News – March 28, 2016

Sheriff, State Rep On Sex Offender Residency Standards


3/28/16 – State and county officials agree that there is no “one-size-fits-all” answer when it comes to drafting laws, especially when it comes to the placement of violent sex offenders. The attempted placement of two so-called chapter 980 sex offenders right next door to two young children in the Dodge County Town of Leroy last year led to changes in state law which now prohibit such placement within 1500 feet of a residence with children. The state Department of Health Services attempted this year to have the same two sex offenders relocate to a residence in the Town of Lowell. Dodge County Sheriff Dale Schmidt opposed the placement noting that the new location is just over the required 1500-feet from a dozen or more children. The sheriff commends the lawmakers for their efforts but says it’s always very difficult to get laws that are one-size-fits-all. He notes that one household is 1592-feet from the proposed residence and says it would have been nice to see the judge have more discretion.


State Representative Mark Born addressed Schmidt’s concerns after problems arrived with the first placement. The Beaver Dam Republican worked with Senate Leader Scott Fitzgerald of Juneau in drafting the bill that, in addition to establishing the 1500-foot buffer, also allowed input from local law enforcement into the process. Born agrees that the process of drafting laws cannot address every possible scenario and “one-size-fits-all” could probably describe every law on the books. He says that he is proud of the law and a good standard has been set for the judges who have to make decisions balancing public safety with the rights of sex offenders. Born notes that the law as approved does not place sex-offenders anywhere specific but rather sets a standard that leaves the final decision up to a judge. He says the same power that the judges used in the initial Town of Leroy matter where the offenders were removed after information about nearby children came to light are still in place, giving the judges the ability to decide. Born says legislators write the laws and perhaps the judges are the better ones to speak to about how they interpret and enforce the laws.


The most recent attempt at placing Jonathon Miller and Robert Larson Jr. hit a snag last week when it was learned that the Town of Lowell property that the Wisconsin Department of Health Services sought to purchase was no longer available.


Dodge County Emergency Management Talks Tornado Season


3/28/16 – With this year’s tornado season getting underway, county officials are reflecting on 2015.  During a recent appearance on WBEV’s Community Comment, Dodge County Emergency Management Director Amy Nehls said 17 tornados touched down in Wisconsin last year.  That is below the statewide average of 23.  While no tornados hit Dodge County in 2015, 61 have touched down since tracking began in 1844.  Nehls says the most severe weather that affected Dodge County last year was straight-line winds in July that damaged trees and structures in Astico Park as well as in the Reeseville and Clyman areas.  Following the storm, Dodge County also aided neighboring Columbia County. When he drove into the City of Columbus the morning after the winds hit, Deputy Director Joe Meagher says ‘trees were down everywhere’ and ‘you couldn’t turn from one street onto another.’  He notes there was not much structural damage in the city despite a large amount of damage to barns and greenhouses.  Meagher says one of the positives that came from the storm was seeing how well neighboring counties were able to work together to get things back to normal in a short amount of time.


Lake Improvement Association Seeking To Control Pondweed


3/28/16 – A local group is working to fight invasive species in Beaver Dam Lake.  During a recent appearance on WBEV’s Community Comment, Beaver Dam Lake Improvement Association President Bill Boettge said there are multiple species causing problems in the lake.  He says the largest problem is the curly leaf pondweed that was present in roughly 70-percent of Beaver Dam Lake last year.  According to Boettge, the pondweed is an invasive species that is detrimental to both recreation on the lake and the lake’s oxygen levels.  Boettge says curly leaf pondweed is controllable.  He says the association received a grant to conduct a study on the extent of the harm curly leaf pondweed is causing, if it returns this year.  Boettge says the DNR requires the study before it allows harvesting or another means of controlling the pondweed.  In addition to pondweed, Boettge says the large amount of carp in Beaver Dam Lake is cause for concern.  Carp contribute to phosphorous rising in the lake, which spurs algae growth.  Boettge says there is roughly 355 pounds of carp per acre in the lake.  To be under control, there needs to be less than 250 pounds per acre.  Once there is 500 pounds of carp per acre, they could completely dominate the lake.  He says a La Crosse group recently won a bid to address the carp issue this summer.


Statewide Cell Phone Ban While Driving Expected


3/28/16 – Wisconsin is expected to ban hand-held cell phone use while driving in construction zones, but it will be a while before a statewide ban is re-considered. The governor’s office says Scott Walker will sign a Republican bill passed earlier this month to fine drivers at least 20-dollars for talking on hand-held phones where road work is taking place. Democrats called for a statewide ban, but it never got a public hearing. Still, lawmakers of both parties expect such a ban sometime in the future, perhaps in the next session. At least one bill to ban cell-phone use was considered in the last decade which never went anywhere — but lawmakers and former Governor Jim Doyle banned texting-while-driving several years ago.


MADD Opposes Sobriety Testing Program


3/28/16 – Mothers Against Drunk Drivers is urging Governor Scott Walker to veto a bill that would allow judges to place offenders in a sobriety testing program in lieu of using ignition interlocks. Both the Assembly and Senate passed the bill on voice votes. But MADD National President Colleen Sheehy-Church sent Walker a letter seeking a veto. She wrote that MADD opposes making ignition locks optional. Presently, Wisconsin law requires a judge to order people who improperly refuse breath tests and certain repeat drunken drivers to use interlock devices.


Walker In The Middle Of Supreme Court Attacks


3/28/16 – Once again, Governor Scott Walker is being used by this spring’s election candidates to attack their opponents. State Supreme Court challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg has continually pointed to Justice Rebecca Bradley’s three judicial appointments from the Republican Walker — who went out of his way last week to defend Bradley against allegations of partisanship. Walker also says he does not have close ties to either candidate for Milwaukee County executive — both of whom are aligned with Democrats who have attacked each other’s associations with the governor. Democratic strategist Thad Nation says independent voters are straying from Walker, as his approval rating has fallen to around 40-percent. Nation disagrees with G-O-P-aligned consultant Mark Graul, who says candidates who cite Walker in their campaigns risk turning off independent voters.


All Fiver Remaining Presidential Candidates Visiting Wisconsin


3/28/16 – All five remaining presidential candidates are scheduled to appear in Wisconsin the next two days. Democrat Hillary Clinton has a late afternoon speech today (Monday) at U-W Madison, events in Milwaukee tonight (Monday) and tomorrow (Tuesday) morning, and speeches later on Tuesday in La Crosse and Green Bay. Clinton’s opponent, Bernie Sanders, spoke before a large Madison crowd on Saturday — and the Vermont senator due back for appearances tomorrow (Tuesday) in Appleton and West Allis, and Wednesday in Kenosha and Onalaska. On the Republican side, Ted Cruz is due in Altoona, near Eau Claire, this (Monday) afternoon. Donald Trump has an event in Janesville tomorrow (Tuesday), and both G-O-P candidates — plus John Kasich — are scheduled to face each other at a C-N-N town hall event tomorrow (Tuesday) night in Milwaukee.


DOT Meeting To Address Columbus Business Concerns


3/28/16 – Columbus business leaders are working with the state Department of Transportation and city planners to develop strategies to make it easy for the public to visit shops and offices along James Street during next year’s planned reconstruction. The Columbus Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Development Corporation, the Public Library and the city’s Economic Development Office are working together to keep city businesses available to customers during reconstruction. A special reconstruction meeting is scheduled for Thursday, April 21st, from 6pm to 8pm at the Columbus Senior Center. Plans for the multi-million dollar reconstruction of Highways 16/60 through the city will go out for bids near the end of summer.


Dodge County Humane Society 2015 Stats


3/28/16 – The Dodge County Humane Society served 1,000 animals last year.  That’s according to Executive Director Kenzie Drinkwine who appeared on Friday’s edition of WBEV’s Community Comment.  She says they also adopted 700 animals in 2015.  In addition to dogs and cats, Drinkwine says the humane society took in a variety of other animals in 2015 including birds, ferrets, guinea pigs, hedgehogs, and rabbits.