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The number of children St. Croix County Human Services took into custody nearly tripled in the past year, and officials say methamphetamine and opioid abuse are the primary culprits. Soaring numbers of Children's Services cases reflect a statewide struggle that a legislative task force said is nearing a crisis level in counties across Wisconsin.
For the second year in a row, Belwin Conservancy in Afton invited the community to huddle up around a roaring bonfire marking the longest night of the year. The blaze ignited around noon on Dec. 21 as facilities specialist Eric Palman loaded on logs from fallen trees with a skid steer. "It's to get a nice bed of coals going," Palman said of the seven-hour process. "If I just throw all this stuff on a new fire, it may just go out." Hours after sundown, the stack towered over visitors' heads as embers shot into the sky to celebrate Winter Solstice.
For many Japanese Americans, the trauma of World War II internment camps lingered long after their release. In her newest novel, "On Liberty's Wings: A Post-WWII Novel," Afton author Diane Dettmann chronicles Yasu Nakahara's journey to rebuild her life after her family's release from a camp in California. By 1948, Yasu has moved to Minneapolis. Although the 22-year-old newlywed found her calling as a teacher, Yasu still struggles with post-war prejudice and residual flashbacks to prison camps surrounded by barbed wire.
A man who held his parents captive and repeatedly beat his mother's head with a hammer will serve 20 years in prison following his Nov. 22 sentencing in a Washington County court. David Edward Williams Jr., of Maplewood, pleaded guilty in August to first-degree attempted murder, a felony charge that carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. He must also pay more than $13,000 in restitution. The court dismissed an additional felony charge of second-degree assault with a deadly weapon, which the court dismissed.
Does the Constitution protect political contributions as a form of speech? Should constitutional rights extend beyond individuals to entities like corporations or unions? A 2010 Supreme Court ruling concluded "yes" to both questions, but residents of St. Croix County will have a chance to weigh in with their ballots in April.
A westbound lane on Interstate 94 opened again shortly before noon Nov. 20 after a truck hauling more than a ton of frozen seafood ignited early that morning. Lt. Tiffani Nielson with the Minnesota State Patrol said the truck's driver smelled smoke and pulled over to the shoulder near Century Avenue around 6:20 a.m. Flames had engulfed the trailer, which contained 2,500 pounds of frozen fish. Woodbury Public Safety firefighters extinguished the flames.
A Cottage Grove man will spend about a month in jail for raping a 14-year-old girl with two others in 2016. Parker Cole Jarvis Running, 18, was convicted of felony third-degree criminal sexual conduct with a victim younger than 15 in a Washington County District Court Nov. 6. He received a 60-day jail sentence with credit for 31 days served and five years' probation. The court dismissed two other charges of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and one count of aiding and abetting third-degree criminal sexual conduct— all felony charges.
St. Croix County supervisors appointed Chris Matter to fill a vacant seat on the county board last week. Matter will replace former Supervisor Agnes Ring to represent District 2, which covers parts of St. Joseph and Somerset. Ring stepped down from the position in September after announcing her new position with Family Resource Center of St. Croix Valley, which she said could cause potential conflicts of interest.
St. Croix County land and homeowners will see a slight decrease in property taxes next year if a budget proposal the county's administration committee recently approved gains county supervisor approval. The 2018 budget committee members approved Oct. 18 includes a .09 percent tax levy rate decrease in the county portion of property taxes. That decrease would drive down the county portion of property taxes from $896.73 to $895.96 on a home worth about $242,000, the county's median value.
Kendall Johnson compares pornography consumption to compulsive shopping: as people desire more and more of something, their desires are harder to satisfy. The Woodbury resident says an abundant supply and easily accessible supply of online porn can act as a "gateway drug" fueling relationship issues and dangerous habits. Some of those habits, he said, could escalate to seeking paid sex through platforms like Backpage.com, a website that gained notoriety as a hub for sex trafficking advertisements.