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Wisconsin statewide news roundup - June 9

Search resumes for missing man near Menomonie

MENOMONIE -- A search continues Thursday for a missing man on the Red Cedar River near Menomonie. 

Dunn County sheriff's deputies say the man was walking along a shoreline near the Russian Slough when he slipped and fell in fast moving water. The state DNR and Dunn County deputies have been helping rescuers from the Menomonie Fire Department look for the man -- and they say strong currents and high water have made the job difficult. 

The victim's name was not immediately released. Officials sayThursday's search will be on a smaller scale than the efforts fromWednesday.


Ashley Furniture agrees to $1.75M OSHA settlement

ARCADIA -- A western Wisconsin furniture maker has agreed to pay $1.75 million to settle numerous federal safety violations. 

Ashley Furniture of Arcadia also agreed to make safety improvements, check for hazards on machines, and submit updates to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for the next two years. The new settlement is the result of citations spurred by a 2014 incident in which an employee at Arcadia lost three fingers on a woodworking machine. 

OSHA said it learned of more than 1,000 job injuries requiring outside treatments at Ashley's two plants in western Wisconsin -- and the citations also involved violations in Mississippi. Ashley says the settlement will create a "model safety system" beyond the normal compliance with OSHA standards.


Walker downplays low state job ranking; Dems call for summit

MADISON – Gov. Scott Walker downplayed a new federal report that Wisconsin continues to lag behind the nation in creating private sector jobs. 

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says the Badger State added almost 32,000 jobs during 2015 -- an increase of 1.3 percent – and less than the national jump of 2.1, making Wisconsin the 36th worst. 

Walker says his administration has more than made up for the losses of jobs during former Gov. Jim Doyle's tenure. State Assembly Democratic Minority Leader Peter Barca called for a jobs summit and a special legislative session, saying "bold action" is needed while the middle class keeps "suffering" -- for which Barca blames Republicans. 

But Dale Knapp of the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance says the state's job growth ranking was just as low in the Doyle years, saying Wisconsin was also below average from 2002 through '07 -- the year before the Great Recession consumed the final three years of Doyle's time as governor.


UW budget, fee hikes won't be disclosed until regents meet

MILWAUKEE -- The UW Board of Regents is scheduled Thursday to get its first look at the university's proposed budget for the coming year. 

But unlike past years, the public will not know the details before the Regents start considering it during a meeting on the Milwaukee campus. That means students are not sure how much more they might be paying in various fees this fall. 

Senate Democrat Jon Erpenbach of Middleton says he's been told the fee hikes would average $45, but a UW-System spokesman says the number is wrong. Alex Hummel says university officials were still finalizing details of a budget that totaled $6.3 billion this past school year -- and Republicans have ordered that tuition for Wisconsin resident undergrads be frozen for the fourth straight year.


Bear startles La Cross woman; DNR not surprised

LA CROSSE -- A La Crosse woman says she was startled to see a black bear near her home this week, but the state DNR says it's not surprised. 

Ardyce Hass gave television station WXOW surveillance camera footage of a bear. DNR biologist Ron Lichtie says they're on the rise in the La Crosse area this time of year, because some are just finishing their winter hibernations, while others take advantage of a prime mating season. Lichtie says bears look for the food and habitat the region offers.

He says it's important not to follow a black bear because while generally harmless, it may become aggressive if it is hungry or threatened.


Wis. police chief seeks termination of veteran officer

SUPERIOR, Wis. -- A 19-year veteran of the Superior Police Department is facing termination for repeated violations of department general orders and operating procedures, and conduct unbecoming an officer, according to charges filed with the city's Police and Fire Commission.

Master Officer Lynn Ristau is accused of professional incompetence and willful neglect of duty.

"Officer Ristau has shown a propensity to avoid volatile situations — exactly the type of situations that require immediate and decisive participation by law enforcement," the charges filed by Superior Police Chief Nicholas Alexander state.

According to the charges, which cite incidents going back to June 2006, Ristau has allegedly failed to respond to a bar fight involving multiple people, was insubordinate to supervisors and failed to adequately document a domestic incident in which a firearm was fired.

More-recent incidents include her allegedly responding to a vandalism call rather than a domestic call involving a weapon, despite being in close proximity to the more dangerous call, and allegedly allowing a subject of a traffic stop to leave her area of control; the subject was wanted on a warrant, and fellow officers were unable to locate him.


Report: Trump fundraiser paid no state income taxes from 2012-14

MILWAUKEE -- Diane Hendricks, a newly named vice chair of Donald Trump's fundraising effort, paid no Wisconsin income taxes from 2012 through 2014. 

That's according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which obtained records about her tax payments. Hendricks owns the nation's largest roofing supplier, ABC of Beloit, and Forbes Magazine recently named her Wisconsin's wealthiest self-made woman with a net worth of almost $5 billion. 

An ABC tax official says Hendricks paid $7.6 million in state income taxes last year -- but it was made under an extension and will not become a public record until next year, and A-B-C itself paid more than $2 million in state income taxes from 2011 through '14. The firm is not saying how Hendricks avoided tax liabilities in the past -- but experts say it might be due to various tax credits and deductions, and things like losses in investments.


Salem's water tower nearly drained in firefighting

SALEM -- An investigation continues into a fire that destroyed a business complex at Salem in Kenosha County. 

WITI-TV says the Salem water tower was nearly drained as units from 15 area fire departments tried getting the flames under control. It took place in a warehouse facility that includes storage sites, an auto body shop, and a transmission repair business. Officials say there were no fire hydrants in the area, and trucks brought water from a nearby lake once Salem's water tower was nearly exhausted. It took four hours to get the fire under control early Wednesday evening, and there's a report that one firefighter was treated at a hospital for heat exhaustion.


Life jacket designer wins governor's business plan contest

MADISON -- A new company that's working on a thinner life jacket has won the top prize in the governor's annual statewide Business Plan Contest. 

Hyde Expedition of Elm Grove received the honor Wednesday at the state Entrepreneurs' Conference in Madison. One of the founders of the company, Pat Hughes, wore the thin life jacket under his suit coat as he presented his business plan. He raised $67,000 for the project on Kickstarter, and he plans to release the first version later this summer. 

Boaters activate the life jacket by pulling a rip cord that opens a canister, which releases a gas that expands the jacket, and allows it to float on the water.


Police arrest man in Hobart triple stabbing incident

HOBART -- A 26-year-old Green Bay-area man is under arrest for the stabbing deaths of two people and the wounding of another at a house in Hobart. 

Police Chief Randy Bani says the suspect is from nearby Ashwaubenon. He's thought to be a former boyfriend of a 25-year-old woman who was found dead in the home. A 63-year-old woman was found dead just outside. A man who survived the incident had surgery and was expected to survive. 

At least one other person was injured, and officials have not said if there were more. Police say the suspect was taken to the Brown County Jail, after he was found hiding in a wooded area that was close to the home. The case remains under investigation.


Lake Michigan erosion problems discussed

MOUNT PLEASANT -- Homeowners in southeast Wisconsin are growing concerned that their properties are about to be taken away by Lake Michigan. 

Erosion is a big problem this year in Kenosha and Racine counties with higher water levels. Those worried about having their homes fall into the lake gathered to talk about a plan to address the issueTuesday night in Mount Pleasant. 

State and local officials along with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are studying ways to combat the erosion.