“News – September 3, 2009”

Animal Killing Game Gang in Court


9/3/09 – Fifteen people from the Beaver Dam-area, charged with animals in Columbia and Dodge Counties as part of a game, had court appearances this week. According to the DNR, the group chased wild animals with spotlights and clubs as part of a game in which they awarded points based on the types of animals killed. The DNR issued a total of 158 citations for illegally killing protected wild animals, hunting without a license, hunting with an illegal weapon and unreasonable waste of a natural resource. The citations carry a monetary penalty of up to $288 each. In April, wardens acting on a tip apprehended several people who were chasing wild animals, like possums and raccoons. That incident resulted in a pursuit which subsequently landed Christopher Swanke, 22, of Beaver Dam, in jail on five counts of reckless endangerment and one count of attempting to flee an officer.  Warden Paul Nadolski, says it was “disturbing” how the individuals, many of them high school friends, regarded the activity as a game.


Ten of the people – all from the Beaver Dam area – cited with the alleged violations were identified as: Jason W. Adams, 18, Andrew S. Chapman, 17, Derek S. Fehling, 18, Matthew J. Haas, 17, Andrew L. Peterman, 18, Gary L. Spears, 20, Christopher J. Swanke, 22, Mariah N. Schepp, 18, Jacob L. Kleckner, 19 and Austin A. Tripke, 19. The names of the five other individuals charged with violations are being withheld because they are juveniles.


Columbus Approves Regional Wastewater Plan


9/3/09 – The Columbus Common Council has approved a resolution to work towards developing a regional wastewater system with the Village of Fall River. The Council agreed with the recommendations from municipal engineers and City and Village Public Works planners. The engineering reports recommended joining and upgrading the two systems to meet DNR environmental requirements for the next 20 years. The Village of Fall River is considering signing a similar resolution. The next hurdles in the process will be to find a way for the Village of Fall River to secure partial funding for the project from a U S D A grant and to set up a mutually beneficial schedule for sewer line and treatment plant upgrades.


Boil Water Notice in Horicon Remains In Effect


9/3/09 – A boil water notice in the City of Horicon remains in effect. Utility Director Dave Magnussen says water samples collected Tuesday have been found to be safe but the order will remain until a second set of samples that were taken Wednesday are analyzed.  Samples taken on August 24 and 26 had indicated the presence of bacteria in the water system.  Magnussen says the samples did NOT tested positive for Fecal Coliform but an “indicator organism” had been found.  Water can still be used for cleaning and bathing but should be boiled for three minutes if it will be used for drinking and cooking.


Oklahoma Not OK With Union Vote


9/3/09 – It may be great news for Wisconsin – but folks in Oklahoma are not happy that the union at Mercury Marine in Fond du Lac will have one last chance to keep their jobs.  The maker of outboard motors was planning to move up to 850 jobs from Fond du Lac to the non-union plant in Stillwater, after union workers rejected contract concessions on August 23rd.  But now, the company agreed that union members did not have all the information to make an informed choice – so they’ll have one last chance to vote tomorrow night and Friday.  Diane Wingfield, who works at the MerCruiser plant in Oklahoma, says it’s not fair.  She says it’s like the union can keep voting until it gets it right – and in the process, they’re playing with people’s lives in Stillwater.  Community leaders in Stillwater are still fighting to win the Fond du Lac jobs.  But if the union approves the concessions on Friday, Mercury spokesman Steve Fleming says some of Oklahoma’s  380 jobs will eventually move to Wisconsin – as some of Mercury’s work gets consolidated in Fond du Lac.  But he said Mercury would not close the Stillwater plant altogether.


Foreclosures in Region Mirror Statewide Dip


9/3/09 – The number of new foreclosure cases in Wisconsin went down last month after a new record was set in July.  The Madison firm of ForeclosureAlarm-Dot-Com said 24-hundred-29 new court actions were filed in August against those not paying their home mortgages.  That’s down from 27-hundred-60 in July – which the company said was a record for a single month.  The trend was seen in our area as well.  Like most of the state foreclosures in Dodge County went from 50 in July to 38 in August, while Washington County dropped to 44 last month from 49 in July.  Columbia and Fond du Lac County essentially held steady at 36 and 43 foreclosures respectively.  The only noticeable increase in our area was in Jefferson County, which went from 35 foreclosures in July to 38 last month.


St Joe’s Pays $70K Settlement


9/3/09 – A West Bend hospital will pay 70-thousand-dollars to settle a lawsuit for illegally firing a nurse.  The U-S Equal Opportunity Commission sued Saint Joseph’s Hospital, after Celeste Kinnunen was let go in 2005 for taking four day-long absences within a year to recover from diabetic seizures.  The lawsuit also said the hospital illegally made employees give their bosses a personal health assessment each year.  The E-E-O-C called that an unreasonable invasion of privacy, and said it created fertile ground for quote, “unfounded stereotypes and irrational assumptions” about the employees’ ability to do their jobs.  As part of the settlement, the West Bend hospital is barred from collecting sensitive personal health data from workers except in narrow circumstances.  The E-E-O-C said it would also make sure hospital managers and human resource personnel are trained for dealing with the Americans with Disabilities Act.  After the firing, the West Bend hospital was later acquired by Milwaukee’s Froedtert (fray-dert) medical network.


Dry Labor Day Conditions


9/3/09 – As the Labor Day weekend approaches, most of Wisconsin is considered dry to severely dry according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.  That has the Department of Natural Resources warning us about the danger for wildfires.  Officials say more than 98 percent of all wildfires are caused by people.  And if you think the recent cooler temps and a threat of frost in some parts helped to minimize the risk, think again. Those factors actually make the fire danger worse. Regan says frost and cooler temps cause plant life to die, and dead vegetation is more flammable.  As warmer temps dry out the vegetation, the fire danger goes up.


Assembly Committee Votes To Strip Gov Control of DNR Appt


9/3/09 – A Wisconsin Assembly committee voted Wednesday to take away the governor’s authority to pick the secretary of the D-N-R – a move supporters say would take politics out of nature issues.  The Natural Resources Committee voted 10-to-4 to return the appointment power to the state Natural Resources Board – which lost it in 1995 when former Governor Tommy Thompson grabbed it up.  Conservation and environmental groups say it made the D-N-R a lot more political, and open to influence from business and other outside groups – sometimes at the expense of nature.  But Governor Jim Doyle and the Wisconsin Manufacturers-and-Commerce group both say it’s made the D-N-R a lot more accountable.  A Senate panel will consider the change Thursday.  Doyle had supported it, but he changed his mind earlier this year.


Gokey Goes Country


9/3/09 – Danny Gokey is going country.  The “American Idol” finalist from Milwaukee has signed a recording contract with 19-Recordings and R-C-A Records in Nashville.  The deal was announced Wednesday.  The 29-year-old Gokey is a former church music director who placed third in this year’s “Idol” competition.  He said the country songs he performed on the T-V show made him realize he belongs in that field.  The record company says Gokey will soon begin work on his first album – and it will be released next year.  For now, Gokey is still finishing up his tour with the Top-10 finalists in this year’s “American Idol” program.  They sang in Milwaukee on August 28th, and they’ll be in Madison Friday. The tour wraps up September 15th.  Gokey was the first singer from Wisconsin to make the televised “Idol” finals.


Stiff Settlement For Pfizer


9/3/09 – Wisconsin will get five-million-dollars in the settlement of a national lawsuit against the drug maker Pfizer Incorporated.  Attorney General J-B Van Hollen announced the settlement today.  Pfizer agreed to pay a total of two-point-three billion dollars to settle allegations that it promoted the anti-inflammatory drug Bextra for uses the F-D-A did not approve.  And the government accused Pfizer of giving illegal kickbacks to doctors and other health professionals to promote Bextra and a dozen other medications – including Viagra and Lipitor.  Bextra was taken off the market in 2005, and the settlement is connected with nine cases filed in various federal courts.  Wisconsin was a party in five of those cases.  Nationally, the drug company’s settlement includes a billion-dollar to compensate Medicaid, Medicare, and other government health programs.  Fines and forfeitures total another one-point-three billion dollars.


Midwest Airlines Lay Offs


9/3/09 – Milwaukee’s Midwest Airlines says it will lay off 59 more pilots and flight attendants by the end of October.  That’s because Midwest is replacing its own Boeing-717 jets with planes operated by Republic Airlines – which is in the process of taking over Midwest.  Officials say all of Midwest’s Boeing jets will be replaced by the end of December.  In the meantime, the union crews on the Republic planes are negotiating with Midwest employees to come up with a new combined seniority list.  Once that happens, Republic says the laid-off Midwest crew members can apply to get jobs on the new aircraft.  But they’ll be paid less than the current union crews.