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Compromise in works on frac-sand proposal; P&P officer accused of lobster theft, more state news

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MADISON -- Wisconsin communities could keep more control over their frac-sand mines, under a compromise that's being worked on at the State Capitol.

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Senate Republican Tom Tiffany of Hazelhurst rankled local leaders in October, when he proposed the state take away the towns' police powers to regulate silica-sand operations.

He said the towns could still use zoning powers to set limits before mines are approved but very few rural towns have their own zoning, and Tiffany says he now realizes that. He's calling for "middle ground" and says it won't be easy to achieve.

Tiffany has said that state control is needed because local governments have been too restrictive. However, Senate Republican Rob Cowles of Green Bay says the industry seems to be thriving despite the local ordinances and the bill would need a lot of changes before he could vote for it.

Wisconsin has over 110 frac-sand mines. Rick Stadleman, who heads the Wisconsin Towns Association, says he does not want to see towns' enforcement powers slashed in any major way. Rich Budinger of the Wisconsin Industrial Sand Association says he wants the state DNR to regulate air and water issues, and not local governments.

Manpower: One-fifth of firms say they'll hire in '14

MILWAUKEE -- About one of every five Wisconsin companies plan to add employees from January through March of next year, according to the quarterly survey from Milwaukee's Manpower group.

Analyst Nicole Langley says employers expect their job prospects to be slightly stronger as the New Year begins. Some 68 percent of Wisconsin employers plan to maintain their current staffing levels while nine percent expect layoffs.

In general, Manpower says the economy is not recovering fast enough to revive the optimism seen before the Great Recession -- but it's not weak enough to be stagnant again. Manpower says Wisconsin's net employment outlook is 11 percent. That's the percentage of firms adding employees, minus those expecting layoffs.

Metro Milwaukee's job picture does not look as bright for the start of 2014. Manpower says the region's employment outlook is a plus seven percent -- only half of what it's been for the current quarter. Nationally, the net outlook is 13 percent, with very little change over the last 18 months.

Manpower executive Jorge Perez says the nation still has a "hangover" from the recession.

Labor leaders urge Kind to oppose new Trans-Pacific trade pact

LA CROSSE -- Local and state labor leaders rallied in La Crosse Monday to urge Congressman Ron Kind to change his mind about supporting a new trade agreement.

The Wisconsin Fair Trade Coalition, led by the AFL CIO's David Newby, is concerned that the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership would send more jobs out of the U.S., and make it harder to protect the environment.

Bill Brockmiller of the western Wisconsin AFL CIO said he's concerned that the 12-nation agreement is on a fast track in Congress, with no chance for amendments.

The labor groups rallied in front of Kind's home office in La Crosse.

Kind, a Democrat, said he's committed to working with unions, farmers, and businesses to promote trade agreements that improve worker standards and the economy.

He noted that Trane ventilating equipment in La Crosse has benefited from a U.S. trade pact with South Korea adopted a year ago. Kind said Trane's exports have doubled since 2009.

Frigid weather to get worse -- before warming

It's downright frigid in Wisconsin -- and it's supposed to get worse before it gets better.

The National Weather Service has issued wind-chill advisories until Thursday morning for the northern half of the Badger State.

Wind chills could plunge to 35-below in many places early Wednesday and Thursday and 45-below at Superior, Bayfield, and other places near Lake Superior.

On Tuesday morning, Superior had a wind-chill of minus-28 at 7 a.m., and an actual temperature of 12-below.

Southwest Wisconsin was the warm spot, if you could call it that. It was 12-above at Prairie du Chien. A wind chill advisory is in effect until Wednesday morning for part of southern Wisconsin from the La Crosse area to about Wisconsin Dells.

The cold snap is the aftermath of an intense storm system in the eastern half of the U.S. in which thousands of people lost their power. That's not a problem in Wisconsin, at least for now. Major utilities reported only a handful of outages Tuesday morning.

By Friday, highs in most of Wisconsin could reach the 20's.

Two state firms in line for major defense contracts

Two Wisconsin firms are in line to get millions of dollars in defense contracts over the next five years.

The federal government has announced a $633 million deal in which Solution Dynamics of Brookfield will provide material-handling equipment to the military. That includes "Big Joe" fork-lifts made in Wisconsin Dells by the firm of Big Lift, which is based in suburban Chicago.

It's not known how much funding the two companies will get.

The Pentagon must still decide how much to spend with a number of companies on a larger suppliers' list from now through 2018.

Suspect in Iron River homicides identified

DULUTH, Minn. -- A man suspected of killing his parents in Bayfield County is under an induced coma at a hospital in Duluth.

Sheriff Paul Susienka said Monday that he expects 44-year-old Jimmy Crain to be charged with first-degree intentional homicide -- but those charges might not come down for a few days.

Jim Crain, 79, and his Eunice "Crickett" Crain, 76, were found in their apartment in Iron River, where their son was said to be staying on a short-term basis.

The sheriff would not say how the parents died, pending the results of autopsies.

He said Jimmy Crain most likely stabbed himself. His mother called 9-1-1 early Saturday evening.

Susienka said it's possible that the younger Crain could be charged without being interviewed by officers -- and he would have to be extradited from Minnesota to Wisconsin.

Online court records show that Jimmy Crain was convicted of disorderly conduct three times over the last decade -- and his father was also convicted of the same charge in one of those cases.

Meanwhile, the family is planning a community pot-luck luncheon to remember the Crains. It will be held Saturday at the Iron River VFW hall.

Murdered man will have organs donated

APPLETON -- A man killed shot and killed an Appleton nightclub will have his organs donated to those who need them, Appleton police said Monday.

A 25-year-old Green Bay man was shot in the head early Sunday at the Luna Lounge. Police believe the man was targeted, and that the shooting was not random.

On Monday, investigators were checking out surveillance video from both inside and outside the nightclub.

No arrests have been reported.

Fire, stand-off ends in Fond du Lac man's arrest

FOND DU LAC -- A Fond du Lac man is in custody after police wanted to question him about a house fire -- and he allegedly shot at officers, and held them at bay for four hours.

The fire broke out at 9 a.m. Monday morning, destroying a estroyed a house on Fond du Lac's west side. An hour later, police were led to a north side complex of manufactured homes. Officials said a resident fired shots at the officers as they arrived. No one was hurt, and a stand-off began as SWAT teams and bomb squads from several locations surrounded the home. Police negotiators got him to leave the building and surrender peacefully just after 2 p.m.

According to the Fond du Lac Reporter, a former resident of the burned-out home told police he believed his brother started it -- and that his brother had weapons and wanted to harm himself.

Police said they found no explosives in the man's current home after the standoff, and an all-clear was issued to neighbors.

They were told to stay indoors, and nearby businesses were ordered closed including a Pick-N-Save grocery store.

Bond set for driver acccused of killing deer hunter

MEDFORD -- A $50,000 bond has been set for an alleged drunk driver accused of killing a deer hunter and injuring another last month.

James Winchel, 42, of Sheldon had a bond hearing in Taylor County, after he was charged with causing homicide and injuries by drunk driving.

The incident happened Nov. 29th near Gilman. Authorities said Winchel was driving at a high rate of speed toward members of a hunting party who were standing on a town road.

Juan Salinas, 52, of Roscoe Ill. was killed, and a relative was hospitalized with injuries. Winchel was also hospitalized when he was first charged last week.

In court Monday, Circuit Judge Ann Knox-Bauer informed the defendant of his right to get a lawyer. He's due back in court Jan. 7th for a formal initial appearance.

Corrections officer, grandson, accused of shoplifting lobster

CRANDON -- A state probation and parole officer and her grandson are both free on $200 bonds, after they allegedly stole lobster from a Crandon grocery store.

Karen Boodry, 55, and Donald Kilbury, 18, are both charged in Forest County with two counts of misdemeanor theft. Both are from rural Crandon.

The incident occurred at Schaefer's Food Mart. According to prosecutors, the meat department manager found an empty lobster box -- and security personnel then watched the store's video which showed Boodry slipping a lobster into her purse. Kilbury was with her at the time.

Media reports said a store employee recognized Kilbury because he used to work there -- and Boodry did not remember what happened because she had been drinking.

New court dates have not been set in the case.

State corrections' officials have not commented about Boodry's job status.

-- Larry Lee, WSAU, Wausau

Former police lieutenant pleads to drug theft

LA CROSSE -- Former La Crosse police lieutenant Brian Thomson pleaded guilty Monday to a felony charge for trying to steal painkillers.

Thomson, 44, reached a plea deal that convicted him of the original charge filed in October by the state Justice Department.

The plea bargain would keep him out of prison. Prosecutors say they'll recommend a one-year county jail sentence, and the defense will ask that it be served with electronic monitoring at home. A sentencing date was not immediately set.

Thomson can no longer possess a firearm -- which means his days as a police officer are done. He spent 15 years on the La Crosse police force before he resigned following his arrest. Officers got suspicious when Thomson started helping clerks file evidence logs and ask co-workers for pain pills.

Officials said Thomson was asked to log evidence of a duffle bag with fake Oxycontin, and the pills were later missing. He also allegedly stole meth-amphetamines seized as evidence.

The La Crosse Tribune said a felony drug case against another man was dropped last week because Thomson tampered with the evidence in that case.

DNR staff urges continued protection for Blanding's Turtle

MADISON -- The state Natural Resources Board will be asked Wednesday to endorse an initial plan to save a rare turtle.

The Blanding's Turtle is scheduled to come off the state's threatened species list on Jan. 1st. It would become fair game for hunting next year, but DNR staffers say the turtle's population is too weak to withstand that kind of pressure. They want the board to pass an emergency rule to keep the turtle protected for next year, and then adopt a permanent rule to maintain protections indefinitely.

The panel will be asked to approve a "scope statement" which would allow DNR staffers to start writing the new rules.

The Blanding's Turtle has seen a 10- to 30-percent drop in its population.

Last spring, the DNR estimated that there were 353 Blanding's Turtles statewide.

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