News August 24, 2011

DC Board Gets First Look at 2012 Budget

8/24/11 – The Dodge County Board of Supervisors got their first look at the 2012 budget last night. County Administrator Jim Mielke introduced the preliminary budget that would keep the tax levy the same as the 2011 budget, but due to a 2.2-percent decrease in county property values, the mill rate would go up 12-cents to $5.52 per $1,000 of assessed value. If they left the mill rate the same, the levy would be about $700,000 less causing issues in the 2013 budget because of levy limits being in place. Mielke told the board that, with the increased contributions by county employees to their health care and retirement, the county would save about 2.5-million. The budget also includes a 1-percent pay raise that will cost the county $370,000. Despite that, the budget presented has a $584,501 surplus that some county officials want to put into a rainy day fund. Mielke says the numbers are not set in stone, and they’ll know more next month after individual department heads hand in their budget requests.

1 Killed, 2 Injured in Central Wisconsin Storm

8/24/11 – Authorities in central Wisconsin say a possible storm-related death is being investigated, after a tornado and heavy thunderstorms hit the region last evening. Clark County had the brunt of the damage. And county emergency management director Michelle Hartness said one person may have died from the storms while two other people had minor injuries. A statement gave no other details. Chief sheriff’s deputy Jim Backus said a witness saw a tornado on the ground about 5:30 near Chili, about 15 miles west of Marshfield. The National Weather Service said it blew roofs off houses, destroyed barns, and took a house off its foundation. W-D-L-B Radio in Marshfield said the storm destroyed the home of Kevin-and-Kelly Korth – and they and their 15-year-old son escaped injury by fleeing to their basement. Reports late last night said a number of residents were still without power, and County Trunk “Y” in the Chili area was still closed while other roads had re-opened. To the east, a funnel cloud was spotted near Marshfield – which could have been the same tornado that hit Chili. The Weather Service also reported a funnel cloud over an hour later near Navarino in Shawano County. Officials also said lighting started a business on fire near Wausau, and a house caught fire at Tomahawk. Other parts of north central Wisconsin had trees and power lines down. Thorp in Clark County had tennis-ball-sized hail. The storms have since left Wisconsin, and forecasters expect a sunny-and-breezy day today. It’s supposed to be less humid but still warm, with highs from the 70’s to near 90 in the far south.

Grant Comes In for Waupun Charter School

8/24/11 – The Waupun School District is one step closer to opening a charter school at the former Fox Lake Elementary. Officials got word yesterday that they had been awarded a $200,000 planning grant that can be used for orientation and training, staff development and acquisition of educational materials. Starting next fall the school would run kindergarten through 6th grade, a second year would include 7th graders, and the third year would allow for 8th graders. Childs says the school will focus on agriculture and environmental studies, with emphasis on using technology and field work to better students learning. Officials say a separate grant will be needed to operate the school, the reopening will not have an impact on the district’s tax levy. The building was closed following the 2008-2009 school year in a budget cutting measure.

VA Earthquake Felt in Milwaukee

8/24/11 – Some folks in Wisconsin are still abuzz over the earthquake that hit the East Coast yesterday. People in downtown Milwaukee felt something shake when the tremor hit just before 1 p-m. And U-W Whitewater said the quake was registered on its seismometer. U-W Milwaukee normally gets intensity readings when an earthquake is felt in the Badger State – but its seismograph was down yesterday for repairs. Yesterday’s tremor registered at five-point-nine, and was centered south of Washington D-C near Mineral Virginia. Wisconsin has felt its share of distant earthquakes – most notably a tremor from southern Illinois a few years ago that was felt as far away as Chippewa Falls. But U-W Green Bay professor Steve Dutch says Wisconsin is one of the least likely places to have its own earthquake. He said the fault lines in the state have had more time to stabilize, and get welded back together.

No So Special Teams

8/24/11 – A Brown County sheriff’s deputy has done his part to help the Green Bay Packers. Jason Vogel was checking for speeders yesterday in the suburb of Allouez (al’-oh-way), when he saw pages from a Packers’ playbook flying out of a recycling truck. Vogel said the pages were scattered for half-a-block – and they were starting to create a hazard, so he picked them up. He was shocked to see specific plays drawn up for the Packers’ special teams. Vogel figured the Pack would want to know what he found – so his supervisor called the team. Packers’ spokesman Aaron Popkey said the coaches were not worried that the material had anything an opponent could use. And Popkey said the coaches didn’t throw the playbook away. He said anything important is normally shredded and then recycled.

Survey Suggests Only a Few Districts Will See Improved Fiscal Situation

8/24/11 – Wisconsin school administrators say only a minority of districts can improve their fiscal situations with the tools provided in the new state budget. G-O-P Governor Scott Walker points to school systems like Kimberly that have saved millions, even with big cuts in state aid. And many schools have added staffers with the savings realized by the virtual end of collective bargaining, and bigger employee payments for pensions and health coverage. But Miles Turner of the state Association of School District Administrators says those are only one-time savings – and they hurt districts hit the hardest by state revenue limits that have been in place since 1993. The Madison Capital Times sent questionnaires to all 424 Wisconsin school districts. None of the state’s largest systems responded, and about 17-percent did reply. Of those, two-thirds of schools say they’ll have smaller staff levels this fall than last – 27-percent will have fewer programs and activities – and 32-percent will have larger class sizes.

Brewers Make Cover of SI

8/24/11 – The Brewers are trying to downplay their Sports Illustrated cover appearance this week. Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, and Nyjer Morgan are shown celebrating Milwaukee’s home victory over the L-A Dodgers last Tuesday night. It’s the first all-Brewers’ cover on S-I since 1987, when the team won its first 12 games. Reporters have brought up the legendary cover jinx – forgetting that Aaron Rodgers was on the magazine’s cover two weeks before he won the Super Bowl M-V-P award, when his Packers took home the Lombardi Trophy. Braun doesn’t buy the idea of a jinx anyway. He said it’s not like the Madden video game jinx, when players sign contracts to be on the cover and then get hurt the next season. Braun says players have no choice being on the Sports Illustrated cover – and he says it’s a great thing the team, for Milwaukee, and for all of Wisconsin to get such national notoriety. Morgan said he was excited about making the cover, but he wouldn’t talk about the infamous jinx. Brewers’ manager Ron Roenicke shrugged his shoulders and said quote, “I don’t think much about it.”

State Still Spending Millions to Preserve Nature Lands 8/24/11 – In spite of the rough economy, Wisconsinites are still giving millions-of-dollars to preserve valuable nature lands. The Nature Conservancy has exceeded a 30-million-dollar fund-raising goal over the past four years. The group said it raised 32-million in its fund drive, including nine-million early in the campaign to help protect the Mukwonago River watershed in Waukesha County. Mary Jean Huston, who chairs the Conservancy’s Wisconsin chapter, said the drive had its ups-and-downs during the recession. But she believes people kept giving because of their love for the outdoors. Just over half of what was raised – around 18-million – has been spent on land purchases, managing nature lands, and related scientific research. She said two ongoing projects include the cutting of phosphorus pollution along the Sheboygan and Pecatonica rivers. Huston said her group often combines its funding for land purchases with state dollars from the D-N-R’s Stewardship Program – and the Conservancy plans to keep doing that whenever possible.

Milwaukee Listed as 52nd Most Sedentary City in US

8/24/11 – Wisconsin has its share of couch potatoes – but no city in the Badger State is among the 50 Most Sedentary Cities in the U-S. That’s according to a new survey by Men’s Health Magazine. Madison is rated as the 20th most active city in the nation, and Milwaukee is 52nd. The study was based on the percentage of households that buy 11-or-more video games a year and watch 15-or-more hours of cable T-V each week. Cities were also ranked according to their death rates for deep-vein thrombosis, which you can get by sitting a lot. Men’s Health gave Madison a grade of “B”-plus for its efforts to keep people active. Milwaukee got a “C”-minus.

Lexington Kentucky has the biggest percentage of couch potatoes, followed by Indianapolis. Seattle is the most active city in the survey, followed by San Francisco. Minneapolis is 10th.

WI Indian Trips Will Share Federal Dollars

8/24/11 – Two Wisconsin Indian tribes will share more than a million federal dollars for rural development projects. The Department of Housing-and-Urban Development is giving 789-thousand-dollars to the Lac Courte Oreilles Chippewa band at Hayward. It will help the tribe boost tourism by turning an old school into a visitor center – complete with a museum and gift shop. The Ho-Chunk Tribe is getting the other grant. Its housing agency is getting 300-thousand-dollars to make 21 homes in Black River Falls more energy-efficient. The homes are located in the Indian Mission community. They’ll get new insulation in their basements, and geo-thermal heat pumps.

State Residents Concerned About Hurricane’s Effect on Haiti

8/24/11 – Wisconsinites who helped with the aftermath of last year’s earthquake in Haiti are worried about the damage that Hurricane Irene might cause there. Mary Ann Lee, the disaster relief coordinator at Elmbrook Church in Brookfield, said all of Haiti’s recovery efforts could be washed away by Irene’s torrential rains. Many Wisconsin churches have ties with communities and parishes in Haiti. Lee said church members have made five missions to Haiti. Four more are set for next year, but the next one won’t be until January at the earliest. The National Weather Service said Hurricane Irene would pass north of Haiti today. It has caused massive damage in Puerto Rico. President Obama has made the U-S territory eligible for federal relief. Meanwhile, forecasters say Florida could start feeling the effects of Irene starting late tomorrow – and the pounding rains are expected to run up into North Carolina later this week.

Mourning Dove Hunting Season Begins Next Week

8/24/11 – Wisconsin’s hunting season for mourning doves begins a week from Thursday. The state D-N-R says about 140-thousand birds are taken each year – and their populations have been growing. Hunters can shoot the state’s official peace symbol through November ninth. They must use non-toxic ammunition on all state-managed properties. And they must use shotguns with up to three shells in the magazine-and-chamber combined.