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Northern reaches straffed by another dose of winter; thousands scramble to make Tax Day deadline; man held in fatal house fire, more state news

A half-dozen ships sat at-anchor Sunday, just outside the Duluth harbor after high winds shifted a large mass of shore ice across the channel. Photo courtesy Duluth News Tribune.

Just over six-thousand electric customers in Wisconsin were without power early Monday morning after another round of snow and freezing rain hit the Badger State.

The Wisconsin Public Service utility reported 3,800 customers out at 4 a.m. in the Minocqua area.

We Energies had 1,900 homes and businesses out near Milwaukee, and Wisconsin Power & Light reported 200 customers out in Rock County.

Bayfield had the most snow Sunday with 4.5 inches. Some places like Amherst had 3 inches of snow which then changed to freezing rain. Bruce in northwest Wisconsin had 4.5 inches of snow on Saturday, and Palmyra in southeast Wisconsin had a snow storm change to all rain - creating lots of slush.

Places along Lake Superior had high winds. Superior reported gusts of 52 miles an hour.

As of 7 a.m. only one school-closing was reported -- Solon Springs south of Superior. Lakeland High School in Minocqua, where many people were without power, opened two hours late.

Meanwhile, a fire closed Waterford Union High School in Racine County Monday. A sheriff's deputy saw flashing lights near the school grounds. An alarm had been activated, and smoke was discovered in part of the school. Firefighters were called, and the fire was quickly put out. The cause remains under investigation. Although students are off at Waterford High, teachers were still expected to report today.

Ice shift turns Duluth waterfront into 'laker' parking lot

SUPERIOR -- For shipping boats, it was a nightmare - but for photographers, it was a sight to behold. Nine large ships had to drop their anchors in Lake Superior during the weekend, after strong winds created a shield of ice at the entrance to the Duluth-Superior Harbor.

The boats created an impromptu armada that local residents and visitors loved - and photographers quickly chronicled on social media.

The harbor had been clear for a couple weeks, and the shipping season was well underway when the incoming boats got stuck - and an ice-cutter created a path for the nine ships to enter the harbor, after two other boats in the harbor departed with their loads.

Adele Yorde of the Duluth Seaway Port Authority said she never saw anything like it in the five years she's been there. "I guess we call it our perfect storm," said Yorde. Some boats were planning to leave late last week, but had to stay behind due to the strong winds.

The sudden ice buildup was unexpected, said Justin Bravatto, U.S. Coast Guard command duty officer for the Sault Ste. Marie sector, which is responsible for icebreaking operations on Lake Superior.

"All that ice that was out there was shore ice that wasn't showing up on radar," Bravatto said.

The Duluth Harbor had been clear of ice for a couple of weeks and the Duluth-based cutter Alder had been placed on standby, Bravatto said. Crew members were required to be back within 24 hours if called.

The strong northeast winds Thursday and Friday, gusting in excess of 50 mph, brought the ice back, and the Alder crew was called back Friday, Bravatto said.

The Alder, accompanied by a couple of tugs, started making a channel by 10 a.m. Saturday, Yorde said. Within half an hour, the Arthur M. Anderson, loaded with iron ore pellets, left the harbor, followed by the Paul R. Tregurtha, loaded with coal.

They had to leave before the first of the waiting boats could make its way in, she said. The 634-foot Great Republic was first to arrive via the Duluth entry, followed by the 1,000-foot American Integrity. Both ships passed under one lift of the Aerial Lift Bridge, leaving a trail of swirling ice chunks in their wake.

Officials say it might be tomorrow before all of the shippers are back on schedule.

Thousands scramble to make Tax Day deadline

MILWAUKEE -- It's Tax Day and despite having three months to prepare, thousands of Wisconsinites have waited until the last minute to file.

As of April 1, about a million state tax returns had not been filed yet.

Midnight on Monday is deadline to either send the returns via computer, or make sure they're postmarked.

Back in the days before the Internet, post offices in Wisconsin's bigger cities used to be open until midnight and places like Milwaukee had some rather entertaining curbside mailing service.

Those days aregone, though, and Milwaukee's final collection will be at 8 p.m. at the downtown post office, and 6:30 at the airport. To check the hours for local post offices, visit

Those who can't file on time are being urged to seek extensions with the Internal Revenue Service. The extensions run through Oct. 15th, and the federal ones cover state returns as well.

State Revenue Secretary Rick Chandler says you must pay your taxes today - even if they're estimated - or else you'll be hit with interest. The state charges 1 percent a month.

Medicaid-user rides would cost $6.3 million

MADISON -- A new state contract to give Wisconsin Medicaid recipients rides to their appointments will cost taxpayers an extra $6.3 million.

That's what the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says about a new three-year deal for MTM Inc. of Missouri.

State officials said last week they would pursue a contract with the firm. It would replace Logisti-Care, which walked out of its deal after just 2.5 months.

The Journal Sentinel said the firm was losing money because the state underestimated the numbers of rides for Milwaukee area Medicaid recipients. The original Logisti-Care contract was for $38 million. The new deal is almost $16 million more and of that, the federal government would pick up about $10 million of the increase.

County governments used to provide medical transportation for Medicaid recipients but the state went to a private firm in mid-2011, after health officials said it would save $4 million a year.

Assembly Democrat Penny Bernard Schaber of Appleton led a group of lawmakers that have twice sought audits of the Logisti-Care contract. Schaber's office said an audit is needed to avoid financial mistakes in the future.

Injured prison guard says she feels 'discarded' by State

STANLEY -- On the same day that state Corrections Secretary Ed Wall proclaimed that he took assaults on prison officers seriously, a guard at Stanley was told she would lose her occupational injury benefits.

Sgt. Carrie Seichter tells the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel she couldn't believe the irony of what happened back in January. And she feels "discarded" by the corrections' agency.

Wall has not commented. It was a year ago Tuesday when the 45-year-old Seichter removed inmate Paul Golden from his cell at Stanley - and officials said Golden later ran up a stairway and punched the guard in the face numerous times. Golden is still facing charges of battery by a prisoner.

Seichter was later found to have suffered a concussion and she told the newspaper she still have lots of anxiety from post-traumatic stress disorder. She now gets worker's compensation and sick leave. Her public safety injury benefits ran out in January around the time when the State Employees' Union questioned the safety of guards in the wake of the union bargaining limits.

Wall told lawmakers he takes assaults on officers seriously and he told his workers that he wants the agency to be more like a family.

Seichter has applied for duty disability, and the Journal Sentinel says the state's not fighting that.

She would get 75 percent of her salary, but no health insurance - which she says she needs after getting a rare form of cancer.

Big donor to Walker campaign dead at 80

Bob Perry, who gave $250,000 to Gov. Scott Walker to fight off his recall effort, has died at age 80.

The Houston real estate tycoon gave millions to conservative candidates and causes across the nation.

A close family friend said Perry died in his sleep on Saturday night. He was a fixture in GOP fundraising since the mid-1990's, both in Texas and throughout the country.

One of his most notorious contributions was almost $4.5 million dollars to the Swift Boat Veterans' ad campaign that challenged Democrat John Kerry's service record in Vietnam when he ran for president in 2004.

Perry's donation to Walker was among the largest in a recall race that attracted a record $81 million in total spending.

Proposed bill would allow schools to spend for security without referendums

Two central Wisconsin lawmakers are proposing a bill in which school districts would no longer need voter approval to raise taxes for security equipment.

Assembly Democrat Amy Sue Vruwink of Milladore and Senate Democrat Julie Lassa of Stevens Point are proposing that schools be allowed to raise their state-mandated revenue limits for security equipment.

The increase would be $100 a student or $40,000 - whichever is the most.

Vruwink says no one wants to see a repeat of the Connecticut school tragedy from last December. She says Wisconsin schools would not be forced to add safety equipment but with tight budgets, the taxing authority would make it easier for them to do so.

A number of school referendums throughout Wisconsin this month included borrowing for security equipment. Some measures passed, and some failed.

Gannett's Central Wisconsin Sunday newspaper said the measure had 28 Democratic co-sponsors in both houses, and only one Republican - Senator Dale Schultz of Richland Center.

Domestic violence bill would ramp up police accountability for arrests

MADISON -- Wisconsin police officers who don't arrest anyone on a domestic violence call would have to tell prosecutors why, under a new series of measures in the Legislature.

Assembly Republican Andre Jacque of De Pere says authorities can do more to bring domestic abusers to justice. That was apparently shown last fall, after Brown Deer Police were called on the carpet for not arresting Radcliffe Haughton after numerous complaints that he abused his wife.

Haughton killed his wife Zina last fall at the Brookfield spa where she worked and he two other women, and then himself.

Jacque is proposing three bills - one of which would make officers document all abuse cases, even if no arrests are made. Stalking, which is already against the law, would also be considered domestic abuse where appropriate. Jacque's third bill requires that a restraining order stay in place against a domestic abuse defendant who requests a different judge for their cases.

Currently, a judge's restraining order is dropped if that judge is replaced.

Jacque's bills are getting bi-partisan support. Assembly Democrat Jon Richards of Milwaukee is among the co-sponsors.

Weekend house fire kills one

BEAVER DAM -- A Cambria man is in custody for a weekend mobile home fire that killed one person near Beaver Dam.

The man was being called a "person-of-interest" Sunday but at least one media report said he was due in court Monday.

The fire broke out early Saturday at a mobile home court in the Dodge County town of Elba. A half-dozen fire departments responded, along with state-and-local investigators.

At last word, the Dodge and Fond du Lac county medical examiners' offices were still trying to identify the dead person as well as the cause of death.

Car-tree collision kills two in Milwaukee

MILWAUKEE -- Two people were killed late Sunday afternoon when their vehicle slammed into a tree on Milwaukee's north side.

It happened just before 6 p.m. on Capitol Drive at 11th Street.

An 18-year-old driver and a 19-year-old passenger died at the scene. Police said the vehicle was speeding.

The victims' names were not immediately released. Witnesses told WISN TV that the driver was racing at the time.

One witness quoted a distraught man who said the victims were his cousins.

Six more 'Bird Cities' named

Wisconsin now has 66 "Bird Cities."

Those places are recognized for their efforts to improve their bird habitat, limit hazards, manage wooded areas, and teach residents about the importance of caring for birds.

The six latest Bird Cities are Fitchburg, Shorewood, Sheboygan, Egg Harbor, Menomonie, and Ashland.

Existing western Wisconsin cities who have the designation include River Falls, Grantsburg, Trempealeau and LaCrosse.

The Milwaukee Audubon Society started the "Bird City Wisconsin" program in 2010.

For more information, visit