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Wisconsin roundup: Walker says he’s open to raising gas tax; more state news stories

Gov. Scott Walker, shown in a 2017 photo from his visit to Star Prairie, says he is open to an increase in the state's gas tax, even though he refused to raise it last year. File photo

MADISON — Wisconsin's governor says he is open to an increase in the state's gas tax, even though he refused to raise it last year.

Gov. Scott Walker says his position hasn't changed because he wants to find savings elsewhere to offset the higher tax rate. Raising that tax would give Wisconsin access to more federal funding for roads and bridges. President Trump is calling for Congress to approve $1.5 trillion for infrastructure work across the country. Walker says he is willing to invest to get that money.


Feds: Wilderness Resort dorm fire was arson

DELTON — Investigators with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms have determined last month's fire at the Wilderness Resort in Delton was arson.

The fire destroyed a dormitory being built to house foreign students working through the J-1 visa program. More than 3,000 students in that program work at Dells-area tourist attractions each year. There were no injuries, but the building was a total loss — at an estimated cost of $5 million.


Former Midwest Horse Fair leader charged with 61 felonies

PORTAGE — The list of felony charges against the former executive director of the Midwest Horse Fair has grown to 61.

Fifty-one-year-old Rhonda Reese of Columbus was formally charged during a Columbia County Circuit Court hearing Wednesday. She is accused of stealing nearly $239,000 from the organization over a five-year period. Reese was fired last July. The Midwest Horse Fair presents an event each year at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison which draws thousands of people from all over the country. Reese is free on a signature bond.


Court clerk gets restraining order against municipal judge

FOX CROSSING — A temporary restraining order against a municipal judge has been granted to the court clerk in Fox Crossing.

Judge Len Kachinsky is accused of harassing the clerk since last spring. She says he sat next to her desk making "cat noises" for 40 minutes one day — and made a threat about "fire and fury" coming to the municipal building on another occasion. Kachinsky was criticized for his handling of the Brendan Dassey murder case when he was serving as a lawyer. He has told reporters the current situation is simply a personality conflict that went out of control.


EPA official recuses herself from Wis. compliance review

MADISON — A regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency has recused herself from a Wisconsin case.

Cathy Stepp served as Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources secretary before accepting the federal position last year. Midwest Environmental Advocates and 16 individuals petitioned the federal agency to review the DNR's compliance with the Clean Water Act. The MEA had sent Stepp a letter demanding that she not participate in the review.


Parents jailed after child suffers seizures from cocaine exposure

MILWAUKEE — The parents of an 11-month-old girl are in jail after their child suffered seizures from ingesting cocaine.

The incident happened last October. Dartavious Spencer admits the bag of crack cocaine had fallen out of his pocket and he grabbed it away from the child after seeing her chewing on it. Spencer and the girl's mother, Andrea Rodgers, decided to wait and see if the girl was OK. She was taken to Children's Hospital of Wisconsin after she had a seizure. Police say Spencer didn't tell doctors treating his daughter about the cocaine.


Former school board president charged with soliciting prostitution

EAU CLAIRE — The former president of the Menomonie School Board has resigned after his arrest for soliciting prostitution.

Gerald Fahl II was caught in an Eau Claire police sting last month. An undercover officer had put an ad offering sex on Fahl reached out, agreeing to pay $80 for one-half hour. When he arrived at the meeting location, Fahl was taken into custody. His initial court appearance is scheduled for Feb. 13. He resigned from the board six days after the arrest.


U.S. Forest Service still hasn’t reopened Boulder Lake Campground

WHITE LAKE — Anxious campers are waiting for word that the popular Boulder Lake Campground in Oconto County will reopen for the summer.

It had been closed last month by the U.S. Forest Service over safety concerns. A man who lives next to the campground had been exhibiting erratic behavior, but he has been committed to a mental health facility for the next six months. The federal agency says the campground is still closed, temporarily, and no reservations for recreation season are being accepted.


‘Slender Man’ defendant will spend 40 years in mental hospital

WAUKESHA — The second defendant in the 2014 "Slender Man" attack has been sentenced to spend 40 years in a mental institution.

Judge Michael Bohren decided 15-year-old Morgan Geyser is still a risk to harm herself, or others, and he gave her the maximum. Geyser and Anissa Weier lured a classmate into a Waukesha park three years ago and stabbed her 19 times. Payton Leuther survived. Geyser and Weier admitted trying to kill Leuther in an effort to please a fictional horror character called "Slender Man."


Student arrested for threat posted on Snapchat

KENOSHA — Kenosha police have arrested one 17-year-old student and have been interviewing a second in an online threat which led to classes being canceled Thursday at Indian Trail High School and Academy.

A text message between students was posted on Snapchat. School district officials call it an isolated incident and Kenosha Police say they don't think the threat was going to be carried out. Classes will be back in session Friday. A Kenosha middle school student made a bomb threat last week, but school administrators say they don't believe the incidents are connected.