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WISCONSIN NEWS ROUND-UP: State says American TV overcharging customers in going-out-of-business sale

MADISON - American TV-and-Appliance says no customers have complained about being overcharged during their week-old going-out-of-business sale.  State consumer protection officials said yesterday that almost six-percent of the items checked by its inspectors on Monday had higher prices at the cash registers than the advertised sticker prices.

American is about to close its 11 big-box appliance stores in three states, ending 60 years in business.  State officials said Waukesha was the only one of seven Wisconsin locations which did not have overcharges -- and an Appleton store rang up an appliance $314 higher than the sale sticker.  American replied yesterday that most of the check-out errors discovered by the state were for unboxed items offered for less than the same items in boxes -- and the stores' policy has always been to mark down demo-and-clearance items at the registers.  American said it was concerned about reports that it was overcharging, and the state's report quote, "did not reach that conclusion."  The state normally does not announce undercharges, since customers are not harmed.  The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel cited inspectors' reports showing that 10-and-a-half percent of customers paid less than what their price-stickers indicated. 


It's as cold as advertised in northern Wisconsin this morning, although the wind-chills are a bit warmer than predicted.   At five o'clock, the state's coldest wind-chill factors were 35-below at Ashland, Siren, and New Richmond.  That's 10-degrees warmer than what was forecast.  It's not as windy as predicted.  Gusts were in the 25-mile-an-hour range in much of Wisconsin at five a-m.  Winds hit 44-miles-an-hour last night in Osceola.  Actual temperatures this morning ranged from 16-below at Siren to five-above at Kenosha and Janesville. It never got below zero in Green Bay during the night, but the city still expects to break a record this weekend for the number of sub-zero days in a winter.  The current record is 48, set in 1977 -- and Green Bay is now one short of that.  Wausau has had 50 below-zero days -- five short of its all-time record dating back to 1917.  The National Weather Service says our current cold spell will continue at least into early next week, with snow possible for tomorrow.  Light snow fell in the northern half of the state last night.  Presque Isle in Vilas County had two inches.


It's called the "Arctic Tailgate," but the Milwaukee Brewers say it's too cold to let fans camp out at Miller Park for two days before individual game tickets go on sale Saturday.  Fans can start lining up at noon tomorrow, before the ticket windows open at nine Saturday morning.  While fans wait, they can sample a warm taste of Summer Shandy tomorrow evening.  On Saturday, they can feast on donuts, hot dogs, and soda -- while former Brewers and the Klement's Famous Racing Sausages help celebrate the impending start of Milwaukee's baseball season.  Tickets for all 81 home games at Miller Park will go on sale Saturday at the ballpark, by phone, and online.  A limited number of Opening Day seats will be available to those gutting out the cold.  It was two-above in Milwaukee at six o'clock this morning, with a wind-chill of minus-19. Milwaukee expects light snow on Saturday with highs in the teens. 


It appears that this winter has been rough on all living things -- including the turkeys that Wisconsin hunters hope to harvest this spring.  DNR ecologist Scott Walter tells Wisconsin Public Radio there are isolated pockets of dead turkeys, which appear to have been trapped and starved due to the heavy snow.  Turkeys get most of their food from the ground -- ground which is buried by more than two-feet of snow in parts of northern Wisconsin.  Bird expert Laura Erickson says the winter is making life hard for turkeys, and the weights of some individual birds are extremely low.  Turkey hunters had another rough season a year ago, bringing in 11-percent fewer birds than in 2012 for a total harvest of almost 38-thousand.  The DNR had blamed late snow, rains, and high winds for poor hunting conditions a year ago.  


Governor Scott Walker says that if voters re-elect him in November, he'll make sure that property taxes will not go up through at least 2018.  The Republican Walker told the Wisconsin Realtors Association yesterday he wants to send a "powerful message" about cutting local taxes -- and his administration would spend this year and early next year on the specifics.  Walker told reporters he would offer a mix of more state aid to local governments and schools, plus new local spending limits.  He said the ultimate formula would have to be worked out by lawmakers and others.  Walker was also careful to use the word "goal," so he's not dogged like he's been for just over four years -- after he promised to create a quarter-million private sector jobs in his first full term.  Walker won't get close to that, and a spokesman for his Democratic challenger Mary Burke calls the new property tax pledge "more empty rhetoric at a time when Wisconsin is not creating enough jobs."  Joe Zepecki added that Burke is also committed to holding the line on property taxes.  It can be a tricky pledge, since both local taxes and state aid can vary so much, that some communities still see tax hikes even though the statewide average goes down. 


A Wisconsin Senate Republican is offering a compromise bill to limit tight local regulations on frac-sand mines, in the hopes of getting at least something passed this year.  Tom Tiffany of Hazelhurst has scrapped the idea of barring communities from using their health-and-safety powers to regulate silica sand operations.  Instead, the bill he introduced yesterday would protect existing mines from added local restrictions -- while new mines could still face a host of regulations.  A public hearing on the revised bill is scheduled for Monday, but it's not clear yet whether Republican leaders would allow both houses to vote on it.  Tiffany's new bill would not ban local air-and-water quality standards, laws against blasting, and making frac-sand companies pay advance fees to cover local road damage that may-or-may-not happen.  All those items were in Tiffany's previous bill last fall -- and towns and counties cried foul, saying Madison was stomping on local control and endangering people's health and safety in the process.  Tiffany said the Wisconsin towns' and counties' associations are not against his revised measure.  The Wisconsin Industrial Sand Association, which supported the original bill, says it also endorses this one.  Tiffany says it doesn't go as far as he likes but quote, "This is the legislative process."


Mary Burke's campaign for governor says a donation from a domestic abuse suspect will be given to charity.  Daniel Rottier, who heads a large personal injury law firm, gave $4,500 to Burke's campaign before he was accused of using a cane to beat his wife.  Online court records indicate that a plea deal has been set in Rottier's Dane County case, and a hearing is set for tomorrow in Madison.  He's currently charged with misdemeanor battery.  Prosecutors said the 62-year-old Rottier was drunk when he caned his wife, as the two argued about plans to take their children to a movie.  Burke campaign spokesman Joe Zepecki tells the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that Rottier's donation will be given to the Domestic Abuse Intervention Services of Madison.  The non-profit agency operates a shelter for domestic abuse victims.  State GOP director Joe Fadness said Burke changed course after she was called out on the subject -- and he agrees the donation is a better use of Rottier's money.


A 39-year-old man is being held as a person-of-interest in the murder of a woman in Dane County.  Sheriff's deputies said 39-year-old Phillip Byrd was taken to the Rock County Jail in Janesville on unrelated charges.  Authorities said they wanted to know more about his possible connection to the shooting death of 43-year-old Cheryl Gilberg.  She was found dead last Sunday night at her home in Mazomanie.  A medical examiner said Gilberg was shot in the head, and her death was ruled a homicide.  Yesterday, Byrd appeared in Rock County Circuit Court on two misdemeanor charges of possessing meth-amphetamines and controlled substances -- plus felony and misdemeanor counts of bail jumping.  A judge ordered a $2,500 cash bond in that case, and he's back in court next Tuesday.  Media reports say Byrd is from Janesville, but online court records list his address as Mansfield, Massachusetts.


Fire heavily damaged a middle school in Racine overnight.  Units were called about 1:30 this morning to Mitchell Middle School, where classes have been canceled for the day.  An alarm alerted police.  Officers found smoke in the building and called fire-fighters.  Racine Fire Chief Steve Hansen said the gymnasium was destroyed after its roof collapsed.  He said crews were able to stop the flames from spreading to the elementary and high school areas.  Hansen said the sub-zero wind-chills caused nozzles and hose-lines to freeze.  One fire-fighter slipped on ice, but was said to be okay.


Police near Wausau are looking for a 35-year-old man charged with running a cock-fighting ring and illegal gambling.  An arrest warrant was issued for Bee Her of Weston.  He's charged with instigating animal fights, fatal animal mistreatment, marijuana possession, receiving a commercial gambling bet, and four counts of setting up illegal gambling machines.  Seven of the eight Marathon County charges are felonies.  Authorities say they've been investigating Her since last February, when Everest Metro Police received a letter alleging criminal activity at Her's pool hall in Schofield.  Officers searched the business just over a month ago.  They said they found gambling records and machines, plus thousands-of-dollars.  A search of Her's home was also conducted, where police said they found guns, six-thousand-dollars, and 22 chickens -- many with major injuries.  They were removed, but it was not immediately disclosed whether all or some of the chickens had to be euthanized.  Reports said Her was also suspected of running illegal gaming machines in Minnesota, other animal fighting, trafficking meth-amphetamines, and running a prostitution business.


The late CEO of Schneider National Trucking left seven-million-dollars behind to help Saint Norbert College start a new business school.  Donald Schneider died in 2012, and funds from his estate have been donated to the De Pere college.  Saint Norbert said it would establish a School of Business-and-Economics, create two under-graduate programs now housed in the College of Letters-and-Sciences, and start a masters' program in business administration.  The inaugural MBA class would have 30-to-35 students starting in the fall of 2015.  Saint Norbert president Tom Kunkel said the expansion would most likely benefit people who've been out of college for a few years.


A woman was injured after a portable propane tank exploded inside a duplex in Mosinee.  Fire Chief Josh Klug said doors and windows were blown from one of the side-by-side units in the duplex.  The only person inside was out of the structure when fire-fighters got there around 9:30 last night.  She was taken to a Wausau hospital, but there was no immediate word on the extent of her injuries.  Neighbors on the other side of the duplex were okay, and were allowed to return home after fire-fighters cleared the scene.  Klug said the blast is still being investigated, but he confirms that a propane tank similar to ones used in gas grills exploded indoors.  Klug said people should not use portable propane devices in their homes, and not hook up small tanks to home furnaces.  He said there are programs available to help families in need get emergency propane fuel.


Long-time residents in western Wisconsin might remember when "Dating Game" star Jim Lange was on their radios.  He died this week from a heart attack at age 81.  Lange grew up in Saint Paul Minnesota.  He started his career in Twin Cities' radio after he won an audition.  Lange's big break into television came in 1962, when he became an announcer and sidekick on "The Tennessee Ernie Ford Show."  His best-known role came in 1965, when "The Dating Game" premiered on ABC's daytime lineup.  He hosted the show for over a decade, winning over viewers and contestants with his wide smile and easy-going personality.  After that, Lange hosted "Hollywood Connection," the "100-thousand-dollar Name-That-Tune," and "The New Newlywed Game."  He was also a radio personality for decades in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay area.  Lange retired from broadcasting in 2005.