“News – September 10, 2009”

Authorities Stay Silent on Horicon Deaths


No new information was released yesterday by authorities in Horicon about a possible murder-suicide that occurred earlier this week.  Two bodies were found inside a residence on Maple Street Tuesday afternoon but Lieutenant Adrian Bump has not confirmed their identities or how they died.  According to yesterday’s Dodge County Sheriff’s Department briefing, they assisted the Horicon Police Department with a murder-suicide at the home of Dale and Joyce Breitkreutz.  Funeral services for the couple are set for Monday.  Messages left for both Bump and Dodge County Medical Examiner P.J. Schoebel went unreturned yesterday.


Henry Pleads Not Guilty in Wife’s Murder


The Waupun man accused of murdering his wife in July pleaded not guilty yesterday.  44-year-old Larry Henry told investigators that he struck his wife in the head with a metal pipe and then placed plastic wrap over her head and she quote “never regained consciousness.” Following the death Larry Henry walked into the Waupun Police Station and told officers that he had “taken his wife’s life.”  42-year-old Tammy Henry was found on a blood-soaked mattress in the couple’s living room. The Dodge County Medical Examiner ruled that she died as the result of blunt force trauma to the head.  Court records show that Henry reserved the right to change his plea to not guilty by reason of insanity in the next 30-days.


Candle Light Vigil Held in Waterloo for “Dr. Ben”


A candle light vigil was held last night in Waterloo to remember the man known affectionately as Dr. Ben.  48-year-old Benjamin Schmidt died Monday after the tractor he was riding tipped over pinning him underneath.  Current and former residents remembered Schmidt as an incredible person who could have gone anywhere to practice medicine but instead chose to set up his practice in Waterloo in 1992.  Schmidt leaves behind his wife, three kids, and numerous friends and other relatives.  Visitation for Schmidt will be held from 3 to 7 this afternoon at the Waterloo Fire House.  He’ll be laid to rest in a private family service tomorrow.


FDL County Board Passes Incentive Package for Merc


The Fond du Lac County Board has agreed to borrow 50-million dollars to help its largest employer stay in town.  And they approved a half-percent sales tax to pay off the loan.  It’s part of an effort to keep Mercury Marine afloat.  The company’s union did its part last Friday, by approving contract concessions which Mercury said were needed to prevent moving 850 jobs to its non-union plant in Oklahoma.  Now, those jobs will stay.  And the maker of outboard motors announced yesterday it would add another 750 jobs over the next seven years, many of which would come from the Stillwater plant in Oklahoma.  The County Board agreed to loan Mercury the 50-million it borrowed.  But nine-million would not have to be paid back if the plant’s current jobs stay around for at 12 years.  And millions more would not have to be paid back if Mercury grows as it promised.  The sales tax will begin next April.  It was approved on a 16-to-2 vote.  Tonight, the Fond  du Lac City Council will act on another three-million dollars in aid for Mercury Marine.  The state is also working on an incentive package – and those talks continue.  Local economic development officials say Mercury is on the edge of creating a new type of outboard motor which could pave the way for future growth.


Wisconsin Legislators React to Obama’s Health Care Speech


President Obama told Congress last night “the time for bickering is over” on health reform.  But there was more of it than ever both during and after the Democrat’s 50-minute speech on Capitol Hill.  Menomonee Falls House Republican Jim Sensenbrenner said Obama spread his own misinformation, while accusing the G-O-P of doing the same.  Janesville House Republican Paul Ryan said Obama offered nothing new – and the president’s plan breaks what’s working instead of fixing what’s broken.  But Madison House Democrat Tammy Baldwin said Obama was clear about what he wanted – and she shares his commitment to ensure quality, affordable health coverage for all.  Obama promised those with insurance that they’ll only see improvements.  And he said he was open to other options beside a government plan to create more competition for consumers.


Dam Question To Be Considered, Again


9/10/09 – The Columbus Council will be asked to approve two steps toward the “repair” of the Udey Dam when they meet next Tuesday. The Council has been asked to approve an application for a grant from the state DNR that could pay for up to $200 thousand dollars of qualified Dam repair costs. The Council will also be asked to approve an agreement with General Engineering for Architectural and Engineering services. The $41 thousand 400 dollars for site design, bidding coordination and contract administration would NOT be a part of the Dam repair covered by grant money.


Tomato Blight Discussed on Community Comment Today


9/10/09 – We’ll be talking tomatoes on WBEV’s Community Comment this afternoon. A fungus-like plant disease that caused the 19th century Irish potato famine and has been ravaging tomato plants this summer has spread to two potato fields in Wisconsin. Known as “late blight” or “potato blight,” the plant disease is a serious concern for potato farmers in Wisconsin, the fourth largest producer of spuds in the nation. The disease has already affected tomato plants in several counties, including Columbia and Jefferson Counties. While, tomatoes aren’t a major commercial crop in Wisconsin, local organic farms and home gardens have been hit hard. We’ll get the latest this afternoon from Dodge County UW Extension Crops and Soils Agent Matt Hanson. In our second segment, we’ll welcome Kathy Hetzel, who will be in to talk about the Dodge English Language Learner’s program, which is in need of volunteers.  Community Comment airs weekdays following our noon newscast.


Alleged Milwaukee Serial Killer Makes Court Appearance


A one-million-bond was ordered yesterday for alleged Milwaukee serial killer Walter Ellis.  He made his first court appearance on homicide charges in the deaths of Joyce Mims in 1997 and Ouithreaun Stokes a decade later.  Milwaukee Police say Ellis’s D-N-A was found on eight prostitutes who were stabbed and strangled to death since 1986.  The 49-year-old Ellis is now charged in four of those deaths, and other counts are expected today.


Hispanic Organizations Ask Immigrants to Boycott ’10 Census


A national Hispanic clergy group wants immigrants to boycott next year’s U-S Census.  They say it will pressure Congress into passing major immigration reform – or else it will force cities-and-states to go without the federal aid they’d get if the immigrants were counted in the Census.  In Wisconsin, three-point-six percent of the state’s population is foreign-born.  And Christine Neumann-Ortiz of a Milwaukee immigrant rights group would rather see those people counted.  Ortiz says she sympathizes with the boycott’s goals – but not counting Hispanics would hurt legal immigrants who could benefit from the government programs the federal aid provides.  Many Hispanic groups have led a national campaign to get Latinos counted in the next Census.  They say many illegal immigrants fear being exposed and eventually deported.  But Neumann-Ortiz and other officials say the Census will not ask about a person’s legal status, so they have nothing to  fear in being counted.


HS Seniors Hit With DC Tickets for TP’ing School


Five seniors at Shorewood High School were cited for disorderly conduct and suspended for a day for toilet-papering the campus.  Now, the parents of four of the students are trying to get the punishments expunged, so it doesn’t hurt their kids’ chances of being admitted to college.  Shorewood Police used to look the other way when seniors strung toilet paper at the high school, and at the homes of incoming freshmen.  The seniors paraded around town, and they even got a city permit for that.  But a couple years ago, the police chief ended the parade – saying kids were hanging from windows and banging into each other’s vehicles.  Also, the school hired security to stop the toilet-papering on the night before classes began.  But this year, students did their thing two nights before school.  And on August 31st, police saw a number of kids not only toilet-papering trees – but throwing a bike rack around, and spreading mustard and ketchup on the  school building.  A crowd scattered when officers arrived, but five seniors were caught.  They’re due in court October 14th on non-criminal, 177-dollar tickets.


Kohl’s Fined $425K For Sweatshirts


9/10/09 – A federal agency announced fines yesterday against four companies – including Kohl’s of Menomonee Falls – which sold hooded jackets and sweat-shirts with drawstrings on the neck.  The Consumer Product Safety Commission says those garments can cause strangulation hazards to children – and they can get injured or die from it.  The government said Kohl’s agreed to pay a 425-thousand-dollar civil penalty.  That’s after it paid a 35-thousand-dollar penalty last year for not reporting drawstrings in kids’ sweat-shirts, as required by law.  The new fine for Kohl’s was the largest among the four companies named.  The others were Hill Sportswear of California, Maran of North Bergen New Jersey, and K-S Trading of New Jersey.  All four companies denied breaking the law when they agreed to their penalties.  The safety commission said in 2006 that children’s jackets and sweat-shirts with drawstrings at the neck or hood would be considered defective.


Money Changing Hands In Pay-Day Loan Debate


9/10/09 – Pay-day loan companies gave 140-thousand-dollars in campaign gifts to Governor Jim Doyle and legislative candidates last year – apparently to stop a bill which limits how much interest they can charge.  The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign says that the pay-day loan industry also gave almost 29-thousand dollars to campaigns in the first half of this year.  The group said Senate Democrat Jim Holperin of Eagle River received the most of any legislative candidate last year – just over 10-thousand dollars.  Assembly Democrat Gordon Hintz of Oshkosh and Majority Leader Tom Nelson of Kaukauna have proposed a 36-percent interest limit on payday loans.  The lending firms say it’s not nearly enough to cover their expenses – and they fear it would put them out of business.  Instead, they’re willing to support another measure that would limit how often borrowers can roll-over their pay-day loans.  Those roll-overs are often blamed for interest in the hundreds of percentage points for a year.  The Hintz-Nelson bill is now in the Assembly’s Financial Institutions Committee.


State Credit Cards Scrutinized


9/10/09 – It’s rare when state employees use their government credit cards for personal gain — but an audit released today uncovered at least some abuses.  The Legislative Audit Bureau checked three-thousand purchases on tax-funded credit cards.  And 131 of them – or about four-percent – were said to be fraudulent, excessive, or inappropriate.  Those questionable expenses totaled almost 75-thousand-dollars.  The auditors generally gave high marks to the state’s controls to keep credit card use in check.  The report said two state employees quit or were fired when their abuses were exposed.  A D-N-R worker charged a personal trip to Las Vegas and theater tickets to the taxpayers.  That person was referred for prosecution.  Also, a Military Affairs employee spent 16-thousand-dollars on laptops and other computer items.  Auditors also found that two State Investment Board employees wasted almost 13-thousand dollars when they flew to Europe, by flying  business-class instead of coach.  Some of the charges did not have itemized receipts as required.  That included 27-hundred dollars to an on-line retailer for office furniture in the Corrections’ Department.  Auditors also found three cases where employees charged things to the state – and then sought reimbursement for the same items.


Cons Impersonate Collection Agents


9/10/09 – State officials are getting more complaints about aggressive collection agencies – and the scam artists who impersonate them.  Consumers have made over 500 complaints to the state Department of Financial Institutions this year – almost as many as in all of 2008.  The recession is making it difficult for lots of folks to keep up their bills.  Also, Paul Egide of the state’s financial agency says scam artists are finding out about people’s legitimate debts.  And many use scare tactics to pry money from victims who have no idea they’re being scammed.  Egide says the fake collectors are most likely to say you’ll go to jail if you don’t pay them.  But legitimate bill collectors get lots of complaints, too, for things like making threats – calling the debtors’ relatives and friends – and ignoring requests to get off the borrowers’ backs.  All those things are illegal.  And the state can often get the collectors to stop.  But Egide says  it’s hard to find violators – because it’s too often a matter of “he-said she-said.”


Legislation Would Fund Workforce Education


9/10/09 – Legislation being proposed at the Capitol could help to re-educate Wisconsin’s workforce.  State Representative Cory Mason plans to introduce the Wisconsin Jobs Initiative, which would help businesses modernize their facilities, expand the state’s Technical College System, and provide more financial aid.  Mason says the bill could help nearly 40 thousand people access financial aid and continuing education courses, which he says is essential to getting people back to work in good family supporting jobs.  The proposal would be funded by a one-percent income tax increase on those making over a million dollars a year.