those who get jobless benefits to fill out four job applications per week instead of the current two. Legislators would have to approve the other proposed changes – like making applicants provide more documentation to cut down on fraud, and reducing the number of situations in which a worker can quit a job and still get unemployment benefits. Wisconsin has 18 exemptions – and Minnesota has the next highest number with nine. The changes are designed to keep more money in the state fund which provides jobless benefits. That fund owes one-point-two billion dollars to the federal government, which was loaned to the state so it could providing jobless benefits during the Great Recession.
A Democratic state senator says he’ll introduce an alternative mining bill on Friday. Tim Cullen of Janesville chaired a committee last fall which came up with a package that would give more input to Indians and others affected by mining projects – maintain current environmental protections – and let citizens challenge DNR decisions on a proposed mine before a permit is issued. None of those provisions were in the mining package unveiled earlier today by majority Republicans. And it would prohibit any lawsuits against the DNR which accuse the agency of not living up to its duties. Their bill was similar to the one that failed to pass in the Senate by one vote last spring. It seeks to create thousands of jobs in far northern Wisconsin, where Gogebic Taconite had considered building an iron ore mine until last year’s measure was killed. Republicans say the new regulations would not harm the environment, but Democrats and a coalition of 75 environmental groups have their doubts. A coalition that includes the Sierra Club and Trout Unlimited called the northern Wisconsin mine “the most destructive industrial project the state has ever faced.” Governor Scott Walker and other Republicans have said they’re convinced that Gogebic Taconite would come back if the right measures passed. The GOP bill gives the DNR 480 days to act on a mining permit, once an application is filed.
A Minnesota man pleads not guilty to felony battery and disorderly conduct charges related to a fight after last month’s Vikings-Packer game at Lambeau Field. Mark Swanson’s case is headed to trial after a Tuesday hearing. Ashwaubenon public safety officer Robert Messer testified that a video take by Swanson’s girlfriend shows some pushing and shoving in a bar parking lot between Swanson and Paul Hrubesky. The officer says that video shows Hrubesky on the ground, unconscious. An attorney for Swanson says Hrubesky’s son started the fight and Swanson was defending himself in the December 2nd incident.
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services says babies born in the state these days can expect to live about 80 years. Life expectancy for girls born between 2009 and 2011 is 82 and a half, while boys can expect to live just under 78 years. A report was released this week on death rates in Wisconsin. It also found that 37 deaths in 2011 were reported as being due to work-related injuries. That figure was significantly improved from the year before. On the negative side were 427 baby deaths, an increase of nine percent from the year before.
A new approach to minor police calls in Green Bay is aimed at freeing up sworn police officers for other duties. Community Service Interns are handling things like minor thefts, parking complaints, criminal damage to property, or just returned a lost wallet to its rightful owner. The interns, known as CSIs, are expected to respond to more than 10 thousand calls this year. The program was first announced last November. The interns aren’t armed, but they will be given backup when needed. So far, the interns report no problems during the first few weeks on the job.