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Wisconsin roundup: Shelters to close for state's homeless veterans; 9 more state news stories

UNION GROVE — The Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs blames a federal decision to stop funding for a need to close two facilities which house homeless veterans.

Cottage 16 in Union Grove will close in December, leaving 28 vets with nowhere to stay. The Veterans Housing and Recovery Program in King is home to 19 previously homeless vets and it, too, will shut its doors in December.

Veterans who live at the two facilities say the decision is devastating. They point to talk from Washington where politicians say they want to end homelessness among veterans — then contrast that with the decision to cut the funding.

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Democrat would consider free pensions, insurance for public workers

MADISON — A Democratic businessman who's running for governor says he would consider letting public employees pay nothing toward their health insurance and pensions.

On WKOW-TV's "Capital City Sunday," Andy Gronik of Milwaukee elaborated on his comments from last week in which he said he would restore public workers' collective bargaining power, by dropping parts of GOP Gov. Scott Walker's Act 10 union limits from 2011 that limited bargaining for most unions to just wages at or below inflation. It also required higher employee contributions for their pensions and health insurance.

But on the statewide show "Up Front With Mike Gousha," Gronik said people are just as important as saving money. The state GOP responds that Gronik's ideas would put "taxpayers on the hook," and that Act 10 has saved $5 billion.

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Walker to sign 7 more opioid/heroin fighting bills

MADISON — Gov. Scott Walker will hold ceremonies in De Pere and Schofield Monday, where he'll sign seven more bills aimed at fighting opioid and heroin abuse.

The new laws are part of ongoing education and enforcement agenda that GOP state Rep. John Nygren of Marinette has led the past several years. Walker will sign four bills at the Medical College in Wisconsin in De Pere, and three others at Schofield DC Everest High School.

Among other things, the measures will start pilot programs to treat opioid addicts in underserved areas, spend $1.5 million more each year on alternative drug treatments, give criminal immunity to those who report overdoses, and protect emergency service personnel from liability when giving out the heroin antidote Narcan.

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GOP lawmaker opposes full pot legalization

EAU CLAIRE — At least one Republican state lawmaker says she could live with the decriminalization of marijuana if it's done at the federal level.

But Rep. Kathy Bernier of Lake Hallie tells the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram she opposes a full legalization in Wisconsin, which is what Madison Assembly Democrat Melissa Sargent is proposing. Sargent's bill would allow state residents at least 21 year old to have no more than 2 ounces of marijuana. It would ban transfers of the drug by mail or online, and create a registry so those who need the drug for medical reasons can get it.

Sargent says her bill probably won't pass this session, but she believes a "big conversation" on the subject is needed at some time. Among other things, Sargent says it could raise revenue to help with budget shortfalls.

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Coast Guard, police investigate cargo ship crash

GREEN BAY — The U.S. Coast Guard and local police are investigating the crash of a large cargo ship at a dock in downtown Green Bay.

Officials say the Kaye E. Barker was moving north toward the Bay of Green Bay when it slammed into a dock, crushed a 16-foot pleasure boat, and damaged a maintenance walkway on the Ray Nitschke draw bridge on the city's Main Street. No one was in the small boat when the incidents occurred Sunday afternoon, and no one was hurt. Police say they're questioned the operator of the cargo ship. The draw bridge reopened early Sunday evening after being shut down for about three hours.

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Teen ATV driver dies in crash

VERONA — A 17-year-old Verona boy has died after his all terrain vehicle collided with a car.

Sheriff's deputies say both units were heading west when they crashed on Dane County Road A in the town of Primrose near Verona. Investigators say they do not believe drugs and alcohol were factors in the mishap, reported about 11:30 a.m. Sunday.

Officials say the ATV rider was not wearing a helmet, and his name was not immediately released. The car driver and a passenger were not injured.

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Floodwaters still receding in Racine, Kenosha counties

Flooding continued to dissipate near the Fox River, as another bridge reopened Sunday near Salem in Kenosha County.

Officials say the county bridge is driveable again, as the Fox crept closer to getting back below its banks after last week's massive rains. In Kenosha, the river was about 4 feet above its flood stage late Sunday night — and the National Weather Service says it get back to about 3 feet of its 11-foot flood stage Tuesday morning.

Upstream at Burlington, the river was expected to drop below its flood stage on Tuesday as city garbage crews start picking up flood damaged debris on curbsides Monday. About 700 Kenosha County residents have reported flood damage, and a shelter opened Sunday at the Salem Grade School in Kenosha County, where well testing kits are being distributed — and in Walworth County, officials will start assessing flood damage Monday.

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Drone photos of farm fields help improve crops

GRAND MARSH — Technology is increasing its presence in the agriculture sector as a New Lisbon company uses a drone to take photos of farm fields.

The unique view helps farmers improve their crops. FlightSight gives those agriculture producers a whole new look at their operation, according to owner Joe Paul. Wisconsin agriculture officials are hoping the growing presence of technology and tech-based jobs with make young people more interested in the field.

The number of Wisconsin farms has been falling for years. Currently, there are fewer than 69,000 farms in the state, a loss of more than 7,500 over a 10-year time period.

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State mink production down, but above national figures

MADISON — Mink coats are no longer politically correct in many circles, but Wisconsin remains the national leader in the production of mink pelts.

The state Ag Statistics Service says almost 1.2 million mink pelts were made in Wisconsin last year, and Utah was second with 768,000. Wisconsin's mink output dropped 9 percent during 2016, but the national decrease was even larger at 10 percent. Wisconsin produces 36 percent of the nation's mink, which has a total nationwide value of $116 million — 2 percent less than the previous year.

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Appleton’s doughboy statue being replaced

APPLETON — The doughboy veteran statute on Appleton's Memorial Drive will be replaced after it was taken down this weekend.

The World War I memorial has been restored four times over the last 30 years. The city has decided not to repair it again, but replace it with a new, solid bronze statue which will last longer. The new statue will be unveiled on Veterans Day.

The city says the current doughboy will live on, but indoors at the History Museum at the Castle. Sculpture Valley is working with the city to replace or repair all of its war memorials in the next five years.

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