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Top Stories March 3, 2015.

Winter Weather to Hit All of Wisconsin Today
 
3/3/15 - Winter weather advisories are in effect today for all of Wisconsin.  One-to-five inches of snow are in the forecast, with winds gusting to 40-miles-an-hour in some places.  Far northern Wisconsin is expected to get the most snow, with 3-to-5 inches through late tonight.  To the south, the snow is projected to taper off this afternoon with 1-to-3 inches for western Wisconsin, and 2-to-4 inches in central and southern areas.  The Madison and Milwaukee areas could get a mix of snow-and-sleet before it turns to all snow.  Scattered flurries are supposed to linger this evening, once the storm heads east.  Another Arctic blast could be here by then, with lows projected to be down to 15-below in the northwest by this time tomorrow, and five-above in the south.  Dry but cold weather is forecast into Friday, when a warm-up could drive temperatures above freezing into the mid-30's statewide both Friday and Saturday.

Beaver Dam Deliberate Next Step for Watermark

 
3/3/15 - City officials in Beaver Dam last night plotted their next step for the Watermark, one month after voting down a plan to use taxpayer funds to cover a half-million dollar shortfall. The status of the $2.2 million dollar proposed community and senior center is unknown with a million dollars in cash and pledges and another half-million in grants in limbo. Some alderpersons last night spoke to their disappointment in the process. Alderman Mick Fischer criticized the Friends fundraising group for spending $200-thousand dollars on a consultant that helped raise $700-thousand dollars. Alderwoman Mary Flaherty accused the group of using “smoke and mirrors” and “sleight of hand” with financial updates and she labeled supporters as bullies, “strong-arming” and “threatening” the council into making a favorable decision. Other officials advocated for a solution. Alderwoman Lisa Davidson said she did not want to see another vacant building downtown. Alderwoman Donna Flaherty encouraged putting upkeep funds for the current senior center towards the Watermark. In the end, the committee asked Watermark supporters and the city finance director to answer key questions prior to their next meeting. Administrative Committee Chair Don Neuert says that includes an updated cost of the project, the total amount of cash on hand, the status of all pledges, how long the city has to use the half-million dollars state grant it was awarded, the status of fundraising and plans for the current senior center if the Watermark opens. Last night’s agenda items were tabled and the conversation will resume at the Administrative Committee’s meeting in two weeks.

Proposed State Budget Would Effect Dodge County

 
3/3/15 - A number of different Dodge County departments would be affected under the state budget proposed last month.  The county is currently in the fact finding stage of determining the full effect of these possible changes.  County Administrator Jim Mielke says that the biggest issue this version of the budget poses is the change in countywide assessments as he says it would affect all municipalities throughout the county and all counties throughout the state.  He notes that there would also be implications on departments such as human services and transportation.  Mielke elaborated on his assessment point by saying that it would shift the responsibility of their cost from the individual municipalities to the counties.  He says that the budget proposal could change the way the process is completed and handled and may also present staffing implications.  While a measure of funding would come with that to aid the counties, Mielke says that amount likely would not be enough to sufficiently cover the costs.  Although some of these changes could have a negative impact on Dodge County, Mielke says that there are also some positives that would come from the proposed budget including additional revenues in transportation aids.  Prior to the final budget being approved, Mielke says that Dodge County will ensure it has a say in the process as it has in the past worked with both state representatives from the area and the Wisconsin Counties Association.  Mielke says that it is important at this time for the county to focus on what it would see as possible drawbacks of the budget as those could make an immediate impact on its financial state.
 
BD Council Approves Borrowing Without Watermark
 
3/3/15 - The Beaver Dam Common Council approved a new five year capital improvement program plan at its meeting last night.  This version saw borrowing total $1.8-million dollars, which is $1.7-million dollars less than the one that was rejected last month with the funding for the proposed Watermark Community and Senior Center having been cut.  $121-thousand dollars in upgrades to the current senior center are included in the approved plan, and $35-thousand dollars of that amount will be covered by excess funds from other city projects and thus will not need to be borrowed.  2015 is the only year of the five where borrowing is projected to exceed the $1.6-million dollar limit.
 
Lifeguards Pulled, Swim Lesson Location Changed
 
3/3/15 - The Beaver Dam City Council last night approved a plan that would remove life-guards from the city beach and wading pool while moving summer swimming lessons indoors to either Wayland or the YMCA. Alderperson Don Neuert says the pool at Swan will remain open to the public with either lifeguards or a pool supervisor on hand. He says that the swimming piers at the Crystal Lake Beach are beyond repair and won’t be going out this year even though the beach will be open to the public. He says it is a good time to transition to “swimming at your own risk.”
 
Plans for Administration Building Repairs Hastening
 
3/3/15 - Dodge County is considering plans to complete what was originally thought to be a two-year effort by the end of 2015.  The vapor barrier above each floor’s ceiling in the County Administration Building is in need of replacement as it is causing some of the structure’s stones to crack and fail.  $300,000 was budgeted each of the next two years to complete one of the two phases of the project.  The one bid that the county received on the project came at $309,000 per phase.  That was from Maas Brothers Construction in Watertown.  The county would look to use money from its sales tax fund balance to pay for the half of the project that was not budgeted for this year.  The Executive Committee approved the idea at its meeting yesterday, and it will now be discussed by the Buildings Committee tomorrow before going in front of the Board of Supervisors for final consideration later this month.  If approved, the project is expected to begin in early April and be completed in the fall.
 
Dodge County Considering Collaboration with Neighbor
 
3/3/15 - Dodge County is considering a regional collaboration effort with a nearby county.  Officials have met with representatives from Jefferson County about possible working together.  The first effort the partnership would focus on is obtaining a transportation study grant.  If that is successful, the collaborative work could continue going forward.  Officials from the two counties have met twice and are said to be making progress towards reaching an agreement.
 
Dodge County Hopes to Send Project for Bids this Summer
 
3/3/15 - Dodge County is hoping to be ready to open up its proposed jail and courthouse security project for bids this summer.  The county has had a series of meetings with its consultant and hopes to know the total cost of the project by this fall so the effort can be included in the 2016 budget.  A total of twelve different projects that will enhance the safety of the two buildings are being considered with the greatest focus being placed on the security of the jail.  It is estimated that the project will cost somewhere around $1,500,000.
 
Strong Opposition at Right-to-Work Hearing
 
3/3/15 - Once again yesterday, opponents of a Wisconsin right-to-work law out-numbered supporters at a public hearing.  Most speakers at a hearing by the Assembly's Labor Committee were against the bill, which would bar employers from forcing workers to join unions or pay union dues.  At a Senate hearing last week, opponents out-numbered the other side 70-to-1 among those who registered.  A number of people who wanted to speak couldn't, because the hearing was cut short for a committee vote.  Those who couldn't speak then were given the first chance yesterday.  The Senate passed the right-to-work bill last Wednesday by two votes.  The Assembly is expected to take it up Thursday.
 
Wisconsin Could See Increase in Speed Limit
 
3/3/15 - The proposed increase in Wisconsin's top speed limit will be up for a recommendation vote this morning.  The Assembly Transportation Committee is scheduled to act on a plan to raise the maximum speed to 70-miles-an-hour where the D-O-T deems it safe to do so.  Numerous four-lanes currently have a top speed of 65, the lowest in the Upper Midwest.  Neighboring states have raised their top speeds to 70.  The idea didn't go anywhere in the last session -- but unlike then, the new bill gives the D-O-T the option of keeping commercial vehicles like semi-trucks at 65. 

Lawmakers Want Bucks’ Owners to Pay More for Arena

 
3/3/15 - The state Assembly's chairman of the legislative finance committee wants the owners of the Milwaukee Bucks to put up more money toward a new downtown arena. Republican John Nygren said he believes Marc Lasry, Wes Edens, and Jamie Dinan can pay more than the 150-million dollars they've pledged. Yesterday, the finance panel heard from Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch on Governor Scott Walker's budget plan to borrow 220-million dollars for the new arena -- and to have N-B-A players pay it back with an expected increase in salaries and income taxes due to a new TV contract.  Senate finance chair Alberta Darling says lawmakers need more information.  During the hearing, G-O-P lawmakers asked Huebsch how much in state income taxes would be lost if the Bucks left town.  He said the state would lose around seven-million dollars a year.  The NBA wants a new arena in place in Milwaukee by mid-2017 -- or else the league could buy back the team and move it out.
 
Walker to Make Two More Iowa Trips
 
3/3/15 - Governor Scott Walker has at least two more trips planned for Iowa over the next few weeks.  He's one of at least four potential White House candidates scheduled to speak at the Iowa Ag Summit in Des Moines. Walker also plans to speak at a fund-raiser on April 24th at Northwestern Iowa Community College, before speaking to the Iowa Faith-and-Freedom Coalition the next day.  At the Ag Summit, it's been reported that the candidates will be pressed on whether they support an expansion of the Renewable Fuel Standard, to require gasoline to have a larger percentage of ethanol. Walker has avoided a stance, as Wisconsin has competing interests.  Corn farmers would benefit from the change, while makers of small engines say it could wreck the units that power things like snow-blowers and lawnmowers.
 
Dairy Farmers Seeing Milk Prices Drop
 
3/3/15 - Dairy farmers have been getting lower prices for their milk -- and that means lower prices for the cows they're selling.  The U-S-D-A said the average dairy cow in Wisconsin went for 21-hundred-60 dollars at the end of January.  That's 60-dollars less than three months earlier, but still 170-dollars more than the national January price of 19-hundred-90-dollars per cow. California, the nation's top milk producer, had the largest decrease among the nation's 23 major dairy states.  Cows in the Golden State sold for 18-hundred dollars at the end of January, a 400-dollar decrease from three months earlier.  Michigan, on the other hand, saw a 100-dollar increase to 22-hundred dollars.  That was the highest jump in the 23 major dairy states.  Average cow prices also rose by about 50-dollars each in Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio.  National cow prices for all of last year were about 450-dollars higher per animal than in 2013, to around 18-hundred-30 dollars.

Two Wisconsin Banking Groups Merge

 
3/3/15 - Two statewide banking groups have become one.  The Wisconsin Bankers Association and the Community Bankers of Wisconsin said today they've completed the merger they first announced almost two months ago.  They'll operate under the name of the Bankers Association -- and the association's C-E-O will stay in that post.  Rose Oswald Poels says the new merger will put the group in a stronger position to move forward on behalf of its members.  Former Community Bankers' president Darryl Lund is now the executive vice-president and chief-of-staff for the new organization.  The newly-merged WBA has around 270 commercial banks and savings institutions.  It represents about 98% of the banks headquartered in the Badger State.


   

Yesterday's Headlines
    - Beaver Dam Teen Dead After Snowmobile Accident
    - Kennedy: 'Watermark Still on the Table'
    - Sheboygan Falls Teen Injured in Farming Accident

For those stories and more click here.


For older stories visit our news archive here.