Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker
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A building was evacuated Wednesday in River Falls while firefighters responded to a minor apartment fire. The incident, reported at about 5:30 p.m. Dec. 21, led to an evacuation of the building at 222 E. Locust St. Property owner Rhonda Davison said the incident was contained to a third-story unit. She and River Falls Assistant Fire Chief Mike Moody said the apartment sustained heavy smoke damage. Fire damage appeared to be minimal, Moody noted.
Authorities said it took a costume, a comment and a cast of accomplices to pull off a con that fleeced Walmart out of thousands of dollars at various stores in western Wisconsin and Minnesota. According to court documents, the main suspect would enter a Walmart clad in a former employee's vest, then approach a cashier, who would be told it was breaktime. From there, the suspect would open up the cash register to allow a string of accomplices to buy thousands of dollars in gift cards. And then, according to authorities, it was off to the next store.
Fire destroyed a wood shop Tuesday in rural Spring Valley. Spring Valley Fire Chief Mike Fitzjarrell said firefighters were called at about 5:30 p.m. Feb. 20 to N8273 County Road I in the town of Gilman, where a resident reported the blaze. Pierce County land records state the property is owned by Thomas and Naomi McLeod.
A Roberts man was charged with drunken driving for the eighth time last week after a suspected hit-and-run crash in St. Croix County. Police arrested 37-year-old Jaason A. Bierschenk Feb. 12 after he was allegedly seen ditching his wrecked car and heading to the Willow River Saloon in Burkhardt. He was charged the next day with OWI-eighth offense — a felony — along with operating while revoked and hit and run, both misdemeanors. The felony charge carries a mandatory three-year minimum prison sentence.
Voters in St. Croix County's District 1 will go to the polls Feb. 20, where three candidates will be on the ballot, but only two will be seeking votes. The Somerset-area primary will pit Matt Foucault versus Ed Schachtner. Candidate Chris Polfus is no longer seeking election, though his name will be on the ballot. He said he ended his candidacy because he plans to move out of the district in the foreseeable future. Incumbent Ryan Sicard did not complete his filing paperwork and won't be on the ballot, according to the St. Croix County Clerk's Office.
Deputies responded at 12:46 a.m. Feb. 8 to W9405 830th Ave. in River Falls for a burglary in progress. Statements were taken and evidence was gathered. Traffic trouble • Deputies on patrol conducted a traffic stop at 8:47 p.m. Feb. 5 at 770th Street and Highway 35 in Hager City, where a vehicle was seen with a headlight out. The driver, a Newport, Minn., woman, was later arrested on suspicion of operating without a license, methamphetamine possession and a probation hold.
Wisconsin's top tax official will meet with residents this month in Hudson during a visit that a local lawmaker hopes will help shape how the state collects money. Rep. Shannon Zimmerman will hold a tax discussion Feb. 27 at the UW-River Falls Hudson Center, where he'll be joined by Wisconsin Department of Revenue Secretary Richard Chandler. Zimmerman, a River Falls Republican, said the meeting will serve a dual purpose. On the one hand, it will offer residents a chance to hear an overview on the issue from the state's leading tax authority in Chandler.
Wisconsin voters will see three state Supreme Court justice candidates on next week’s primary ballots.
The retirement of a longtime prosecutor has led to a new face at the Pierce County Courthouse. Pierce County Assistant District Attorney Bill Thorie retired Feb. 1 after 25 years with the office. "We wish Bill well on his retirement," Pierce County DA Sean Froelich said. "He'll be missed." Filling Thorie's role as Pierce County's full-time assistant DA is Kaley Walker, who until last week had been working on a limited basis with the St. Croix County District Attorney's Office.
St. Croix County firefighters responded to two structure fires between Saturday and Monday, one of which destroyed a Baldwin business. Gary Newton, Baldwin chief for United Fire Department, said a Saturday night fire at Baldwin Machine & Fab resulted in a total loss. Firefighters were called to the 1080 Sixth Ave. business at 10:06 p.m. Feb. 10.