Nine inches of snow falls in parts of state; Packers say Driver is retiring; more state briefs
Wednesday's snowstorm dumped up to 9.5 inches in places that forecasters predicted would be the hardest hit.
Coloma and Reedsburg, at 9.5 inches, had the biggest totals that were reported overnight. Neenah got nine inches as did Iola, Viroqua and Portage.
Eight to nine inches fell in southwest and central Wisconsin, and the Fox Valley. Madison set a new snow record for the date with 5.3 inches, over an inch more than the previous record from 1947.
Beaver Dam got more snow than expected, almost 7.5 inches. Other parts of southeast Wisconsin got 1 to 5. Gile in Iron County had just over five inches as of last night, and the county remains under a lake-effect snow advisory until tomorrow morning in spots close to Lake Superior.
Authorities responded to numerous traffic mishaps. Hwy. 18-151 near Madison had its westbound lanes shut down for a time after a semi-truck jackknifed.
Power outages were not a problem with this storm. Wisconsin Public Service and Wisconsin Power and Light, which serves the hardest-hit areas, only had a handful of customers out during the night.
As predicted, colder weather moved in after the snow left. Temperatures dropped mainly to the teens by one a.m. with wind chills falling below zero.
Packers say Driver is retiring
Perhaps the most beloved Green Bay Packers star of the last 20 years will retire next week.
The Packers announced this morning that Donald Driver will call it a career during a ceremony in the Lambeau Field Atrium next Wednesday. The ceremony is the second anniversary of Green Bay's last Super Bowl victory.
Driver will turn 38 Saturday after playing his entire 14-year career with the Pack.
He was just a footnote when he was drafted in the seventh round in 1999 from Alcorn State, and he only caught 37 passes in his first three seasons. But as the years went on, Driver became such a force in the Packers' receiving corps that he ended up surpassing legends like Don Hutson.
Driver holds Green Bay's all-time receiving record with 10,137-yards. He's also first in catches with 743 and the number of 1,000-yard seasons with seven. Driver is third behind Hutson and Sterling Sharpe with 61 touchdown catches.
Along the way, Driver endeared himself to even non-Packer fans with his infectious smile, friendly personality, contributions to charity and the way he overcame a rough childhood in Texas.
Driver made millions of new fans a year ago when he won ABC's "Dancing With the Stars." That prompted the Packers to bring him back for one more year, but time diminished his skills, and he only caught eight passes in his final season.
This week, there were rumors that the Minnesota Vikings might be interested in Driver, but he has often mentioned that the Packers were the only team he ever really wanted to play for.
Firemen from 80 departments battle Racine fire
A food processing plant in Racine County has been on fire since about 6 p.m. Wednesday.
Firefighters from 80 departments in southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois have been battling what's now an eight-alarm fire at Echo Lake Farm Produce. The 70,000 square foot structure is located in Burlington near the downtown area.
Mayor Bob Miller said 10 nearby homes and an apartment were evacuated, and about 50 residents spent the night elsewhere.
Miller said the fire was still out of control as of 5 a.m. this morning. He said no firefighters or employees have been injured.
About 300 people work at the plant. It was not immediately know where the fire had started within the plant. Echo Lake Farm Produce makes egg products and breakfast entrees.
Mining bill author says environmental interests didn't contact him
Wisconsin Senate Republican Glenn Grothman said he would have listened to environmental opponents of the proposed mining bill, but they didn't contact him.
The liberal group One Wisconsin Now complained that mining opponents did not have the same privilege as Gogebic Taconite did in drafting the legislation.
Gogebic is the Florida company that seeks to open a large iron ore mine in Ashland and Iron counties.
Sen. Grothman, of West Bend, said he only heard from the Wisconsin Wetlands Federation while the latest package was being drafted. And that was only after a resident had asked the group to call the lawmaker.
One Wisconsin Now and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel said Gogebic officials helped write the law they would follow if it passes. The firm reportedly came up with changes in wetland, stream and groundwater regulations.
Democrats have criticized those changes, saying they'll result in a relaxing of environmental protections. Republicans have denied that.
ATF storefront burglarized; $35,000 in merchandize stolen
More federal lawmakers say they want to get to the bottom of a faulty operation in Milwaukee by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
The agency set up a fake storefront to buy illegal guns and drugs from felons. But the Journal Sentinel said the place was burglarized after 10 months, $35,000 in merchandise was stolen, and authorities left a sensitive document behind with personal information about the undercover agents involved.
Menomonee Falls House Republican Jim Sensenbrenner said he would conduct his own investigation as the chair of the House Sub-Committee on Crime.
Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson said he contacted the Justice Department on behalf of David Salkin, the owner of the building. Salkin said the agency owes him $15,000 for damages and utility bills. The ATF claims it's much less.
Johnson says the ATF is threatening Salkin instead of paying up. The senator called the operation "reckless at best ... and it cannot be allowed to continue."
Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley said the account of the botched operation made the ATF sound like the Keystone Kops. And as the ranking member of the Senate's Judiciary Committee, he promised to ask questions.
An agency spokesman is not commenting on the investigation. The U.S. attorney only mentions the good things about the operation - the seizures of 145 guns and 30 arrests. The Journal Sentinel said the wrong people were charged in three of those arrests.
Union leader says prisons more dangerous now
A union leader says Wisconsin prisons have become more dangerous after employees lost their union protections in 2011.
Marty Beil, head of the state's largest employee union, told lawmakers Wednesday that seven guards were assaulted by prisoners since Christmas Eve. He said a Waupun guard was stabbed through the cheek by an inmate who's doing time for homicide.
Department of Corrections Secretary Ed Wall said none of the workers Beil mentioned were admitted to a hospital. Wall told a state Assembly committee hearing that there were no serious assaults of state prison workers in the last 10 months.
The union bargaining limits allowed management to set all the work rules. Since they took effect a year ago, Beil told the Assembly corrections panel that prison workers generally feel "de-valued and at risk."
He said the changes in working conditions have spilled over into the working environment. The union chief said the guards don't get enough training, and the process for raising concerns has become less formal and less effective.
Leaders on both sides also said workers are feeling the stress of working overtime to cover the nearly 6% of prison jobs that are vacant. Wall said the workers are tired, and Beil said some are spending more time with the inmates than with their families.
Meanwhile, an election may take place later this year by guards who are trying to form their own union. They say their communication has broken down with Beil's group. Beil wouldn't comment.
Kraft fined again for underweight packages
For the third time in two years, Wisconsin officials have fined Kraft Foods for selling meat packages that weigh less than what their labels say.
Consumer protection officials said say Kraft's Oscar Mayer division will pay $14,000 after state inspectors found nine soft packages of ham that were short of the 20 ounces they claimed to weigh.
The items were found last summer at Walmarts in Beloit, Dodgeville, Plover, Watertown, Waukesha and Wisconsin Rapids and at a Racine Piggly Wiggly store.
Sandy Chalmers of the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection said some of the packages weighed 12% less than advertised, and as a result, consumers paid 50 cents a package for what they didn't get.
In 2011, Kraft Foods paid $17,000 for similar short-weight violations in Wisconsin. A follow-up inspection turned up more short-weighted food items, which resulted in a $37,000 fine.
In response to the third penalty, Oscar Mayer said it would install new scales at its processing plant in Iowa. They'll cost around $10 million.
Three die in house fire near Wisconsin Rapids
Wood County officials say three people killed in a house fire near Wisconsin Rapids were related.
Coroner Garry Kronstedt said the victims were a 79-year-old man, his 72-year-old wife, and their 38-year-old son. Their names were not immediately released, pending notification of relatives.
Firefighters were initially called to the home in the town of Sigel around 2:30 a.m. Wednesday, and units were called back about eight hours later after some of the rubble flared up.
Authorities confirmed at mid-morning Wednesday that two people had died. The third victim was found late in the morning.
Seven fire departments responded, along with Wood County sheriff's deputies and the county's Fire Investigation Task Force. Officials are still trying to figure out what caused the blaze.
Officials warn of paperwork scam
State officials are warning businesses about a scam that involves government paperwork.
The Department of Financial Institutions says a firm called Corporate Records Service is getting businesses to pay them $125 to fill out a government form that's not required.
State division administrator Paul Holzem said the document is called an "Annual Minutes Form," and while it looks official, there's no need to file such a thing.
He said those who do file it pay unnecessary fees, and they run the risk of giving out their confidential information.
Corporate Records Service is not registered with the state's financial agency. It offers to help businesses maintain minutes of their meetings with stockholders and board members.