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Funnel clouds continue to plague state; Search goes on for dangerous felon; 12 more state news briefs

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A funnel cloud was spotted north of Wausau last evening. It didn't touch down, but it still marked the fourth day in the last five in which Wisconsin had at least some type of tornadic activity.

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The National Weather Service reported no storm damage where last night's twister was spotted, and the Wisconsin Public Service utility reported no power outages in the Wausau area this morning.

The same cannot be said for southeast Wisconsin where almost 5,400 We Energies are still in the dark after high winds on Monday. The utility expects everyone to have their power back by tonight.

Meanwhile, the Weather Service now confirms three tornadoes in Iowa and Dane counties late Sunday night. Two twisters landed at the same time north and northwest of Dodgeville at 10:30 p.m. Both were rated F2, causing much building and tree damage.

This morning, Wisconsin Power and Light reported 140 customers still without electricity in Iowa County. An F1 tornado landed north of Oregon in Dane County just before 11:30 p.m. Sunday, causing heavy tree damage.

Forecasters say southern Wisconsin will get more scattered rain showers today.

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Search goes on for dangerous felon

A search continues for a man suspected of stealing at least six vehicles in central and western Wisconsin since he left prison on June 10.

On Monday night, authorities said Eric Hall, 38, was hiding out at a friend's house near Vesper in central Wisconsin. Wood County sheriff's deputies were called, and they said a male resident claimed Hall wasn't there. That was when Hall was said to have stolen the man's pickup truck. That man was arrested for obstructing an officer.

Yesterday Jackson County authorities said Hall took another vehicle in Merrillan. Officials were not sure where he went after that.

Hall is now facing a warrant for violating probation. Last month, authorities said he may have stolen up to four vehicles in western Wisconsin just days after leaving prison. One vehicle had a shotgun and a rifle plus hundreds of rounds of ammunition. Another belonged to a volunteer firefighter and had an emergency light and siren inside.

Authorities consider Hall armed and dangerous. They warn people not to approach Hall if they see him but instead to call 9-1-1 immediately.

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Statewide assessment: Heroin use on the rise all over Wisconsin

Heroin abuse in Wisconsin has escalated for the last six years and shows no signs of abating, according to a statewide assessment conducted over the past year by the FBI and other agencies.

The report says drug dealers have found heroin to be a cheaper alternative to prescription drugs. Most heroin enters the U.S. from Mexico and South America and reaches Wisconsin through Minneapolis, Chicago and Rockford, Ill.

Users are generally white men, age 21 to 25, who start out abusing opiates like Percocet and Vicodin.

The report says one hit can cost around $15 in Milwaukee, but twice that much in Green Bay due to supply and demand. Local police officials have mentioned that before.

The FBI's John Kumm said Wisconsin is the only state that has done a statement assessment, but he cautions that it's not complete because data is not available in all parts of the state.

For example, the report found 187 heroin overdose deaths in Wisconsin in 2012, but some death certificates only list "drug abuse" as a cause of death, and those are not counted in these figures. Still, the ones we do know of are about three times the 67 heroin deaths reported in 2008.

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DNR to campers: Don’t even think about fireworks

Leave your fireworks at home.  That's what the Department of Natural Resources is telling campers at Wisconsin state parks and forests over the Fourth of July.

The DNR says most fireworks are illegal in park facilities. Sparklers and snakes are allowed, but rangers are discouraging their use as well because they're fire hazards.

The DNR says those who are caught with illegal fireworks can be fined up to $200.  Also those who start wildfires are liable for the damages, and the costs of sending firefighters out. If kids cause the fires, their parents will get the bill.

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As rains continue, cleanup continues at Colfax school

The cleanup continues at the public school in Colfax in northwest Wisconsin, but this week's rain has made the job harder.

A tornado caused an estimated $1 million in damage to the facility on Friday. The next day, more than two inches of rain dampened some of the exposed areas in classrooms.

Superintendent Bill Yingst said parts of the floor are being dried out, and only then will officials know if it can be salvaged. He's not sure how much damage there is in the gymnasium where the floor was soaked.

Yingst said the $1 million damage estimate was mainly the result of what happened to the school's roof. It might be a couple months before a final damage amount is known.

In the meantime, cleanup work rolls on with a goal of having the school ready for classes in September. Also, a special mowing device has been brought in to remove broken glass from an athletic field. Colfax is continuing its summer school classes in an undamaged part of the building.

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Crandon mayor recall vote set for July 29

Voters in Crandon will decide July 29 whether to recall their mayor.

Incumbent Rob Jaeger will run against Dennis Rosa, who filed nomination papers by yesterday's deadline.

About 200 people signed petitions to force the recall vote, but the City Council didn't want to hold it originally. Council members voted against an election last week, but state officials said Crandon has no choice but to proceed with the vote. Aldermen went along this week with one still voting no.

Recall organizers have accused the mayor of trying to fire certain city employees, going around committees and not letting people speak at public meetings.

City Clerk Cindy Bradley said a recall is a new concept for Crandon, partially because the mayor's term was recently lengthened from two years to four.

State law requires elected officials to serve at least one year before being eligible for recall. That means those serving two-year terms would be up for election anyway, almost in the amount of time it might take to complete a recall petition and voting process.

--Natalie Jablonski, WXPR, Rhinelander

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Justice officials finish review of excessive force complaint; results not released yet

The state Department of Justice has completed its review of an arrest in April by a Green Bay police officer which drew complaints about excessive force.

The police department said it received the state's report yesterday, but it's too early to disclose the findings. Officials are not sure when they'll be made public.

A video on YouTube showed Green Bay Officer Derek Wicklund pushing a man against a car, throwing him to the ground and punching him.

The Green Bay Press-Gazette said the state considered whether the officer's behavior was consistent with basic officer training. A justice department spokeswoman would not say what the conclusion was.

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Half of Wisconsin schools will get more state aid

Just over half of Wisconsin's 422 public school districts will get higher state aid in the coming year, according to preliminary estimates released yesterday by the Department of Public Instruction.

Total general school aids are up 2.1% statewide to almost $4.5 billion. Even so, 197 districts will get less because of how they fit into the state's funding formula.

The statewide aid package is still less than what it was in 2011 before Republicans dramatically cut state support and urged schools to get the funding back themselves by finding savings through the Act 10 union bargaining limits.

Also school districts are sharing their aid with a growing number of private schools that get tax-funded vouchers to teach low-income kids.

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Whooping crane re-introduction results disappointing

It's been 14 years since Wisconsin baby whooping cranes have migrated to Florida each winter to try to raise populations of the endangered bird in the Eastern U.S. However, experts say adult cranes have still not been able to produce enough chicks that survive as adults.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says almost 250 cranes have been released into the wild in Wisconsin since 2001, but only 95 are now living.

The Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership, a group of public and private agencies, said a record 13 cranes hatched in the wild this past year, but ten have died, apparently from predators. The partnership notes that no whooping crane re-introduction has ever truly succeeded, and all of them are fraught with challenges.

New strategies have been tried which increase baby cranes' natural time with adults. Supporters say it should take 3-5 years to see if the new efforts succeed. If not, it remains uncertain whether the project might be shut down.

A similar crane reintroduction effort to the west has fared better. Officials say a connection between Alberta and Texas has resulted in 300 living cranes.

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Corn, soybean crops doing well despite heavy rains

Most of Wisconsin's corn and soybean crops are making it through the rainy season quite nicely.

Eighty percent of the state's corn is rated good to excellent, along with 77% of the soybeans.

However, almost daily thunderstorms over the past week have made fields too soggy to hold farm equipment in a number of counties, and rain ponds are not helping.

Eau Claire's total rainfall is 5.8 inches above normal since June 1. Madison is 3.5 inches above normal, and La Crosse and Milwaukee have around two more inches of rain than the norm.

Officials say nitrogen deficiency is starting to show up in some of the corn fields. Thirty-seven percent of Wisconsin topsoil has excess moisture, and the rest are adequate. Almost 90% of the state's first hay crop is in, along with 9% of second-crop alfalfa.

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Girls accused of stabbing another due back in court

Two 12-year-old Waukesha girls are due back in adult court this morning on charges that they stabbed a classmate to pay homage to a fictional horror character.

A judge is expected to review the results of an exam to determine if Morgan Geyser is mentally able to help with her defense. Also, the judge will be asked to make prosecutors turn over evidence to the public defender for the other girl, Anissa Weyer.

Both are charged with attempted homicide after they allegedly stabbed a 12-year-old girl 19 times May 30 to curry favor with the online character Slender Man. The victim has been recovering at home.

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Administration dept. releases list of 10 properties considered for sale

The state Department of Administration has announced ten state-owned properties that could eventually be sold.

The current state budget allows the administration to sell facilities that are under-used or could make profits for taxpayers. The list includes the former Knapp House governor's mansion on the UW-Madison campus, the former Ethan Allen boys detention center at Wales, the Northern Wisconsin Center for the developmentally disabled at Chippewa Falls, an airplane hangar at Madison's airport, and heating and cooling plants which serve state facilities.

Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch stressed that the properties would only be sold if it's "prudent and logical." Seven firms will analyze the properties and their possible sale value.

The sales would occur in the next two-year budget period, starting in 2015, with a goal of reducing the state's debt. Some properties could be sold outright while others might have lease-back arrangements for users.

Senate Democrat Fred Risser of Madison said the lease-back concept does not make economic sense.

"It just creates a layer of middlemen who cash in on the taxpayer dollar,” he said.

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Roundy’s distribution center closing will leave 200 jobless

Wisconsin's largest grocery chain will close its distribution center in Stevens Point, putting almost 200 people out of work.

Roundy's told state officials yesterday that most employees would be released by the end of August, and the shutdown would be complete by the end of September.

The company blames the closure on the sales of more than two dozen Roundy-owned stores in the Minneapolis-St. Paul areas, which obtained its grocery items from the Stevens Point facility. The firm said it would move the center's operations in phases to similar facilities in Oconomowoc and Mazomanie.

Media reports said Roundy's plans to revitalize its grocery business in southeast Wisconsin where it has Pick-N-Save and Metro Market stores. The firm also plans to grow in the Chicago area.

Roundy's operates a total of 174 supermarkets and 110 pharmacies in Wisconsin, Illinois and Minnesota.

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Archbishop involved in scandal will apparently remain in Milwaukee

One of the central figures in the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal of the last decade will apparently be staying in Milwaukee.

Retired archbishop Rembert Weakland was planning to move back to a Benedictine monastery in Latrobe, Penn., where he started his religious life.  However he told the Milwaukee Catholic Herald that the archabbot at the monastery has asked him to postpone his move indefinitely.

Weakland, 87, was Milwaukee's archbishop for 25 years until it became known that he used almost $500,000 in church funds as hush money to keep a former male lover quiet. Weakland retired in 2002 after that got out.

The Journal Sentinel said Weakland was going to be honored by priests at a farewell luncheon July 17, but the event drew criticism from victims of priest sex abuse.

Former archdiocese vice chancellor James Connell sent an open letter to Weakland asking him to cancel the lunch and take steps to address survivors' concerns. Weakland said he wanted to get back to the monastic routine by moving back to Pennsylvania, but that won't appear to work out.

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