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Afternoon State News Briefs - $700,000 damage award to be considered against green Bay Catholic Diocese

GREEN BAY - A judge will hold a hearing on Tuesday, to decide whether to throw out a $700,000 damage award against the Green Bay Catholic Diocese.

The church has been filing requests to either drop the damage award to sex abuse victims Todd and Troy Merryfield or order a new civil trial to determine if the church committed fraud. In May, a jury in Outagamie County ruled that the church never informed parishioners at a church in Freedom that their new pastor had a previous record of pedophile behavior. And the jury said it allowed Father John Feeney to molest Todd Merryfield, who was 12 at the time, and Troy who was 14. In its latest filing, the diocese claims that the Constitution protects the church from liability. Church attorney Sarah Fry Bunch also said the Merryfields never proved that the diocese ever claimed that Feeney was safe to be around. Feeney was criminally convicted of molesting the youngsters, and he served a prison term for it.


It rained in parts of southwest Wisconsin this morning but hardly enough to put a dent into the region's drought. Holland in La Crosse County had 53 hundredths of an inch by seven this morning, but La Crosse and many other places did not get one tenth of an inch, if that. The National Weather Service says there's a 50 percent chance of showers in much of the Badger State today and tomorrow. But forecasters say it won't result in the deep, soaking region that the crops in southern Wisconsin are thirsty for. Beloit farmer Harvey Kopp told the Wisconsin State Journal that he could lose 900 acres of field corn and 400 acres of sweet corn if it doesn't rain soon and his losses to surpass three quarter million dollars. Agronomist Joe Speich of the Landmark Services Cooperative says much of southern Wisconsin's corn crop may be lost without significant rains over the next week. He says the dry weather has shut down pollination in the field corn, right during a crucial 10 day period after it tassels. He says there won't be any corn ears if the plant does not pollinate. Meanwhile, another hot day is taking shape in southern Wisconsin. It was already 91 in Kenosha and 90 in Watertown before noon - while far the far north was still in the 70's for the most part. Forecasters say intense heat is due to return over the next few days - but not as intense as the triple digit temperatures in late June and early July.


Cable viewers in southeast Wisconsin could not find "Good Morning America" on their Milwaukee ABC channel today. WISN TV disappeared from Time Warner's line up because of a fee dispute between the cable company and the station's owner, Hearst Communications. Hearst has 29 stations around the country, and most were pulled off Time Warner systems around the country earlier this week. But WISN was given reprieve, because the neighboring Charter cable system received the station's signal from Time Warner. But Charter said it made other arrangements, so the WISN pulled the plug from Time Warner at midnight last night. The station said it would be temporary. Time Warner objected to what it called a 300% fee increase to keep carrying Hearst's local TV stations. But WISN said the increase was not that high. They called the increase "reasonable" and quote, "consistent with the increased costs we have to pay for our highlyvalued programs."


Werner Electric Supply, an alternative energy company employing 300 people throughout Wisconsin and upper Michigan, will install a wind turbine at its Madison office on Monday. The energy produced will be sent back to the grid, thus saving money on its own electric bill. The company also has a wind turbine and solar array at its Pewaukee location, and a solar array in Neenah.


The tree killing emerald ash borer has turned up in Milwaukee. Mayor Tom Barrett held a news conference this morning in the Menomonee River Hills neighborhood on the northwest side, where several trees had severe infestation. The ash borer has killed tens of millions of ash trees in the eastern U.S. and Canada over the past decade. There have been a number of smaller infestations in the Badger State. But the two largest groups are still along the Mississippi River south of La Crosse, and Newburg in Ozaukee and Washington counties, where the green bug's presence was first confirmed in Wisconsin in 2008. State agriculture officials confirmed the ash borer's presence in Milwaukee. David Sivyer, the city's forestry service manager, says the drought made the problem worse than it could have been even though ash trees which were treated close to the Milwaukee infestation did not get the bug. Sivyer said the city has taken steps to protect over 27,000 ash trees which are at the biggest risk. And he urged residents to help stop the ash borer from spreading by removing and replacing their ash trees. Milwaukee has an estimated total of around 587,000 ash trees. Wisconsin is estimated to have well over 700,000,000 of them. Last month, the ash borer turned up in Waukesha County for the first time in Mukwonago. The pest was also collected last month in Rock County, it's been spotted in 11 counties in all. Discoveries are often made in traps set by the state each year.


Lake Delton's police chief says charges are possible, after a 21 year old man died from being run over by a car while lying on a highway. It happened around 4:40 yesterday morning on Sauk County Trunk "A" in Lake Delton, which is near Wisconsin Dells. Police Chief Thomas Dorner said a friend was trying to pull the victim off the road but couldn't. The friend diverted two other drivers around the victim, but the third driver ran him over. That driver stopped and talked to police. The victim died later at a hospital in Baraboo. His name was not immediately released. Police said they want to talk to the two other drivers who went around the scene and kept going. Dorner says alcohol was possibly a contributing factor and he said traffic and criminal charges are possible.