Share of young border-crossers may come to Madison; Door County apple, cherry crops hit by hail; 10 more state news stories
MADISON -- Madison is the latest Wisconsin city to consider housing some of thousands of unaccompanied children entering the U.S. at its border with Mexico.
Mayor Paul Soglin told the Wisconsin State Journal the federal government is looking for about 90,000 square feet of space that can be leased. It has to be available immediately, and have adequate security. Soglin says there does not appear to be any disadvantages to the idea. It would house up to 250 unaccompanied children for 30- to 60 days, while hearings determine whether they'll stay with relatives in the U.S. or go back to their home country.
Last week, the Federal Emergency Management Agency made a similar request to Catholic Charities' leaders in Milwaukee.
Over 57,000 unaccompanied children have arrived at the U.S. Mexico border since last October. Most are from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala.
Hail takes toll on Door County apple, cherry crops
STURGEON BAY -- Door County's fruit crops took a big hit from Wisconsin's latest hailstorm on Monday night.
Bob Fellner of rural Sturgeon Bay tells WLUK TV that his 60-acre apple crop was wiped out. Not far away, Debbie Musil said about half her cherry orchard was lost.
At the Peninsula Ag Research Station, officials said every type of crop on its 20-acre site was damaged -- including corn, wheat, and perennial fruits.
Witnesses said hail stayed on the ground for hours into Tuesday when Cherry Hills Golf Course closed its front nine holes because they were unplayable.
The storm was accompanied by a large drop in temperatures.
Sturgeon Bay was among several cities which had record-cold high temperatures Tuesday, with 63.
Madison, Marshfield, Oshkosh, Appleton, and Rhinelander also had record-low afternoon highs, none of which hit 70.
Tomahawk had the state's coldest reading at 5 a.m., Wednesday with just 37 degrees.
Forecasters predicted warmer weather Wednesday with highs in the low-to-mid-70's statewide under partly cloudy skies.
The gradual warming continues for the rest of the week, but forecasters say we won't see 80 again until Saturday.
A Door County sheriff's deputy snapped this photo through squad windshield Monday evening in the Town of Sevastopol. Heavy hail accumulated up to four inches deep in some areas. The photo was posted to the department's Facebook page.
Treasurer candidates want duties returned to that office
MADISON -- Three of the four candidates for Wisconsin state treasurer say the task of returning people's unclaimed property should be returned to the treasurer's office.
Lawmakers transferred that duty to the Revenue Department last year. Since then, media reports said a backlog of property claims rose by over 600 percent, to 7,825 as of Tuesday.
For years, returning property like uncashed tax refunds and forgotten bank accounts was the treasurer's most high-profile job, but the Republican governor and Legislature eliminated virtually all the duties of the treasurer and secretary of state, after previous constitutional amendments to eliminate both offices went nowhere.
Now, after the news of the backlog, Republican candidate Randy Melchert and Democrats David Sartori and Dave Leeper all say the unclaimed property returns should go back to the treasurer's domain. Republican Matt Adamczyk favors eliminating the treasurer's post entirely. Adamczyk does not deny that property claims have risen -- but he says the Revenue Department has apparently been completing them within the 90-day time limit set by state law.
The four candidates hope to replace Republican Treasurer Kurt Schuller, who's not running again.
Chicago firm wants to buy idled nuclear plant
KEWAUNEE -- A Chicago area company wants to buy the Kewaunee Nuclear Power Plant that closed just over a year ago in eastern Wisconsin, but the current owners say it's not for sale.
RGA Labs still plans to make its pitch to area officials and residents Thursday evening. RGA president Robert Abboud told WBAY TV in Green Bay that his firm would pay millions in cash for the nuclear plant, and re-start the production of electricity.
Dominion Resources of Virginia closed the Kewaunee plant after utilities which had bought the facility's power found it cheaper to make their power using natural gas.
Dominion has been busy preparing to move spent fuel from inside the plant, and proceeding to a new stage of decommissioning the facility.
Read more about the company here: http://www.rgalabs.com/
Fulfilling 'Common Core' test requirements raises issues in some districts
Educators were among those who warded off a GOP effort to drop Wisconsin's Common Core school standards.
Now, some school officials wonder if they'll be ready for the state exams that will be based on those standards next spring for the first time.
The Cedarburg School Board is expected to decide this week if it will ask the state to delay the new testing, which will be online for the first time.
Rural school districts like Antigo wonder if they have enough bandwidth in their new wireless Internet service to adequately run the exams.
Technology consultant Carol Hughes, a former official in the Oak Creek-Franklin schools, wonders if students are ready for the new type of testing in which more questions will be require text writings, instead of mainly multiple-choice items.
The state reading and math tests are scheduled to be based on the tougher Common Core standards.
The Department of Public Instruction recently sought proposals from outside firms to create formats for the new tests.
Most Wisconsin schools are said to be making varied progress of aligning its instruction to the Common Core standards. Some youngsters have taken practice exams with the new format.
Sensenbrenner, Ribble vote against highway funding bill
WASHINGTON D.C. -- Wisconsin Republicans Jim Sensenbrenner and Reid Ribble voted no Tuesday, when the U.S. House approved emergency funds for transportation projects.
The vote was 367- to 55 to approve $11 billion in new money, amid a threat that funds for 117,000 projects would start drying up at the end of July.
The bill would transfer almost $10 billion from the federal government's general fund, plus a billion from another trust fund.
The general fund transfers would be paid for with higher customs' fees, and a pension "smoothing" process that critics call "smoke and mirrors."
The Senate is working on its own package which would tap into a host of other federal pots of money as well.
Restaurant hostage-taker strikes plea deal
SHAWANO -- A man accused of holding a McDonald's manager hostage in Wittenberg will find out Aug. 26th where he'll serve a mental health commitment.
Travis Keiler of Gillett struck a plea deal Tuesday in Shawano County Circuit Court. It found him innocent-by-insanity on felony charges of taking hostages, and not complying with officers while in custody. Two misdemeanor counts were dropped.
Keiler surrendered after a two-hour-long standoff April 22 at a combined McDonald's and Shell gas station off Hwy. 29.
Keiler told officers he had just quit a job, and was driving around with a stolen gun before stopping in Wittenberg.
Officials earlier said that Keiler wanted to get into a confrontation with police, and he gave others a chance to leave before holding the manager hostage. No one was hurt.
For now, Keiler remains in jail under a $50,000 bond.
-- Raymond Neupert, WSAU, Wausau
Gas edges down slightly
Wisconsin's average gas price dropped by another penny a gallon Wednesday morning, as tensions eased over possible cuts in Iraq's oil production.
The AAA said the average statewide price was $3.61 for regular unleaded. That's 5.5 cents less than a week ago, and almost 12 cents less than in mid-June.
Patrick DeHaan of GasBuddy.com says the price drops should continue. He says some stations could cut their prices by 20 cents over the next week or two
DeHaan says the big rise in U.S. oil production puts the country in a good market position. He says the domestic output is on pace to surpass what Saudi Arabia produces.
-- Ken Krall, WXPR, Rhinelander
Twenty percent of Milwaukee Co. workers tapped FMLA in 2013
MILWAUKEE -- Taxpayers in Wisconsin's largest county spent $2.5 million last year to pay replacements for employees who took unpaid leave.
The national Family & Medical Leave Act allows workers to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for specific health and family reasons.
The leave begins after workers use up their vacations and other paid time off.
A new report says about one of every five Milwaukee County employees took family and medical leave in 2013.
The ratio was much larger than a similar-sized county that includes Pittsburgh, where one in 17 workers took family leave.
Milwaukee County is dealing with the subject after Sheriff David Clarke reportedly tried to fire a woman who performed activities on leave that a medical certification had said were restricted.
County Executive Chris Abele said those who abuse the Family & Medical Leave Act have been reduced following the hiring of the county's new risk management director Amy Pechacek.
High Court ruling clarifies breadth of consent-searches
MADISON -- If you get stopped for a traffic violation, and the police want to search your briefcase, don't ask, "Got a warrant for that?" The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled on a 4-to-3 vote that the phrase was too ambiguous for a passenger to withdraw a driver's consent for a search and it was too vague for an officer to ask a suspect to clarify the remark.
The traffic stop occurred in August of 2010, when a Sheboygan County deputy stopped Derik Wantland and his brother from Random Lake, for having a defective brake light.
The driver consented to a vehicle search and the officer grabbed Wantland's briefcase when that person asked if he got a warrant.
The deputy kept opening the briefcase and found four narcotic pills.
Wantland was charged with illegal drug possession -- and he tried but failed to prevent a jury from hearing about the search.
On Wednesday, justices will hear a case on whether the University of Wisconsin system had the right to ban a frequent protester from its campuses.
The court is expected to rule on a case involving former Stevens Point student Jeffrey Decker. He was barred from university property in 2011, after he attended meetings of the U-W Board of Regents and various campus bodies to protest policies on student fees.
Decker believed that UW officials had illegally blocked access by students to the fees they pay for various programs and facilities. A Dane County judge issued a restraining order against Decker, but the Fourth District Appeals Court struck down 18 months ago.
The appellate judges said Decker's factions were not harassing, and his behavior was legitimate because it was related to protests.
Jeffrey Decker is a son of former Senate Democratic Majority Leader Russ Decker.
Abusive 'sitter gets 40 years for killing child
REEDSBURG -- A 27-year-old baby sitter will spend at least 40 years in prison, for inflicting injuries that ultimately killed the four-month-old girl she was watching. The baby of skull fractures and a broken leg after being on life support for several days at a Milwaukee children's hospital.
Jeannette Janusiak of Reedsburg claims that somebody else caused Payten Shearer's injuries, and she wrote Sauk County Circuit Judge Patrick Taggart to beg for leniency.
The judge, however, said the evidence against her was "overwhelming."
Janusiak was given a mandatory life prison sentence this week, after a jury found her guilty of first-degree intentional homicide. The state recommended extended supervision after 75 years, while the defense called for a 20-year term before release hearings. Taggart decided to keep Janusiak behind bars until at least 2054, when she's 67. The victim was a daughter of Janusiak's friend. Angela Shearer told the judge that she still can't fully understand how her friend could have hurt Payten.
Janusiak made it clear she'll appeal. In her words, "Me and my family are losing our lives for a life I didn't take."
OWI driver sentenced in crash that killed her mom
A southern Wisconsin woman will spend the next 25 years on probation, for causing a drunk driving crash that killed her mother.
Barbara Dorshorst, 47, of Poynette pleaded no contest to homicide by OWI. A count of having a prohibited blood alcohol level was dropped in a plea deal.
Authorities said an SUV driven by Dorshorst veered off a road and slammed into a tree last December.
Caroline Hebel, 78, Dorshorst's mother, was a passenger in the SUV. She died in the accident.
Besides the probation, Dorshorst must spend a year in jail, and attend counseling sessions for the next 10 years.