News 5/22/2010

Bedker Responds on Policy Change

5/22/10 – Dodge County District Attorney Bill Bedker is defending his office’s policy change that shifts the prosecution of small, first-time adult drug offenses from the circuit courts to the municipal courts. Bedker says the policy change stemmed from state-imposed furlough days which forced him to prioritize his case load. The city of Beaver Dam recently approved an ordinance change that allows their municipal court to handle marijuana possession charges. State statute however currently prohibits municipalities from prosecuting cocaine or prescription drug offenses. As a result, City Attorney MaryAnn Schacht says city officials will consider passage of a resolution condemning the DA’s decision. Bedker says he will continue with the new policy until funding to his office is restored. In the meantime he says it allows his department to focus on more serious crimes, like child sexual assaults. Bedker also says the financial penalty for minor marijuana offenses will likely be higher in municipal court than for circuit court, where he says judges often respond with a “slap on the wrist.” Beaver Dam Municipal Court Judge Ken Peters says he will levy fines in the neighborhood of $1000 to $4000.

WASD Makes Budget Cuts Official

5/22/10 – Earlier this week, the Waupun School Board approved more than $450,000 in budget cuts that will have the district staffing six fewer positions during the 2010-2011 school year. Superintendent Randy Refsland says the cuts make sense because of declining enrollment. The cuts leave the board still needing to shave another $150,000 to bring the budget into the black, though Refsland said the board is still committed to covering that with fund balance if need be. The district had planned to cover the $150,000 with the sale of the Jefferson Elementary building, but after the city council voted not to rezone the property the deal fell through. Refsland says the board is still hopeful another buyer will come along. Also, with Refsland leaving at the end of the year, the board will begin the interview process on Tuesday for an interim superintendent. The district is also still looking to hire a replacement for longtime Business Manager Bill Zeininger, who is retiring at the end of the school year. The school board interviewed three candidates, and while they were all suitable replacements, they asked district administrators to continue the search. They hope to have someone hired for both positions by June 30th.

Money for Tracking Student Progress Comes to WI

5/22/10 – Wisconsin is one of 20 states to get federal funding for the expansion of a system used to track student progress. Wisconsin’s grant was for nearly 14 million dollars. The data gathered will be used to help improve schools and education. Those students would be tracked from pre-school through college. State school officials say they have ambitious plans in their drive to improve student achievement. The data will be used to measure the impact of many different factors on learning.

Prominent Preacher in Beaver Dam Tomorrow

5/22/10 – The First Evangelical Lutheran Church of Beaver Dam is capping off its 150th anniversary celebration this weekend with a prominent guest preacher. The Rev. Mark Hanson is presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church In America, which includes over 10,000 churches in the U.S. Hanson will oversee the 8am and 10:30am services tomorrow. Hanson says the congregation of the First Evangelical Lutheran Church knows that they are shaped by their past and drawing on that experience to forge their future. Also at the services tomorrow: the pastor and president of the St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Monrovia, Liberia. The two traveled from Liberia specifically for the event. Rev. Mark Molldrem traveled from Beaver Dam to Liberia in 2007 and established a relationship with the church during his two week mission. There will also be a buffet dinner reception following tomorrow’s 10:30am service with a special program featuring motivational speaker Dennis Mannering.

Bear Sightings Increase

5/22/10 – Department of Natural Resources officials say sightings of bears normally increase in May and June. They sure are. People have reported seeing a sow and two cubs in Sauk County, a single bear in Iowa County, a young boar hit and killed by a vehicle on I-39 in Columbia County, and several reports from Crawford County. Sightings pick up this time of year because young male bears are forced out of their breeding habitat in northern Wisconsin and they move south looking for a new home. The DNR says most of the male bears will leave the area after the breeding season is over.

Allenton FD to Celebrate EMS Week

5/22/10 – The Allenton Fire Department will celebrate EMS Week by holding a “Safety Day” tomorrow. The event, which will be held at the Allenton Elementary School, will feature a bike rodeo and bike helmet giveaway, car seat checkups, blood pressure checks and other activities. The Flight for Life Helicopter will visit at 1pm. Officials say EMS Week, which began last Sunday, is an opportunity to focus on getting out health and safety messages to their community and to recognize and honor those who dedicate a significant portion of their lives to helping their community. The event in Allenton will run from 11am to 3pm tomorrow.

Owners of Reptiles Expected to be Charged

5/22/10 – Prosecutors say they expect to file charges next week against two people responsible for hundreds of reptiles found living in a Milwaukee house. The targets weren’t name, but investigators have reportedly been focused on Terry Cullen and Jane Flint. Cullen has kept reptiles for years and consulted with several agencies. Flint is his girlfriend and she was arrested last week when police found the reptiles living in squalid conditions in a house in the 34 hundred block of South 17th Street. In that house more than 250 animals, ranging from boa constrictors and anacondas to alligators and crocodiles were discovered. The floor was reportedly covered with hundreds of mice and rats. Many of the animals were kept in enclosures so small they couldn’t turn around. Waste was covered almost everything, according to witnesses.

State will Save Money by Cracking Down on Child Care Providers

5/22/10 – By cracking down on fraudulent child care providers, the state of Wisconsin says it will save about 45 million dollars this year. The expected savings would come from the Wisconsin Shares program. A spokesperson for the Department of Children and Family Services says most of the money comes from its efforts to recover fraudulent payment and continue to crack down on fraud. The state is setting aside 10 million dollars to start a child care center rating system. Wisconsin Shares was started in 1997 to help parents get off welfare and get a job — by subsidizing their child care costs. The program has grown to the point it costs 350 million dollars each year.

Convicted Killer May Have New Hope in Case

5/22/10 – A U.S. Supreme Court ruling last week could breathe new life into a Wisconsin case pending before the state’s high court. At issue is whether 14-year-old Omer Ninham can be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. Ninham is a Native American from Oneida, Wisconsin. He was 14 in 1998 when he killed a young Hmong boy by throwing him off a parking ramp. He’s appealing his life without parole sentence with help from, Bryan Stephenson, the same attorney who represented the Florida youth whose case was decided by the U.S. Supreme court. That ruling barring life without parole sentences for teens applies only to those who have committed crimes other than homicide, but Stephenson says the same legal theory would apply to cases like Ninham’s as well. He doesn’t think children who commit homicide offenses are more developed — and more capable of adult behavior — than kids who commit non-homicide offenses. Stephenson says the ruling makes it clear that judges need to apply a different standard when sentencing young teenagers no matter the crime. Ninham has lost his bid for a shorter sentence twice already at the appeals court level. The state Supreme Court has not yet decided whether it will consider it, since the U.S Supreme Court has now laid out new standard.