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Wisconsin roundup: Recount costs will be lower than estimated; charges filed after child found out in cold; 7 more state news stories

Ballots from the town of Trenton and River Falls were among the thousands that recount officials pored over on Dec. 1 in Pierce County. (File photo)

MADISON — The actual cost of the presidential election recount in Wisconsin is expected to be about $1.8 million, nearly half of the estimated cost of $3.5 million.

According to Wisconsin Elections Commissions data, Pierce County, which originally provided one of the highest cost estimates in the state, came in nearly $121,000 below projections. Its actual cost submitted to the state was $20,096.

In St. Croix County also came in under its estimate, but not by as much as its northern neighbors. St. Croix County estimated $37,000 and the actual cost was $24,046.

The Wisconsin Elections Commission is still waiting on final costs from Brown and Kenosha counties. A Commission spokesperson said Wednesday that he expected the costs to be submitted within two weeks. The original estimates from both counties were about $180,000 each.

Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein's campaign raised money to fund Wisconsin's recount, paying $3.5 million upfront. Stein said Tuesday that the expected refund of at least $1 million could go toward her new voting rights organization, Count My Vote, if that's how donors vote to use it.


Two children under care after 1 found walking walking in the cold

RACINE — A stranger spotted a toddler wandering by himself in bitterly cold weather in Racine Wednesday afternoon.

When no parent or guardian was around, police were called. Investigators questioned the parents, then removed a second boy from the home and both children were placed into protective custody. The toddler who was found walking down the street was reportedly wearing only a coat.

Neighbors say they have heard loud arguments from the home since the family moved in last summer and Wednesday wasn't the first time one of the boys was seen outside by himself. No arrests have been reported.


Homes going for a buck in Milwaukee

MILWAUKEE — The city of Milwaukee will sell foreclosed homes in the greater Sherman Park area for $1, although some conditions are attached.

Fifteenth District Alderman Russell Stamper says this is an effort to rehabilitate homes in that neighborhood. A $4.5 million state funding package will be used to subsidize 100 foreclosed homes. Interested developers would be eligible for a $10,000 grant for each home.

To get the special price, the new owner would have to hire people who are unemployed or under-employed to do any rehab work. Request for Proposals will be available Friday and an informational meeting will be held next Monday.


Madison's top cop calls for more officers

MADISON -- The Madison police chief says a study of his department's staffing shows the need for at least 13 additional officers.

Chief Mike Koval says the report comparing Madison staff levels to other cities reveals an officer-to-population ratio well below average. Koval says to keep up with Madison's growth and provide many of the specialized services offered, he needs to start hiring.

An official with the organization Progressive Dane say less money should be spent on police. Co-chair Brenda Konkel says Madison can't just keep adding more police officers.


Accused killer's bond set at $1M

PORTAGE — Citing the defendant's "very violent history," a Columbia County Circuit Court judge has set bond at o$1 million for a man accused of a Portage murder last month.

Twenty-four-year-old Mario Brown Jr. made his initial court appearance by teleconference this week. He is charged with first-degree intentional homicide in the Dec. 18 shooting death of Jason Laack. Brown's attorney argued against the high bond, saying his client had turned himself in the day after the fatal shooting at the Cattail Lodge. Brown has a preliminary hearing scheduled for Friday morning.


Three injured in Brookfield plane crash

BROOKFIELD — Gusty winds may have played a role in the crash of a small plane at Capitol Airport in Brookfield Wednesday afternoon.

No official cause for the crash has been determined. Three people were on board the plane when it slammed into a vehicle parked near the airport shortly after noon. A 6-month-old boy wasn't hurt, but the 41-year-old pilot and his 37-year-old wife were taken to Froedtert Hospital in Wauwatosa.

Flight for Life transported one of them, but officials didn't say which. No names were released. The people from Virginia had been visiting relatives in Waukesha.


Wisconsin health care professionals may seek new work rules

MADISON — Organizations representing some health care professionals have plans to seek legislative changes that would offer more autonomy on the job.

Wisconsin Public Radio reports that the groups include health care professionals who help treat patients under doctors' supervision, such as physician assistants, advance practice nurses and dental hygienists. They're considering seeking changes to state law this year to expand their duties.

Steve Rush of the Wisconsin Hospital Association says his group's latest workforce report shows that the vacancy rate for physician assistants has doubled. Eric Elliot, incoming president of the Wisconsin Academy of Physician Assistants, says many graduates leave Wisconsin for states that allow more autonomy.


Playoff game could have $14M impact on Brown County economy

GREEN BAY — Some benefits to the area's image can't be measured, but Sunday's NFL Wild Card playoff game for the Packers is expected to put $14 million into the local economy. 

Greater Green Bay Convention and Visitors Bureau President Brad Toll says that is how much visitors are expected to spend when they come to the city for the game against the New York Giants. It's more than the fans filling the Packers Pro Shop, buying NFC North Division champions baseball hats. Revenue is also expected to flow from Giants fans' lodging, food to drink and maybe some emergency game-day clothing for game-day temperatures expected to struggle to reach 20 degrees.


Retired Kenosha DA charged with state ethics violations

MADISON — A former Kenosha County district attorney is facing state ethics violations as his retirement begins today Wednesday.

The state Office of Lawyer Regulation filed a complaint just before Christmas, accusing Robert Zapf of three professional misconduct allegations. He's accused of not providing information to the defense in a complete and timely manner, after trial testimony disclosed that former Kenosha police officer Kyle Baars admitted planting Markese Tibbs' ID and a bullet at a house where Tibbs and another man were arrested for the robbery and killing of Anthony Edwards in 2014. Zapf did not run for re-election as DA last fall, and his lawyer says he complied with all his disclosure duties to the defense.