Wisconsin roundup: High-capacity well bill signed into law; cheese gets official state designation; 9 more state news stories
MADISON — With no fanfare or ceremony, Gov. Scott Walker has signed a bill to relax state rules for the high-capacity water wells used on farms and other large businesses.
Walker privately signed the measure in his Madison office, no longer requiring the DNR to review impacts of wells that pump more than 100,000 gallons per day when the wells are sold or rebuilt. Also, the new law requires a DNR study in the sandier parts of central Wisconsin to decide if large wells are causing pollution — and if so, the DNR would have three years to give recommendations for improvements. The bill passed both houses on party line votes, with Democrats contending that it weakens water pollution enforcement and hurts certain property rights.
Say cheese — it's now state's official dairy product
MINERAL POINT — Fourth graders in southwest Wisconsin have seen how one of their ideas became a new state law.
Gov. Scott Walker went to Mineral Point Elementary School Thursday morning to sign a bill that names cheese as the state's official dairy product. In a statement, Walker noted that Wisconsin is "America's Dairyland," so it's "only fitting we designate cheese" — which has never been honored with its own state symbol, even though the Badger State has long been the national leader in cheese production.
Livia Doyle's students took note of that, and their legislators got the bill pushed through both houses this spring. Wisconsin's dairy heritage has also produced other state symbols, but it's been a while. The dairy cow was named the state's domestic animal in 1971 and milk became the official beverage in 1987.
Western Wisconsin men face child-sex charges
LA CROSSE — Two western Wisconsin men made court appearances in La Crosse County Circuit Court Thursday to face child sex charges.
Forty-two-year-old Robert Mattingley of La Crosse was charged with use of a computer to facilitate a sex crime and attempted sexual assault of a child. Fifty-five-year-old Michael Connelly of Onalaska was arrested on the same charges, but there is additional paperwork to be completed before a criminal complaint is filed in his name. Mattingley was arrested when he set up a meeting with who he thought was a 14-year-old girl. He was met by Holmen police. Details of Connelly's arrest weren't released.
Rhinelander man charged with poisoning, beating dog to death
RHINELANDER — Oneida County authorities say a 29-year-old man poisoned a neighbor's dog and then beat it to death with a stick.
Robert Runnerstrom is charged with felony mistreatment of a dog in a cruel manner, resulting in its death. Investigators say a 57-year-old woman called them Sunday night saying somebody had killed her boyfriend's dog. She pointed the finger at Runnerstrom because he was the one who called her and told her the pet was dead. He made his first court appearance Tuesday. If convicted, he could get up to three and a-half years in prison.
Cambria holds vigil for corn mill explosion victims
CAMBRIA — Residents gathered at the First Presbyterian Church in Cambria Thursday night to pray for victims of the explosion and fire at the Didion Milling plant.
At least one person was killed and two others who were in the corn mill are still missing. One dozen workers were injured. Classes at the Cambria-Friesland School District are back in session after students were told to stay home Thursday. Federal authorities had cited the plant six years ago for exposing its workers to dust explosion hazards.
Trump's Wisconsin visit rescheduled
MILWAUKEE — Gov. Scott Walker says President Donald Trump will be visiting Wisconsin one week from Tuesday.
Trump just canceled another planned visit last month. No exact location for the June 13 appearance has been released, though Walker says it will be at a fundraiser in southeast Wisconsin. Trump was last in the Badger State in April.
Walker tweeted about the visit Thursday, saying the president will show his support of what the governor calls "our bold conservative reforms." Walker points out that the state's unemployment rate was 9.2 percent in 2010. In April, it had fallen to 3.2 percent.
Village water tower generates double-takes
SUSSEX — The water tower for the village of Sussex had a lot of people chuckling Wednesday.
A contractor from Georgia was repainting that tower, but only completed half of the job when workers wrapped things up Wednesday. They painted over the SUS, but left the SEX. They left it that way overnight, then completed the job Thursday morning.
City officials say this is not the first time. Another contractor did the same thing 21 years ago, showing the same sense of humor, leaving the word "sex" up in the sky for all to see.
Thieves attack, rob elderly man on motor scooter
GREEN BAY — Green Bay police say three men in a car spotted an elderly man going to a grocery store on his motor scooter early Thursday morning and apparently decided to rob him.
They stopped their car, got out, demanded the man's money and hit him in the head when he didn't move fast enough. That part of Green Bay is home to several senior apartments and people living nearby say it's not unusual to see residents riding those motorized scooters, even in the middle of the night. The grocery store is open 24 hours a day. The victim's name hasn't been released. He was shaken up, but is expected to be OK.
Walker: It's 'appropriate' to keep concealed-carry licenses
MINERAL POINT — Gov. Scott Walker hinted Thursday that he might want to keep the state's current permit system for carrying concealed weapons.
The Republican Walker told reporters in Mineral Point he would review a bill if it gets to his desk that would end the need for permits and weapons training — and let certain people have hidden weapons on school grounds. However, Walker says the law which took effect in 2011 is a "good law," and he believes it's "appropriate" to require licenses. Walker says people are generally "happy with the law as it is."
Wisconsin owners struggle to get boats fixed
MILWAUKEE — Wisconsin is struggling with what is being called a severe shortage of boat mechanics.
Some boat owners say they have had to wait weeks for repairs because the number of available qualified mechanics is so limited. The head of the Wisconsin Marine Association, John Kukuk, is owner of a business in Marinette. He calls it a crisis, saying the industry can't find enough people to do the boat work. Wisconsin has only one dedicated marine engine program at a technical college and the three-semester class at Indianhead Technical in Ashland graduates 12 students each year. They quickly get hired.
Walker asks for federal help for small-business owners
MADISON — Gov. Scott Walker is asking the U.S. Small Business Administration to come to Wisconsin and view the damage from last month's tornado in Barron and Rusk counties.
One person was killed and more than two dozen injured. Walker says damage estimates put the losses from the EF-3 tornado at more than $7 million. He says the families and businesses hit the hardest need to get some disaster aid.
The storm traveled more than 80 miles and damaged more than 100 homes and at least six businesses. Walker declared a state of emergency for Barron, Rusk and Jackson counties.