News – February 9, 2011

Winter Weather Advisory in Effect Until 6pm


3/9/11 – Roads are snow covered and slippery this morning as the middle and upper half of Wisconsin is getting hit with some wet and heavy snow.  So far about 4-inches of snow has fallen in the Beaver Dam area and we remain under a Winter Weather Advisory until 6pm tonight.  Meteorologist Jeff Smith says we can expect another 2 to 4 inches today with another inch by tomorrow morning.  But the snow won’t be around for long as temps in the upper 30’s and low 40’s are in the forecast for tomorrow and Friday.


Dodge County Board Approves Union Contracts


3/9/11 – Despite a lengthy debate the Dodge County Board of Supervisors overwhelmingly approved contracts for seven local unions that represent nearly 650 county employees.  The contracts are one-year deals that include no increase in wages or benefits. But they also don’t have those represented employees paying more into their pension or health care accounts.  However, if Governor Walker’s budget repair bill were to pass the roughly 170 non-represented employees in the county would have to immediately begin paying 5.8% more into their retirement accounts. And that drew criticism from several Supervisors, who said it was unfair that represented and non-represented employees would be treated differently.  Many felt they should allow the process to play out in Madison before making any decisions.  But others said so much would change under the bill that county administrators would need time to put a plan into place to deal with the new rules. Prior to the vote Human Resources Director Joe Rains said maintaining good relationships with their employees is important, and a no vote on the contracts could impact labor negotiations negatively for the next 10 years or more.  A separate group of Supervisors voted no to several of the agreements to show their displeasure with a change in the contract language that turned the “Good Friday Holiday” into the “Spring Holiday”.


State Aid Cuts Would Hurt Waupun More


3/9/11 – The city of Waupun could be hit much harder by the budget issues the state is dealing with than other communities.  City Clerk/Treasurer Kyle Clark says the city could lose a total of between $375,000 and $475,000 as part of the next two year budget and the budget bill currently held up in the Senate. Clark says because about 50-percent of the property in the city is state owned they have a smaller tax base to pull money from than other similar sized communities, and therefore a cut it state aid would hurt them more.  Clark went on to say that about $125,000 would be by employees contributing more into their pension and health care accounts.  That would leave them with around $250,000 to $350,000 to cut, and Clark says they’re looking at everything.


Governor Now Willing to Negotiate


3/9/11 – The governor’s office says it’s willing to let public employee unions bargain over more things besides wages, as it tries to get lawmakers to approve cutbacks in union bargaining. Republican Scott Walker’s office has released copies of e-mails given to Senate Democrats on what it’s willing to negotiate. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel asked for the e-mails, and they were given to the paper and other media yesterday. A Walker spokesman said the changes would be made in a separate bill later, and the e-mails prove that the governor is trying to negotiate – something Democrats have accused him of not doing. Among other things, unions could have limited bargaining power over more economic issues and workplace safety measures. U-W Hospital workers would not lose all their bargaining rights, as the bill first proposed. And unions would have to vote every three years to remain active, instead of one year as the bill specifies. But Senate Democrat Bob Jauch of Poplar said his contingent has not approved any of the changes Walker proposed. Rick Badger of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees said union powers would still be scaled down to almost nothing. And both he and Senate Democrat Tim Cullen of Janesville criticized Walker for releasing the e-mails, saying he’s negotiating in public. Jauch said Walker has not addressed a major sticking point – his proposal that employees who are not in a department’s union no longer have to pay union dues. Meanwhile, Democratic leaders in both houses have proposed an alternative plan for ending the budget impasse. It would still re-finance state debt and get concessions from state workers to eliminate the current deficit, while delaying the consideration of union bargaining limits.


Auto Insurance Requirements to be Scaled Back


3/9/11 – The amount of auto insurance that Wisconsin drivers must have is one step closer to being scaled back. The state Assembly voted 61-to-34 yesterday to return the minimum coverage limits to what they were before 2009, when the former Democratic majority raised them. Republicans claimed the new limits caused at least 33-percent jump in auto insurance rates for thousands of motorists – something Democrats and the Citizen Action group disputed. Democrats also said many drivers would not have enough coverage if they get hurt in accidents, because of rising health care costs. The Senate approved the measure a few weeks ago, and it must act on some changes the Assembly made before the bill goes to Governor Scott Walker. The governor has said he’ll sign it. It also scales back several consumer protections that Democrats added back in 2009 – but Republicans say motorists should have the choice of having lower-priced coverage. It would also let insurers put drivers into a high-risk category for the first time, and charge them more. All Republicans voted for the bill along with Democrats Lou Molepske, Mark Radcliffe, Chris Danou, and Jason Fields. Independent Bob Ziegelbauer also supported the measure.


Sheriff’s Department Will Have K9 Units


3/9/11 – For the first time in their history the Dodge County Sheriff’s Department will have a K-9 unit.  The county approved the establishment of two K9 units last night at a cost not to exceed about $25,000.  Currently the county has to use K9 units from Waupun, Horicon, or from outside the county.  Sheriff Todd Nehls says they’ll be used in a number of ways, including drug interdictions and in attempting to locate missing persons.