Traffic deaths up 15 percent statewide; thousands reply with wolf-hunt applications; feds OK disaster declaration up north, more state briefsWisconsin News
Federal officials have approved a disaster declaration for Douglas, Bayfield and Ashland counties and U.S. Senate candidate Tommy Thompson says he doesn't plan to set any spending records in his quest to win the seat being vacated by Sen. Herb Kohl and a Marinette firm has won contracts to build two more high-tech ships for the U.S. Navy. Plus more state briefs.
MADISON -- Wisconsin traffic deaths are up by 15 percent so far this year.
The Wisconsin Department of Transportaion said 333 people were killed in highway crashes from January through July, 44 more than a year ago and eight more than the average for the past five years.
Last month, 60 people died on Wisconsin roads – nine more than the year before, and eight more than the five-year average.
State Patrol Major Sandra Huxtable, who heads the DOT’s safety bureau, says there are normally more fatal crashes during the summer in road construction zones. And even though highway workers are at risk, it’s the motorists who are killed in three of every four instances.
Huxtable says rear-end crashes are the most common in work zones, as drivers speed, tailgate, and don’t pay attention to what’s ahead. Also, motorcycle deaths are piling up in Wisconsin due to the early spring and the longer riding season.
Fifty-four motorcycle riders and eight passengers were killed as of the end of July – along with 23 pedestrians and four bicyclists.
On Wednesday, two people died in a motorcycle crash near Waupaca. The couple, were Michael and Noreen Kessler, aged 67 and 61. The crash occurred early Wednesday afternoon on the four-lane Highway 10 expressway when their motorcycle blew a tire and went out of control. Neither victim was wearing a helmet.
Marinette firm wins two more contracts
WASHINGTON D.C. -- The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee has approved funding for four Navy warships, two of which would be built in northeast Wisconsin.
The panel endorsed the defense portion of next year’s federal budget and Wisconsin Democrat Herb Kohl says it includes two Navy littoral combat ships to be built at Marinette Marine, and two at Austal U.S.A. in Mobile Alabama.
The total cost of the four ships is $1.8 billion dollars. It’s part of the Navy’s commitment to build 20 of the advanced combat ships – 10 from each contractor.
Littoral combat ships are used to hunt submarines, and defend ground troops.
Hispanics and Democrats raise new redistricting concern
MADISON -- The legal battle over redistricting in Wisconsin might not be over. The new Assembly and Senate districts won’t change but the plaintiffs in a recent federal lawsuit over the new maps question whether Republicans completely followed court orders to release documents that they tried to keep secret.
Democrats obtained a host of redistricting records this week, after they won control of the Senate and plaintiffs say they don’t remember seeing a chain of e-mails in which Republicans failed to take advice from attorney Jim Troupis. He said the citizenship of Hispanics had to be taken into account in setting up new Assembly districts in Milwaukee. It wasn’t, and the federal court ordered the GOP to redraw two districts so Hispanics are assured of having at least one member in the Assembly.
Had the Republicans taken Troupis’s advice, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel said it would have saved taxpayers around $200,000 in legal costs.
Attorneys for Democrats who filed the redistricting lawsuit said they certainly would have remembered the memos, because they went to the heart of the federal Voting Rights Act. Attorneys for the Democrats and their other plaintiffs from a Milwaukee Hispanic group are reviewing their files to see if they could have been released.
GOP lawyers have not commented. A three-judge panel said the GOP’s law firm filed frivolous requests to block the public release of numerous records. The firm was fined $17,500.
Bayfield, Douglas counties win disaster declaration
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has approved Gov. Scott Walker’s request for disaster aid in Douglas, Ashland, and Bayfield counties – as well as the Red Cliff Indian reservation near Bayfield.
The area received more than six inches of rain in a two-day period, with almost $9 million in damage to public infra-structure.
FEMA pays 75 percent of eligible costs for fighting the floods and repairing public amenities like roads and bridges. State and local government split the rest.
Walker said there was not damage to qualify for FEMA’s individual disaster aid but the governor arranged to have homes and businesses in Douglas County qualify for help from the Small Business Administration.
Thompson won't set spending records
U.S. Senate candidate Tommy Thompson says it’s not right to buy an election – even though the man he hopes to replace first got elected that way.
The former governor and Bush health secretary has earned millions of dollars as an executive, consultant, and board member for a number of health care firms but Thompson told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s editorial board Thursday he would not spend millions to win the four-way Republican Senate primary on August 14th. The winner of the November Senate election will replace retiring Democrat Herb Kohl – who first won in 1988 when he spent millions of his own money, rejected special interest cash, and promised he’d be “Nobody’s Senator but Yours.”
Thompson has put $132,000 of his own money toward the race, and he has raised another $2.2 million. That’s about what Mark Neumann has raised but hedge fund manager Eric Hovde has spent $4 million of his own money on the Senate campaign.
Thompson said his advisers want him to spend more himself – and he probably will. The Public Policy Polling firm said this week that Thompson, Hovde, and Neumann are in a statistical dead heat, with Jeff Fitzgerald lagging behind. But nine-percent in that poll were undecided. The winner of the primary faces Democrat Tammy Baldwin in November.
Contaminate wells now total 17
The number of contaminated home water wells has grown to 17, in the wake of a gasoline pipeline break near Jackson almost two-and-a-half weeks ago.
The West Shore Pipeline Company said yesterday that it sampled 131 private wells near the place where 52,000 gallons of gas leaked on July 17th.
West Shore has tried to prevent the underground gas from spreading, by putting in shallow monitoring wells around the site. Corporate safety director Patrick Hodgins says they’re drilling at various depth levels – and when they find gasoline, they immediately pull it out with a vacuum truck.
Meanwhile, West Shore has set up a claims center in Jackson where those affected by the gas spill can get help. The pipeline was down for five days. And after that, crews removed over seven tons of contaminated soil from two properties near the line.
Milwaukee Police investigating murder-suicide at electronics’ plant
MILWAUKEE -- A man shot his supervisor to death, and then killed himself at a factory in Milwaukee. It happened around 6 p.m., Thursday at Trans-Coil International on the city’s northwest side.
Police said the 58-year-old supervisor was taken to a hospital where he died from his injuries. The 23-year-old employee was found dead in the plant with an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. Officers recovered a handgun at the scene. Police are trying to determine what caused the shootings.
Trans Coil president Steven Copp called it a tragedy for the families of both men, and for the company – which makes electronics for industrial equipment.
The shootings happened during the plant’s second shift. Third-shift workers were sent home, and were told the plant would remain closed Friday.
Kenosha Beef International recalls 19 tons of patties
KENOSHA -- Kenosha Beef International is recalling 19 tons of frozen bacon cheeseburger patties.
The company alerted the United States Department of Agriculture after a customer complained that the meat had pieces of gasket material.
Officials say there have been no reports of illnesses or injuries. The recall involves two-pound cartons of Sam’s Choice Fireside Gourmet Black Angus Beef Patties, Bacon, and Aged Cheddar. The cartons have six patties each. They were sold in Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maine, and both Carolinas. They have a “best-used-by” date code of 120812-B.
Nearly 3,000 apply to hunt wolves on Day 1
MADISON -- Almost 3,000 people applied on the first day of registrations for Wisconsin’s new wolf hunt and that assured a lottery for the two-thousand available slots.
There’s a lot of interest in Wisconsin’s first wolf hunt. Only 2,000 permits will be issued – and almost 3,000 people applied for them on Wednesday, the first day applications were accepted.
All told, the DNR has had 3,277 apply and the sign-up period continues through the end of August.
A lottery will determine who gets to take part in Wisconsin’s first grey wolf season, which runs from Oct. 15th through the end of next February. Those applicants not selected would get preference in next year’s lottery.
The wolf hunt was made possible when animals in the Upper Midwest were removed from the national endangered species list. That allowed Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan to manage their wolf populations as they saw fit.