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Ashland says mining company must front money for expenses; Bill would require burial for aborted fetuses; Wausau gay rights march goes on without a hitch; more state news

The Ashland County Board has approved two measures designed to protect taxpayers for infrastructure costs related to Gogebic Taconite’s proposed iron ore mine.

The company would have to pay Ashland County $100,000 upfront and then keep a minimum balance of $50,000 to reimburse the county for its expenses.

Supervisor Frank Kempf voted against both requirements. He said it would send a signal that Ashland County opposes mining. He believes Gogebic Taconite would simply move its project to neighboring Iron County, where exploratory work is underway.

The proposed mine covers a four-mile stretch in parts of both Ashland and Iron counties.

The company’s Bob Seitz said his firm will take a close look at the Ashland ordinances to make sure they don’t run in conflict with state law.

The Iron County Board is also looking at its own mining rules. Reports say the County Board in Hurley could take that up July 2.


Bill would require burial for aborted fetuses

A state lawmaker says aborted fetuses should be treated like human beings after they die.

Assembly Republican Garey Bies of Sister Bay is proposing a bill in which abortion doctors would have to arrange for burials, cremations or medical donations for fetuses at least 10 weeks old.

Bies said Michigan passed a similar law after an abortion doctor there was caught throwing fetuses in the trash. Bies told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel he does not know of any such cases in Wisconsin. He did not believe the doctor mandate would add much more to the cost of abortions.

Bies also said at least some women might be discouraged to get abortions if they were forced to consider their babies’ deaths in human terms. However, the bill does not require the patient to be informed or consulted about the disposal arrangements so the mothers do not have undue burdens placed on them.

Assembly leadership did not say whether the bill would be added to the fall calendar.

It’s the latest in a series of anti-abortion bills proposed by state Republicans. Both houses have passed a bill requiring abortion candidates to get ultrasounds and to make abortion doctors have admitting privileges at hospitals.

Gov. Scott Walker has promised to sign the measure, which critics say would force the Planned Parenthood Clinic at Appleton to close because it does not have doctors with hospital admitting privileges.



Wausau gay rights march goes on without a hitch

About 300 people walked a gay rights march in Wausau Saturday afternoon.

Event organizers say the march went without incident and was very festive.

A previous gay rights march was cancelled after its organizer, Daxx Bouvier, said there were fears for the safety of the participants after comments made by a city council member.


Flood warning issued in four counties

A flood warning is in effect until 1:30 p.m. today (Monday) for parts of southwest Wisconsin that got torrential rains during the weekend.

The National Weather Service issued the warning for Vernon, Crawford, Richland and northern Grant counties.

No injuries have been reported, but local authorities report mudslides, road closings and rivers over their banks. Water levels were starting to recede Sunday, but forecasters expect more rain for the southwest region later today and possibly through Wednesday.

The Weather Service says the area got 3-9 inches of rain during the weekend.

Counting Friday night, TV reports said Boscobel in Grant County got up to eight inches of rain early Saturday and another 5-6 inches later in the day.

Wisconsin Power and Light only reports one outage in southwest Wisconsin this morning, that being in Grant County.

The Kickapoo River is over its banks in four locations in southwest Wisconsin -- by more than two feet at Gays Mills. Moderate flooding is reported there as well as at Stueben in Crawford County.

Only minor floods were expected along two over waters over their banks – the Pecatonica River at Blanchardville and Spring Creek near Lodi.

The Weather Service also has flood warnings out on the Mississippi River near Prairie du Chien and the Fox River in Kenosha County – both of which were at or below their flood stages at last word.

Grant and Crawford County officials have declared states of emergency. Mudslides were reported in Crawford County, and numerous roads were closed throughout southwest Wisconsin. State emergency management officials said there have been no reports of injuries as of yesterday afternoon.

In Boscobel, Mayor Steve Wetter said crews pumped as much water as possible while it was dry, and they would brace for whatever happens today.

The National Weather Service says there’s a 50% chance of more rain and thunderstorms in Grant County during the day, rain is likely tonight, and even more showers are possible through Wednesday.

Local agencies are opening a center in Boscobel this morning to provide things like home cleanup kits provided by the Red Cross and the Salvation Army.

Elsewhere in Grant County, officials said part of a railroad track was washed out near Blue River. Fifty-four canoeists were stranded on the Wisconsin River, and all were saved and accounted for.

Also, the Weather Service confirmed a tornado southwest of Rio in Columbia County on Saturday night. Officials said it caused minor damage to trees and power lines.


Millionth person rides Elvis ’coaster

Elvis Presley’s favorite roller coaster has attracted its millionth rider in Green Bay -- three years earlier than the city expected.

Ashley Jolley of Oswego, Ill., was about to board a replica of the Zippin Pippin at Bay Beach Park Sunday when she was surprised by Green Bay’s mayor. Jim Schmitt threw confetti and gave Jolley a gift basket. She then joined the mayor as the millionth rider on the Zippin Pippin.

The roller coaster was Elvis’ favorite ride when it operated for decades at a park in Memphis. He died in 1977, and the park later shut down.

A few years ago, Green Bay got the idea of reviving the Zippin Pippin as a tourist attraction. The city spent $3.8 million on the replica.

When it debuted in 2011, the city expected 200,000 riders a year. At the current pace, total ridership could be double the projected figure by 2016.


State ranks well in care of its children

Wisconsin is the 12th-best state for a child’s wellbeing, up from 15th last year, according to the annual “Kids Count” survey by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Wisconsin was in the Top 10 as recently as three years ago.

Bob Jacobson of the state’s Council on Children and Families said Wisconsin has long been a good state for kids, mainly due to previous investments in education and health care. However, he says conditions are nowhere near as good as they were before the Great Recession. About 237,000 Wisconsin children -- about one in five -- lived in poverty in 2011.

The “Kids Count” survey also showed that 32% of kids lived in single-parent families, lower than the national average of 35%. Sixty-percent of eligible kids did not attend preschool, above the national figure of 53%.

Teen births are down and so is the percentage of Wisconsin kids without health insurance. About 4% of children were not covered in 2011, down from 5% in 2008. It’s also below the national average of 7%.


Miss Madison named Miss Wisconsin

A new Miss Wisconsin was crowned Saturday night.

After three days of competition in Oshkosh, Miss Madison, Capital City’s Paula Mae Kuiper, will represent the state in the Miss America Pageant and also won a $10,000 scholarship.

Kuiper will also tour the state to promote her platform.


Second woman hangs herself in Ozaukee County jail

Ozaukee County authorities are investigating another hanging death in a jail cell.

Authorities say Sonia Mojica, 42, of Port Washington was found hanging in her cell Sunday, June 16. She was on life support and in critical condition and died Saturday, June 22.

This marks the second hanging death at the Ozaukee County Jail this month. On June 9, a South Carolina woman was found hanging in her cell. She died on the scene.

In both cases, authorities say the women were screened and did not pose a suicide risk.


Cop gets prison term for strip-searching suspects

A former Milwaukee police officer was sentenced Friday to two years and two months in prison for illegally strip-searching dozens of criminal suspects.

Michael Vagnini, 34, pleaded no contest in April to four felonies and four misdemeanor charges of illegal strip searches and misconduct in office. Seventeen other counts were dropped in a plea deal, including all of his sexual assault charges.

Circuit Judge Jeffrey Wagner also ordered Vagnini to spend 34 months under extended supervision when he leaves prison.

Three other officers face a total of eight charges in the case, but prosecutors said they were merely present in most of the instances in which Vagnini checked suspects’ cavities – looking mainly for illegal drugs.

The other three officers – Jacob Knight, Jeffrey Dollhopf and Brian Kolozek – are still scheduled to have trials later this year.

Judy Wiff

Judy Wiff has been regional editor for RiverTown’s Wisconsin newspapers since 1996. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and sociology from UW-River Falls. She has worked as a reporter for several weekly newspapers in Wisconsin.

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