Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker
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Scott Walker announced plans last week to turn the state budget surplus into checks for Wisconsin families. The Republican governor outlined that plan along with several other proposals he called on legislators to pass during his Jan. 24 State of the State speech. Walker proposed a child tax credit that would provide families about $100 for every child under 18 living at home. "This is your reform dividend," he said of the $122 million proposal. "You deserve it."
A North Hudson coin transport business was targeted by current and former employees who made off with more than $30,000 in currency, according to charges filed last week in St. Croix County Circuit Court. The alleged thefts were uncovered after a routine traffic stop in Hudson that snowballed into a multi-suspect investigation as coin boxes, surveillance video and interviews surfaced, according to charges filed in the ongoing case.
Lyle Johnson remembers how salty he was the first time he had to show up at the St. Croix County jail for a drug test. "If you don't show up, they're going to send the posse out after you. I kind of thought you were innocent until proven guilty," the River Falls man recalled thinking. Though he'd been charged with a drug offense, the notion of pre-conviction requirements nagged at him as he arrived at the jail's Day Report Center to abide his bond conditions, which include absolute sobriety.
A Somerset man made his first court appearance last week on allegations he struck and seriously injured a pedestrian in St. Croix County before driving away from the scene. Prosecutors charged Jon B. McConaughey with one count felony hit and run following a Jan. 8 crash in the town of Star Prairie that court records state left Charles Henkel with multiple injuries. Witnesses' statements and evidence collected at the scene led to a description of the vehicle that the St. Croix County Sheriff's Office posted to Facebook the same night as the incident.
SOMERSET — Patty Schachtner took her oath of office last week with a nod to history and her hometown roots. Friday's swearing-in ceremony represented the first time a Somerset resident was ever elected to the Wisconsin Senate. "Today, Somerset, you put yourself on the state map," Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling told an assembled group of students and community members inside the Somerset High School gymnasium.
An east metro man was killed Monday when the vehicle he was driving crashed into a St. Croix County bridge abutment. The Wisconsin State Patrol identified the driver as 46-year-old Lake Elmo resident Derek S. Baker. Troopers were called at 10:19 a.m. Jan. 29 to eastbound Interstate 94 near Baldwin for the single-vehicle crash. The State Patrol said the vehicle left the road, entered the median and struck the bridge structure.
A Monday blizzard socked western Wisconsin, dropping as much as a foot of snow in areas. The snowstorm that closed schools and made for some harrowing afternoon commutes wrapped late Monday, Jan. 22. Somerset reported 12 inches of snow, with 11 inches recorded in Hudson and about 7 inches in both River Falls and Ellsworth, according to National Weather Service totals. Baldwin reported 12.5 inches. Southern Minnesota saw the biggest totals, with Owatonna recording 17 inches of snow.
Forces outside St. Croix County were at play last week when Patty Schachtner became the first Democrat to win a 10th Senate District seat since the 1990s. In the weeks leading up to the election, piles of money surged into the campaigns of both Schachtner and her GOP challenger, Rep. Adam Jarchow.
NEW RICHMOND — Education is central to Tony Evers, a gubernatorial candidate who last week touted his ability to win statewide elections. The thrice-elected state superintendent of public instruction called on St. Croix County Democrats to back him during a Thursday, Jan. 11 visit to New Richmond. “I believe my experience as state superintendent … that differentiates me,” he said.
HUDSON — St. Croix County law enforcement leaders shared the struggle surrounding emergency mental detentions last week with Wisconsin's top legal authority. The lengthy process can tie up officers for hours, wrack up overtime costs and exacerbate the already difficult experience for those at the center of the ordeals, officials from different agencies told Attorney General Brad Schimel.