UW tuition frozen but housing, fees will rise; 'icebergs' linger near Apostles; more state news
MADISON -- For the second year in a row, tuition will be frozen this fall for in-state undergraduates attending the University of Wisconsin. But the proposed U-W budget includes a 3.6 percent hike in students' segregated fees plus an average 2.7 percent increase for room and board at the four-year campuses.
University president Ray Cross blames rising food costs plus expenses for new and improved dormitories and facility maintenance.
He said the higher fees would cover student programs, major projects, and increases in compensation. All told, the president has given the Board of Regents a $6.1 billion budget to run the 26 campuses for the next school year. That's 1.7 percent more than the previous year.
The Regents will review the budget later this week, when they meet at U-W Milwaukee.
The tuition freeze was ordered by the governor and Legislature a year ago, after an audit discovered large cash reserves at the various campuses. The budget calls for a 15 percent drop in the cash balances.
Public legal bill on Walker-related probe nears $300,000
MILWAUKEE -- Wisconsin taxpayers have spent almost $300,000 to defend public officials sued by targets of the John Doe investigation into the state's recall elections.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says the state has been paying for private lawyers to defend judges, prosecutors, and elections' officials sued by those seeking to halt the probe. And the price-tag does not include a new lawsuit filed by the Wisconsin Club for Growth this week against the state Government Accountability Board.
The Journal Sentinel says the state Justice Department will not represent the elections' agency, because it could pose a conflict. That's because the justice agency is already representing the presiding judge in the John Doe, Greg Peterson.
The two-year-old John Doe has been looking into alleged illegal coordination between outside groups and Republicans in the 2011-and-'12 recall elections -- including Gov. Scott Walker. A federal judge halted the Doe probe last month as part of a lawsuit alleging that the Club for Growth had its free speech rights violated.
Talks are reportedly taking place to settle that suit, but a state suit to drop the John Doe is also pending.
Farmers nearly caught up with planting
Wisconsin farmers have almost caught up with their normal corn planting, and most of what's sprouting is in great shape.
According to new federal figures, 86 percent of this year's Wisconsin corn crop was planted as of Sunday. That's four percent less than the five-year average for the date.
Just over half the crop has emerged, and 80 percent of it is rated good-to-excellent.
Sixty-nine percent of the state's soybeans have been planted. That's up by a whopping 30 percent from a week ago, and it's only two points behind the norm.
Ninety-one percent of the Wisconsin oat crop is in the ground, six percent behind the average.
Observers say the recent hot and dry weather is ideal for growing crops and making hay.
Madison School Board voting on contract with pay hike union leader calls 'embarrassingly low'
The Madison School Board was set to vote Wednesday morning on a set of one-year contracts with five unions for the school year that begins in July of 2015.
The deals were negotiated after a Dane County judge struck down the Act 10 collective bargaining limits as they pertain to school and local government unions. The state has appealed the decision, and a final ruling is pending before the State Supreme Court.
Meanwhile the Madison teachers' union endorsed a contract that contains only a one-quarter of one percent pay hike for the 2015 term.
Without Act 10 over its head, union director John Matthews said his group would never have considered what he calls an "embarrassing low" pay hike.
School Board President Arlene Silveira said there are too many financial unknowns for the 2015 school year. That's because the governor and Legislature must determine funding in the next state budget. She said the quarter-percent pay hike is nowhere near the value the School Board puts on its employees.
Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham said the district authorized the collective bargaining because the process works and it balances fiscal needs with the stability that staff members need to do their best work.
Dead crow find marks return of West Nile virus
A second case of the West Nile virus has been confirmed -- this one in a dead crow discovered during annual bird testing in Portage County.
The first case was also found in a dead crow. It happened last month in Dodge County. State health officials say it's a sign that infected mosquitoes are in those areas, and people are urged to take precautions so they don't become a human statistic.
People, birds, and horses all get West Nile from mosquito bites, and the mosquitoes get it by feasting on infected birds. Human West Nile cases don't typically surface until later in the summer.
Most come in August and September. Wisconsin had 16 human West Nile cases last year -- way down from 2012, when four state residents died as the virus spiked through the nation's mid-section.
-- Larry Lee, WSAU, Wausau
Hulsey appears to have signatures to challenge Burke; George likely to be ballot too
MADISON -- It appears that state Representative Brett Hulsey will be on the ballot against Mary Burke in the Aug. 12th primary for governor.
The state Government Accountability Board said Tuesday that Hulsey appears to have the 2,000 valid signatures he needed. An initial review shows him having 131 more than the minimum.
Another Democratic hopeful, Marcia Mercedes Perkins, did not make the cut.
Both major candidates for governor, Burke and Republican incumbent Scott Walker, each turned in around 3,800 signatures -- nearly twice as many as they needed. Challenges to the petitions and their signatures can be filed through Thursday.
In Milwaukee, it appeared that former state Senator Gary George of Milwaukee will have enough nominating signatures to challenge fellow Democrat Gwen Moore for Congress.
House candidates need 1,000 valid signatures to get on the ballot, and an early review by the Government Accountability Board showed that George was almost 250 short. However, the Board later revised the total to 1,294 signatures, almost 300 more than what's needed.
George said he was able to fix some minor omissions on his nominating petitions.
George was recalled from his Senate seat in 2003, and he later spent four years in prison for taking illegal kickbacks from a now-defunct Milwaukee social service group.
The accountability board plans to certify primary candidates next Tuesday.
Doctored puppy records prompts warning about breeder integrity
MADISON -- State officials warned Tuesday that a number of puppies are being imported from countries with rabies' problems -- and they have questionable documents about their previous vaccinations. The state agriculture department said it found records claiming that puppies were fully immunized and over four months old while they actually younger. Officials say it's also possible that puppies may be listed as being from the U.S. when they're actually not.
State veterinarian Paul McGraw urges consumers to inspect the breeding and sales locations where their new puppies are kept and reputable outfits would gladly let buyers do that.
The ag department also urges folks to be wary of those who don't provide information on veterinary care. Also, the state requires breeders to list their license numbers in their advertising.
More information on reporting problem breeders is available at the ag department's web site. The department also assembled a list of five things to watch for when selecting a puppy. View it here: http://datcp.wi.gov/news/index.aspx?ID=1009
-- Raymond Neupert, WSAU, Wausau
Mississippi crest expected Sunday; St. Croix under no-wake order
As things dried up yesterday, most flood warnings were canceled along rivers in western Wisconsin. The only warning still in effect is on the Mississippi River at Wabasha, across from Buffalo County. The river was more than a foot below its flood stage this morning. The National Weather Service now expects it to rise above its banks on Saturday before cresting Sunday night. Only minor flooding is projected.
Meanwhile, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Monday issued a slow no-wake boating restriction into effect on St. Croix River between Taylors Falls and Prescott.
Boaters on that stretch of the St. Croix must operate at slow no-wake speeds when the river’s level reaches 683 feet above sea level at Stillwater. The special restriction, authorized by state rules in both Minnesota and Wisconsin, is aimed at reducing shoreline erosion and resulting property damage in areas not usually susceptible to wave action at lower water levels.
Signs have been posted and marina operators have been notified.
Forecasters say we'll have a partly cloudy day today, with scattered light rain in southern Wisconsin into this afternoon. It's supposed to be sunny tomorrow and Friday, with a slight chance of rain coming through. Highs are expected to be generally in the 70's throughout the Badger State at least through Sunday.
Mitchell Field traffic up markedly YOY
MILWAUKEE -- Wisconsin's largest airport continues to get more business. A new report shows that 575,000 people flew in and out of Milwaukee's Mitchell International in April -- 6.4 percent more than the same month a year ago.
Interim airport director Terry Blue said passenger traffic is up by around three percent for the first four months of the year. He expects things to get much busier heading into the summer travel season.
Wausau man killed in N.D. rollover is identified
FINGAL, N.D. – Authorities have released the name of a Wisconsin man killed in a rollover accident Monday near Fingal.
North Dakota Highway Patrol Sgt. Tom Herzig said Timothy Stark, 58, of Wausau, was killed when his 2005 Ford Expedition hit a curve on North Dakota Highway 32, crossed the southbound lane, went into the ditch and rolled.
The crash happened as Stark was headed north on Highway 32 at about 3 a.m. Monday, about 10 miles south of Interstate 94.
Stark died at the scene.
-- Forum News Service
Pre-teen stabbing suspects seemed like ordinary kids, neighbors say
WAUKESHA -- The neighbors apparently didn't see it coming. Those who live near two 12-year-old Waukesha stabbing suspects said the girls had appeared to be well-adjusted, and had good loving parents. The girls are charged as adults with attempted homicide, after they allegedly dragged a 12-year-old friend into a wooded area last Friday during a sleep-over, and stabbed her 19 times.
The victim is still hospitalized. The two suspects lived in the same apartment complex. One told police they were trying to curry favor with the fictional character Slender Man from a Web site that features horror stories.
The Creepy Pasta site defended itself Tuesday. It wrote on its blog that it never condones violence, and the fiction is meant to be just that.
The family of one suspect posted a note on its door asking for privacy. A few neighbors said they saw nothing amiss.
Paul Plotkin said one girl is from a "normal middle class family" -- and the incident showed that no matter how hard parents try to instill good values, "things can still go wrong."
Waukesha school officials said they had their normal complement of counselors and grief management personnel on hand Monday, and it was enough to handle the demand.
An attorney for one of the girls said he would ask a judge to approve mental health treatment. Lawyers for both plan to ask that the cases be heard in juvenile court, where they could more help and less confinement if convicted.
Deputies capture Barron man following gunfire exchange
The subject of a manhunt in a northwest Wisconsin was captured yesterday, after he exchanged gunfire with officers at the end of a chase.
Authorities tried twice since last Friday to arrest 32-year-old Jared Brendel of Barron -- but he managed to elude officers after crashing one vehicle in a ditch and getting another stuck in a field. Yesterday, Barron County sheriff's deputies were tipped off about a man walking in a field -- and they later found a car without license plates.
A deputy tried stopping the car, but a ten-mile chase ensued into Dunn County. During the chase, officers said they discovered that the car was stolen, and Brendel was driving it. Officials said the suspect managed to drive around stop-sticks that were meant to deflate his tires -- and a deputy ended up using a maneuver to force the stolen car into a ditch.
As soon as that happened, deputies said Brendel fired shots at the officers. They returned fire, but nobody was struck. Three Barron County deputies are on administrative leave while the shootings are being investigated.
'Icebergs' still floating around the Apostle Islands
SUPERIOR -- It’s official, Lake Superior had ice in June, just not in the Duluth-Superior area.
While the pack that remained here during the Memorial Day weekend created a lot of memorable beach images with air temperatures nearing or at 80 degrees, the ice was pushed out or melted before June came on Sunday.
But points east still had ice this week.
Ron Williams, a Great Lakes port meteorological officer for the National Weather Service, confirmed the rare occurrence.
“We definitely had plenty of ice on the first of June near Marquette (Mich.) and around the Apostle Islands,” he said. “Strong southerly winds … pushed it out from the shore on Monday.”
The last time Marquette had ice in June was 1996, and Brianne Horton has proof. She and her father had been talking this spring about recreating a photo he took of her on June 1, 1996. There’s Horton, age 9, sitting next to a lakeshore packed with ice.
“I don’t remember much about it then,” she said from her office in Marquette on Tuesday. But when Sunday dawned a new month, she got the anticipated ring on her phone from her dad.
“He called me up and said let’s go re-enact that picture,” she said. The locations aren’t exact, she said. They are about 800 feet — and 18 years — apart.
It was a fleeting moment Sunday, Horton said. The ice blew out later that day and by Monday there wasn’t any left in the area.
The National Weather Service in Michigan posted the June ice spotting on Monday.
“The lingering ice scattered in south central Lake Superior has survived to June, making this the eighth month in a row that ice has been observed on some part of Lake Superior,” the service noted. “Some ice remains, including a large ‘iceberg’ in the lower (Marquette) harbor that has portions extending to at least 10 feet under the water surface.”
That was likely a draw for those taking photos of people on ice floes. The weather service spoils the fun for a reason. The water is cold and it can kill.
“It is extremely dangerous to climb onto any of the lingering large masses of ice,” it warned.
Neil Howk avoided them last month. The assistant chief of interpretation and education for the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore was guiding the annual bird and nature festival in the islands, but his boat could only go so far. There were “icebergs” everywhere in May, he said.
He saw ice Friday and was sure there were chunks of ice remaining on Sunday, especially to the southeast near Madeline Island.
Howk has worked in the area since 1983 and said he’s never seen such ice conditions in the Apostles. He said it’s likely that decades ago ice this time of year was normal and not an anomaly.
“This was just a real winter,” he said.
Meanwhile, a Michigan research team expects water levels on Lake Superior to rise faster than normal -- because the cold spring has delayed the normal evaporation on the lake. The scientists found that surface water will be at least six degrees colder than normal by August in the deepest sections of Lake Superior.
Climatologist John Lenters says the result could be a rise in water levels of up to ten inches by next spring, depending on the precipitation between now and then.
-- Mike Creger, Duluth News-Tribune