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WISCONSIN NEWS ROUNDUP: The last snowpile has melted away in northwest Wisconsin

The final evidence of an extremely snowy winter has just now disappeared in northwest Wisconsin.  The Superior-Douglas County Chamber of Commerce ran a contest in which folks were invited to guess when the final remnants of snow would melt away.  They called it the "Snowpocalypse" contest.  The judges ruled that the final snow disappeared Monday from the huge pile of snow that was removed from the city streets during the winter.  Gerry Olson of Superior guessed the correct date.  She won a basket of prizes.


Governor Scott Walker said his 19-year-old son Alex was not making a policy statement when he served as a legal witness to a gay marriage last month.  The Republican Walker, a long-time opponent of same-sex marriage, confirmed yesterday that his son was a witness at the June 9th wedding of Shelli Marquardt and Cathy Priem.  Marquardt is the first cousin of Walker's wife Tonette.  The wedding was among 550 which occurred in a one-week period in Wisconsin, after Federal Judge Barbara Crabb found the state's gay marriage ban unconstitutional.  She later put her ruling on hold while the state appeals it.  The governor said his family's wedding involved a member they love dearly, and he had no problem with his son acting as a witness.  Walker said his son doesn't need his blessing "to do anything he does."  Walker downplayed his opposition to gay marriage when he hit the campaign trail, saying his opinion no longer matters now that the issue is in the courts.


The state is under federal orders to pay back a 12-point-three million dollar grant it received in 2006, to help drug-maker Abbott Laboratories build a plant in Kenosha County that never materialized.  Governor Scott Walker's campaign unveiled a T-V ad yesterday that slammed his Democratic election opponent Mary Burke, for wasting a grant she arranged while she was the state's commerce secretary.  The ad mentioned nothing about the U-S Department of Housing and Urban Development's ruling that the grant was for a speculative project and therefore improper.  According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the state was told a year ago to pay back around six-million in cash, and give up another six-million in future block grant funds.  Both state officials and the Burke camp disagree with the finding.  The paper said the funding bought land that prevented a truck stop from going on the Abbott sites.  A Walker housing official said it eventually helped Uline build its new corporate headquarters in Pleasant Prairie.  Burke's camp said she disagrees strongly with HUD's finding, and she would officially challenge it if she's elected governor in November.  Her camp said Abbott -- the Illinois drug giant -- made a major land investment in 2006, and it included taxpayer protections.  The village of Pleasant Prairie was given the grant funds, which eventually went to Abbott.  The company has not commented.


A 12-year-old Appleton girl will have lunch with Michelle Obama at the White House next week.  Sarah Ganser was the Wisconsin winner of the third annual "Healthy Lunchtime Challenge," a recipe contest put on by the First Lady's "Let's Move" program.  She'll join winners from other states, Washington D-C, and three U-S territories at the July 18th White House lunch.  Ganser's recipe is for an African sweet potato stew.  It was among 15-hundred entries in the First Lady's contest.  Ganser's recipe will be featured in a free cookbook that can be downloaded by the end of July from the program's Web site at Letsmove-Dot-Gov.  


Wisconsin Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner is so fed up with the A-T-F, he's drafting a bill to eliminate it.  The Menomonee Falls Republican says the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives keeps searching for a mission, while it's plagued by what he calls "high-profile blunders."  A new report by the General Accounting Office said the 46-year-old A-T-F keeps trying to re-define itself, as it struggles with high employee turnover and problems keeping track of its criminal investigations.  The agency is not commenting for now.  In Milwaukee, there's been heavy criticism of the A-T-F in the wake of a botched undercover storefront operation that was supposed to get guns off the streets -- but instead resulted in a burglary at the storefront, the loss of critical documents, and charges against the wrong targets.  Sensenbrenner says other police operations in the Justice Department can pick up the A-T-F's duties.  His new effort to eliminate the A-T-F comes 21 years after a similar proposal failed to pass.  


A new international study shows that U-S students are just below average in learning how to manage their finances when they become adults.  The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development says 18-percent of U-S school students do not meet the proficiency level for being financially literate.  Ten-percent of Americans are said to be top performers, which means they can root out things like hidden costs in their purchases.  Jim Morgan of the Wisconsin Manufacturers-and-Commerce says the low numbers are caused in part by the lack of a uniform effort to increase student financial literacy.  The Badger State was a national trend-setter back in 2006, when a task force created academic standards for financial literacy.  However, public schools were not required to offer personal finance programs -- and less than half did.  In May, Governor Scott Walker announced 350-thousand dollars in grants to help schools create literacy courses.  Only 26 districts shared that money, and 66 others were turned away.  


Construction begins later this month on a second bridge between Wisconsin and Winona Minnesota.  The Gopher State's D-O-T will hold a ceremonial ground-breaking a week from Friday for the 162-million-dollar span over the Mississippi River.  Officials decided that two more bridge lanes were needed, after the city's original two-lane span was closed for part of 2008 with corroded gusset plates.  Hundreds of Wisconsinites who work in Winona drove miles out of their way until a temporary ferry was put in place.  The new bridge was first announced in 2012, along with plans to preserve the existing 70-year-old structure connected by Highway 54 in western Wisconsin.  Temporary access points will start being built the week of July 21st, followed by the installation of piers in the river.  Officials are still acquiring land for the new bridge.  Construction of the driving lanes will begin next spring.  Once the bridge is complete, crews will perform rehab work on the existing bridge.


An Air Force refueling plane from Milwaukee made an emergency landing late yesterday on an airport runway in Upper Michigan.  W-V-U-P T-V in Ishpeming said the plane was conducting a touch-and-go landing drill when it had a hydraulic problem.  Three people were aboard the K-C-135 plane at the time, and it was carrying six-thousand gallons of fuel.  Airport manager Duane DuRay said the crew radioed air traffic controllers about 25 minutes before they landed.  The plane touched down around five p-m yesterday at Sawyer International Airport in the central U-P.  It's the former K-I Sawyer Base which the Air Force retired in 1995 after almost 40 years of operations.  


Wisconsin's largest power plant would burn cheaper coal, under a plan submitted to the state's utility regulating panel.  We Energies wants to spend 25-million dollars to modify its plant at Oak Creek, so it can burn coal from Montana and Wyoming that's 35-percent cheaper than the Appalachian coal it's now burning.  The utility has asked the state Public Service Commission to approve the project by December.  We Energies says the plant would burn a mix of 60-percent Western coal, and 40-percent from the Eastern U-S -- and it would save customers about 16-million dollars a year.  The Citizens Utility Board, which represents electric consumers, says it's not wise to spend more money on a plant that cost two-point-three billion dollars to build and had millions in cost overruns.  Katie Nekola of Clean Wisconsin said Wyoming coal burns less efficiently than the Appalachian product -- and therefore, the plant would create more emissions at a time when the E-P-A is ordering the state to reduce those carbon emissions.  We Energies doesn't buy that.  Spokesman Brian Manthey says the new arrangement will allow the plant to burn coal as efficiently as any plant in the nation.  He also said the mixture can flexible, so the utility can adapt to future market conditions.