News – January 20, 2009

Inauguration Day has Arrived

1/20/09 – Barack Obama becomes the nation’s 44th president this morning. And Senate Democrat Russ Feingold of Wisconsin says he’d love to see Obama renounce some of the executive powers used by President Bush in the name of fighting terror. But House Republican Jim Sensenbrenner of Menomonee Falls says Feingold should not hold his breath. Sensenbrenner says he’d be shocked to see much of a rollback in executive powers, if any. Feingold has long questioned the constitutionality of wire-tapping without warrants, detentions without trials, and rough military interrogations. Obama has promised to close the prison on Guantanamo Bay – and he has described the water-boarding interrogation technique as torture. But the Chicago Democrat has never said he would quote, “renounce the extreme claims of executive power” – the exact words Feingold says he’d love to hear.

There are some Wisconsin employees who will get paid today while watching Obama’s inauguration. Electronic Theatre Controls is giving all 575 of its Middleton workers a paid break to watch the inaugural ceremony at 11 this morning. C-E-O Fred Foster says he’ll serve 100 apple pies. And those who don’t want to watch the inauguration can still take the extra break and have a treat. Foster says he normally keeps politics out of his office. But as he puts it, “The politics of this is over. This is now about America.” The information technology company C-D-W will have open conference rooms where employees can take a minute to peek at the day-long coverage. Employees at Saint Mary’s Care Center in Madison will eat cake with residents, and talk about presidential elections of the past. Other firms plan pizza parties and pot-luck lunches. For many, it will be business-as-usual. But some employers – like the city of Madison – have flexible scheduling, in which employees who stop for the inauguration can make the time up later.

You can hear the inauguration ceremonies live on 1430 WBEV beginning at 10:55am.

Council Approves Redevelopment Company after Lengthy Debate

1/20/09 – The Beaver Dam Common Council last night approved the hiring of a construction company to oversee the remaining phases of the downtown revitalization plan. Under the plan approved last month, the city will acquire and demolish nine of eleven downtown buildings located over the Beaver Dam River that are in violation of state statute. On an 11 to 3 vote, the council approved hiring WDS Construction of Beaver Dam. Trent Campbell, with the Beaver Dam Area Development Corporation, says WDS will serve as an umbrella entity that will assemble a team to coordinate the various loose ends related to completing the redevelopment plan. That includes planning, demolition, partial site restoration, culvert removal and subsequent erosion control. Campbell was on the hot seat for over two hours in committee and on the council floor. The main points of contention, led by Alderman Mark Born, were the circumvention of the bidding process in selecting WDS, in addition to the lack of alternatives in selecting companies and the short notice in supplying the resolution. Campbell agreed that process is always important in any governmental activity or decision, but a variety of factors – out of his control – are forcing very real deadlines that have to be addressed immediately. The city last night authorized a $35,000 payment to WDS to conduct a study to determine the costs associated with the acquisition, demolition and restoration plan and ultimately provide a guaranteed maximum price for the work.

The Beaver Dam Common Council last night also approved an ordinance change that allows for one dog-friendly park in the city. Dogs will now be permitted on leashes in the northwest portion of Edgewater Park.

The council also approved an easement from the Beaver Dam School District to build a water retention basin. The basin will be used to maintain a storm water detention basin on the Jefferson Elementary school grounds. There will only be water in the basin temporarily after heavy rains and will filter impurities before flowing back into the storm sewer system.

Boy’s Swimming Proposed for Beaver Dam

1/20/09 – More than a dozen kids, parents, and coaches came to the Beaver Dam School Board’s meeting to speak on behalf of a proposal that would add boy’s swimming to the high schools sports lineup. The program would be self-sustaining in the first two years through fund raising and volunteer efforts. If the new program is successful in attracting students the athletic department would ask that the district provide funding on the same level as the girls program. Among the benefits that were talked about included the idea that the sport would create confidence and build character in the kids and possibly bring in more students to the district that may not have come to the school without swimming. The board will vote on the proposed plan next month. If passed the program would start during the 2009-2010 school year.

Peace Offerings Made Between Columbus PFC and Council

1/20/09 – The Columbus Police and Fire Commission and the City Council exchanged peace-making gestures at last night’s PFC meeting. For the first time since disagreements began the City Council Liaison was included as a line item on the PFC meeting agenda. Council President Ed Parpart returned a peace gesture inviting Commission Members to join in a Council Committee of the Whole discussion session on the Fire Chief’s job description. Two Fire Chief hiring “resolutions” that are part of the dispute between the City and the PFC will be on tonight’s Common Council meeting agenda.

Columbus Community Hospital Holds Annual Meeting

1/20/09 – Columbus Community Hospital’s Annual meeting heard CEO Ed Harding say that 2008 was a “difficult year fraught with many challenges.” A summary of statistics presented showed that there were slight reductions in the number of patients and outpatients. However, the number of surgery patients, urgent care visits, births and medical imaging tests all increased. Medical Chief of Staff, Dr. Tom Mitchell, said there were changes in 2008 that could improve the Hospital’s ability to serve the community. Mitchell also said Community Hospitals such as Columbus often have an advantage in providing more personal patient services.

Horicon Man Sentenced for Role in RV Fire

1/20/09 – A 53-year-old Horicon man who got his son-in-law to set a fire at Merz RV Center in Fond du Lac has been sentenced to 6 months in jail and five years of probation. Thomas Seiler was sentenced in Fond du Lac court last Friday for the June 11th, 2007 fire that destroyed his RV, another and damaged a pole shed. Seiler’s son-in-law, Jamie Schwartz, was previously sentenced to 1-½ years in prison, and his daughter Michele Schwartz to three years of probation for their roles in the fire. Seiler was hoping to collect an insurance settlement on his RV. (KFIZ)

Bank CEO’s say Economy in State is Getting Weaker

1/20/09 – Nine of every 10 Wisconsin bank executives say the state’s economy is getting weaker. That’s according to the latest survey by the Wisconsin Bankers Association. None of the 139 chief bank executives who responded said businesses in their markets would be hiring people in the next six months. And over half expect local firms to cut employees. Kurt Bauer, the head of the bankers’ association, calls it ominous, distressing, and a sign of the times. About half the Wisconsin bank C-E-O’s said they’ve tightened their lending standards to preserve their capital, or because of federal regulations. The main reason for denying business loans in the last six months was a reduction in cash flow by the prospective borrowers. The bankers said the housing-and-construction industries are the hardest hit by the recession. Non-restaurant food businesses and agriculture appear to have held up the best so far.

No Salmonella Issues with Girl Scout Peanut Butter Products

1/20/09 – It’s okay to buy Girl Scout cookies. The scouts of the Wisconsin River Valleys and Minnesota said yesterday that none of their varieties are affected by the peanut butter recalls spurred by a salmonella outbreak. Only the Do-Si-Do and Tag-a-long varieties have peanut butter. Local scouting groups were told yesterday that their cookie baker, Little Brownie, does not get any of its peanut butter from the company that’s being investigated. Yesterday, Kellogg’s confirmed that salmonella was found in a package of its peanut butter crackers – and General Mills and two large grocery chains pulled their peanut butter products. Kellogg recalled 16 products last week after learning about possible salmonella poisoning. Yesterday, the Michigan company said the F-D-A confirmed a contamination in a single pack of Austin Quality Foods Toasty Crackers with Peanut Butter. The salmonella outbreak has killed six people and sickened almost 500 others.

Kohler Makes More Layoffs

1/20/09 – The Kohler Company has completed its fourth round of layoffs since last October. Another 188 employees have been let go, bringing to 400 the number of workers who’ve been cut since last October. Spokeswoman Kristine Cristina cited a report from the Institute for Supply Management which said U-S manufacturing is at its lowest point in 28 years – and new factory orders are at their lowest since at least 1948. Cristina said 76 administrative employees at Kohler lost their jobs permanently on Friday – and 112 production workers may be recalled at some point in the future. Kohler is known world-wide for its high-end bathroom and kitchen fixtures. It’s Sheboygan County’s largest employer with around seven-thousand local workers. And Kohler is the fifth-largest private employer in Wisconsin.