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Xcel outage helps fuel Red Wing economy; Court date set in St. Croix turkey hunt shooting; Walker says he’ll go after jobs; 12 more state briefs

RED WING, Minn. -- Hundreds of extra workers are flooding the area as the refueling outage at Xcel Energy’s Prairie Island nuclear plant gets underway.

Work at Unit 2 began at 12:01 a.m. Saturday, according to Xcel.

During the outage, about 1,500 contractors will help plant staff install two new steam generators, replace a third of the unit’s fuel and perform other maintenance.

That influx of personnel -- and potential temporary residents -- is a “great economic engine for our community,” Red Wing Chamber of Commerce President Patty Brown said. “It’ll have a very positive impact on area businesses.”

For example, hotels and rental housing are quickly filling, she said. Restaurants and stores also likely will see more business during the outage.

“They’re basically living here in our city for three to four months,” Brown said of the contractors.

In the months leading up to the outage, the chamber worked to find housing for the visiting workers. The goal is to keep them near Red Wing rather than commuting from the Twin Cities or the south, she said.

Each of the two 550-megawatt reactors at Prairie Island is refueled about every 18 months. Unit 1 remains at full power during Unit 2’s outage.

--Forum News Service


Court date set in St. Croix turkey hunt shooting

A turkey hunter is due in court Oct. 24 after being charged in St. Croix County with shooting and wounding an off-duty Minnesota sheriff's official.

Prosecutors said Anthony Cardarelli, 27, was sitting in a tree near Somerset when he heard something move in a brushy area and shot at what he thought was a turkey. It turned out to be Washington County sheriff's Commander Jerry Cusick, who was scouting land at the time for an upcoming turkey hunt. The incident happened April 30.

Cusick was hit at close range, mostly in the face and neck, by nearly 60 pellets. He has since recovered and returned to work.

Cardarelli is from White Bear Lake, Minn. Officials said he did not have permission to hunt where he was. Cardarelli is charged with a felony count of second-degree reckless endangerment.


Walker says he’ll go after jobs

Gov. Scott Walker told Wisconsin county leaders yesterday that he's optimistic about the economy and that he’ll hold a meeting in the Hudson area to invite Minnesota companies to move here.

He did not, however, mention his 2010 campaign promise to create a 250,000 private sector jobs in his current four-year term.

Walker told the Wisconsin Counties Association's annual meeting that economic success is not about reaching a number. He did mention that 134,000 jobs were lost in Wisconsin when Democrat Jim Doyle was the governor during the Great Recession. Recent federal figures show that Wisconsin had created about a third of the 250,000 jobs in the Walker promise -- more than halfway into his term.

Walker also told the counties group that he'll soon hold a meeting in the Hudson area to tell companies from neighboring Minnesota what the Badger State has to offer. He cited a similar meeting near the Illinois border that brought several firms to Wisconsin, including the U-Line shipping products company.

Walker also promised he would disclose details this week on the latest economic proposals he wants the Legislature to consider in October.


Time-release coatings on painkillers prompt turn to heroin

Heroin abuse is a problem in all of Wisconsin -- and officials hope to convince you of that during a public awareness campaign that begins today.

State Attorney General JB Van Hollen will hold a news conference in Madison with that city's police and fire chiefs and the Dane County sheriff. They'll highlight the impact of heroin use in the Madison area.

Similar news conferences are planned for tomorrow in Wausau, Eau Claire, Appleton and Sheboygan.

Marathon County sheriff's official Gary Schneck said in May that more drug abusers in central Wisconsin have turned to heroin. He said it was after drug makers added time-release coatings to painkillers like Oxycontin to try to cut down on their abuse.

In late June, Van Hollen said the new awareness campaign would be coupled with grants to local law enforcement to fight heroin abuse. At that time, he said there's no simple solution to fight the increase in heroin use so the state's approaching it from every angle it can.


Man accused in sex sting kills himself

WAUSAU -- One of 19 people arrested in a pair of sexual sting operations has taken his own life.

Brian Uttecht, 39, of Kronenwetter, southeast of Wausau, was arrested last Friday and released from jail Monday night on a signature bond.

Police said Uttecht was found dead Tuesday morning at his home from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. That happened before he could be charged with a misdemeanor count of soliciting a prostitute.

Uttecht and three women were arrested in the Wausau prostitution sting. At the same time, 15 men in eastern Wisconsin were nabbed for allegedly seeking sex with minors who turned out to be law enforcement officers.

Wausau Police Lieutenant Bill Kolb told the city's Daily Herald newspaper that prostitutes and illegal escorts are more prevalent in the area thanks to new technology. Kolb sold street prostitutes are a thing of the past as women and their customers use social media sites to hook up.


Drunken driver pleads guilty in crash that killed two

A Fond du Lac County man has pleaded guilty to killing a couple from Eden in a drunk-driving crash.

Daniel Shea, 25, of Campbellsport was convicted Tuesday on two counts of drunken homicide. A third count of causing injury by OWI was dropped in a plea deal.

Shea is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 1. Prosecutors say they'll seek a prison term of up to 10 years.

Authorities said Shea had seven drinks and two shots of whiskey at five taverns in the hours before his car crossed a centerline on Hwy. 45 and hit an oncoming auto.  He told officers he might have been texting at the time, he never saw a vehicle coming, and all he heard was a loud crash.

Paul Grahl, 73, and his wife Joanna, 59, both of Eden, were killed. Their teenage daughter Esther was seriously hurt.

Officials said Shea's blood alcohol level was almost at .22 over two hours after the crash. That was almost three times the legal limit.


UWRF student named WIAC football Player of the Week

Ryan Kusilek of UW-River Falls, Andrew Keister of UW-Whitewater, and Zach Litchfield of UW-Platteville are the WIAC football players of the week.

Kusilek, a sophomore quarterback, set a River Falls school-record with 479 yards of total offense in a one-point loss to Simpson. Kusilek threw for 344 yards and four touchdowns and ran for 135 yards and another score.

Keister, a senior defensive back, recovered a fumble and returned it 30 yards for a touchdown in a 55-14 Whitewater rout at Buffalo State.

Litchfield, a senior kicker was 9 for 9 in extra points in Platteville's 63-34 win at Lewis and Clark in Oregon.


‘Airplane’ stars will appear in Wisconsin tourism ad

Two stars of the 1980 comedy film "Airplane" will be in a Wisconsin tourism ad to be unveiled next spring.

Actor Robert Hays and basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar will appear in the original cockpit from the movie with aerial footage of Wisconsin mixed in.

This is not the first Wisconsin tourism ad in which Hays has appeared. He portrayed a confused fisherman in his first ad.

The new one was shot earlier this month by directors David and Jerry Zucker and Jim Abrahams. It will be unveiled at next year's Governors Conference on Tourism in March. Jerry Zucker, Hays and Abdul-Jabbar will appear there.

This is the first time Hays and Abdul-Jabbar have reunited since they made the movie. Abdul-Jabbar played for the Milwaukee Bucks before achieving Hall of Fame stardom with the Los Angeles Lakers.


Health exchange premiums announced

Wisconsin has the nation's 14th highest benchmark health insurance premium in the new Obamacare purchasing exchanges scheduled to roll out next week.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced premiums yesterday for Wisconsin and the other 35 states where the federal government is at least helping to run the exchanges.

Plans are separated into several price categories within plans labeled as Gold, Silver and Bronze.  Those plans differentiate themselves by the percentage of total health costs that each plan one covers with Gold being the highest.

The government says a 27-year-old Wisconsinite can expect to pay $189 to $280 a month for the lowest-cost plans. That's before the income-based federal tax subsidies. Families of four making $50,000 a year can expect to pay $106 to $282 a month after subsidies for the lowest-cost Bronze and Silver plans. The state's benchmark Silver plan would cost $361, higher than the national average of $328.

People can learn specific rates starting next Tuesday when they can log onto to start signing up for the exchanges.

Around 500,000 non-insured Wisconsinites will be required to get coverage by Jan. 1 using the exchanges. Because the state had nothing to do with its exchange, officials in Madison are not discussing the rates until people start enrolling next month.


Sex offender pleads not guilty in child porn case

A registered sex offender has pleaded not guilty to what authorities call one of Wisconsin's worst-ever child pornography cases.

Timmy Reichling, 46, of rural Darlington -- who registered previously as a sex offender -- is accused of having millions of pornographic images in numerous computer storage devices.

Reichling was arraigned Tuesday in Lafayette County on 11 felony charges that include child sexploitation, child porn possession and being a sex offender who photographed minors without their permission. A 13-year-old girl went to authorities, saying that Reichling asked her to send him nude photos and threatened to show them to her family when she wanted to stop.

The defense has asked for a new judge in the case to replace Lafayette County Circuit Judge William Johnston.


‘Choose Life’ license plate faces objections

A proposed anti-abortion license plate drew a host of comments yesterday at a public hearing at the State Capitol.

Assembly Republican Andre Jacque of De Pere is trying for a second time to create a specialized plate that reads "Choose Life" with an image of a baby's footprint. It would join almost three dozen other specialized plates that identify firefighters and UW graduate, and celebrate everything from children to the Green Bay Packers.

Assembly Democrat Chris Danou of Trempealeau said none of those other specialized plates raise politically divisive issues like abortion.

Julaine Appling of “Choose Life Wisconsin” said those buying the new plates would not be looking to make political statements and instead would be expressing their personal beliefs. Appling's group would get $25 from every plate sold. She said it would be directly given to pregnancy care centers throughout Wisconsin.

The Assembly Transportation Committee also heard testimony on several other proposed new specialty plates, including ones for Trout Unlimited, the ALS Association and a plate that reads "In God We Trust."


Two bison die at Chippewa Falls zoo

Officials at the Chippewa Falls zoo are trying to figure out why two bison died in the past week.

Six remaining bison, including three adults, have been moved to a small pasture area within the Irvine Park Zoo, and they've been given antibiotics. At last word, city park director Dick Hebert said one of the survivors was showing signs of distress.

The two bison that died were about five-years-old. One died last Friday, and the other the following day. Hebert says an area veterinary clinic is examining the animals. Test results are expected from a lab by the end of the week.


Wisconsin soldier breaks world running record

A soldier from Wisconsin has shattered a world record for running a mile while wearing a full 75-pound bomb-disposal suit.

According to the Army's Website, First Lt. Ashley Sorensen of Milwaukee ran her mile in 11 minutes and six seconds -- more than two minutes faster than the previous record for a female officer wearing an Explosive Ordnance Disposal suit.

Sorenson says it's vital for soldiers to be able to function in such heavy gear, and the competitive runs help them get ready for that. The Army said the record run was made recently on a track at the University of Hawaii in Manoa.

Sorenson is her unit's executive officer. She graduated from West Point three years ago.


Lawmakers promote eight job bills

Majority Republicans unveiled eight new jobs bills for Wisconsin yesterday.

They're mostly aimed at training more workers for high-demand jobs like manufacturing.

Gov. Scott Walker, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said one of their main goals this fall is to improve worker training.

The package would spend $8.5 million in state funds with an extra $14 million in federal funds. One bill would add $1 million to the state's Youth Apprenticeship Program. Another would provide scholarships to top students who pursue technical education.

The most expensive bill comes from Democrats.  Stevens Point Rep. Katrina Shankland and La Crosse Sen. Jennifer Shilling proposed $4 million for vocational rehab services to help those with disabilities. The effort would generate $14 million in federal funds.

Fitzgerald expects the entire package to be approved by the end of the year.

Democratic Assembly Leader Peter Barca calls the measures "too little too late" and inadequate for a state that's lagging behind the nation in creating jobs.


Plea deal struck in death of two bikers

A 26-year-old man could spend more than 30 years in prison for driving his car into 10 motorcycles near Fond du Lac and killing two of those bikers.

Clinton Lovelace of Hilbert struck a plea deal in which he pleaded no contest yesterday to two felony charges of negligent homicide. He also entered Alford pleas to three counts of reckless injury, refusing to admit guilt but agreeing there was enough evidence to convict him. Seven other felony counts were dropped.

The crash happened May 31, 2012. Authorities said Lovelace was driving south on the two-lane Hwy. 151 north of Fond du Lac when he crossed the centerline and hit all but two of the dozen motorcycles coming his way. Douglas Yonkers and Daniel Winsemius were killed. Eight other riders were hurt. They were heading home to Muskegon Michigan from a Bridge Run event in Milwaukee.

Investigators said they found drug evidence on Lovelace, but he denied taking anything besides his two daily medications.

More than 70 motorcyclists attended yesterday's court hearing. Tim Tomann of the ABATE motorcycle advocacy group said his members wanted to show support for the victims of what he called one of the "worst motorcycle crashes in history."