Schools capitalizing on law to catch up on maintenance, grow efficiencies; mild December forecast; Menard's says 'fly with me' to Minot; more state briefsWisconsin News
Wisconsin is on-pace to set a new record for the warmest year ever and forecasters expect December will also be unseasonably mild. Also, Eau Claire-based home improvement retailer Menard's is offering free round-trip flights, plus food and lodging stipends to workers willing to pull shifts in Minot, N.D. Plus more state briefs.
MADISON -- Wisconsin schools are taking advantage of a three-year-old state law to catch up on maintenance and become more energy-efficient.
According to Gannett newspapers, school districts throughout the state have borrowed $134.5 million on energy projects since 2009, without having to get voters’ approval. The law lets school districts exceed their state revenue limits without referendums, in order to borrow for energy projects.
Last year, the law was expanded to let schools spread their payments over a number of years instead of just one and that spurred a big increase in borrowing, from about $9 million in fiscal 2011 to $93 million this year, with around 30 projects throughout the state each year.
The Racine School District has borrowed the most since the revenue cap exemption was adopted – around $42 million, covering almost half its deferred maintenance. Oshkosh officials said they handled about one-fifth of their maintenance needs with a $21 million-dollar project.
Dale Knapp of the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance says more school districts will take advantage of the exemption when they see what it can do. And Knapp says you can expect more scrutiny from the public over how the money’s spent.
State heading for hottest weather year on record; mild December expected
SULLIVAN -- Wisconsin is on a pace to have its hottest year on record. That may not be a surprise, considering the warm spring and fall we had, plus the extreme heat in June and July but forecasters say mild weather could make a comeback in December.
National Weather Service meteorologist Mark Gehring says a low-pressure system is expected to pull warm southerly winds across the Badger State by Saturday and at least some places may get back into the 50’s. That could melt some of the heavy snow in far northern Wisconsin where up to 15 inches fell between Thanksgiving and Sunday.
Meanwhile, southern Wisconsin has not had a snow-flake yet and they may not get one for a while. The Climate Prediction Center calls for above-normal temperatures and above-normal rainfall in the south during the next 8- to 14 days.
Through Saturday, Milwaukee’s average temperature for the year is 54-degrees, and Madison’s average temperature is 53.8. At the current rate, both cities will set new records for their warmest annual temperatures. The present marks were set in 1931.
Parts of northwest Wisconsin got a fresh topping of snow Sunday, after a foot of the white stuff fell in parts of the region on Thanksgiving Night and Black Friday. Gile, near Lake Superior in Iron County, got two-and-a-half more inches yesterday, on top of 12 inches that fell earlier. Two more inches fell at Oulu in Bayfield County, close to where Cornucopia – the state’s northern-most community – got a foot by the end of Black Friday.
Shippers appeal to feds as Mississippi water levels reach historic lows
Shippers that use the Mississippi River continue to ask the federal government for help, as the water levels reach historic lows south of St. Louis.
On Friday, the Army Corps of Engineers started reducing an outflow from a reservoir on the Upper Missouri River to ease drought conditions in that region. It also reduced the flows on the Mississippi, which raises the risk of further limits on barge traffic by early next month.
There’s also talk that the river might close between Saint Louis and Cairo, Ill., and if that happens, Ann McCulloch of the American Waterways Operators says it could cost businesses millions of dollars up and down the river.
Businesses and trade groups want the Army Corps to restore the flow on the Mississippi, and the speed up the removing of rock formations which impede the river’s barge traffic.
Menards will fly Wisconsinites to Minot to ease worker shortage
EAU CLAIRE -- Menards’ is looking for 50 good employees to help cover a severe shortage of workers at its store in Minot. The Eau Claire Leader-Telegram reports that the home improvement chain will fly them to- and from Minot on a private jet weekly and provide food and lodging while they’re there.
A booming oil patch in the Minot area has created thousands of jobs, many of which were taken from the local retail industry. As a result, stores there are scrambling to find workers who are nowhere to be found locally.
Last week, Menard's hosted a job fair, seeking area people willing to spend 4- or 5 days a week in Minot, and work 50- to 60 hours at $13 per hour plus the chance for overtime, weekend pay, and specific positions.
Wisconsin generator firm booming in wake of Sandy
MILWAUKEE -- Almost one of every five shares of a Waukesha company’s stock is about to go up for sale. Generac, which makes emergency generators, says some of its stockholders plan to sell 11.5 million shares.
The sellers are connected with the CCMP Capital firm, along with its board members and senior management. Generac says it is not selling any of its shares directly, and the sellers will get all of the proceeds. The stock hit a 52-week high of 39.18 on Nov. 5th and that was helped by the sales of backup generators to Northeast areas hit by Superstorm Sandy.
Spring turkey hunting application deadline approaches
MADISON -- State officials say the deadline is approaching for turkey hunters to apply for spring shooting permits.
The Wisconsin DNR says the deadline to apply is Dec. 10th, and the agency will hold a lottery for the available permits in late January or early February. Those who get their names drawn can start buying turkey licenses on March 6th.
Any leftover permits will be sold to the public before the hunt begins. A youth hunt is scheduled for April 6th. The regular turkey season begins April 10th. A half-dozen periods of seven days each will run through May 21st.
Police killing of robbery suspect investigated
MILWAUKEE -- Police and prosecutors continue to investigate the weekend shooting death of a robbery suspect by a city police officer.
Officials said a 28-year-old Germantown man robbed another man late Saturday afternoon and then drove away.
The robbery victim followed the suspect and called police and the suspect ran off after crashing his vehicle. An officer later tracked down the suspect.
Officials said the patrolman was trying to interview the suspect when the officer felt his life was in danger and he shot the man. Witnesses told TV reporters that they heard four gunshots, and one report said the suspect was unarmed.
Milwaukee Police said the alleged robber was on probation, and he wanted for felony escape and violating a previous probation.
The officer is a 15-year Milwaukee Police veteran. He’s on administrative duty while the shooting is being investigated.
Former Assemblyman dies at 73
LUXEMBURG -- Former state lawmaker Lary Swoboda, 73, of Luxemburg died Sunday at his home.
He served in the Assembly for 24 years before he stepped down at the end of 1994. He tried making a comeback six years later but was not successful.
Swoboda was also a high school principal. Funeral arrangements are pending.
Annual holiday tours of Governor’s Mansion planned
MADISON -- The annual holiday tours at the Governor’s Mansion will begin on Dec. 5th and continue daily through Dec.15th.
The two-hour tours include the main rooms on the first floor, and descriptions of numerous holiday decorations – which include six Christmas trees.
The tours are free, but Gov. Scott Walker asks participants to bring non-perishable food items for Feeding America, the former Second Harvest food bank.