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Study: Light competition fuels higher gas prices in EC; 11 doctors cited for errant sick notes; more state briefs

Motorists in the Eau Claire area have long complained about perceived higher-than-average prices at the gas pumps.

EAU CLAIRE -- Some UW Eau Claire students spent last summer studying gas prices - and why they're often higher in Eau Claire than elsewhere.

The students cited Wisconsin's minimum mark-up law for gasoline, which requires stations to sell their fuel at up to 9 percent above their wholesale cost, but that does not explain price differences within the Badger State. Senior student Ben Possi cited a lack of competition in Eau Claire, noting that two retailers -- Holiday and Kwik-Trip -- make up 68 percent of the local fuel market.

The report also said Eau Claire has the smallest density for gas stations - which means that stations are farther apart than in other places. The study said there was an average of two retailers within a 1.5 mile radius, much lower than in St. Cloud, Minn., where the average density is six within a similar radius.

The study said gas prices deviated by over seven cents a gallon between retailers in St. Cloud, whereas the difference in Eau Claire is less than two cents.

Ironically, the American Automobile Association's daily fuel price survey shows Eau Claire as being in the middle-of-the-pack in prices at the moment. Its average is listed at about $3.31. Green Bay and La Crosse are close to $3.40, while Milwaukee is the lowest at over $3.23.

More doctors sanctioned for those sick notes to protestors

MADISON -- Eleven more doctors were sanctioned Wednesday for handing out sick notes to protestors who stood in line at the State Capitol during the massive demonstrations in 2011.

The state's Medical Examining Board reprimanded five UW Madison doctors - Laurel Mark, Richard Schmelzer, Melissa Stiles, Dipesh Navsaria, and Jennifer Edgoose. Retired doctor Susan Carson was also reprimanded.

Five others received administrative warnings. Those doctors are also with UW Madison, and their warnings were not considered as official discipline.

A year ago, seven doctors were reprimanded for handing out excuses to demonstrators who protested the state's limits on public union bargaining - and two residents were given warnings at that time. UW doctor Louis Sanner organized the sick note line after he saw that he called a "high level of stress" during the protests.

The UW handed out its own punishments 11 faculty doctors and nine residents. They lost from 1.5 days to five days of pay and they surrendered their leadership positions at the university for four months.

Nearly 1 of 5 Wisconsin kids lives in poverty

WASHINGTON DC -- Almost one of every five Wisconsin children lived in poverty last year.

The U.S. Census Bureau said Wednesday that the state's child poverty rate grew to 18.4 percent. Some 37 counties had significant increases in the percentage of kids age 5- to 17 living in households with incomes below the poverty line.

The Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates from the Census Bureau showed that suburban Milwaukee counties were doing the best. Child poverty was just 6- to 8 percent in Waukesha, Ozaukee, and Washington counties. The data also showed that Waukesha County had one of the 30 smallest child poverty rates in the country.

Menominee County had the state's highest figure, and among the largest in the Midwest at 47 percent of kids under 18 living in poverty.

Soon-to-be Senator Baldwin named to budget panel

WASHINGTON DC -- Democrat Tammy Baldwin will stay on the front lines of the federal budget battle. Baldwin serves on the House Budget Committee - and she was appointed to the Senate budget panel after being elected last month to replace Wisconsin Senator Herb Kohl.

Baldwin will also serve on the Senate Health Committee, after spending much of her time in the House on expanding care for the uninsured. She'll also serve on the Homeland Security panel and she said she looks forward to "keeping the American people safe" and strengthening our national security. Baldwin also replaces Kohl on the Senate's special committee on aging.

Baldwin defeated Republican Tommy Thompson last month. She'll be sworn in as the state's junior senator on Jan. 3rd.

Janesville man charged after near-miss with deputy

JANESVILLE -- A Janesville man was due in court Thursday on his seventh drunk driving charge, after his vehicle almost hit a Rock County sheriff's deputy.

Officials said the 45-year-old man was speeding early Wednesday and his vehicle crossed the center line and almost collided with the deputy's oncoming squad car.

The officer stopped the car - and officials said the driver looked like he had fresh facial injuries from another accident earlier. They also said the man's car had heavy damage on its front end.

Deputies were not able to determine where the earlier crash had taken place.

Wednesday's warmth brought some snow-melt

At least some of the heavy snow that fell in much of Wisconsin over the weekend is melting.

Temperatures were above freezing at 6 a.m. in a number of places including Menomonie, which got over 16 inches Sunday and early Monday. Manitowoc and Prairie du Chien were the state's warm spots with 37 degrees, but Menomonie was not far behind at 36.

The National Weather Service says southerly winds will keep blowing into Wisconsin Thursday, and more above-normal temperatures are expected. Highs could reach into the low-50's in southern areas.

Forecasters say the current weather pattern will not be broken until Saturday, when a low-pressure system is due in.

Snow is possible in northwest Wisconsin, rain in the southeast, and a mix in central areas.

One dead in overnight house fire at Tomah

TOMAH -- One person was killed in a house fire late Wednesday in Tomah.

Monroe County sheriff's deputies were called just after 11 p.m. They said a 50-year-old man was found in the basement of the burning home - and they were not able to revive him.

Foul play is not suspected, although an investigation continues.

Permit wrinkle delays UW Oshkosh-owned digester project

RIPON -- There's been a slight delay in building a new facility at Wisconsin's largest dairy farm to turn waste into electricity. The U-W Oshkosh Foundation withdrew an application to the state Department of Natural Resources this week for a permit to run an anaerobic digester at Rosendale Farms near Pickett.

University spokesman Alex Hummel tells the Ripon Commonwealth Press that the application did not make it clear as to who would own the digester. It would be located on the 8,300-cow farm but the U-W Oshkosh Foundation would be the builder and the owner.

Hummel said the school would clarify the wording, and then reapply for the state permit. In the meantime, a hearing on the permit request set for Friday in Ripon has been called off.

The proposed bio-digester is the second one that UW Oshkosh is involved with. The first converts plant and food waste from the campus into electricity. It's been running for over a year.

Neillsville students out due to water line break

NEILLSVILLE -- School students in Neillsville have Thursday off, because of a broken water line.

Officials say there is no serious damage to the district's main school, but the parking lot will be dug up to inspect and fix the broken pipe. It was not immediately known whether classes could resume Friday.

Earlier this month, a broken water line closed the Wisconsin Valley Lutheran High School in Mosinee for a week. Those youngsters went back to class on Monday.

-- Larry Lee, WSAU, Wausau

Janesville man arrested in strangling dead of estranged wife

JANESVILLE -- Janesville Police arrested a 54-year-old man yesterday for the murder of his estranged wife. Traci Moyer, 45, was found strangled to death in her home early last Saturday and the suspect, Krystopher Carlisle, was found unconscious next to his wife's body.

He was taken to a hospital, and police said he was the only person-of-interest in their investigation into Moyer's death.

The woman had filed for divorce, and the couple was separated.

The husband is facing a possible Rock County charge of first-degree intentional homicide.

Nature Conservancy donates two tracts to WDNR

MADISON -- The Nature Conservancy has donated two environmentally-significant nature areas to Wisconsin's Department of Natural Resources. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources board Wednesday accepted the donations of Chiwaukee Prairie in Kenosha County, and Quincy Bluff in Adams County. The land covers 1,800 acres and the Nature Conservancy is also providing a $402,000 endowment for maintaining the land. The group bought small lots in the Kenosha area 36 years ago, to preserve the Chiwaukee Prairie - which is a coastal wetland along the Lake Michigan shoreline.

The acquisition of Quincy Bluff will allow the D-N-R to expand a 4,700-acre nature site. The bluff is a sandstone mesa which rises 200 feet above wetland territory east of the Castle Rock Flowage.

The Nature Conservancy had acquired 1,700 hundred acres at Quincy Bluff over the past 22 years.

Waukesha baby arrives at 12-12-12-12

Thousands of Wisconsinites wore Aaron Rodgers' shirts to celebrate the 12-12-12 day, but a baby in Waukesha took things one step further.

Teagan George Hoeffler entered the world at 12:12 p.m., Wednesday. His mother Holli insists it was not planned. She said it was the baby who had the plan "hit that cool day."

Teagan had been due Wednesday - and his mother was scheduled to have induced labor on Friday, but the labor pains started, and Holli made it to Waukesha Memorial Hospital around 3 a.m. She started pushing for the baby at 12:06 and he emerged six minutes later.

Holli and her husband Jon had only thought it would be nice to have the child on Aaron Rodgers' Day - and they even thought about naming the baby after the Packers' quarterback, but their game plan was to name the child Teagan and that's what they went with.