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As cold as predicted but not as windy; Woman injured when propane tank explodes in home; Nine more state news stories

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It's as cold as advertised in northern Wisconsin this morning although the wind chills are a bit warmer than predicted.

At 5 a.m. the state's coldest wind-chill factors were 35 below at Ashland, Siren and New Richmond. That's 10-degrees warmer than what was forecast.

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It's not as windy as predicted. Gusts were in the 25 mph range in much of Wisconsin at 5 a.m. Winds hit 44 mph last night in Osceola.

Actual temperatures this morning ranged from 16 below at Siren to five above at Kenosha and Janesville.

It never got below zero in Green Bay during the night, but the city still expects to break a record this weekend for the number of sub-zero days in a winter. The current record is 48, set in 1977 -- and Green Bay is now one short of that.

Wausau has had 50 below-zero days -- five short of its all-time record dating back to 1917.

The National Weather Service says our current cold spell will continue at least into early next week with snow possible for tomorrow. Light snow fell in the northern half of the state last night. Presque Isle in Vilas County had two inches.

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Woman injured when propane tank explodes in home

A woman was injured after a portable propane tank exploded inside a duplex in Mosinee.

Fire Chief Josh Klug said doors and windows were blown from one of the side-by-side units in the duplex.

The only person inside was out of the structure when firefighters got there around 9:30 last night. She was taken to a Wausau hospital, but there was no immediate word on the extent of her injuries.

Neighbors on the other side of the duplex were okay and were allowed to return home after firefighters cleared the scene.

Klug said the blast is still being investigated, but he confirms that a propane tank similar to ones used in gas grills exploded indoors. Klug said people should not use portable propane devices in their homes and not hook up small tanks to home furnaces. He said there are programs available to help families in need get emergency propane fuel.

--Larry Lee, WSAU, Wausau

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Hard winter taking toll on wild turkeys

It appears this winter has been rough on all living things, including the turkeys that Wisconsin hunters hope to harvest this spring.

Department of Natural Resources ecologist Scott Walter told Wisconsin Public Radio there are isolated pockets of dead turkeys, which appear to have been trapped and starved due to the heavy snow.

Turkeys get most of their food from the ground -- ground which is buried by more than two feet of snow in parts of northern Wisconsin.

Bird expert Laura Erickson said the winter is making life hard for turkeys and the weights of some individual birds are extremely low.

Turkey hunters had another rough season a year ago, bringing in 11% fewer birds than in 2012 for a total harvest of almost 38,000. The DNR blamed late snow, rains and high winds for poor hunting conditions a year ago.

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Burke gives campaign donation from alleged wife beater to charity

Mary Burke's campaign for governor says a donation from a domestic abuse suspect will be given to charity.

Daniel Rottier, who heads a large personal injury law firm, gave $4,500 to Burke's campaign before he was accused of using a cane to beat his wife.

Online court records indicate that a plea deal has been set in Rottier's Dane County case, and a hearing is set for tomorrow in Madison. He's currently charged with misdemeanor battery.

Prosecutors said Rottier, 62, was drunk when he caned his wife as the two argued about plans to take their children to a movie.

Burke campaign spokesman Joe Zepecki told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that Rottier's donation will be given to the Domestic Abuse Intervention Services of Madison. The non-profit agency operates a shelter for domestic abuse victims.

State GOP director Joe Fadness said Burke changed course after she was called out on the subject. He agrees the donation is a better use of Rottier's money.

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Wausau-area man accused of running cockfighting ring

Police near Wausau are looking for a 35-year-old man charged with running a cockfighting ring and illegal gambling.

An arrest warrant was issued for Bee Her of Weston. He's charged with instigating animal fights, fatal animal mistreatment, marijuana possession, receiving a commercial gambling bet and four counts of setting up illegal gambling machines. Seven of the eight Marathon County charges are felonies.

Authorities say they've been investigating Her since last February when Everest Metro Police received a letter alleging criminal activity at Her's pool hall in Schofield.

Officers searched the business just over a month ago. They said they found gambling records and machines, plus thousands of dollars.

A search of Her's home was also conducted where police said they found guns, $6,000 and 22 chickens -- many with major injuries. They were removed, but it was not immediately disclosed whether all or some of the chickens had to be euthanized.

Reports said Her was also suspected of running illegal gaming machines in Minnesota, other animal fighting, trafficking methamphetamines and running a prostitution business.

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Overnight fire closes Racine school

Fire heavily damaged a middle school in Racine overnight.

Units were called about 1:30 a.m. to Mitchell Middle School, where classes have been canceled for the day. An alarm alerted police. Officers found smoke in the building and called firefighters.

Racine Fire Chief Steve Hansen said the gymnasium was destroyed after its roof collapsed. He said crews were able to stop the flames from spreading to the elementary and high school areas.

Hansen said the sub-zero wind chills caused nozzles and hose-lines to freeze. One firefighter slipped on ice but was said to be OK.

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Schneider CEO leaves $7 million to college

The late CEO of Schneider National Trucking left $7 million behind to help St. Norbert College start a new business school.

Donald Schneider died in 2012. Funds from his estate have been donated to the De Pere college.

St. Norbert officials said they will establish a school of business and economics, create two undergraduate programs now housed in the College of Letters and Sciences and start a master’s program in business administration.

The inaugural MBA class would have 30 to 35 students starting in the fall of 2015. St. Norbert President Tom Kunkel said the expansion would most likely benefit people who've been out of college for a few years.

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Brewers put limits on ‘Arctic Tailgate’ camping

It's called the "Arctic Tailgate," but the Milwaukee Brewers say it's too cold to let fans camp out at Miller Park for two days before individual game tickets go on sale Saturday.

Fans can start lining up at noon tomorrow before the ticket windows open at 9 a.m. Saturday.

While they wait, fans can sample a warm taste of Summer Shandy tomorrow evening. On Saturday, they can feast on donuts, hot dogs and soda while former Brewers and the Klement's Famous Racing Sausages help celebrate the impending start of Milwaukee's baseball season.

Tickets for all 81 home games at Miller Park will go on sale Saturday at the ballpark, by phone and online. A limited number of Opening Day seats will be available to those gutting out the cold.

It was two above in Milwaukee at 6 a.m. today, with a wind chill of minus 19. Milwaukee expects light snow on Saturday with highs in the teens.

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Amery police chief suspended for two weeks

Amery Police Chief Thomas Marson has been suspended for two weeks without pay in the wake of his recent drunk driving conviction.

The City Council also warned Marson that if he violates any more laws, he'll be subject to "immediate termination."

The chief was arrested on Feb. 16 after he drove his personal car into a ditch south of Amery. He initially blamed slippery roads, but officers found that his blood alcohol level was .156 -- almost twice the state's limit for intoxication.

City officials said they considered an "exemplary record" by Marson in deciding to let him keep his job. Council members do not believe the incident will affect his ability to fulfill his duties. Marson has been Amery's police chief for 11 years.

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Walker sets goal of holding taxes down if reelected

Gov. Scott Walker says if voters reelect him in November, he'll make sure property taxes will not go up through at least 2018.

The Republican Walker told the Wisconsin Realtors Association yesterday he wants to send a "powerful message" about cutting local taxes and his administration would spend this year and early next year on the specifics.

Walker told reporters he would offer a mix of more state aid to local governments and schools, plus new local spending limits. He said the ultimate formula would have to be worked out by lawmakers and others.

Walker was also careful to use the word "goal" so he's not dogged like he's been for just over four years after he promised to create a 250,000 private sector jobs in his first full term. Walker won't get close to that.

A spokesman for his Democratic challenger Mary Burke calls the new property tax pledge "more empty rhetoric at a time when Wisconsin is not creating enough jobs." Joe Zepecki added that Burke is also committed to holding the line on property taxes.

It can be a tricky pledge since both local taxes and state aid can vary so much that some communities still see tax hikes even though the statewide average goes down.

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Compromise frac-mining bill offered

A Wisconsin Senate Republican is offering a compromise bill to limit tight local regulations on frac-sand mines in the hopes of getting at least something passed this year.

Tom Tiffany of Hazelhurst has scrapped the idea of barring communities from using their health and safety powers to regulate silica sand operations. Instead, the bill he introduced yesterday would protect existing mines from added local restrictions while new mines could still face a host of regulations.

A public hearing on the revised bill is scheduled for Monday, but it's not clear yet whether Republican leaders would allow both houses to vote on it.

Tiffany's new bill would not ban local air and water quality standards, laws against blasting and making frac-sand companies pay advance fees to cover local road damage that may or may not happen.

All those items were in Tiffany's previous bill last fall, and towns and counties cried foul, saying Madison was stomping on local control and endangering people's health and safety in the process.

Tiffany said the Wisconsin towns and counties associations are not against his revised measure. The Wisconsin Industrial Sand Association, which supported the original bill, says it also endorses this one.

Tiffany says it doesn't go as far as he likes but, "This is the legislative process."

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