News – December 14, 2016

WCI Could Soon Lose Overnight Guard Towers


12/14/16 – Two years after Dodge Correctional and the John Burke Center were told they had to start leaving their guard towers empty overnight, the same could happen at Waupun Correctional.  At last night’s Waupun Common Council meeting, State Representative Michael Schraa of Oshkosh was on hand to discuss the major issues his assembly district faces heading into the new legislative session.  The Republican Schraa, who in 2015 introduced legislation to preserve guards at WCI for an additional two years when all other state prisons lost theirs as part of a budget cut that was projected to save $6,000,000 by mid-2017, noted the two years expires January 1.  However, he says the overnight tower staffing will not be eliminated until the prison’s warden is comfortable with the new technologies and safeguards that will act as a replacement.  When towers are eliminated, Schraa says the one by WCI’s front gate will be kept and notes there will be overnight patrol around the facility’s perimeter.  Mayor Julie Nickel expressed concerns that city officials have had to learn about the changes through social media rather than from WCI administration directly.  Nickel believes the council should be informed throughout this process.  Schraa says he only agrees to a certain extent as the public does not need to be made aware of some of the plan’s aspects that could provide prisoners with an advantage in beating the system if word got inside WCI’s walls.  Schraa, who will chair the corrections committee this coming session, says there have been no incidents reported at any other state prisons since they lost their overnight guard tower staff.


Waupun Increases Rescue Assistance Rates


12/14/16 – The cost for other municipalities to receive rescue assistance from the Waupun Fire Department is increasing.  The council last night approved the department’s 2017 billable rates proposal, which calls for a $25 per hour increase in equipment usage rates.  Any calls which come from outside the fire department’s coverage area, which Chief B.J. DeMaa says is the city limits, will be billed $325 per hour for use of the aerial ladder, $225 an hour for the engine or pumper vehicle, and $175 per hour for the equipment van, mini pumper, command post, or rescue tools.  There is no change in the cost of utilizing fire department personnel.  DeMaa says the city’s last rate increase came in 2011 and notes the Town of Waupun adopted a similar hike for 2017.  He says the rates must be set each year in case they are necessary but notes the city has not had to bill another municipality during his three years as chief.       


Man Pleads Not Guilty To Stealing Boat In Ashippun


12/14/16 – An Oconomowoc man pled not guilty at his Dodge County arraignment yesterday on charges that he stole a boat and trailer from an Ashippun homeowner.  Jeffrey Rafel is facing one felony Theft count.  In October 2015, the 34-year-old’s truck was allegedly found in the Oconomowoc Police Department parking lot with the trailer and boat attached.  Rafel was found nearby and when questioned by officers, said someone must have stolen his truck.  Rafel was reportedly drunk, and there was significant damage to the stolen items.  If he is found guilty, Rafel faces up to ten years in prison.  He is due back in court next month.


Neda Mine Teens Thank Emergency Responders


12/14/16 – The teenagers rescued from a mine near Iron Ridge earlier this year have reached out to the emergency responders who helped locate them. The Beaver Dam Fire Department was one of the many agencies that responded to the Neda Mine in July after their parents reported the kids missing. Fire Chief Alan Mannel recently shared a thank you letter penned by the teens and their families with the city’s Police and Fire Commission. The letter reads: “From the time our deepest fears were being born to the time that our boys were found, we were surrounded by people who worked very hard to bring them home safely. We can’t tell you enough how overwhelmed we are by the hard work and dedication that went into those hours that they were missing. I truly wish we were able to shake each and every one of your hands or give you a hug for what you did to aid in the search.” The letter noted that the dedicated men and women of the Beaver Dam Fire Department came from quite a distance to help. It goes on to say: “it is comforting to know that all involved were giving their best efforts and to help them once they were rescued from the mine. That you gave of your time and your effort to help us is just amazing and humbling. That your families gave up their time to spend with you because of what you did is also humbling; please thank them for us. Again, thank you so much for what you did our lives will never be the same again. The work you chose to do will be forever remembered.” Sixteen-year-old Zachary Heron, 16-year-old Tate Rose, and 15-year-old Samuel Lein were found after 20 hours inside the cave; they were found less than a mile away from their bikes a little dehydrated but otherwise ok. While dormant during the summer months, the cave is home the Midwest’s largest bat colony with around 15—thousand of the creatures hibernating between mid-October and mid-May due to its stable temperature.


Trump Defends Secretary Of State Choice At Wisconsin Rally


12/14/16 – President Elect Donald Trump uses part of his “thank you” speech to Wisconsin voters to defend his choice for the nation’s top diplomat. Some in both parties say Exxon Mobil C-E-O Rex Tillerson is too close to Russia’s President Vladimir Putin. But Trump told supporters in West Allis Tuesday night, “Rex is friendly with many of the leaders in the world that we don’t get along with, and some people don’t like that” — and he praised Tillerson for making what he called “some of the greatest deals ever in the oil industry.” As the state’s top Republicans looked on, Trump praised them — especially Governor Scott Walker, whom Trump called a strong and tough leader — and House Speaker Paul Ryan, whom Trump says is like a “fine wine,” noting he has a growing appreciation of Ryan’s intellect. Trump’s speech also took more slaps at reporters whom he said were “devastated” when he won on Election Night — and since then, a recount confirmed his nearly 23,000 vote victory in the state.


Wisconsin To Consider ‘Self-Insurance’ Option


12/14/16 – The state Group Insurance Board will wait until at least January to decide whether about 250,000 public employees should get their health insurance directly from the state government. The Board reviewed several options Tuesday to restructure health benefits for state and local workers and their families — and Chairman Michael Farrell says his panel has asked a consultant and the state Employee Trust Funds Department for more information. If the state goes to a long considered self-insurance model, consultants say it would save money and give the state more control over what it provides — but it would also mean a big loss of business for 17 H-M-Os where the public workers now get their coverage.


Political Spending Skyrockets In Recent Election Cycle


12/14/16 – A watchdog group says political action committees spent twice as much on state legislative races in the recently concluded election cycle than they did in 2014. The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign says special interests spent $4,500,000 on this year’s Assembly and Senate hopefuls, about the same as in the last three elections combined. In the last session, majority Republicans increased contribution limits, ended a state ban on corporate political donations, and redefined P-A-Cs, which Democracy Campaign director Matt Rothschild says allowed big national groups to “hide their influence-peddling.” But lawmakers said they were just keeping up with federal changes. Rick Esenberg of the conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty says the public could still find how much was spent, which allowed the Democracy Campaign to put together its report in the first place.


Senate Minority Leader Rules Out Run For Governor


12/14/16 – State Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling says she will not run for governor in 2018. The La Crosse Democrat says she’s committed to rebuilding a majority that focuses on jobs, infrastructure, and schools to try and win her party’s voters back. The 47-year-old Shilling says she’s “flattered” to be mentioned as a possible contender for governor, but she says there will be other opportunities. Shilling says she’s happy with the district she represents — even though she was just barely reelected in November, by only 61 votes out of almost 90,000 cast.


Additional Showing Of Local Documentary Scheduled


12/14/16 – An additional showing of a popular local documentary has been scheduled.  The Beaver Dam Community Library will screen a movie that highlights Beaver Dam’s role in World War Two at 6 pm next Tuesday.  There were two showings at the community theatre this past weekend, but weather conditions limited the crowd on Saturday.  Local Historian Roger Noll says copies of the presentation are available for $15 by calling 920-344-9204.