News – September 15, 2016

Dodge County Taxes Could Stay Fairly Level


9/15/16 – Dodge County taxes could stay fairly level in 2017.  The finance committee saw an early version of the budget at its meeting this week.  County Administrator Jim Mielke says the $112,000,000 document includes a tax levy of just over $33,000,000, up $300,000 from the current year.  The mill rate of $5.63 per thousand dollars of assessed valuation would be four cents less than the number homeowners saw last December.  However, county property values are up nearly one-percent to $5,900,000,000.  Mielke says a number of the county’s major projects are covered by sales tax revenues which are projected to be around $5,700,000 in 2016.  He says the most notable road project in the 2017 budget is the third of four phases in the reconstruction of Highway C in the Town of Trenton.  Mielke says the third phase includes a 1.2 mile stretch from Jersey Road to Buckhorn Road.  The final portion is tentatively slated for 2018.  Mielke says an adjustment to the employee compensation scale could cost the county an extra $1,400,000.  The county board approved 1% pay hikes for all employees after a recent study showed Dodge County was paying its workers roughly 6% below the market value.  Mielke says the county received a break in learning that employee health insurance premiums will stay flat in 2017.  The budget will be presented to the county board on October 18 with final adoption slated for November 15.


Superintendent: Safety Concerns Key In BDUSD Referendum


9/15/16 – Beaver Dam Schools Superintendent says safety concerns are among the primary needs that will be addressed as part of a school funding referendum district voters will see this November. The $48.9-million-dollar question seeks to fund a variety of improvements at the high school but also security upgrades throughout the district. Superintendent Steve Vessey told us recently on WBEV’s Community Comment that most district buildings were built in the 1950’s and 60’s and were not designed with modern day safety features. He says there should be a secure sequence to enter a school building meaning the public enters through a set of locked doors for a background check and once cleared can move through another set of locked doors into the school. “None of our schools are built like that and that’s not acceptable in 2016,” he says. Every building in the district would have their main offices reconfigured so that there is a set of outer doors that leads to an office and from there visitors would have to pass through another set of interior doors before having access to classrooms. Vessey says the current layout of the schools is a safety liability and the district has a responsibility to inform the community and provide a solution. At Washington School, for example, Vessey says it is not enough that the main entrance has cameras and locked doors that require visitors to be buzzed in. He says after a visitor enters they currently pass two classrooms and two bathrooms before arriving at the office. “If that person has ill intent, there’s a lot of kids they have access to before they check in,” he says.  In the high school, the main office is currently 100 yards away from the parking lot and would be relocated. While the footprint of the high school would not change, the bricks and mortar of the halls inside would be reconfigured. Technical education classrooms would be moved to the middle of the school. The auditorium would stay where it is, the gymnasium would expand into where the tech-ed wing is currently located and the cafeteria entrance would be in between the gym and auditorium, which would be connected to the parking lot. Vessey says of particular importance is the ability to partition-off a building into quadrants, allowing for certain portions to be closed off. He says the high school is a “nightmare design” from a safety perspective and needs straight-flowing hallways, clear sight-lines, an open cafeteria and a secure sequence of entrance. If approved in November, the referendum would cost the owner of a $100,000 home an extra $168 per year for 20 years.  The general election is November 8.


Beaver Dam Man Pleads Not Guilty To Burglaries


9/15/16 – A Beaver Dam man accused of stealing from a number of people in the last year pled not guilty at arraignment yesterday.  Douglas Rinden is facing five counts of Felony Burglary as a party to a crime and repeat offender along with one misdemeanor.  He also faces eleven charges stemming from two additional complaints.  According to the burglary complaint, the 29-year-old stole electronics and other items from a number of Beaver Dam residences to support his drug addiction.  Rinden also allegedly tried to break into the mother of his child’s apartment after she kicked him out and threatened to harm both her and himself.  Officers reportedly recovered some of the stolen items from storage units Rinden had accessed in his apartment complex.  Rinden allegedly admitted to the thefts.  If he is found guilty on all counts, Rinden faces over 94 years in prison.


Beaver Dam Man Fails To Appear On Fleeing Charge


9/15/16 – A Beaver Dam man accused of leading police on a high speed chase within city limits failed to appear for his arraignment hearing yesterday. Isiah Winter is charged with felony Attempting to Flee or Elude a Traffic Officer for the early morning Fourth of July pursuit that reached speeds of 80 miles-per-hour on North Center Street and side streets like DeClark, Burnett and Denning. The 19-year-old fled on foot at Beaver and Third streets but was apprehended a few blocks away. If convicted, the charge carries a maximum prison sentence of three-and-a-half years. A warrant for Winter’s arrest was issued but stayed until Friday.


Watertown Man Pleads Not Guilty To Fleeing Police


9/15/16 – A Watertown man accused of running from police pled not guilty at arraignment yesterday.  Derek Larson is facing felony Fleeing an Officer and misdemeanor Operating While Revoked charges.  The 26-year-old allegedly fled an officer at speeds over 100 miles per hour in July when he was being stopped for an expired registration and outstanding warrants.  If he is found guilty on both counts, Larson faces up to four-and-a-half years in prison.


Man Arrested For Showing Up Drunk To Court Appearance


9/15/16 – A 39-year-old Milwaukee man reportedly showed up for his court appearance in Washington County drunk. He was there for a hearing on his 3rd drunken driving offense. Sheriff’s deputies let him through the screening area even though he smelled of booze. After his court appearance they had him do a breath test and he was more than 2 ½ times over the intoxication limit for driving. One of his court conditions was absolute sobriety. He was arrested for bail jumping.


Dassey Asking For Prison Release


9/15/16 – Brendan Dassey has asked a federal court to release him from prison, while the state challenges the overturning of his murder conviction. Dassey and his uncle Steven Avery are both spending up to life in prison for the brutal 2005 killing of Teresa Halbach in Manitowoc County. A federal magistrate ruled last month that Dassey’s confession was coerced, and the state Justice Department appealed the decision last week. In a motion filed Wednesday, Dassy’s attorney said the confession “harbors significant doubts” of Dassey’s guilt — and the state has not shown that it would likely win its appeal. The defense has proposed a release plan in which Dassey would spend up to three months with his family before he would begin counseling.


State DOT Proposing Highway Project Delays


9/15/16 – The state D-O-T is proposing a highway budget that would spend an extra $65,000,000 for local road maintenance, with more delays for five major highways. Governor Scott Walker has news conferences throughout Wisconsin today to explain a D-O-T budget for the next two years that makes up for a nearly $1,000,000,000 shortfall without raising taxes and fees. It also cuts road borrowing to $500,000,000, down from the $850,000,000 in the current budget. New delays of one to three years are planned for Milwaukee’s Zoo freeway interchange, an expansion of Interstate 94 from Milwaukee to the Illinois line, and Highways 18/151 in Madison, 15 in the Fox Valley, and 23 east of Fond du Lac.


Wisconsin Corn Crop In Good Shape


9/15/16 – Despite heavy rain last week, the Wisconsin corn crop remains ahead of schedule. According to the Ag Statistics Service, the corn is up to ten days ahead of schedule in its final stages of development. Almost one-fourth of the corn that feeds farm animals has been harvested, as plant moisture levels and field conditions allow. Up to eight inches of rain caused flooding in central and southwest Wisconsin late last week.  At the start of this week, there were many reports of standing water and muddy conditions in low fields. 87% of the state’s corn crop was still in good to excellent condition, along 84% of the soybeans.


New Bat Species Found In Wisconsin


9/15/16 – A new bat species has been discovered in Wisconsin for the first time since 1954. Department of Natural Resources officials say researchers discovered the new species, known as an evening bat, living in the hollow of trees in Avon Bottoms State Natural Area in Rock County. The researchers who discovered the bats were studying summer habitats of other species that are vulnerable to white-nose syndrome, a deadly disease that has killed millions of bats across the country.


Wrecked Ship Found Near Apostle Islands


9/15/16 – A shipwreck has been found on the Apostle Islands near Bayfield. Kraig Smith of Rice Lake, Jerry Eliason of Scanlon, and Ken Merryman of the Twin Cities found the Antelope on a sonar device September 2nd on Lake Superior near Michigan Island. They lowered a camera to the boat last week. Eliason says the 187 foot Antelope was “spectacularly intact.” It was built in 1861, and reports say it sprung a leak while carrying a load of coal in 1897, stressed by high winds. Smith, Eliason, and Merryman were the same men who found two other shipwrecks near Michigan Island in the past 12 years — and Merryman says the Antelope was like a “likely target.”