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Thousands of mussels must be moved for new St. Croix bridge; officer death investigated at Wauwatosa; database tracks nursing home flu study, more briefs

STILLWATER, Minn. -- The new St. Croix River bridge near Hudson - which needed President Obama's approval earlier this year - cannot be built until over 7,000 mussels are moved away.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources says divers will dig up both protected and non-protected mussels next spring and move them upstream and out of harm's way.

DNR biologist Lisie Kitchel told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that 15 species of mussels will be moved, including three federally protected critters are vital for consuming algae and providing food for other aquatic life on the St. Croix.

Kitchel figures it will cost around $50,000 to save the latest group of mussels. Back in 1989, the Journal Sentinel reported that it cost around $100,000 to remove 41 rare mussels from the St. Croix when a new bridge was built into Minnesota from Prescott.

Kitchel said the mussels are found in river beds with good diversity and the diversity will be preserved after the latest mussels are moved.

Congressional and White House approvals were needed to build the new four-lane bridge because the project required an exemption from the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.

Minnesota House Republican Michele Bachmann helped push the measure through with the aid of federal lawmakers from both Minnesota and Wisconsin.

It's expected to open in 2016 between Houlton and Stillwater and it will replace an 80-year-old two-lane lift bridge.


No booze on Rosebowl truck this year, officials promise

MADISON -- The UW-Madison athletic department is packing a lot gear to take to Pasadena for the Rose Bowl in eight days, but one thing it won't be taking this time is alcohol.

That's after what happened a year ago when former Associate Athletic Director John Chadima allegedly molested a student during a Rose Bowl party he hosted with money from boosters.

Chadima resigned in January after a party for athletic student workers at a team hotel in Los Angeles last Dec. 30.

In May the UW approved an interim policy that governs the use of alcohol at athletic department events both on and off the Madison campus. It forbids alcohol from events like team banquets, letter presentations and graduation programs.

Beer and booze are allowed at other events, but taxpayer money cannot be used, and student athletes and managers cannot be served, even if they're with their parents.

UW-Madison said Chadima violated previous alcohol policies and they were given a review after Athletic Director Barry Alvarez said the department's oversight appeared to get lax.


Graduation held at Brookfield church may have violated Constitution

MILWAUKEE -- The U.S. Supreme Court has been asked to decide whether two Brookfield high schools violated the Constitution, when they held graduation ceremonies in a large church.

The Elmbrook School District has filed a petition asking the justices to consider a federal appeals court ruling from August. It said Brookfield East and Central high schools violated the separation of church and state when it held its commencements in the double-decked Elmbrook Church during most of the last decade.

The appeals court sided with the Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, saying that a giant cross and other symbols in the church sent a message that the government was endorsing a particular religion.

School officials said it was a moot point at the time, because the ceremonies were being moved to a newly built field house.

In late August, the School Board voted 5-2 to ask the Supreme Court to throw out the church-and-state argument. The two dissenters did not believe the district would win its case, but School Board President Tom Gehl said if the district didn't appeal, it would be an admission that thousands who took part in the church commencements violated the Constitution.

There's only about a 2% chance that the Supreme Court will take the case based on the numbers of cases it rejects.


Possible officer shooting under investigation

MILWAUKEE -- Christmas Eve appeared to be off to a tragic start in the Milwaukee suburb of Wauwatosa, where a police officer was reported to be "down."

As of 7:10 a.m., officials weren't releasing details, but a medical examiner had been summoned to the scene. Wauwatosa police have confirmed that an officer was dead, and it did not appear to have been natural causes.

WTMJ radio in Milwaukee said officers were looking for a suspect and officers were protecting the downtown fire station.


Car-buggy crash near Osseo injures one

OSSEO -- An 18-year-old Fairchild woman was airlifted after a car struck a horse and buggy entering Hwy. 10 from a private driveway Sunday.

Lydia E. Borntreger suffered serious injuries and was flown from the town of Garfield scene to an area hospital. The buggy driver, Edward Borntreger, 20, was not hurt, nor was the driver of the car, Chantel A. Formeister, 18, of Eau Claire.

The State Patrol said Formeister was eastbound on Hwy. 10 near County Road M when she was unable to avoid hitting the buggy which had pulled into her path.


Robber gets 5 1/2 years for 10 bank heists

BEAVER DAM -- A man convicted of robbing 10 banks in southeast Wisconsin has been sentenced to almost 5 1/2 years in a federal prison.

Michael Scott, 37, of Beaver Dam had pleaded guilty to a 10-count federal robbery indictment. Authorities said Scott normally wore sunglasses and a baseball cap when he passed notes to tellers demanding cash and not to press their alarms.

Federal Judge J.P. Stadtmueller said the tellers suffered trauma that was "profound and long-lasting."

The robberies occurred between April 23 and July 13 at banks in Kenosha, Delafield, Oconomowoc, Richfield, Hartford, Fond du Lac, Westfield, West Bend and Germantown.

Scott was arrested at a gas station in Milwaukee soon after the final bank hold-up at Germantown.


Flu has hit hard at Wisconsin nursing homes

A new database shows that Wisconsin nursing homes have been hit hard by gastro-intestinal illnesses over the last three years.

The national investigative reporting group ProPublica says at least six Wisconsin home residents died and 1,500 residents and staffers had gastro-related illnesses. The group says it's partially because staffers did not control spreads of the novovirus and other diseases which are highly contagious.

The database includes three years of inspection reports from almost 400 Wisconsin nursing homes and long-term care units that take federal funding and that's almost every facility.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel analyzed the Wisconsin data and found that over 1,000 nursing home residents and 472 staffers had gastro-intestinal illnesses in the three years listed.

The six deaths were at the Lasata Care Center in Cedarburg where a novovirus outbreak also hospitalized two residents and sickened 140 others in late 2010 and early 2011. Some 80 staffers were affected and only 38 residents avoided getting sick.

Lasata was fined $5,400. Deficiencies are ranked from "A" through "L" according to their severity. Only four Wisconsin nursing homes were found to have the worst category of deficiencies this year, and three were in Milwaukee - the Sunrise, Lake Terrace and Cameo centers. The other one was the Brookfield Rehab and Specialty Center.

Readers can check inspection data on any nursing home in the database, located at


Learn about wolves at Grantsburg seminar

GRANTSBURG -- State officials will hold a wolf-tracking workshop in January near Grantsburg in northwest Wisconsin.

The one-day session is planned for Jan. 12 at the Crex Meadows Wildlife Education and Visitor Center in Burnett County.

Those who take part will learn various skills for tracking wolves -- things like understanding footprints, identifying signs and interpreting gait.

There will be training both in the classroom and the field. Those completing the course can help DNR experts keep track of carnivore as volunteer trackers.

More information is available at the DNR's Website, accessible at


Church rebuilding after arson fire

A northeast Wisconsin church that was heavily damaged by fire in March is getting its own second birth at Christmas.

Repairs are about halfway complete at the Klondike Community Church in Oconto County. Volunteer Don Holtger told WLUK TV in Green Bay that the goal is to get the steeple up by the end of the year.The steeple is an exact replica one of that burned in the spring. An identical cross will go up at the altar, he said.

The repairs cost around $700,000.

Building owner Theresa Schaut said money is tight, but lots of folks have donated their time and materials, and progress is being made slowly but surely.

Christmas Eve services will be held in the basement of the nearly 100-year-old church.

Officials said Drew Christensen, 28, admitted setting the church fire and five others in the region. He has only been charged with setting two smaller fires in Oconto County. The status of those cases will be reviewed in mid-February.