UPDATE: Missing Northland snowmobiler found alive; Sole hearing on mining bill set for this Wednesday, plus more state briefsWisconsin News
Two days after he went missing in sub-zero weather, a Superior man has been found alive, walking on frozen Nemadji River after his sled ran out of fuel. Also majority Republicans say they’ll hold only one public hearing on their bill to encourage new mining in Wisconsin, plus more state briefs.
SUPERIOR -- After being missing for two days and two nights in bitter cold, a snowmobiler from Superior has been found alive and taken to Essentia Health St. Mary’s Medical Center in Duluth for treatment, according to the Superior Fire Department.
A plow operator on County Road W found Craig W. Friebe, 52, on foot on the ice of the Nemadji River at about 8:50 a.m. and called 911 for assistance. The Douglas County Sheriff’s Department responded, and Friebe was transported for treatment of apparent frostbite and signs of hypothermia.
Friebe’s sled apparently ran out of gas far up the river, and he had to walk out of the area where he had been snowmobiling, according to the Superior Fire Department. Battalion Chief Vern Johnson said Friebe had a fire the first night but not Sunday night, when the temperature in the area reached 15 to 20 degrees below zero and wind chills hit 40 below.
Friebe had not been seen since Saturday morning, when he went snowmobiling in the Superior area. The search focused on the Nemadji River and the Tri-County Corridor from Superior to Brule, including the Wild Rivers Trail, running between Superior and Oakland.
The Superior Fire Department and neighboring fire departments began their search for Friebe at 9 a.m. Sunday. That search also included members of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Department; the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources; and firefighters from Superior Township, Parkland Township, Amnicon Township, Maple, Poplar and Brule.
-- Superior Telegram
Hearing set for Wednesday on renewed mining initiative
MADISON -- Majority Republicans say they’ll hold only one public hearing on their bill to encourage new mining in Wisconsin – and that hearing is set for Wednesday, Jan. 23rd in Madison.
Folks in Ashland and Iron counties wanted legislators to come to the place where Republicans are trying to encourage Gogebic Taconite to revive its plans to build an iron ore mine in Ashland and Iron counties.
Attorney Kimberlee Wright of the Bad River Indians said lawmakers are not representing democracy by making those who are most affected drive for hours to southern Wisconsin. Others accused Republicans of trying to bury the word about the hearing by announcing it on a Friday afternoon – when people with a three-day holiday weekend had other things on their minds.
Senate Mining Committee chair Tom Tiffany says lawmakers have been meeting with affected people for months – a hearing was held in the north on a similar package a year ago – and lawmakers have set aside 12 hours on Wednesday, so everyone should have a good opportunity to testify.
Republicans say the mine would provide much-needed jobs to the region. Democrats say it would hurt the environment, while giving people less of a chance to oppose the D-N-R’s decisions. The Bad River tribe is downstream from the Gogebic site – and tribal members fear it would hurt their groundwater, wetlands, and wild rice beds.
Wisconsin well-represented at Obama’s inauguration
WASHINGTON D.C. -- As always, Wisconsin will be well-represented at President Obama’s second inauguration today in the nation’s capital.
Republican House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan of Janesville expects to greet residents from his district who are escaping the sub-zero cold to attend the Washington festivities. Last month, Ryan stirred up speculation that he would seek Obama’s job in 2016 when he spoke at the Jack Kemp Foundation’s conservative awards dinner, but his spokesman Kevin Seifert says the GOP’s 2012 vice presidential nominee will keep politics out of the festivities and “spend the day just like any member of Congress will do.”
On Monday afternoon, Brandon Almagro of New Berlin will join the U.S. Navy Concert Band in marching down Pennsylvania Avenue during the president’s inaugural parade. The state Democratic Party says Wisconsin will not host its own inaugural ball Monday evening but folks have had no shortage of galas to attend all weekend.
Obama and Vice President Joe Biden took their official oaths-of-office Sunday, as required by the Constitution. An estimated 800,000 thousand people were expected to attend Monday's outdoor festivities. Temperatures are expected to reach the relatively balmy 40’s in Washington.
Back home, Gov. Scott Walker was to take part in two major events to honor slain civil rights leader Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King.
Walker was to appear at the annual King Day breakfast at Milwaukee’s main YMCA, and then he is to speak at Wisconsin’s official observance during the noon hour at the State Capitol.
Author and journalist John Fountain will be the main speaker at the Capitol event along with performances from the Latino Arts Strings of Milwaukee, Malcolm Williams and the Voices of Great Faith, the Madison Bag-pipers, and the Ho-Chunk Native American drum and dance ensemble.
King Day is an official state holiday. State and federal offices are closed, and there is no mail delivery. Banks will generally are open and many local governments and public schools were also to be open, mainly in smaller areas.
Family Care expansion likely to generate hot debate
MADISON -- As lawmakers work on a new state budget this spring, one of the biggest items of debate could be an expansion of Wisconsin’s Family Care program.
About three-quarters of the state’s 72 counties offer the 13-year-old Family Care, which provides long-term home care with the goal of keeping lower-income seniors out of nursing homes.
It’s a Medicaid program – funded by both the state and federal governments – which serves just over 40,000 people at a cost of $1.2 billion a year.
In the last session, Gov. Scott Walker and legislative Republicans wanted to cap the program’s enrollment. The federal government later ordered the state to abolish the cap, and to actively look for new clients but Republicans refused to expand the program to the counties which don’t have it.
For this year’s budget, the Health Services Department proposed the present level of funding for Family Care. Deputy Secretary Kitty Rhoades says lawmakers, not bureaucrats, should decide whether the program should be expanded.
The Legislative Fiscal Bureau issued a report this month indicating that Family Care generally saves money in the first year or two where it’s offered, but long-term, the fiscal bureau said costs can rise as the program becomes more regarded as an entitlement.
Rapidly falling temps likely responsible for woman's death
Authorities say Wisconsin’s falling weekend temperatures might have been to blame for the death of a 77-year-old woman from Illinois.
Mary Scudder of Freeport was found dead Saturday night, about 30 feet from where her car was stopped near Argyle in Lafayette County. Authorities are investigating the death, and an autopsy is planned. But sheriff’s deputies said the woman’s exposure to the weather appeared to be a factor.
Temperatures were in the 20’s at the time. Scudder’s family said she was missing since Friday – and she could have been heading to Superior. Argyle is located about 30 miles east of Platteville in far southeastern Wisconsin.
Meanwhile, a search resumed Monday morning for a snowmobiler from Superior who’s been missing since Saturday.
Craig Friebe, 51, was last seen snowmobiling on Saint Louis Bay near the Loon’s Foot Landing in Superior. He told friends he would ride on the bay and the Nemadji River.
The U.S. Coast Guard and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources joined local rescuers all day Sunday looking for Friebe amid sub-zero wind chills. They focused on Superior’s waterfront, the Nemadji River, the Tri-County corridor from Superior to Brule, and the Wild Rivers State Trail before stopping late in the afternoon. Officials said Friebe was known to ride on the two trails, as well as on the frozen ice.
It was -15 with a -34 wind chill at 6 a.m., Monday in Manitowish Waters, near the Upper Michigan border. Wind chills were in the minus-20’s as far south as Prairie du Chien in southwest Wisconsin. Madison and Milwaukee were both above zero in the single digits, with wind-chills in the minus-teens. Parts of the state had a dusting of snow overnight.
The National Weather Service has wind-chill advisories posted until noon Tuesday for most of Wisconsin. Those winds could make it feel like 40-below early Tuesday and residents along Lake Superior could get some lake effect snows over the next couple days.
Temperatures are expected to warm up a bit on Wednesday but forecasters say it will still be a few degrees below normal for the rest of the week.
Taxpayers helping Hispanic-owned businesses grow
MADISON -- For the second year in a row, Wisconsin taxpayers will try to help Hispanic-owned businesses grow.
Gov. Scott Walker says the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation will put another $100,000 into a revolving loan fund operated by the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. The chamber loans the money to new-and-expanding Hispanic firms and when it’s paid back, the money is loaned to other growing companies.
A year ago, the public-private Economic Development Corporation provided another $100,000 to help the loan program get off the ground.
Walker says the state dollars will be leveraged with other public-and-private matching funds to assist businesses and create jobs. He announced the new funding over the weekend at the Hispanic Chamber’s annual gala in Milwaukee.
OWI convictions down markedly
Drunk driving convictions are down by one-third in Wisconsin, but two Republican lawmakers say they’ll keep pressing to toughen operating while intoxicated laws for repeat offenders.
Gannett Wisconsin Media reports that drunk driving convictions have gone down each year from 2006 through 2011.
There were about 28,000 convictions in the final year, down 30 percent in 2006. Numbers for 2012 are not available yet.
State lawmakers passed a series of drunk driving reforms almost three years ago.
State Patrol Captain Nick Scorcio of Fond du Lac says tighter enforcement has also helped, including task forces which go after drunk drivers at key times. Scorcio says drivers are changing their behavior.
Winnebago County’s chief prosecutor isn't so sure. Christian Gossett says many police agencies have not hired new officers due to the economy and he wonders if there are far more drunk drivers than the ability to patrol them.
Meanwhile, Senate Republican Alberta Darling and Assembly Republican Jim Ott, both of suburban Milwaukee, are seeking new reforms for a second straight session. Ott says the goal is to go after repeat offenders – 39-percent of which made up the conviction total for 2011. Ott and Darling want to make first-time OWI a crime for those caught with blood alcohol levels of .15 or higher. They also want felony charges for certain three-time offenders, and mandatory jail-or-prison time for those guilty of causing deaths-or-injuries by driving drunk.
At a time of tight budgets, many lawmakers are concerned about the costs of convicting more people, and housing more of them in prisons.
Federal budget woes prompt reduced office hours
With more Baby Boomers retiring, it might not make sense that Social Security offices are cutting back on their hours, but that’s what’s happening in Wisconsin.
Not long ago, local offices started closing at 3 p.m. instead of 3:30. Then beginning in January, over two dozen Social Security offices in Wisconsin are closing at noon on Wednesdays.
Long-time Social Security administrator Webster Phillips says the office employees are doing what they can, but Congress keeps cutting their funding. He says the cost of running the offices comes from what workers put into Social Security.
Phillips is now with the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare. He says the agency would like to have most of us get services from the Internet but he knows that not everyone can afford Web service.
Sensenbrenner distancing himself from Lance Armstrong
WASHINGTON D.C. -- Wisconsin House Republican Jim Sensenbrenner is among those distancing himself from Lance Armstrong, after the disgraced Tour de France champion admitted using performance-enhancing drugs.
Like many, Sensenbrenner believed Armstrong’s previous denials. Last summer, the former House Judiciary chairman from Menomonee Falls told federal drug control officials that Armstrong has “never failed a drug test despite having been tested over 500 times.”
Sensenbrenner co-sponsored a bill to require anti-doping officials to give athletes a fair hearing and a chance to prepare a defense. The bill never went anywhere.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Monday that Sensenbrenner won’t talk about it.
His news secretary, Amanda Infield, said the bill was “never about Armstrong or any specific athlete or case … This is a question of fairness.” Armstrong’s admission, Infield said "Mr. Sensenbrenner is pleaded that the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency reached the right outcome in catching an athlete that doped and cheated to win.”
Meanwhile, Trek Bicycles of Waterloo – which made the bikes on which Armstrong won his seven Tour de France titles – said it cut ties with Armstrong last year after the Anti-Doping report came out which resulted in Armstrong losing his tour titles.
Trek said it had nothing to do with Armstrong’s new admission and “We watched the interview like others, and will monitor the development of his statements.”
Victim of lake ATV accident identified
FOND DU LAC -- A man killed after his all-terrain vehicle fell into Lake Winnebago has been identified as 42-year-old Chad Davis of Sherwood.
Calumet County authorities said Davis was driving his ATV near High Cliff State Park on Saturday, when he fell into open water on the lake.
A companion made it across the opening and Davis tried to follow that machine but fell in. Officials said he was underwater for about an hour before Calumet County divers recovered the body.
A medical examiner said Davis died from accidental drowning.