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Extension veteran named to lead UW System; Wisconsinites have become 'weather whimps' say seasoned observers; more state news

MADISON -- After a national search, the University of Wisconsin System found its new president in its back yard.

Ray Cross -- who's been the chancellor of the UW Extension and two-year colleges since 2011 -- was named Thursday to replace Kevin Reilly.

It's the third straight time that the Board of Regents chose a president from within.

Reilly held Cross's former job when he was picked nine years ago -- and Katharine Lyall was the UW's vice president for academic affairs when she was promoted to the top.

Regents' selection chairman Michael Falbo says the 66-year-old Cross has a "deep understanding" of the challenges and opportunities facing the 26-campus system.

Gov. Scott Walker said he enjoyed working with Cross as they helped the create the new Flexible Option Degree program for non-traditional students.

State lawmakers, who've had a shaky relationship with the UW in recent years, also had good words for Cross.

Assembly Colleges Committee chairman Steve Nass said he trusts Cross -- and he'll make his top priorities will be in the best interests of Wisconsin families.

Cross beat out two other finalists who head higher education systems in other states -- Robert King in Kentucky and Peter Garland in Pennsylvania. Cross will get $525,000 a year, close to the top of the salary range of $599,000.

Democrat AG candidate Ozanne admits to juvenile alcohol-related offense

MADISON -- A second candidate for Wisconsin attorney general has admitted an alcohol-related incident from decades ago.

Democrat Ismael Ozanne, the Dane County district attorney, said he was cited in 1986 after he got into an accident when he was 16.

Earlier this week, it was reported that Republican attorney general candidate Brad Schimel was cited for OWI in 1990.

Ozanne did not get a drunk driving ticket. He was cited under the state's "not a drop" law that prohibits those under 21 from having any alcohol in their systems while behind the wheel. He said it was fortunate that nobody was hurt in the crash, and it taught him valuable lessons.

The other candidate in the race, Assembly Democrat Jon Richards of Milwaukee, says old teenage mistakes are irrelevant in this year's campaign. Richards said the important thing is to crack down on drunk driving now.

Richards voted in favor of a package of bills in the Assembly, one of which would make all second-offenses criminal misdemeanors. He said he prefers those measures to making first-time OWI a crime. Schimel said he was skeptical about criminalizing one-time drunk driving. Ozanne has said he favors the idea.

DNR nixes Superior pier repairs for Great Lakes oil terminal SUPERIOR -- The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has, at least for now, turned down a permit application to make repairs to a Superior harbor pier that is part of plan for a possible oil terminal.

Superior-based Elkhorn Industries wants to spend $20 million rehabilitating a harborfront pier to make it ready for Calumet Specialty Products to build a tanker-loading facility to fill boats and barges with crude oil to be shipped across the Great Lakes to eastern oil refineries.

The oil would come into Superior from Western states and Canada via pipeline.

Calumet says it has no firm plans to build the terminal and still hasn’t found a partner refinery to take the oil. But the company will continue to pursue customers, Kollin Schade, head of Calumet’s Superior refinery operations, said Thursday.

Elkhorn has been moving ahead with planning pier repairs as Calumet continued negotiations with eastern refineries.

The DNR dismissed the application “without prejudice,” meaning Elkhorn may reapply for the permit under conditions set by the DNR. A Dec. 23 DNR letter says public comments played a role in its decision, noting the agency “will need significantly more information about the plans and activities proposed for the site.”

The Alliance, an environmental group, contends that Great Lakes ports and shippers are not equipped to handle the crude oil boom in the Tar Sands of Canada and the Bakken shale in North Dakota. Elkhorn Industries and Calumet have not commented on the DNR's latest order.

-- Forum News Service & Learfield

Four bills aimed at curbing heroin use face Assembly next week

MADISON -- Four bills aimed at stopping the rise in heroin use and overdose deaths will be up for approval in the state Assembly on Tuesday.

The Assembly's criminal justice panel unanimously endorsed bills Thursday to let trained emergency responders give the antidote drug Narcan to those who OD.

Those reporting overdoses to 9-1-1 would be immune from prosecution in most cases. The third bill would expand collection drives for prescription drugs.

The Assembly health committee endorsed the fourth measure, requiring ID's to obtain prescription drugs.

Assembly Republican John Nygren of Marinette proposed all four measures, after his daughter Cassie almost died from a heroin overdose in 2009.

At a public hearing by the justice panel, some officials said the bills create too many levels of immunity -- and a local EMT group called the training for Narcan an unfunded mandate.

Alex Hoffman of Menomonee Falls, whose son died of a heroin overdose in July, told lawmakers the concerns are understandable but "Doing nothing is unacceptable. We fail if we don't try." He said if nothing's done, lawmakers wouldn't recognize Wisconsin in five years.

Dr. Mike Miller of the State Medical Society said fears about liability over Narcan are unsubstantiated.

A substance abuse coordinator said fellow-users throw overdose victims in a shower instead of help, so they don't expose themselves to prosecution.

Meanwhile, the state auditor says a required annual report on Wisconsin's war-on-drugs has not been filed since 1992.

Under state law, citizens are supposed to be updated annually about Wisconsin's war-on-drugs -- and that report is overdue by 21 years.

Back in 1990, lawmakers ordered that the governor and attorney general file an annual report by Nov. 15th, describing the state's drug enforcement efforts and recommendations for moving forward.

Senate Democrat Bob Wirch of Kenosha County noticed that the reports were absent last year, while he was researching an issue. He asked state Auditor Joe Chrisman to find out why they were not forthcoming -- and Chrisman said the last annual report was filed in 1992.

Aides to Gov. Scott Walker and Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen had no idea why, but they'll work together on filing a report. Both offices said Walker and Van Hollen are committed to fighting drug-related crime. Wirch said the information could be vital amid a national debate over easing up on marijuana laws, and curbing the rise in heroin use. The current administration is far from being the only ones guilty of not providing updates. They were never filed under former governors Tommy Thompson, Scott McCallum, and Jim Doyle -- and former attorneys general Doyle and Peg Lautenschlager.

Democrats host redistricting hearing at Marshfield

MARSHFIELD -- State minority Democrats were to hold a public hearing in Marshfield Friday on their effort to have independent panels re-draw congressional and legislative districts. A similar hearing was held Thursday in Chippewa Falls.

Majority Republicans had sole control of the re-districting process in 2011, and they've refused to consider the independent route.

Former long-time House Democrat David Obey is taking part in the hearings. Critics have said the GOP added its own voters to Obey's old district to try-and-keep Sean Duffy in office -- and it may have an effect in a district just to the south.

Former Mauston alderman and retired building contractor Ken Van Doren is announcing his GOP bid this week for the Third District House seat, held for the last 17 years by Democrat Ron Kind.

Van Doren says Obama-care should be voluntary instead of mandatory for both patients and health care providers -- and he claims that a number of actions in Washington have violated the constitution. The Third District has traditionally been considered a swing district where 17 Republicans and 10 Democrats have historically held the area's House seat.

It appears to be more Democratic after state Republicans stretched it to Wisconsin Rapids and Stevens Point in 2011. That move also split party allegiances in the region, after the cities of Point, Rapids, Marshfield, and Wausau had the same House representative for years.

-- Mike Warren, WDLB-WOSQ-Marshfield and Larry Lee, WSAU-Wausau

We've become 'weather whimps', career watchers allege

Climate experts say we've become a nation of weather wimps. That's because it's been 17 years since we had the type of cold snap that used to cover the nation every four years.

But Wisconsin is busting out its cold spell with some of the warmest temperatures of the New Year. It was almost 30 degrees at 6 a.m., Friday between Monroe and Kenosha.

It was 17 in Tomahawk, just a day after it was 31-below there.

Packer fans saw the weather-weenies firsthand last week. The cold was blamed for the slowest playoff ticket sales in three decades, and many fans had trouble finding people to go with them to last Sunday's game in Green Bay.

Lots of Cheese-heads opted to stay home, even though it was 17-degrees warmer at kickoff than the classic 13-below "Ice Bowl" at Lambeau Field in 1967. It did get colder on Monday, when Rhinelander had a 55-below wind-chill.

Still, it was only the 55th coldest day on record, as the average national average dropped below 18 degrees for the first time January 13th of 1997.

Texas A &M climate specialist Andrew Dessler told the Associated Press that people's memories about the weather are horrible. He said this week's bitter cold felt more extreme than it actually was, because we're just not used to cold winters anymore.

A wintry mix of snow and rain is predicted for many places Friday. By Saturday, the state's mid-section could have 2- to 5 inches of new snow on the ground.

Three recovering after inhaling toxins

MADISON -- Three people are recovering, after they inhaled toxic fumes at a plant in Madison.

It resulted from a spill which happened last evening at Mentor Biologics, a company that makes a drug that competes with Botox.

Fire officials said the injuries were minor, and the three workers were taken to U-W Hospital as a precaution.

Division Chief Art Price said they were all alert and walking after they were exposed.

He said a small amount of chlorine dioxide was spilled in a cleaning fluid that was used during a cabinet-cleaning operation.

Price said the cleaning agent is toxic, but the chemical was not at full strength because it was diluted before being used in the plant.

Committee will vote on out-of-state gun purchases

MADISON -- A state committee plans to vote next week on letting Wisconsinites buy rifles and shotguns from dealers throughout the nation.

A federal law from 1968 banned interstate gun sales, but it allowed people to buy long guns from dealers in adjacent states.

Wisconsin law still has the contiguous state purchase requirement, even though the federal government ended a similar restriction in the late '80's.

The Assembly's Natural Resources Committee plans to vote Wednesday to have Wisconsin catch up to the current federal standards.

Missing man’s body found in Lake Superior

DULUTH -- The St. Louis County Rescue Squad found a man’s body Thursday afternoon in Lake Superior.

Duluth police received a call at 8:15 p.m. Wednesday about a missing 31-year-old Duluth man. They located an unoccupied vehicle belonging to the missing man at Brighton Beach at 3:34 a.m. Thursday. Police called the rescue squad at 4 a.m. to search Lake Superior.

“We located a man’s keys and wallet on a patch of ice,” said Tom Crossmon, captain of the rescue squad. “Shortly after, we discovered the body.”

The rescue squad found the body at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, submerged in 10 feet of water.

Police said they do not suspect foul play.

-- Forum News Service

Feds, state investigators helping on fatal Waunakee fire Federal and state investigators are helping Dane County authorities look into a fire at an apartment complex that killed one woman and injured another.

The fire happened Wednesday night at a 16-unit building in Waunakee. The apartment where the fire started is a total loss, and several others have heavy smoke damage. Total damage is tentatively estimated at $100,000. An autopsy was being conducted Thursday on a 56-year-old woman who died in the blaze. Her name was not immediately released.

A 65-year-old woman was also taken to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

Dane County authorities said 10- to 15 residents were evacuated, and two nearby churches helped them find places to sleep. Many stayed with relatives, while others were put up at a hotel. The Red Cross is also providing assistance.

It's not known when residents could return to the facility. Officials said the fire appeared to start in the kitchen of one of the units. The exact cause remains under investigation.

UW-Whitewater student was beaten to death, officials say six years later

It's been 6.5 years since U-W Whitewater student Kelly Nolan disappeared in Madison -- and the cause of her death has just now been documented.

Authorities say a death certificate for the 22-year-old Nolan now indicates that she died from blunt force trauma to the torso, including fractures. Until now, the cause of her death was simply listed as "pending."

Investigators said Nolan was out with friends in Madison in June of 2007, and she apparently went off with a man who knew her before she vanished for good. Her body was found a few weeks later in a nearby wooded area.

Madison Police believe Nolan was murdered.

Police spokesman Joel DeSpain said two detectives continue to pursue leads in the case. One lead cropped up from outside Wisconsin last year.

DeSpain said he hopes the new publicity will encourage somebody with information to come forward.

Bookkeeper get prison for embezzling from family business

A former bookkeeper in northern Wisconsin will spend two years in prison for stealing $660,000 from her parents' recreational lake equipment business.

Lisa Saykally, 46, took the money from Aqualand Manufacturing of Woodruff over several years.

Oneida County Circuit Judge Patrick O'Melia told her to repay $727,000, including tax-related penalties.

She was ordered to get full-time employment, among other things, during a lengthy probation and extended supervision.

Saykally pleaded no contest to six embezzlement and tax fraud charges. Eleven similar counts were dropped in a plea deal.

At her sentencing hearing Thursday, prosecutors said Saykally destroyed her family's trust by using the stolen money for a lavish lifestyle.

Her sister-in-law, Nadine Kuehneman, told the judge that the business nearly went under, and several people lost jobs due to Saykally's embezzlement. Prosecutors wanted an eight-year prison term.

The judge said Saykally needs some prison time -- but she also needs to be working so she can pay back what she stole.

-- Ken Krall, WXPR, Rhinelander

Merrill band director quits amid accusations

MERRILL -- A band director at Merrill High School has resigned, after a female student reported undisclosed allegations last week.

Matt Callope, 27, was placed on paid leave last Friday. Merrill school officials were planning to start an in-depth investigation when Callope quit.

The matter has been turned over to Merrill Police.

Callope was in his fourth year directing the high school's symphonic band and jazz ensemble. He was also a co-director for a middle school's sixth-grade bands.

-- Jim Beem, WJMT-WMZK, Merrill