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Top Stories March 4, 2015

Waupun Man Accused of Murdering Cellmate


3/4/15 - Criminal charges have been filed against an incarcerated Waupun man who is accused of murdering his cellmate.  42-year-old Dexter L. Ewing is charged with First Degree Intentional Homicide as a Persistent Repeater in the ligature strangulation death of 40-year-old Jerome Scott.  The alleged incident occurred on February 12 at the Columbia Correctional Institution in Portage.  Ewing and Scott were cellmates for two weeks and according to the criminal complaint, Scott twice threatened Ewing with a pen as a weapon out of irritation with Ewing’s mannerisms.  On the second occurrence, Ewing is said to have pulled a shank from his waistline, pushed it to Scott’s neck, and threatened to kill him.  Scott was then tied up and strangled with a cord for approximately fifteen minutes until he stopped breathing.  Ewing later reported to the officer that Scott was lying on the floor of the cell.  He will make his initial appearance in a Columbia County Circuit Courtroom this Friday.  If he is found guilty, Ewing is facing life in prison.


Watermark Grant Good Thru 2016, Pledges Hold Steady


3/4/15 - While taxpayer funding for the Watermark appears unlikely, grants and pledges for the community and senior center remain a viable option. The state last year awarded Beaver Dam a $500-thousand dollar grant for a $2.2 million dollar facility. Mayor Tom Kennedy confirms that the city should be able to use the grant until 2016. Beaver Dam will have two years to complete the Watermark once the grant contract is signed with the state. Because the contract has not yet been signed, officials say it will be easier to make changes, like reducing the first phase of the project down to $1.8-million dollars. In addition to the half-million dollars grant already awarded, Kennedy says the city is exploring the possibility of another $150-thousand dollar infrastructure grant. As far as pledges are concerned, figures from the city finance director as of yesterday show that there have been written requests to date for $8000, which is unchanged from the numbers reported shortly after the city voted against using taxpayer dollars on the Watermark last month. Kennedy says letters were sent to all donors last month assuring them that the process is still ongoing. An initial donation of $300-thousand dollars has been depleted, used by the Friends of the Beaver Dam Senior Center group for feasibility studies, engineering and the hiring of a fundraising consultant. Of the approximately $700-thousand dollars pledged to the Watermark, $420-thousand in cash has been collected to date. However, the account only has $315-thousand dollars remaining. That could leave the city with a potential liability of $105-thousand dollars, if all donors were to ask for a refund. As far as whether or not the city would be obligated to refund the money already donated, City Attorney Mary Ann Schacht said Monday that she would issue a formal legal opinion after city officials make a decision on the future of the Watermark. That decision could come as early as March 16, when officials meet again to discuss the next step.


Stepp Defends Proposed DNR Board Power Reduction


3/4/15 - Wisconsin’s State DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp appeared before the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee yesterday to defend Governor Scott Walker’s plan to change the DNR Board’s role.  The committee has been speaking with agency leaders about their specific requests and questioned Stepp on the proposal to turn the board into an advisory panel by taking away its policy-setting authority.  The appointed DNR Secretary would be given the power to run the state’s natural resource agency.  When asked by Senate Republican Luther Olsen what is wrong with the current system, Stepp responded by saying that it is unnecessary and “compounds the bureaucracy.”  Dodge County Deer Advisory Council Chair Dale Maas is opposed to the change as he does not want to see a legislative body setting fish and game policies due to the possibility of politics getting in the way of how natural resources are managed.  Maas says that he respects Walker as a governor but feels that this change would set conservation in Wisconsin back eighty years.  He feels that a great deal of progress has been made to allow the people to have a say in conservation-based policy setting during that time span and does not want to see that taken away.


Right-To-Work Debate To Last 24 Hours


3/4/15 - Wisconsin's right-to-work bill will get 24 hours of debate before the state Assembly takes a final vote on Friday morning.  G-O-P Majority Leader Jim Steineke says the debate will begin at 9am tomorrow, and run no later than 9am on Friday.  Steineke said Democrats wanted 48 hours of debate, but they eventually agreed to 24.  The Republican leader says he does not expect any amendments to be added to the final bill.  However, the Assembly's Labor Committee is expected to meet today to consider the Democrats' requests for changes.  The Senate approved the current measure last week, and it would have to approve any Assembly amendments.  That would slow things down for Governor Scott Walker, who has said he expects to sign the bill by the end of this week.  It's been 12 days since Senate G-O-P leader Scott Fitzgerald first pushed to move the right-to-work bill to the forefront.  It would prohibit employers from requiring workers to join unions or pay union dues, effective with their next labor contracts.


Dodge County Sets Target Date to Sell MetalFab Building


3/4/15 - The MetalFab building in Beaver Dam has been vacated and is currently empty.  An update on the property was provided at this week’s Dodge County Executive Committee meeting.  MacFab Metal Products had been leasing the property from the county since 2006 prior to moving out earlier this year.  The county plans to conduct an inspection of the building to check for substances such as asbestos and lead paint.  It will continue to heat the building and keep the sprinkler system working while having a third party monitor the property.  The county is looking to either sell the building or arrange plans for its destruction by mid-October.  It will be put out for bid, and the county will entertain any offers. 


Private Well Testing Program Could Begin in Dodge County


3/4/15 - Dodge County is seeking to begin a private well testing program.  The goal is to test the wells in 150 county households each year beginning in 2016, which is when the testing lab at UW-Stevens Point will be ready to start receiving the samples.  Homeowners would be assessed a $49 fee, but the county hopes that part, if not all, of that fee can be offset as an incentive for the voluntary participation.  All houses that are sold beginning next year would also have their water supplies tested for bacteria.


Dodge County Municipality Receives State Trust Fund Loan


3/4/15 - A Dodge County municipality was among five throughout Wisconsin that received a State Trust Fund Loan.  The Town of Ashippun received $500-thousand dollars to finance road and bridge projects.  That amount was nearly half of the total that was loaned yesterday.  All income generated by the State Trust Fund Loans provides financial aid to public elementary, middle, and high school libraries. 


State Assembly Approves Bill to Increase Speed Limit


3/4/15 -  A bill to increase Wisconsin's top speed limit to 70-miles-an-hour cruised through the state Assembly's transportation committee yesterday.  The vote was 12-to-1 to refer the measure to the full Assembly.  The panel said no to an amendment that would have allowed lower speeds for semi-trucks and other commercial vehicles.  The lower house is expected to vote later this month on the measure, which would raise the top-speed in the Badger State from 65-miles-an-hour to 70.  The D-O-T would determine where the higher speeds would apply.  The 65-limit is now on most four-lane expressways and freeways.


UW President Urges Legislature Not to Cut Funding


3/4/15 - Keep the flexibility, but not the governor's price-tag for it.  That, in essence, is what U-W System President Ray Cross urged state lawmakers to do. Cross appeared yesterday before the state Legislature's Joint Finance Committee to explain the effects of Governor Scott Walker's proposed 300-million dollar cut in state funding -- in exchange for freeing the 26-campus system from state oversight.  Cross said the funding reduction is serious, and he thanked those lawmakers of both parties who have said a 300-million dollar cut is too deep.  It's 13-percent of what the university gets now from taxpayers -- but the selling point from the Republican Walker is that it's only two-percent of the university's total budget.  Cross promised that the U-W's 26-campus system would remain public -- despite Democratic claims that the proposed would cut would "privatize" the university.  He said the largest share of funding would continue to come from the state, while the U-W could use the autonomy to speed up building projects and make acquiring supplies more efficient.  The A-P said police escorted out five people who marched around the hearing room and yelled, "no cuts."


Proposed Bill Would End Handgun Purchase Wait


3/4/15 - Governor Scott Walker supports a bill to end Wisconsin's 48-hour waiting period to buy handguns.  Senate Republican Van Wanggaard of Racine proposed the measure.  Walker, a potential G-O-P candidate for president, told the National Rifle Association's news network it would make Wisconsin a national leader on the issue.  Wanggaard says the 48-hour waiting period dates back to an era when background checks had to be done by searching through card files. Now, he says computer databases can finish the same task in just hours.  An Assembly committee held a public hearing on the proposal last week.  The N-R-A and hunting groups supported it while Milwaukee and domestic violence advocates opposed it.   Walker says it will help Wisconsin become a leader in freedom issues.  In his N-R-A interview, he cited the state's concealed weapons' law -- plus the "castle doctrine" law passed in the last session to protect homeowners from prosecution when shooting individuals perceived as threats.


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.