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Groundbreaking set today for Stillwater Bridge; Little boy dies after parking lot accident; more state news

Decades of legal and political blood have been shed over the new St. Croix River bridge near Hudson.

Now that construction is beginning, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) said she hopes the new four-lane bridge will be symbol of unity and not divisiveness.

A groundbreaking ceremony will be held this afternoon in Stillwater. Minn., for the $630 million bridge. The Gopher and Badger states are splitting the costs of the project, and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker will be among those on hand for the ceremony.

Klobuchar has been a strong supporter of the new bridge against the wishes of some political allies and environmentalists.

A couple years ago, a federal judge in Minneapolis ruled that the new bridge would violate terms of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, under which the St. Croix is protected. That put congressional representatives from both states to work, and a year ago, Congress and President Obama granted an exception from the river act so the bridge could be built.

The new bridge is expected to open in 2016 between Stillwater and Hudson. It will replace the 80-year-old Stillwater Lift Bridge, which will become a bicycle and walking trail.


Little boy dies after parking lot accident

FOND DU LAC COUNTY -- A five-year-old boy killed after being run over by a pickup truck in Fond du Lac County is identified as Sebastian Brunet of Fond du Lac.

Sheriff's deputies said the driver was backing into a parking stall at a restaurant in Mount Calvary on Friday night when the boy ran behind the truck and was hit. Sebastian later died at a Fond du Lac hospital.

The pickup was driven by a 35-year-old Fond du Lac man. The incident remains under investigation.

Meanwhile, a central Wisconsin man killed in a one-car crash on Sunday night was identified as Peter Fisher, 52, of Ringle. Authorities said the car lost control on a curve and flipped into a wooded area on County Road Q in the Marathon County town of Ringle. A 29-year-old Wausau woman who survived the crash was hospitalized in fair condition at last word.


No serious injuries as houseboat tips over at lock and dam

Eleven people escaped serious injuries when their houseboat lost power and was swept over the gates on a Mississippi River lock and dam just west of La Crosse.

The incident happened before 5:30 p.m. yesterday at Lock and Dam No. 7 in Dresbach, Minn.

Six people were taken to a hospital. Authorities said their injuries were not serious. The other five did not need medical treatment.

John Meyer, the fire chief in La Crescent, Minn., said the houseboat flung over the roller gates on the lock and dam unit and then tipped over.

All 11 people on the boat were out of the water when rescuers arrived. Everyone was accounted for.

A fishing boat captain, John Rieple, told the La Crosse Tribune he rescued five of the victims when he saw them clinging to a lifeboat nearby.

Emergency divers tried salvaging the houseboat. It was spotted near the shore with only its top visible.

An investigation continues. Six years ago, a family of four was killed at the Dresbach dam when they were swept under the water after their boat lost power.


Madison spends $15 million on overtime, vacation, sick pay

Remember when Madison's highest-paid city employee was a bus driver?

That's not the case anymore, but the Wisconsin State Journal said bus drivers and other Madison city workers increased their total extra pay in 2012 for the third straight year. The city spent $15 million on overtime, vacation and sick pay - almost 10% more than what the employees got in base pay.

Retired assistant fire chief Gregg Knudtson received the most extra pay last year, with $112,000. Just over $82,000 of that was unused sick pay that was transferred to his ongoing health insurance.

Assistant City Clerk Elena Berg almost doubled her salary with $43,000-plus in overtime. Much of that was due to non-stop elections for all but one month of the year, including the Walker recall vote.

Madison City Clerk Maribeth Witzel-Behl said her office went over its budget by more than a $500,000 due to the extra elections. She said one more worker could have made a huge difference, but, "A lot of agencies could use one more person. There just aren't enough resources."


Four counties still at high risk for wildfires

Wisconsin's wild-fire season is not quite over yet.

A rural Lake Tomahawk man found that out the hard way during the weekend. Authorities said he tossed a cigarette butt on his property and drove into town. The tiny spark started his grass on fire after he left, and about an acre of land was destroyed before the flames burned his barn down.

The incident happened on Saturday in an area with a moderate risk for wildfires.

The state Department of Natural Resources says about the northern quarter of Wisconsin has a moderate fire danger this morning, and four counties along Lake Superior -- Douglas, Bayfield, Ashland and Iron -- have a high risk. The rest of the state has a low risk of wildfires after a wet Memorial Day in many areas.


Missing Lake Superior boaters found safe

Four people on a missing boat in Lake Superior were found safe Monday on Wisconsin's Apostle Islands.

The Coast Guard said Kevin Miller of South Dakota, his wife and two boys were only supposed to be gone for a few hours when they left Silver Bay, Minn., early Sunday afternoon. Authorities got a call late Sunday night from the mother of one of the boys, saying the 23-foot cuddy cabin boat had not returned home as planned.

Rescue teams from Bayfield County, the state of Minnesota and the U.S. Coast Guard looked for the boat. Several helicopters and an airplane joined in the search.

The missing vessel was spotted around 9:10 Monday on a dock at Sand Island, which is one of the Apostles. Its identity was confirmed almost 10 minutes later, and the four boaters who were eventually found unharmed.

Authorities said they spent the night on Sand Island, but it was not immediately known why. Rough weather may have been a reason. The Coast Guard said the boat did not have any mechanical or structural problems.


Woman leads Milwaukee's Memorial Day parade for first time

Retired Air Force Major Gwen Sheppard was the first woman to be the Grand Marshal of the Memorial Day parade in Milwaukee.

She said she was honored to represent female veterans, and it was double the pleasure to represent all women in Wisconsin.

Parade chairwoman Karen Armstrong said she wanted to pay a special tribute to the women who served in the Armed Forces.

Colleen Lemke was also a noted participant. Her son, Army Private Jason Lemke of West Allis, was killed in Iraq in January of 2008 after running over a roadside bomb on a routine patrol.


Bill would ban tax-funded ads by elected officials

A Milwaukee County Board member says taxpayers should not foot the bill for controversial radio ads like those from Sheriff David Clarke.

A public hearing will be held next month on a proposal to consider all tax-funded radio and TV ads by county elected officials as ethics violations.

Clarke made national news earlier this year when he spent $6,000 on ads to encourage residents to learn how to use guns, protect themselves and not rely on 911.

Supervisor Patricia Jursik called such ads a "bad ethical practice." She said they can mislead the public and give an incumbent a tax-funded advantage at election time. Jursik says that if Clarke wants to run such ads, he should use his own campaign funds.

Clarke said on Facebook that Jursik's proposal would "encourage me to become even more vocal."

A Milwaukee County committee considered the advertising ban earlier this month, but the panel did not make a recommendation.


Wisconsin ranks third in boating deaths

Only New York and Florida recorded more boating deaths than the eight seen here in Wisconsin.

Neighboring Minnesota and Michigan combined for just four boating deaths even though they have a very active water recreation scene.

Despite the numbers, a piece of legislation that would have made things tougher on drunken boaters failed to find any traction with state lawmakers.

In the 2011 session, Assemblyman Garey Bies proposed a bill in that would have toughened penalties for people convicted of being drunk while operating a motorboat or other type of recreational vehicle. The bill would have allowed a judge to ban a person from operating a boat or other recreational vehicle for 12 to 16 months after a first drunken-boating offense. The bill would also have made jail time possible and even suspended car driving privileges for a second offense.

The proposal died in committee, but it could be reintroduced this year.


GOP lawmakers back bills for stricter controls on abortions

Republican lawmakers are backing several bills that would make it harder and more expensive to get an abortion in Wisconsin.

Sponsors are being sought for three measures.

Abortion-rights groups in the state say the legislation being pushed right now is just a start.

Some of the bills would prohibit the use of taxpayer money to pay for abortions in the health plans for public employees, make it so religious organizations and some employers wouldn't have to provide coverage for contraceptive pills, ban abortion based on gender and require doctors to properly dispose of fetal remains.