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Gogebic security guards not licensed to work in Wisconsin; FEMA plans flooding assessment in St. Croix; Three tornados touched down; More state briefs

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River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

Gogebic Taconite has temporarily pulled its military-style security guards from its mining site in northern Wisconsin.

The firm admitted Wednesday that Bulletproof Securities of Arizona worked for six days without having a state license. Private security firms are required to be licensed. If they’re not, the penalties can run up to $500 and six months in jail plus a one-year operating ban in Wisconsin.

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State safety officials did not say if they’ll seek penalties. Iron County District Attorney Marty Lipske said he’d look into it and would take the firm’s voluntary suspension of the guards into account.

Gogebic Taconite hired Bulletproof Securities after a female protestor was charged in a vandalism incident last month at the company’s exploratory drilling site for a new iron ore mine.

Tom Parrella, who heads the security firm, said it’s in the process of getting a Wisconsin license. He told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel his guards were hired with little notice and did not expect all the public attention.

Gogebic Taconite spokesman Bob Seitz said the firm was unaware it needed the license. “This isn’t a normal thing for any of us,” he said.

The state lawmakers who represent the mining site area asked that the guards armed with assault rifles be withdrawn permanently. Senate Democrat Bob Jauch of Poplar said he’s appalled that the guards were unlicensed. He said it shows that the mining firm has “no respect for the public, and no regard for the law.”

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FEMA plans flooding assessment in St. Croix, other counties

The Federal Emergency Management Agency will inspect the flooding aftermath in Wisconsin next week to see if there’s enough damage to public facilities to qualify for disaster aid.

Gov. Scott Walker asked FEMA Tuesday for preliminary damage assessments in nine counties hard hit by floods and heavy rains last month. That includes St. Croix County.

It also includes Grant County where hundreds of residents are still dealing with up to 13 inches of rain from almost three weeks ago.

Next week’s assessment will not cover private homes – only public amenities like roads and bridges. Local officials have estimated a total of $8 million in public damage and clean-up costs in Grant, Crawford, Vernon, Richland, Iowa, Sauk, Dane, St. Croix and Ashland counties.

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Three weak tornadoes touched down Tuesday

The National Weather Service now says three relatively weak tornadoes touched down in central and northeast Wisconsin on Tuesday.

The first one ran for 28 miles in Lincoln and Langlade counties. It touched down three times near Irma, Gleason and Deerbrook. Trees and power lines fell along the way, but the Weather Service said there was no other damage.

The second twister landed near Bancroft in Portage County. Officials said it briefly went into an open field and did little damage. Both those storms were classified as EF Zero tornadoes, with winds of 65 to 85 mph.

The third twister was more severe. It touched down near Oconto on Tuesday night and traveled for a mile and a half. A mobile home was blown over, a few homes lost parts of their roofs, and trees and power lines went down. The Oconto storm was classified as an EF One, with top wind speeds of 95 mph.

All of Wisconsin had a pleasant day yesterday after the storms moved out. Another sunny day is in the offing for today with highs in the 80’s. Our next chance of rain is Saturday.

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Violent crime spikes in Milwaukee

Violent crime in Milwaukee is at its highest level since 2008.

Police officials said Wednesday that robberies jumped by 20% in the first six months of this year, compared to the same time a year ago. It resulted in a 5% increase in Milwaukee’s violent crime.

Overall crime is down by 8%, thanks to a decrease in property crimes like vandalism.

Milwaukee Police started a campaign in late April to fight robberies after a rash of them occurred on the city’s north side. Smartphones were taken in 30% of those holdups so police educated the public on using passwords and installing tracking apps that officers can use. Investigators also cracked down on stores that re-sell stolen phones.

Both Police Chief Ed Flynn and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said they were happy that the city had fewer total crime victims, but both were concerned about the jump in robberies.

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Kayaker finds human bones along Eau Claire River

Bones that were found Saturday along the Eau Claire River are confirmed to be human.

A kayaker found the bones near Big Falls County Park in the Eau Claire County town of Seymour. An anthropologist from Madison examined the evidence and determined that they were a pelvic bone and a vertebrae bone.

Sheriff’s officials said the bones may be those of a 21-year-old man who drowned in 2001. Va Lee disappeared after going underwater at Big Falls, and his body was never found. Officers notified Va’s family about that possibility.

More tests are being performed in an effort to confirm the person’s identity.

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Skydiver drowns in lake following 10,000-foot jump

A skydiving instructor who drowned in a lake near Oshkosh was identified yesterday as Paul Olsen, 55, of Belleville.

He and a student jumped 10,000 feet from a plane on Tuesday. Authorities said a sudden burst of wind blew them off course, and they and their parachute fell into Lake Butte des Morts.

The student, from Skydive Adventure in Omro, swam to safety and called for help. Rescuers spent five hours searching for Olsen before finding his body in the water.

Winnebago County sheriff’s officials said Olsen was a master instructor who logged 5,000 jumps. He worked for a number of skydiving operations in the region.

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Farm Tech Days continue in Barron County

This is the third and final day of Wisconsin’s Farm Technology Days near Dallas in Barron County.

The weather has cooperated for the most part as the only rain fell during the first few hours on Tuesday’s opening day. Organizers expect 60,000 people to attend the three-day show, which features the latest in agricultural innovations with numerous demonstrations and exhibits.

Gov. Scott Walker paid a visit yesterday. It’s the 60th annual show and is being held at the Breezy Hill Dairy.

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Driver gets 32-year prison term for accident that killed four

The only survivor of a drunken driving crash that killed four people in Fitchburg will spend 32 years in prison.

Victor Benitez, 19, of Madison was sentenced Wednesday in Dane County. He must also spend 20 years under extended supervision once he leaves prison.

A jury convicted Benitez in March on 13 criminal charges in the deaths of four of his friends.

Circuit Judge William Hanrahan told Benitez he made “outrageously bad decisions” and drank alcohol and smoked marijuana and cocaine just before last year’s crash in Fitchburg.

Police said he drove through two stop signs and then rolled his vehicle. He later tried to convince officers he was not the driver.

The crash killed two Madison residents and two from Rockford, Ill., ranging in age from 17 to 25.

Assistant state Attorney General Tara Jenswold called Benitez a thrill-seeker who does not feel any remorse for what happened. Benitez said he was a young man who’s learning from his mistakes.

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UW-Oshkosh digester turns livestock waste into methane

UW-Oshkosh has started to build its third digester that turns waste into electricity.

The university recently began construction of a $7 million digester and public education center at the nearby Rosendale Dairy, the state’s largest dairy farm. Officials say the facility will turn livestock waste into methane that can be burned to produce enough electricity to power 1,200 homes.

Also, local farmers can use residue from the digester for a type of fertilizer that’s now available only on a distant basis from places like Canada and Florida.

The new center will also be used for related classes and research. The electric sales from the digester will provide carbon credits for the university and will help UW-Oshkosh reach its goals for producing green energy.

Officials of the dairy and the Oshkosh Foundation say the project is good for everyone involved, including the dairy’s neighbors who’ve wanted fewer odors from the farm.

The other UW-Oshkosh digesters are at a farm near Larsen and across the Fox River from the campus.

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Baraboo bank robbed – again

A bank in Baraboo has been robbed for the second time in just over a month. Police are looking for suspects in both holdups at the Wells Fargo Bank in the Sauk County seat.

A man entered the bank around 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, showed a gun and got away with an undisclosed amount of money.

Three nearby schools, including Baraboo High, were locked down for a short time. The same bank was robbed June 6.

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Village president gets probation for stalking ex-girlfriend

The village president in Sturtevant will spend 18 months on probation for stalking his ex-girlfriend for over a year.

Steven Jansen, 53, was sentenced Tuesday on reduced charges which eliminated the possibility of going to a state prison. A felony stalking charge was dropped in a plea deal, and he pleaded no contest to misdemeanor counts of disorderly conduct and making threats in a computer message.

Jansen was fined $1,000.

Prosecutors said he broke up with his girlfriend in January of 2011 but kept sending text messages and emails to her for months, and he left messages at her son’s grave.

Jansen told a judge he’s done a lot of soul searching since he was first charged 20 months ago, and he’s sorry for the trauma he caused to his ex-girlfriend.

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Children sue assisted living center over mom’s death

An assisted living center in Appleton is being sued for negligence in the death of an 85-year-old resident.

Five children of Delores Wiersum filed suit Tuesday in Winnebago County.

Wiersum died from exposure early Jan. 17 after she walked out of The Heritage living facility with temperatures in the teens. Plaintiff Tom Wiersum told WLUK TV in Green Bay that the family hopes to learn more about the circumstances that led the victim to leave the building.

The suit does not list a specific amount sought for pain and suffering.

ThedaCare of Neenah owns The Heritage. It did not comment on the suit, but it issued a statement expressing concern for the family – and the company works hard to protect residents’ safety.

ThedaCare has 45 days to file a legal response to the lawsuit. WLUK said the state Health Services Department cited The Heritage in April for not following proper procedures in protecting Wiersum. ThedaCare later responded, saying it corrected the issues.

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