News August 25, 2011

Local Unemployment Numbers Down

8/25/11 – The jobless rate in the region decreased across the board over the two-month period from June to July, and most are lower than at the same period last year. In Dodge County, the unemployment rate last month was 7.9%, which is down from a rate of 8.4% in June. It was also 8.4% in July of 2010. Fond du Lac County also saw a half-percent decrease to 7.3%, which is six-tenths of a percent lower than a year ago. Washington County was at 6.9% and Columbia County was at 7.2%…both of them down seven-tenths of a percent from June. Jefferson County decreased six-tenths of a percent to 8.1%. Columbia County was the only county in the region that had a higher jobless rate this year than last year, by one-tenth of a percent. Dane County continues to have the lowest claims for joblessness at 5.4%, while Menominee County’s unemployment rate topped 20%. Of the state’s 72-counties, 70 had lower rates or no change over the reporting period. The seasonally-adjusted rate for the state was up two-tenths to 7.8%, well below the national rate of 9.2%.

Tornado Cleanup Begins

8/25/11 – Authorities now say almost two dozen homes were damaged, and about 20 farm buildings were destroyed by a tornado and thunderstorms in Clark County on Tuesday night. The storms contributed to the death of 75-year-old William Nickel, a hospice patient at a home in Granton. He died after a power outage caused his oxygen machine to stop running. Two people also suffered minor injuries. The National Weather Service said an E-F-Two tornado was on the ground for over seven miles near Chili. It packed winds of up to 130 miles an hour. Clark County emergency management officials said four homes were destroyed, two others had major damage, and 17 received minor damage. Four barns and 15 farm out-buildings were destroyed – and numerous other farm structures were damaged. The National Weather Service surveyed the area yesterday – and it found that some structures near Neillsville were also damaged. A minor “F-Zero” tornado also touched down in the Shawano County town of Lessor on Tuesday night. The only damage was to trees. Wisconsin Emergency Management says it’s monitoring the situation – and so far, it has had no requests for state assistance

ACT Numbers Down in a Majority of Local Districts

8/25/11 – Only 30-percent of local school districts saw increased scores in their students ACT college entrance exams this spring. That’s according to the Department of Public Instruction, who said last week that seniors in Wisconsin who took the test had a composite score of 22-point-two out of 36. That was higher than the national average 21-point-one – which is what state seniors scored in 2010. But in a survey of 10 local districts the average composite score was 21.7, down from 22.2 during the 2009-2010 school year. The biggest decrease of the 10 came in Mayville, where seniors this past spring scored an average of 21.3, down from 23 last April. Columbus High School had the highest composite score, coming in with a 23.4, while Cambria-Friesland had the lowest at 20. One positive in the numbers was the increase in percentage of students taking the exam. Participation was up nearly 3.5-points to 52.7-percent.

Leaders Hoping Charter School Will Reinvigorate City

8/25/11 – Officials in Fox Lake say they hope the reopening of the city’s elementary school as a charter school will help revive the community. Mayor Tom Bednarek is hopeful the school, which will focus on agriculture and environmental studies, will allow for young families and the students that have been open enrolling out of the Waupun School District to move back into the city. Bednarek, who graduated from the school, says he can’t overstate the importance of the reopening. Waupun School District officials got word this week that they had been awarded a $200,000 planning grant from the state to help in the process of getting the school ready to open by next fall.

500,000 State Residents Don’t Have Health Insurance

8/25/11 – About a half-million Wisconsinites do not have health insurance – and a new report says two-thirds of those people will be covered by 2016 under the federal health reform law. But some people who buy insurance through individual exchanges will pay more than they would now – even after they get the tax subsidies in the new program. Those who pay more are likely to have better benefits. Others would pay less, and most Wisconsinites who get their coverage from employers will see no changes in their premiums. Former Governor Jim Doyle’s administration commissioned the report, which was prepared by a Massachusetts consulting firm. It was released yesterday by state health officials. Health Services’ Secretary Dennis Smith said it proves that the Democratic health reform would cause a quote, “very significant disruption in the marketplace” and raise premiums for some. Smith opposes the reform plan along with the rest of the G-O-P Walker administration. He said people were promised lower costs – and the new report proves it won’t be the case. But reform supporter Robert Kraig of Wisconsin Citizen Action said people won’t lose coverage or pay a lot more as they get older. He calls it a “guarantee of good quality coverage for everyone throughout their lives.” And Kraig said it’s a huge change from what’s happening now.

Smith Sentenced on Bail Jumping Charges

8/25/11 – A Beaver Dam woman who was sentenced to three months in jail last month was in court yesterday on four separate charges related to the previous case. A jury convicted Nicole A. Smith in May on a felony charge of causing a child to view a sexual act. A high school-age child used a cell phone to film the 36-year-old and another man engaging in sex on Thanksgiving Day. As part of the conditions of bond in a separate case, Smith had been prohibited from having contact with the man who was with her in the video. The same man also allegedly visited her in jail on four separate occasions following a December OWI conviction. In court yesterday, Smith pled no contest to one charge of bail jumping and had three other charges dropped for violating her probation. In exchange, Smith was sentenced to one year of concurrent probation.

First Cases of West Nile Virus Found

8/25/11 – Wisconsin has confirmed its first cases of West Nile virus in animals for this year. Health officials said yesterday that two birds tested positive for the mosquito-borne illness. One was in Waupaca County, and the other in Dane County. Experts say the bird cases should serve as a warning to humans – and they’re urged to protect themselves against mosquito bites while outdoors. Wisconsin normally has birds, horses, and people come down with the West Nile disease. There were two human cases in the Badger State a year ago.

Dorm at UW-Madison to Be Named for Civil Rights Leader

8/25/11 – U-W Madison has re-named a dormitory in honor of civil rights pioneer Vel Phillips. The university said yesterday that the former Friedrick Hall on Lake Mendota is now called Phillips Hall – and each floor of the building will be named in honor of other well-known women on campus. Phillips is best known throughout Wisconsin as being the first woman and the first African-American to hold a statewide constitutional office. She was elected Secretary-of-State and served one term from 1979-through-’82. Phillips was also the first black woman to graduate from the U-W Law School in 1951. She was also Milwaukee County’s first female judge, and the state’s first African-American judge. Phillips Hall was run from the U-W Extension Service as a conference center until 2008. And when it became a dorm, the school was given a chance to re-name it.