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Top Stories May 28, 2015

John Deere Expansion Could Lead to Second TIF


5/28/15 - The Horicon City Council approved the creation of a new Tax Increment Finance, or TIF, District at its meeting this week.  Mayor Steve Neitzel says John Deere Horicon Works is looking to expand at its west side plant.  The creation of the TIF would allow for the city to assist with some infrastructure costs to move the project along more rapidly.  That’s due to John Deere waiting on a few things within its corporate structure to fall into place.  Neitzel says the costs will not be implemented until John Deere gives its final answer, which is expected to be in August.  If the green light is given, he expects work could begin in October.  According to Neitzel, this could bring 50-75 full-time jobs to the plant that would undergo $25,000,000-$35,000,000 in expansion.  This would be the second TIF in Horicon as the current one includes what was the last set of available industrial lots in the city.  Another one closed last year.  Neitzel says the TIF Districts in the city have shown they create substantial development of industry and housing while returning tax dollars to all taxing entities. 


Beaver Dam Pool, Beach To See Life Guard Changes


5/28/15 - With summer right around the corner, city officials in Beaver Dam are reminding the public about changes at the city pool and beach. The Beaver Dam Common Council this year directed the parks department to explore a swim at your own risk policy at Crystal Lake Beach and the wading pool at Swan Park. Community Activities and Services Director Evonne Boettge says the wading pool will have either a life-guard or pool attendant. The pool rules have always limited access to kids eight and under with supervision from a parent or guardian. A schedule has not yet been developed for the life-guards and/or building attendants. Crystal Lake Beach will have no life-guards on duty but there will always be one building attendant on the grounds during operating hours. Children under 12 must now be accompanied by an adult. The wading pool and beach will be open beginning Saturday June 13 and close August 21. Both facilities are open from 1pm to 7pm Monday through Thursday and noon to 7pm Friday through Sunday. Boettge says elected officials are hoping to gauge public response to the cost-saving changes this year before a considering permanent plan next year. Comments should be directed to the Community Activities and Services Department Administrator Evonne Boettge at (920) 887-4639 or email


Beaver Dam Man Indicted For Federal Crop Insurance Fraud


5/28/15 - A Beaver Dam man is facing federal crop insurance fraud charges. Jeffrey Lewke was indicted yesterday on nine felony counts, following a long-term investigation by the US Department of Agriculture Office of Inspector General. The offenses are said to have occurred in 2011 and 2012 on as many as 12-thousand acres of land owned by Lewke. The indictment alleges that the 37-year-old knowingly devised a scheme to defraud a crop insurance company that is backed by the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation. The feds say Lewke claimed high water kept him from planting corn but the land in question already had corn planted. He also underreported his crop production and lied about the county where corn was harvested so as to increase his insurance claim. If convicted, three of the counts carry a maximum prison sentence of 20 years in prison while the remaining six each carry a max of 30 years.


Fire Destroys Waupun Barn


5/28/15 - Fond du Lac County Sheriff’s officials say the county dispatch center got a call shortly after 5am Thursday morning about a barn fire at the Katherine and Brian Emmer residence on Hemp Road in the Town of Waupun. The home owner said they raise bees and last night he was melting old bee hives and forgot to shut the burner off which is believed to have caused the fire.  No animals or persons were injured in the incident and the barn is a complete loss.  Responding to the scene were Waupun, Alto, Oakfield, Ripon, and Brandon-Fairwater Fire Departments along with Life Star Ambulance.


Man Who Drowned Near Wisconsin Dells Identified


5/28/15 - A Chicago man who drowned near Wisconsin Dells over the Memorial Day weekend was identified by authorities Wednesday as 21-year-old Andreas Baban. Columbia County sheriff's deputies said Baban was fishing on an island in the Wisconsin River last Saturday night -- and he got caught by a strong current as he tried swimming back to the shore.  Witnesses and relatives tried saving Baban at the time, but they couldn't do it.  Rescue divers recovered his body on Monday night.


Mercury Marine Breaks Ground On New Expansion


5/28/15 - Mercury Marine broke ground Wednesday morning for a new 45,000 square foot EDP coating facility. It will provide the anti-corrosive coating marine engines and drive systems need to operate effectively. Mercury President John Pfeifer says over time it will create more jobs. He says that will happen as they continue to grow the company, put in new capacity and need more people to produce the product. The new facility will open in December of 2016. Mercury has invested $580 million in its Fond du Lac facilities since 2009.


Jobless Numbers Drop Significantly


5/28/15 - There has been a steep decrease in jobless numbers from March to April both in the region and around the state. In Dodge County, the unemployment rate last month was at 4.2-percent a drop of 1.4-percent from March and one-and-a-half percent from last year at this time. Columbia County was also at 4.2-percent in April, a decrease of 1.2-percent from the previous month. Jefferson County jobless filings dropped by 1.3-percent over the two-month period to 3.9-percent. Fond du Lac County was at 3.8-percent last month while Washington County was at 3.5….both down a full-point. All counties in the region were in the top half of the state in terms of jobless numbers except Green Lake County, which however drop nearly two full percentage points to 5.3-percent. Menominee County has the highest unemployment in the state at 11.3-percent. Dane County again has the lowest reporting a 2.9-percent last month down from March’s 3.6-percent. Statewide, the seasonally-adjusted rate was 4.4-percent in April down two-tenths from March and a full point below the national average of 5.4-percent. In total, April rates dropped in all 72 counties compared to March and compared to last year at the same time.


Labor Committee Approves Prevailing Wage Repeal


5/28/15 - The Wisconsin Assembly's labor committee voted 5-to-4 late Wednesday in favor of a full repeal of the state's prevailing wage law.  However, G-O-P leaders of both houses say they still don't have the votes to pass a repeal -- and they're still working on a possible modified reform that could be slipped into the next state budget.  The 80-plus-year-old prevailing wage law requires contracted employees on public works projects to be paid comparable wages to those for similar projects in their areas.  Labor Committee chair Andre Jacque said he wanted a full repeal in the budget -- and last night's vote showed there's support for it.  Governor Scott Walker issued a statement in which he promised to sign the repeal if it reaches his desk.  That was after conservative Green Bay radio talk show host Jerry Bader questioned why the Republican Walker was so silent on the issue.  Walker's office said the governor has been working behind the scenes on a proposal.  Bader, of W-T-A-Q Radio, told listeners that some Republicans don't want the change because they have contractors who are large campaign donors -- and it puts the G-O-P leadership in an awkward position of not supporting a change that could save hundreds of millions of dollars. Marshfield Republican John Spiros joined all Democrats on the labor panel in voting against a full repeal.  He said it's not an issue in his district, and he agrees that modified reforms would be better.


Joint Finance Approves Unemployment Benefits Change


5/28/15 - Those who commit fraud to get unemployment benefits would have to give back more of their illegal payments if they're caught.  But they would not pay higher criminal fines, under a budget measure endorsed last night by the state Legislature's Joint Finance Committee.  Right now, the state collects a surcharge of 15-percent of benefits paid out by error -- and the finance panel voted to increase that to 40-percent.  However, the committee said no to increasing criminal fines from a maximum of 500-dollars to up to 25-thousand dollars. They also said no to making offenders go to prison for the first time.  The changes were endorsed on a 12-to-4 party line vote, with all Democrats voting no.  By that same margin, the committee also endorsed some -- but not all -- of Governor Scott Walker's proposed changes to the workers' compensation system.  The workforce development agency would continue to run it, but disputed claims would be considered by the Administration Department instead of the workforce agency.  The committee also said no to creating a new office that would make sure the state government keeps running during major disasters.


Joint Hearing To Be Held On Proposed Abortion Ban


5/28/15 - A public hearing will be held next Tuesday on a fast-moving Republican bill to ban all abortions in Wisconsin after 20-weeks of fertility.  The Assembly and Senate health committees will hold a joint hearing on the measure. Supporters say they want to pass the measure before the full Legislature starts devoting all of its time to the next state budget in the latter half of June.  The proposed abortion ban does not have exceptions for rape-and-incest victims.  Doctors who perform abortions after 20 weeks could be convicted of felonies, and go to prison for up to three-and-a-half years.


Yesterday's Headlines
- Kitchen Fire Damages Beaver Dam Home

- Sex Offender Meeting Wednesday in Brownsville
- Dodge County Officials Uncertain Of Extension Cut Impact

For those stories and more click here.

For older stories visit our news archive here.