Mike Longaecker is a regional/enterprise reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage includes St. Croix County government, higher education and state politics in Wisconsin.
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TOWN OF ST. JOSEPH — Heidi Madsen pops a bright orange flower off a plant growing in her terraced garden that's awash in the powerful July sun. "Want to try?" she asks of a visitor, encouraging a taste of the sweet-and-spicy edible flower. The plant is one of many growing in Madsen's large garden — some for eating, some for medicinal purposes.
St. Croix County officials described last week how funding proposals would address a sharp increase in county autopsies and a rise in jail violence. The number of autopsies performed in the county has doubled over the past year, St. Croix County Medical Examiner Patty Schachtner told members of the Public Protection and Judiciary Committee at their June 28 meeting. Her presentation, which described how a $500,000 digital autopsy machine would allow her staff to meet the growing demand, was followed by Sheriff Scott Knudson, who showed video recordings of jail violence.
St. Croix County's emergency operations department formed the bookends of Steve T'Kach's career. "Holy buckets," he said last week in his Hudson office at the St. Croix County Government Center. "What a career." T'Kach isn't just talking about his time at St. Croix County. The 63-year-old retired last week from the same county department where his career launched. He's proud of what he's accomplished here, not the least of which has meant seeing an overhaul of the county's radio communications system through to its completion.
Authorities are investigating a man's death Tuesday at a Willow River State Park campsite. St. Croix County Sheriff's investigators were working the scene after the body belonging to a male was reported at 3:48 p.m. A news release issued Wednesday identified the man as a 40-year-old, but said his name was being withheld pending family notification. St. Croix County Sheriff Scott Knudson Knudson said Tuesday it was "too early to tell" if foul play was suspected. The department on Wednesday called the incident "isolated" and said the public was not at risk.
The price is right for a wide array of summer reading options in River Falls. The UW-River Falls Textbook services department is unloading piles of free used books all summer in the basement of Hagestad Hall.
The iconic wooden "Wisconsin Welcomes You" signs have for years greeted travelers in border cities like Prescott and Hudson. Patty Schachtner said there was one area that was feeling a bit left out — the section on Highway 64 after St. Croix River Crossing travelers enter Wisconsin. The Somerset Democrat said getting a sign erected in Houlton became a priority after she became a state senator. A welcome sign, unveiled Monday, June 17, puts that matter to rest.
Tom and Wendy Goeltz saw firsthand what could be accomplished in Minnesota. Years of perseverance by distracted-driving advocates led to a law passed this year that will limit Gopher State motorists to hands-free functions when operating a mobile device while driving. The Goeltzes, a Hudson couple, joined in the fight shortly after losing their daughter in a 2016 fatal distracted-driving crash. The law hasn't even gone into effect yet in Minnesota — that happens Aug. 1 — yet the Goeltzes already have their next target for change in sight: Wisconsin.
Shannon Zimmerman said he doesn't sneeze at $1 million, but he knew it wouldn't give a proposed UW-River Falls project the lift it needed. He also knew its prospects were beyond dim as his Joint Finance Committee colleagues prepared Tuesday, June 11, to parse out funding for state building projects — a list that included the proposed UWRF science and technology building. "This thing was dead 24 hours earlier," said Zimmerman, a River Falls Republican.
The fate of three embattled projects slipped into limbo this week in St. Croix County. An $8.4 million borrowing package that would have funded a new special-needs wing in the St. Croix County jail, a heating-ventilation-air-conditioning upgrade to the county's government center and a new emergency command vehicle once again failed to generate enough support among County Board members.
NEW RICHMOND — Gov. Tony Evers took his fight for Medicaid expansion Tuesday to St. Croix County, where County Board members threw their support behind the measure. The Democratic governor met June 4 with St. Croix County Health and Human Services workers, where he leaned on public support for Medicaid expansion and said he would continue fighting staunch Republican opposition to the proposal. "It isn't welfare," Evers said while meeting with employees. "We have an obligation to serve the people of the state."