WISCONSIN NEWS BRIEFS: Gov. Walker event disrupted by gas leak
MILWAUKEE - Workers at a brand new state office building in Milwaukee returned to their jobs early this afternoon, after a construction worker broke a natural gas line nearby.
Governor Scott Walker had just dedicated the new Children-and-Families Department facility, when a backhoe severed a gas line close to a far corner of the building’s parking lot. The building’s 200 employees – along with mostly commercial buildings in a two-block area – were evacuated starting around 9:30 this morning. The all-clear to return was given at 12:15, after We Energies cut off the flow of natural gas to the area while the broken line could be repaired. Milwaukee Deputy Fire Chief Aaron Lipski and Cathy Schulze of We Energies both said it was fortunate that the leaky gas vented into the air, instead of into other buildings or under the ground. Governor Walker waited until the leak was initially addressed before leaving – and while his SUV was leaving, firefighters told other motorists not to start their cars, to avoid an incentive spark.
Governor Scott Walker says he wants Wisconsin’s 11 Indian tribes to reach a consensus among themselves on whether the Menominee tribe should get a new casino in Kenosha. At an appearance in Milwaukee today, the Republican governor said he would not quote, “play King Solomon” – even though he has the final say on whether the project will be built. The U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs gave its blessing last week to the long-proposed Menominee tribal casino and resort planned at the former Dairyland Greyhound Park in Kenosha. The Potawatomi tribe remains dead set against a Kenosha casino, since it would cut into revenues for the tribe’s gaming house in Milwaukee. Walker said he realizes both the Potawatomi and Milwaukee officials have concerns – but he also knows that the Menominee tribe is among the most impoverished in the state – and the other tribes should take that into consideration as well. Above anything, Walker says he wants quote, “peace and consensus” among the tribes on the state’s gaming operations.
The tree-killing emerald ash borer has been found in a ninth community in Milwaukee County. The DNR said two ash trees were found to be heavily-infested on the State Fair grounds in West Allis. Officials said the park would be fully inspected in the next week, and a decision will be made on the fate of the ash trees there. This is just the latest discovery of EAB. It’s also been found recently in Whitewater – and in the far northern part of the state for the first time at Superior.
A chaplain at the state correctional institution in Oshkosh has been cleared of allegations that she sexually assaulted an inmate. Winnebago County prosecutors have dropped charges against 54-year-old Jamyi Witch. That’s after officials learned that she was on a medical leave when the alleged victim claimed that she proposed a false hostage situation during which time the chaplain was accused of molesting and drugging the man. Also, prosecutors said Witch had a prescription for the drug allegedly used – and she could use it as needed. Witch was hired in 2001 as the state’s first Wiccan chaplain. She tells WLUK-TV in Green Bay she should have never been charged – and she plans to sue the Corrections Department and other agencies because of that.
A survey by a Brookfield firm shows that over half of U.S. employers offer at least some benefits to employees’ domestic partners and same-sex spouses. The International Foundation of Employee Benefits’ Plans also found that a quarter of firms extend benefits to all same-sex married couples – even if they live in states like Wisconsin that do not recognize gay marriage. Also, about 45-percent of the companies surveyed said they extend benefits to unmarried partners of the opposite sex. Over 915 corporate officials responded to the survey, taken after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act in June. So far at least, companies have generally not made big changes to their benefits and policies as a result of the court ruling. Two-thirds of those surveyed said they were waiting for further guidance and clarifications.
Wisconsin sold $171-million of dairy products to other countries in the first half of this year – a 23-percent increase from the same time a year ago. The governor’s office announced the figures today, saying that Wisconsin ranks fourth in the nation in the value of its dairy exports. Dairy products represented the state’s most valuable farm export from January-through-June. Raw fur skins were next, followed by food ingredients, ethanol, and grains for cereals. Canada, China, and Mexico were the three top customers of Wisconsin dairy products. The state told a total of $1.6 billion in agricultural products to 132 nations in the first half of the year – an increase of 10-percent from the previous year. That ranks Wisconsin 13th for farm exports, up one place from a year ago.
A Waupun police lieutenant says he’ll resign, after being charged in a crime spree that included three grocery store burglaries, two stolen vehicles, and a cabin break-in. Deputy Police Chief Scott Louden said 43-year-old Brad Young submitted his resignation last week – and Waupun’s Police-and-Fire Commission is expected to approve it on Thursday. Louden says the Common Council is being asked to fill Young’s lieutenant post – and if a current officer is promoted, aldermen will be asked to hire a new patrolman. Young is scheduled to enter pleas September 18th on two Barron County charges. He also faces seven charges in Green Lake County, and possible charges in Burnett County. Charges have not been filed in a couple of incidents to which Young confessed after he was arrested. The state Justice Department is investigating those. Most of the incidents were reported between August 4th-and-6th. Investigators said Young broke into grocery stores in Waupun, Berlin, and Markesan. Officials said he stole a pick-up truck in Green Lake and crashed it in Barron County and stole another vehicle near Rice Lake. He surrendered at a cabin near Spooner August 6th. Prosecutors said Young knew he was surrounded, and could not get away.
Milwaukee police officer Dwain Monteihl is recovering, after a suspect kicked him and punched him in the head. It happened yesterday afternoon in a north side neighborhood where Monteihl and another officer were on patrol. Officials said they saw two men acting suspiciously – and both ran away when the officers tried talking to them. The officers caught up with the pair, and one of the suspects reportedly tried to grab Monteihl’s gun while hitting-and-kicking him in the face. He was taken to a hospital with a broken eye socket and bleeding behind the eye. The other officer was not hurt. Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn praised the officers for using restraint. Flynn said they could have shot the man who was trying to steal Monteihl’s gun.
Eau Claire County authorities are still trying to determine how many girls were secretly photographed by an instructor who apparently killed himself a day after he was arrested. Authorities said 32-year-old Daniel Weggel, a piano instruction and assistant high school boys’ swim coach, drowned in Lake Wissota on Friday – a few hours after officers found images of nude girls at his home. Sheriff Ron Cramer tells the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram that the number of victims remained unknown yesterday, and officers had a lot of evidence to go through. The sheriff said Weggel apparently had hidden cameras at his house, his victims’ homes, and other places where he could secretly capture the girls’ images. Some contained nudity and girls in compromising positions. Weggel had been an assistant for the Eau Claire North/Memorial high school swim team since 2007. School officials said counselors were being made available to students.