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Wisconsin roundup: GOP wants Feingold to release his State Department work documents; Richland County Fair reopens after flooding; and 10 more state news stories

The state Republican Party has asked Democrat Russ Feingold to release emails and other records from when he was a special envoy in the Congo.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee filed a request 20 months ago under the Freedom of Information Act for items relating to Feingold's employment at the State Department for two years ending in March of 2015. But reports say nothing will be released until after Feingold's November election bid against U.S. Senate Republican Ron Johnson.

In recent days, Republicans have accused Feingold of violating the Hatch Act by creating a foundation for his Senate candidacy while he was still a federal employee.

Feingold and his campaign have denied doing anything improper, calling the GOP's record search an unmerited "Hail Mary partisan attack."


Richland County Fair reopens after flooding

RICHLAND CENTER  --  The Richland County Fair plans to open Friday after partial flooding on the grounds caused the opening day to be canceled.

Coordinator Carla Doudna says it's the first time in 150 years that the fair could not be held for a day. Officials say all activities are expected to be back on schedule Friday, after the barns were cleaned up and animals were brought in.

Parts of Richland County had up to 7 inches of rain Tuesday and Wednesday, and the Richland School District was closed both Wednesday and Thursday.


Nineteen cross country runners treated for heat issues

HARTLAND  --  Nineteen high school cross country runners get medical treatment for heat related problems in a meet at Hartland Arrowhead High School.

Waukesha County sheriff's deputies say four people were taken to a hospital as a precaution, and 15 others were treated at the scene. They are among runners from 21 high schools from Milwaukee to Madison, who were competing Thursday at the 31st annual Arrowhead Cross Country Invitational.

WISN TV says at least four ambulances were called after runners started passing out. Temperatures were in the 80s at the time with high humidities, and officials say the most of the victims were freshmen and sophomores who succumbed from exertion.


Hit and run traffic victim identified, bond set for suspect

MADISON  --  Charges are still pending against a 61-year-old man suspected of killing a pedestrian in a hit and run traffic crash.

A court commissioner has set a $10,000 bond for Douglas Waldschmidt, whose case remains under investigation.

The Dane County medical examiner's office identified the victim Thursday as 53-year-old Jesse Morales of Madison.

Maple Bluff Police say he was hit by a vehicle late Friday night, and he died Sunday from his injuries. Waldschmidt was booked on a possible charge of fatal hit and run.


Door County's Eagle Tower to be torn down this month

FISH CREEK  --  One of Door County's most popular landmarks will be torn down this month. The state DNR says Eagle Tower at Peninsula State Park will be removed in sections during the week of Sept. 19.

For decades, those who climbed the 75 foot structure had majestic views of the Door Peninsula and the Bay of Green Bay -- but the tower was closed in May of last year after an inspection cited deterioration, and concerns about structural integrity.

People cannot watch the teardown due to safety issues, but the DNR says it will hold a public program Sept. 20 at the state park's amphitheater that will highlight Eagle Tower's history and plans to rebuild it.

A private group is raising funds for that, and the U.S. Forest Service plans to assess wood elements to determine their conditions.


Second probe of Tomah VA sought after veteran's death

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson has asked for a second investigation of the Tomah VA Medical Center, after reports that an Army veteran was turned away for help and later killed himself.

The body of 29-year-old Brian Rossell of Wausau was found Thursday in Lake Wausau. His mother tells the Wausau Daily Herald he sought help at Tomah this summer and couldn't get it -- and he suffered from mental illnesses that included post traumatic stress disorder.

Johnson, a Wisconsin Senate Republican, says he learned from a whistleblower last month that the Tomah VA's mental health clinic has a shortage of providers as more veterans seek treatment -- and he has asked the VA's Inspector General to investigate, just one year after another probe found problems with prescribing excess medicines at the facility.

Police say they're still investigating to determine how Rossell died, but all the evidence so far leads to a suicide.


In Madison, Sotomayor cites people's ‘unequal’ legal representation

MADISON  --  Speaking in Madison, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor says too many Americans do not have adequate legal representation.

She told about 1,500 people at the UW Memorial Union the nation should do more to fix what she calls an "injustice" and an "unequal representation of people in our court system."

The nation's first Hispanic justice spent about 80 minutes discussing her role in general and answering questions from two of her former law clerks.

Sotomayor also said the death of Justice Antonin Scalia has left a "big hole" in the country's highest court. But she did not speak about the U.S. Senate's delay in confirming Obama appointee Merrick Garland.


Democrats accuse GOP of not addressing rural school problems

MADISON  --  Wisconsin Democrats say the state's rural schools are at a "breaking point," and Republicans have not done enough to address their problems.

At a news conference in Madison Thursday, Democratic legislative leaders and rural school advocates said some schools are having a hard time staying open due to funding cuts, teacher shortages and poverty.

They cited a Legislative Fiscal Bureau report that state aid to smaller schools has dropped by more than 13 percent the past five years.

Assembly Republican Rob Swearingen of Rhinelander says the figure is deceiving because it does not include increases in sparsity and rural transportation aids. He says the GOP is "not running" from the issues.


Two million dollar bond set for murder suspect

GREEN BAY  --  A judge has ordered a 38-year-old man to stay in jail with a $2 million bond, as he awaits criminal charges in the death of a woman near Green Bay.

George Burch, Jr. of Virginia had a bond hearing in Brown County Circuit Court Thursday. He was booked Wednesday on a possible charge of first degree intentional homicide in the beating death of 31-year-old Nicole Vanderheyden of Ledgeview.

The case remains under investigation, and Brown County District Attorney David Lasee does not expect his criminal complaint to be filed until next Friday. Lasee also confirms that the victim's boyfriend is no longer a suspect. He was jailed for three weeks before being let go.


Report: Federal agents broke law in storefront stings

WASHINGTON, D.C.  --  A federal agency broke the law in dealing with the disabled, when it ran storefront sting operations to catch major drug and gun sellers.

The Justice Department's Inspector General spent two-and-a-half years investigating the sting operations, including one in Milwaukee in 2012.

The federal agency announced Thursday 13 reforms which the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives agreed to make.

The probe began after the Journal Sentinel said it found flaws in the ATF Milwaukee operation, including thefts of four agents' guns, letting felons leave without being arrested and nabbing four of the wrong targets.

It was also reported that a man with brain damage and a low IQ helped promote the operation before he was arrested himself.

Now, the Justice Department must file a report every three months on disabled persons involved in various investigations.


Court rejects withdrawal of plea deal in triple murder

MADISON  --  A state appeals court will not let a southwest Wisconsin man withdraw a plea deal, so he could go on trial for a fire that killed four of his children.

Thirty-six-year-old Armin Wand III is serving three life prison terms plus 90 years for burning down his house in Argyle in 2012, killing his three sons and an unborn daughter.

Thursday the Fourth District Appellate Court in Madison refused to accept Wand's arguments that his confessions were coerced.

Wand told officers he burned down the family home to collect the insurance money, escape marital problems and start a new life for himself. He promised to pay his brother $300 of the insurance money to help set the fire.

Last month, a state appeals court refused to let Armin's brother Jeremy Wand withdraw his guilty pleas. In both cases, the judges said there was not enough new evidence to warrant new trials.


Barrett urges use of water filters to remove lead

MILWAUKEE  --  Milwaukee’s mayor wants people who own old homes to install faucet filters to remove lead from tap water.

Mayor Tom Barrett announced Wednesday that citizens with homes built before 1951 should install faucet filters capable of removing lead.

About 70,000 MIlwaukee residences get water from mains through lead pipes. The city treats its water for lead corrosion but Barrett says this is not a 100 percent guarantee of contaminant-free water.


Former Sen. Kohl provides windfall for Wisconsin schools

Former U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl is providing a windfall of supplies for Wisconsin schools this year. Kohl provided what he called a "flash fund" by fulfilling all the Wisconsin teacher requests on the online site

In total, he donated approximately $500,000 for school supplies, uniforms, technology and special needs equipment.

Teachers across the nation upload requests on the site for special projects or supplies needed that are not covered by school districts.

Sarah Nigbor

Sarah J. Nigbor serves as a regional editor for RiverTown Multimedia, a position she began in April 2017. She joined RiverTown Multimedia in October 2013 as a news reporter for the New Richmond News, before being appointed editor of the Pierce County Herald in February 2015. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Spanish and French in 2001. She completed a minor in journalism in 2004. 

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