News June 5, 2009

Highway Employee Killed at Construction Site in Dane County

6/5/09 – A Dane County highway employee was killed yesterday while doing maintenance work on the Highway 151 expressway near Sun Prairie. The victim was 61-year-old James Porter of Monona, who spent almost 20 years with the highway department. Sheriff’s officials said a pick-up truck was going north about 2:30 in the afternoon when it rear-ended a county highway truck and hit Porter, who had just left his vehicle. The pick-up driver was taken to U-W Hospital in Madison with non-life-threatening injuries. Sheriff’s spokesman Elise Schaeffer said the driver did not obey signs which told vehicles to move to the right lane of the expressway because of the maintenance work. She said the driver was apparently not paying attention. A state law requires drivers to move over to avoid highway personnel and police officers who are stopped on the roads. And in this case, Schaeffer said the driver didn’t do that. The incident remains under investigation.

Wisconsin Records First H1N1 Virus Death

6/5/09 – State health officer Seth Foldy says the death-and-illness rates from the current swine flu outbreak are not all that different from other strains each winter. But what’s unusual is that the H-1-N-1 virus is spreading much later in the year than the others. Wisconsin reported its first death from Influenza-“A” yesterday – and the nation has had at least 17 others. The state’s victim was an adult from Milwaukee who had a common underlying medical condition which made the flu deadly. They would not describe the person beyond that. Wisconsin has almost 21-hundred confirmed cases of swine flu – about one-fifth of the nation’s total.

Budget Measure Angers Milwaukee Mayor

6/5/09 – A new state budget measure appears to settle a long-running dispute over property tax exemptions for retirement homes. Under the change, all non-profit groups would not have to pay taxes on their retirement complexes – regardless of how they use the rent proceeds. Right now, some homes pay taxes and some don’t, depending on the type of group involved and where its rent money goes. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett is upset about the new measure saying it’s “unconscionable” to have seniors in 285-thousand-dollar condos not pay property taxes – while widows in their own 95-thousand-dollar homes must pay them. John Sauer of the Wisconsin Association of Homes-and-Services for the Aging says the tax break makes sense. He says many high-end retirement complexes are connected to assisted-living centers and nursing homes. And the money that’s not paid in property taxes is used to care for residents in all those facilities. Without the tax break, Sauer says Medicaid would have to pick up those care expenses.

Five Down, Five To Go

6/5/09 – Demolition of ten buildings in downtown Beaver Dam has reached the half-way point as the final building on the 100 block of Front Street was razed Thursday. Crews also continue to dismantle the Celestial Building on the 200 block by hand. The roof was removed in small sections earlier this week. Guide wires are being used to hold the walls of the structure together. The concern being that if one wall were to fall, it would produce a domino effect that would damage the common walls between Expedition Supply and the Fountain Inn Tavern. As the rubble is removed on the 100 block of Front Street the focus will turn to the 200 block, where the final five buildings will be demolished. We’ve once again captured several minutes of the demolition on video and posted it on our website.

YMCA and City Negotiate on Property Purchase

6/5/09 – The YMCA Board of Trustees has entered into negotiations with the city of Beaver Dam regarding the sale of the old Y property. Board President Bev Beal-Loeck tells us that the board Wednesday approved plans to have attorneys on both sides discuss the offer. She also says the door has been left open to continue negotiations with the other two parties that are interested in the property. On Monday, the common council voted 9 to 3 to allow the city to make an offer-to-purchase the Park Avenue parcel. The price tag dropped late last month from $395,000 to $75,000. It was originally listed at just under a half million dollars. Mayor Tom Kennedy says for the price, the property would be of great value to the city for a number of reasons, from city administrative offices to the Senior Center, or possibly even a police station. Opponents questioned why the city would purchase a building without a specific objective while supporters said cited the need for additional space and said the “opportunity was the objective.” The council motion called for a $75,000 offer contingent on inspection and testing, and final approval by the common council of the purchase price and deed restrictions.

Organic Materials Leak At Didion

6/5/09 – Officials with Didion Ethanol are cleaning-up today after several thousand gallons of organic materials leaked into the wetlands surrounding their facility. Didion Vice President Dale Drachenberg says 30 to 40 thousand gallons of corn, yeast, enzymes and water leaked out of a fermentation tank Thursday morning between 5am and 7am. The company contacted the DNR and also brought in Northern Environmental of Waupun for clean-up. Drachenberg says it was not a chemical spill and there are no health concerns related to the leak. The leak started after a safety inspection because someone either didn’t close the door to a fermenter, or didn’t close it all the way. Plant operations resumed soon after the discovery was made and Drachenberg says the clean-up process will be evaluated later today.

Dead Murder Suspects Cellmate Bound Over For Assisted Suicide

6/5/09 – The cellmate of convicted killer Adam Peterson, who is accused of assisting in his suicide, was bound over for trial during a preliminary hearing yesterday (Wed) in Dodge County court. Joshua Walters was Peterson’s cellmate when the 20-year-old was found hanging from a bunk bed at the Dodge Correctional Institution on January 10. The Dodge County Sheriff’s Department led the investigation and says another inmate at the prison told them Walters admitted to having the suicide “all planned out” with Peterson. The inmate says Walters told him he tied the noose, pulled Peterson’s legs to the ground, and moved the chair when he started making too much noise. However, Walters maintains he was asleep during the suicide and woke up to see Peterson hanging from the bunk at which point he called officers to the cell. Peterson was convicted of killing Joel Marino in Madison last year and had previously attempted suicide at the Dane County jail. Investigators did find a suicide note on Peterson. If convicted of the assisting charge, Walters could have as much as 10-years added to his current sentence. Arraignment is scheduled for August 4.

Citations Issued in Food Fight

6/5/09 – Some parents in Portage are steamed that police gave their teens citations for getting into a food fight at school. A senior and four sophomores were hauled away in handcuffs on Tuesday, after taco salad and yogurt were tossed around in the cafeteria. 16-year-old Dylan Mitchell told the Portage Daily Register he brought 20 cans of yogurt to the cafeteria to get the fight started. He said he doesn’t regret it – and it was quote, “pretty sweet” that the other students gave those arrested a standing ovation as they were escorted away. Mitchell’s mother Wendy said the school over-reacted by calling police. But principal Karin Exo said the cafeteria was chaotic – and she has no regrets getting the police involved. The mother of senior Ryan Hayes said there was no need to hand out 172-dollar citations. The students might also have to pay a clean-up bill if there any damages. Hayes was kept out of yesterday’s classes and today’s graduation rehearsal – but he will be able to graduate with his class tomorrow. School officials said the food fight lasted about 30 seconds, and students scrambled to get away from the mess. But police lieutenant Mark Hahn said some kids were upset to get food splattered on them – and officers had to remove the students to settle things down.