Gas Holds Steady, Decrease Expected
5/6/11 – Wisconsin gas prices have pretty much held steady over the last day. The Triple-“A” reports a one-tenth-of-a-cent drop in the statewide average price of unleaded regular this morning. It’s now 4.11-point-four, after a new record was set yesterday at 4.11-point-five. Mid-grade regular and diesel had slight increases. Premium gas was down by a tenth. This comes in the wake of 12-and-a-half percent drop in the price of crude oil this week – including a decline of almost 10-dollars-a-barrel yesterday alone. Experts said it was because the dollar got a little stronger, and a larger-than-expected increase in claims for U-S unemployment benefits – a sign of a weaker demand for petroleum. Crude oil represents about two-thirds of what you pay-at-the-pump. Oil trader Jim Ritterbusch of Galena Illinois expects a big drop in gas prices by Memorial Day. He predicts 3.75-a-gallon for Metro Milwaukee by the end of May. There have been numerous reports that people are driving less due to big spike in gas prices. There was another sign of that yesterday, when the state released its traffic death statistics for April. The D-O-T said 39 people died in April crashes around the state – 15 fewer than a year ago, and 10 fewer than the average for the last five years. Gas is going for between $4.07 and $4.09 in Beaver Dam.
DNR Ends Negotiations With Fountain Inn
5/6/11 – The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is no longer in negotiations with the owner of the Fountain Inn Tavern to purchase and demolish the structure. The downtown establishment formerly known as “Emotional Rescue” was the last remaining building constructed over the Beaver Dam River that remained standing after a city buy-out. The city purchased and demolished ten other century-old buildings in 2009 because their construction in a flood plain violated modern state statutes. Owner Jay Hoeft was the lone hold-out. The DNR has notified Hoeft that the department has discontinued purchase negotiations and has sent him a written confirmation of the termination. Hoeft shrugged off the termination and calls the end of negotiations a “political turn” that came as the result of a new administration. Hoeft says he has no plans to tear down the building and may just start renting it out. Beaver Dam Mayor Tom Kennedy tells us that the city has no plans to purchase and demolish any more downtown buildings.
Wind Energy Projects Losing Steam
5/6/11 – Wisconsin has lost at least two wind energy projects in the past two months because no one knows how the state will regulate the industry. Now, Alliant Energy has all but scrapped a five-million-dollar wind farm in Green Lake and Fond du Lac counties. The utility told investors today it was taking a five-million-dollar charge, because it would be quote, “difficult to effectively use the site for wind development.” Bill Harvey, Alliant’s C-E-O, blamed it on what he called “events arising in the first quarter of 2011.” Those events include a proposal by Governor Scott Walker to restrict new wind farm development by requiring longer setbacks from farm-house properties. Also, the state Legislature’s rules committee wiped out statewide locating guidelines for wind turbines that were set by the Public Service Commission. As a result, local governments are back to creating a hodge-podge of rules.
Suspected Getaway Driver Arraigned In Crime Spree
5/6/11 – A Mayville woman has waived her right to a preliminary hearing in connection with a series of Dodge County tavern break-ins. 32-year-old Michelle L. Novak then entered a “not guilty” plea to three counts of felony burglary. Novak and 33-year-old Nicholas J. Etter of West Salem are accused of breaking into the Dockside Pub and Grille in the Town of Westford in January, Jumpers Bar in the Town of Beaver Dam in February and Chances Bar in the Town of Burnett in March. Thousands of dollars was stolen from poker machines, ATM’s and safes. According to the criminal complaint, Etter admitted that he was involved but blamed another man for orchestrating the break-ins. Novak reportedly admitted to being the getaway driver and lookout. No one else is currently charged in connection with the spree. Etter entered a “not guilty” plea at arraignment late last month. Novak has court activity on the calendar in July. Both face a maximum sentence of over 37 years in prison, if convicted.
Waupun Man Bound Over On Child Porn Charges
5/6/11 – A Waupun man has waived his right to a preliminary hearing on charges of possession child pornography. Spencer Andrle was charged with the four felony counts after undercover internet investigators say the 29-year-old downloaded movies and pictures with pre-teen girls from a file sharing website. If convicted, the charges carry a maximum 100 year prison sentence. An arraignment hearing is scheduled for next month.
Wright Sentenced For Sixth OWI
5/6/11 – A Berlin man arrested after kicking a Beaver Dam police officer during a December arrest for his sixth OWI was sentenced Thursday to 22 months in prison. Robert Wright pleaded guilty Tuesday to a felony OWI charge and had a misdemeanor and two felonies dismissed. The 38-year-old refused a preliminary breath test, refused to get into a squad car and said more officers would be needed because there was no way he was going to let them get a legal blood draw. He kicked the cop outside the E-R and later apologized. Wright will also spend three years on extended supervision.
Charges Dropped Against Carver’s Gun-Toters
5/6/11 – Five gun rights’ supporters who openly carried weapons into a Culver’s Restaurant in Madison last fall have been cleared of disorderly conduct charges. The head of the group Wisconsin Carry Incorporated said his lawyer got a call from the Madison city attorney’s office today, to inform him that the citations were dropped. Although the state allows open carry, Madison Police said the five gun-toters scared other customers in the restaurant – and as a result, the officials said they committed disorderly conduct. But the group’s attorney, Christopher Van Wagner, said the only disturbance that night was the swarm of Madison police officers who arrived to investigate law-abiding citizens eating their dinner. The Wisconsin Carry group has also filed a federal lawsuit, alleging that police violated the gun-carriers’ civil rights.
Graduation Rates Down
5/6/11 – Wisconsin’s high school graduation rate went down last year – but only because the state had to use a new national formula to calculate it. State officials said today that 85-point-seven percent of Wisconsin freshmen received diplomas four years later in the spring of 2010. The old formula subtracted the number of known dropouts – and had it not been changed, the state’s graduation rate would have been 89-point-nine percent, up a half-percent from the 89-point-four percent rate in 2009. The Milwaukee Public Schools had a graduation rate of 61-percent under the new formula, and 66-point-seven under the old one. The change in calculating the rate was required by the federal No Child Left Behind Act. 91-percent of Wisconsin’s white students graduated in four years under the new formula – while 60-and-a-half percent of black students did the same. State Superintendent Tony Evers said it’s common knowledge that on-time graduations won’t happen for a small percentage of high school students. Critics have long contended that the old formula allowed states to undercount drop-outs, thus creating artificially high rates. Starting in 2013, the state hopes to report both a four-year graduation and a six-year rate, reflecting those who’ve stayed in school longer in order to earn their diplomas.
Recount Bags Called Into Question
5/6/11 – At the State Supreme Court recount, JoAnne Kloppenburg’s observers are questioning the security of bags containing ballots from certain communities. They say there’s too big of an opening on the bags holding the ballots from the city of Brookfield – the ones the county clerk forgot to include in her Election Night tally. Kloppenburg’s people had also objected to gap-openings in several other bags. But the retired judge who’s in charge of Waukesha’s recount said the Brookfield gap was the widest. Still, Robert Mawdsley allowed the ballots to start being recounted Thursday. Because of the clerk’s error, a slight lead for Kloppenburg turned into a 73-hundred-vote victory for Justice David Prosser by the time the initial county canvasses were completed. The margin was still less than one-half-of-one-percent – and it allowed Kloppenburg to seek a statewide recount without her campaign having to pay for it. Only 11 of the 72 counties have not completed their tallies. Dodge County wrapped up Wednesday with both candidates picking up five votes. Waukesha County has asked for an extension beyond next Monday’s deadline. With almost three-fourths of the ballots counted, Justice Prosser had a 35-thousand-vote lead over Kloppenburg, 565-thousand to 530-thousand. But none of the wards in Milwaukee and Madison had been reported yet. 79-percent of all voting wards are in.
Food Share Bill Seeks Photo Cards
5/6/11 – If two Republicans had their way, poor people in the state’s food-and-health care programs would have their photos put on their benefit cards. State Representatives John Nygren of Marinette and Howard Marklein of Spring Green proposed an amendment to the new state budget Thursday to require the photos. They say it would cut down on fraud, after a report that Milwaukee County workers used fake Food-Share cards to steal 300-thousand dollars in benefits. Nygren said law enforcement in his area told him about a similar misuse of Food-Share cards there. He says requiring photos on the cards would be a “common-sense” solution – but he admits the state would have to seek waivers from the federal government. Deputy state Health Services secretary Kitty Rhoades favors the photo requirements, but federal rules would make it hard to do. That’s because Food-Share benefits can be given to people who are unrelated but eat together – and that makes verifying recipients harder to do. Under the new budget measure, state officials would have until the end of the year to come up with a plan to implement the photos for benefit cards – and the state would begin issuing them next April. Opponents have said that it would be too expensive to put photos on the thousands of cards for things like Badger-Care and Food-Share. But Nygren says the expense is justified.