Mike Longaecker is a regional/enterprise reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage includes St. Croix County government, higher education and state politics in Wisconsin.
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Newly released records describe a climate of disturbing encounters, leering looks and provocative political commentary that surrounded Eric Lundell while he served as presiding judge of St. Croix County Circuit Court. The now-retired judge left a wake of vexed employees in the county courts system during the months leading up to his retirement, which coincided with revelations about alleged harassment, according to previously unreleased St. Croix County documents compiled during an investigation into a complaint against Lundell.
Hudson Hospital officials touted a new program aimed at resolving mental health crises that Gov. Tony Evers said should be funded through a Medicaid expansion when he visited the facility last week. The pilot program, which debuted in September 2018, allows people in crisis to come to Hudson Hospital, where they can be connected with a licensed clinician through videoconferencing. They receive a clinical intervention and a crisis assessment as part of the consultation.
A young man's deadly, documented battle with addiction is coming to a screen near you. "Written Off," a documentary film chronicling Wisconsin resident Matt Edwards' fatal encounter with drug addiction, will be screened Monday, March 18, at UW-River Falls. The screening, which is free and open to the public, is part of an effort by state and local officials to soften the struggle in discussing addiction and to prevent further damage caused by the ripple opioid abuse leaves in its wake.
For those who grieved a loss, Tom O'Connell was the solemn, respectful presence directing funeral services. For others, he was the guy lifting spirits with a joke in social settings. And for others still, O'Connell was the public servant who devoted his time to the Hudson Police and Fire Commission and St. Croix County Board. John Knutson said those different aspects, rolled into one, made a community pillar of O'Connell. "He was one of the patriarchs of Hudson," Knutson said of O'Connell, who died March 2 at the age of 91.
UW-River Falls would receive planning dollars needed for a new science building under Gov. Tony Evers’ capital budget, which supporters called an encouraging first step. The university sought $4.25 million in planning funds in the 2019-21 biennium for the for the $111 million building, which would house the biology, chemistry, physics and psychology departments on the grounds where Hagestad Hall currently stands.
Wisconsin's pathway to becoming a certified nursing assistant would face one less obstacle under a measure St. Croix County Board members sent to state officials. The board on Tuesday, March 5, passed a resolution reducing the number of training hours needed to qualify to be a certified nursing assistant (CNA) from 120 hours to 75. Wisconsin requires the higher number, though the federal minimum is 75 hours. The Wisconsin Director of Nursing Council, which backs a statewide measure, said the state is experiencing a staffing shortage that has reached crisis levels.
Wisconsinites are already using medical marijuana — just without the government's blessing. Sen. Patty Schachtner said it's not uncommon for end-of-life patients in her western Wisconsin district to have medical marijuana in their system. She said she witnesses it through her job as St. Croix County's medical examiner. "We know that we have medical marijuana here already because of access to Minnesota," the District 10 Democrat said.
Carley Buetow worries about the future of farming. The UW-River Falls student comes from a medium-sized family dairy farm — the same kind that's facing struggles all over the Upper Midwest, thanks to a decline in milk prices. The problem has forced many farms into bankruptcy and foreclosure. "That hit really close to home for me," the Cologne, Minn., resident said. But Buetow fears the message isn't reaching much of the general public.
Outrage over a River Falls prep sports controversy took on bipartisan backing last week. Lawmakers from both parties authored a letter to to the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA), which raised the ire of River Falls High School football supporters in proposing to move the Wildcats to a football-only conference comprised largely of La Crosse-area schools.
An issue that municipal officials in St. Croix County say is putting the squeeze on local coffers is being targeted by the Tony Evers administration. The Democratic governor earlier this month said he would include a measure to close the so-called "dark-store loophole" in Wisconsin. A 2008 Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling allows retailers to have open stores assessed at the rate of a vacant store, allowing them to pay lower property taxes.