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Sixty state bridges make 'Nation's Worst' list; Walker promises tougher welfare oversight; 10 more state stories

Wisconsin has about 60 bridges which are listed in a national directory as both "fracture critical" and "structurally-deficient," according to an Associated Press review of the latest National Bridge Inventory.

State officials say 10 of the 60 bridges in the report have been fixed. Eighteen others are scheduled for repairs between now and 2017. Three others are closed. Most of the bridges are in rural areas, but a couple are in downtown Milwaukee.

"Fracture critical" means that a bridge could collapse if a component like a load-bearing girder fails. "Structurally-deficient" means that a bridge needs repairs, and could eventually need major reconstruction.

Almost 8,000 bridges around the country are in both categories.

Scot Becker, head of the Wisconsin Department of Transportion Structures Bureau, downplays the new report. He contends that Wisconsin bridges are safe. Becker says the "fracture critical" status might sound ominous -- but it only means that if one part fails, the rest of a bridge is not designed to carry the rest of the load.

He says the degree of deterioration in a structurally-deficient bridge may vary from rust to potholes. Becker says Wisconsin either closes a bridge or imposes weight limits if it's deemed unsafe.

The state has no plans to repair 27 of the 60 bridges listed as deficient or fracture-critical in the new report. Wisconsin has over 14,000 bridges at least 20-feet long.

Area residents can view the web site to check whether a bridge in their township or city appears on the list. Go to

Select "Wisconsin' from the drop-down menu, then insert the respective county code (109 St. Croix, 093 Pierce, 095 Polk, 091 Pepin, 033 Dunn) to localize your search. Be sure to choose either "Structurally Deficient" or "Functionally Obsolete" to identify local bridges on the list.

Walker promises new plan to limit welfare fraud

MADISON -- Gov. Scott Walker says new plans will be unveiled this week to reduce fraud in Wisconsin's public assistance programs.

The Republican Walker says he's been alerted to problems exposed in recent weeks by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel plus "other things that have come up since then."

He didn't say what those things were and he did not indicate what reforms might be proposed.

Walker said the Health Services Department would roll out the new measures.

The Journal Sentinel found cases in which the incomes of those applying aid were not verified -- including a Milwaukee woman with $4 million of rental properties who got $150,000 in assistance.

Also, the paper said front-line government workers have been pressured to approve as many public benefit requests as possible -- including some which may be fraudulent -- so the state can receive millions-of-dollars in federal incentives.

Former Trek exec still angling for gubernatorial run

Mary Burke is not the only wealthy person considering a run for her state's top office next year. Several others of both parties are hoping to do the same elsewhere.

The Associated Press says 36 other states are just like Wisconsin, where one party controls the governor's office and the full Legislature, and the opposing party gets almost no chance to accomplish anything.

In Wisconsin, a lot of minority Democrats are looking to Burke -- a former executive for her family's Trek Bicycle Company -- to help provide a well-funded campaign to keep up with Republican Governor Scott Walker.

In Illinois, Republican Bruce Rauner hopes to use his 30 years of experience in running a large private equity firm. He says that being an outsider makes him more honest about discussing the state's problems -- something his State Capitol needs more of.

Former venture capitalist Tom Foley is expected to run for a second time as a Republican for Connecticut's governor. Investment banker Scott Honour plans to challenge Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton and former hospital CEO Charlie Baker plans to run for governor in Massachusetts. They all have success stories to tell from the business world -- but some will face incredible odds, like Honour will in heavily-Democratic Minnesota.

Ash borer discovery could be a problem for Minnesota loggers and mills

SUPERIOR -- The discovery of the emerald ash borer in Superior could be a problem for loggers and mills in neighboring Minnesota. Minnesota Public Radio reports unprocessed ash trees cannot be transported through September. That's because of Wisconsin's quarantine placed on ash products in Douglas County, where Superior is located.

County forestry director Jon Harris says every level of the region's supply chain for wood products will feel "a certain level of pain."

Logger Max Ericson of Minong says he might to have begin storing the timber he cuts during the summer, instead of shipping it right away. The movement of cut ash is restricted until Oct. 1, when the ash borer does not spread as easily.

One mill across the Wisconsin border says it's doing okay for now -- but things could change if the quarantine zone is expanded into Minnesota. That would happen if the emerald ash borer is found in that part of the Gopher State.

Businesses say it's only a matter of time until it happens. There have been reports that the tree-killing ash borer might have come from somebody hauling infected firewood from central Wisconsin.

Ericson says he's disturbed by that because "We're the ones who are going to have to deal with the consequences."

More frost reported across northern counties

SULLIVAN -- Frost advisories were in effect until 8 a.m., Monday for two dozen counties in the northern half of Wisconsin.

It got down to 31 degrees in Rhinelander and Manitowish Waters at 5 a.m. Other parts of the region were at the freezing mark or just above it.

River Falls reported 38 degrees at 5 a.m. but frost could be seen on some rooftops at 7 a.m. and likely touched ground-level plants unprotected by tree canopies.

Southern Wisconsin was much warmer, in the mid-40's to low-50's.

Forecasters predicted a sunny, fall-like day Monday with highs in the 60's. The National Weather Service says a low-pressure system will bring new chances of rain to Wisconsin Tuesday night through Thursday -- along with warmer temperatures. The mercury could hit 80 again on Thursday. Meanwhile, much of the Badger State had soaking rains Saturday night and Sunday -- especially in western Wisconsin, where the current drought is officially listed as severe again.

Around nine-tenths of an inch of rain fell yesterday at La Crosse, Alma, River Falls and Neillsville.

Military police officer reaches plea deal in relative's death

MADISON -- A military police officer has struck a plea deal on charges that she helped hide her half-brother's murdered body in southern Wisconsin.

Shannon Remus, 27, is due in Dane County Circuit Court Wednesday for a plea-and-sentence hearing. Attorneys have not said what the plea bargain entails.

Remus is currently charged with a felony count of hiding a corpse. Her husband, 29-year-old Jeffrey Vogelsberg, is accused of beating his autistic half-brother Matthew Graville to death last year when the two lived together at a rental home in Mazomanie.

The 27-year-old Graville was found dead while buried in a wooded area near Lone Rock last November. According to earlier court testimony, Remus and the rental home's owner removed Graville's body from a freezer -- where it was stored before being taken to public land for a burial.

Remus, a military officer in Washington State, reportedly agreed to keep quiet about the matter. The landlord, Robert McCumber, remains charged with hiding a corpse.

No new court proceedings are set in his case. Vogelsberg is scheduled to go on trial Oct. 21st on charges of homicide, hiding a corpse, and intimidating a witness.

Wisconsin's Miss America candidate finishes just outside 'Top 10'

Wisconsin's entry in the Miss America pageant finished just outside of the Top 10.

Paula Mae Kuiper of Mount Pleasant in Racine County, made it to the Top 15 and then the final 12 in Sunday night's televised finals.

She was eliminated when 10 women were picked for the talent competition.

The 20-year-old Kuiper won the Miss Wisconsin pageant earlier this year as Miss Madison-Capital City. She was Miss Racine the year before.

Miss New York won last night's pageant for the second year in a row. Nina Davuluri won the crown from Mallory Hagan.

The pageant was moved back to its long-time home in Atlantic City after six years in Las Vegas.

Boyfriend arrested in Madison stabbing case

MADISON -- A Madison woman is hospitalized in stable condition, after she had multiple stab wounds to her upper body.

Police arrested her 40-year-old live-in boyfriend on a possible charge of attempted homicide. The incident was reported early Sunday morning near the couple's residence on the city's east side, south of East Washington Avenue near Hwy. 51.

The victim, in her early 30's, was taken to a hospital where she had surgery.

Boy donates change to help police department

MILWAUKEE -- A young boy walked into a police station, left a bag of change on the counter, said he wanted to make a donation to the police, and left without giving his name.

It happened on Friday afternoon in the Milwaukee suburb of Greenfield.

Police said they found $10.03 in the bag. It'll be given to the Greenfield Police Foundation.

Authorities trying to find cannon, missing 29 years

PLYMOUTH -- It's been almost 30 years since a World War One cannon was stolen from outside the American Legion Hall at Plymouth in Sheboygan County -- and authorities are still trying to get it back.

According to police, people thought four members of a moving crew were placing the cannon on a trailer, and then using a pick-up truck to pull it away. That was in early August of 1984.

It appeared natural at the time, because the Legion was in the process of moving to a new location. But Legion commander Eugene Blindauer said the four men were not movers -- and nobody has seen the cannon since then.

Over the last year, Plymouth Police and Sheboygan County sheriff's deputies have been looking for leads in an effort to get the cannon back. The statute-of-limitations in the case has long been expired, so the thieves cannot be criminally charged. Still, sheriff's sergeant Doug Tuttle hopes to bring the cannon back for the veterans.

Antigo ticket-buyer won a million, but no Powerball

MADISON -- The Powerball jackpot has reached $400 million for the third time this year.

A ticket sold in Antigo won $1 million on Saturday night, by matching all five regular numbers but not the Powerball. It was sold at a Remington Oil station in Antigo, and it's the second million-dollar Powerball winner in Wisconsin this month.

Another ticket was sold in Kaukauna on Sept. 4th.

Meanwhile, a Wisconsin player won $10,000 on Saturday night by matching four regular numbers plus the Powerball. That ticket was sold in Neenah.

Just under 30,000 Wisconsin players won smaller prizes.

Funeral set for federal official, former Wisconsinite

Funeral services will be held next week for Glen Pommerening, a Milwaukee native who served in a variety of state and federal government posts.

The 85-year-old Pommerening died last Tuesday at his home in Alexandria, Virg. from lung cancer. He served for 12 years in the state Assembly, and then became a deputy administration secretary under former Governor Warren Knowles.

In 1970, he moved to suburban Washington D.C. become a deputy attorney general in the Nixon administration. After the Saturday Night Massacre in 1973 in which the Justice Department was shaken up, Pommerening moved up to an assistant attorney general post for administration.

He later spent 17 years as a deputy assistant director in the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.

Pommerening retired from public service in 1998. His funeral will be in Alexandria, just outside of Washington.

Steve Dzubay

Steve Dzubay has been publisher at the River Falls Journal and Hudson Star Observer from 1995-2016. He holds a bachelors degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. He previously worked as a reporter-photographer at small daily newspapers in Minnesota and is past editor of the Pierce County Herald and River Falls Journal.