Census Count Begins in Coming Weeks
Published on 02/27/2020 under News A massive effort to count populations across the country will be kicking off in the coming weeks, with some changes from the last census, ten years ago. We recently spoke with Melinda Osterberg from the Lincoln County UW-Extension about the upcoming census. She says the count is important for a number of reasons. Of course the most visible is drawing of political boundaries and allocation of congressional delegates. But she says that data is also used for community planning and funding. For example, data showing an aging population may need more senior facilities, while a young population may need funds directed towards schools. Transportation funding is also based in part on population centers. Osterberg says estimates show an uncounted person may result in $1,200 and $2,000 of missed funding. This year's process will be a little different than 2010 when enumerators went door to door. Osterberg pointed out is the most expensive way to complete the census. In the coming weeks, the Census Bureau will be sending out a letter instructing people to respond either by phone or online. If that is ignored, the next phase would be a mailed paper form. The last step would be the traditional census taker going to uncounted homes in the late spring or early summer. Osterberg says both the Tomahawk and Merrill Public Libraries will be offering assistance to complete the form online for those who need help. She also says the UW-Extension can help. You can hear that entire conversation with Osterberg in the WJJQ Audio Center.
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Natural Resource Board Finalizes Minocqua Chain Walleye Catch-and-Release Extension
Published on 02/27/2020 under News At their meeting yesterday, the state's Board of Natural Resources finalized plans to extend a restriction on the harvest of walleyes on the Minocqua Chain by another year. With declining walleye populations on the chain, a number of partners created a ten year plan to address the issue. No walleye harvest or tribal spearing has been allowed since 2015. That was to be followed by 5 year period of reduced bag limits. With the catch-and-release period to sunset this spring, the partners sought to extend the restriction by another year. Yesteday's vote followed a presentation by Northern District Fisheries Supervisor Mike Vogelsang. He explained the history of walleye surveys which showed a healthy population up until around 2009. While bag limits were put in place, a further drop was seen in 2015 triggering this response. Vogelsang said it was a perfect storm of circumstances including a drop in natural reproduction and high competition with bass and crappie populations. While they were disappointed in the natural reproduction numbers, the stocking of extended growth walleye fingerlings have increased population numbers near their goals. Vogelsang passed credit for the success on to the groups that partnered to prepare the plan including tribal groups, anglers, guides, fisheries and scientists. The board echoed the praise and said the local solution can be seen as an example for other programs. After approving the scope statement last month, the board voted unanimously yesterday to extend the catch-and-release period by another year. The Board does provide video of their meetings available for streaming on the DNR website.
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Rhinelander City Council Candidate Forum Announced for March 16
Published on 02/27/2020 under News With a number of city council races in Rhinelander this spring, the local League of Women Voters chapter will host a candidate forum for next month. The Northwoods Chapter announced that they have invited all six candidates involved in the three competitive alderperson races in Rhinelander. That includes: in District 3, Lee Emmer (incumbent) and Carrie Mikalauski; District 5, Gerald Anderson and Will Losch; and District 7, Eileen Daniels and Bill Freudenberg. As of Wednesday, four candidates, Emmer, Mikalauski, Daniels and Freudenberg, had already committed to participating. Chapter members will moderate,but the public will have a chance to submit questions ahead of the forum. It's scheduled for Monday, March 16 from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. at the Rhinelander District Library. The races will be decided on Tuesday, April 7.
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Tomahawk Lunch Program Features Locally Sorced Elk
Published on 02/27/2020 under News Students in the Tomahawk School District continue to experience unique cuisines. Thursday's menu includes samples of an elk stew. Dustin Tessmer with Taher Food Service says its part of their ongoing farm-to-table program. He says the elk being served today is locally sourced from the River Birch Elk Ranch in Merrill. In addition to the partnership with local producers, Taher is also working with Allison Solum's high school culinary classes to prepare the stew for today's sampling. The samples are available to middle and high school students during lunch Thursday. Other recent programs have included locally grown corn on the cob, visits to the community garden, international food week. Coming up next week, they are organizing a week-long breakfast program.
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Trial Scheduled for Man Charged in Online Sex Sting
Published on 02/27/2020 under News A June trial has been scheduled for a former Crandon teacher arrested in an online sex sting. Alex Valentine is facing charges of attempted second degree sexual assault of a child and using a computer to facilitate a child sex crime. The 28 year old was arrested last spring after alleged communications with an undercover officer posing as a 15 year old girl. He was taken into custody after arranging a meeting in Rhinelander and is charged in Oneida County Court. At a hearing this week, Judge Michael Bloom scheduled a 1 day jury trial on June 5.
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Man Arrested in Connection 2019 Death of Rhinelander Woman
Published on 02/26/2020 under News A Stevens Point man has been arrested in connection with the possible overdose death of a Rhinelander woman over the summer. The Oneida County Sheriff's Office announced last evening that 23 year old Dalton Kampf was taken into custody yesterday morning in Stevens Point. He has been booked into the Oneida County Jail for first degree reckless homicide by the manufacture, distribution or delivery of a controlled substance and a probation hold. The arrest was the result of an investigation into the death of 25 year old Shauna Sarkauskas who died on August 27.Court dates were not immediately scheduled. The investigation is ongoing. The Oneida County deputies were assisted by Stevens Point Police and the Portage County Sheriff's Office.
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Falconer Receives $10,000 Fine for Hawk Taken in Vilas County
Published on 02/26/2020 under News A Michigan man received a $10,000 fine for illegally trading a hawk captured in Vilas County. The US Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin announced the penalty for Edward Taylor of Fruitport, Michigan on Tuesday. Taylor had previously pleaded guilty to violating the federal Lacey Act. He, along with a falconer from southern Wisconsin, bartered a northern goshawk taken from the wild in Vilas County. The two filed false reports with the Michigan and Wisconsin DNRs to cover up their actions. Magistrate Judge Stephen Crocker said during the sentencing, "A message needs to be sent to the falconry and raptor propagator communities. If you don't follow the rules you will be prosecuted. It will hit you where it hurts." In addition to the $10,000 fine Taylor will also have to turn over the bird. The news release says the hawk will be brought to animal rehabilitation center to prepare for release back into the wild. The other falconer involved, James Kitzman, will be sentenced next week.
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Lincoln County Primary Election Turnout Up
Published on 02/26/2020 under News Likely driven by a special election primary for a congressional seat, voter turnout in Lincoln County last week nearly doubled the comparable 2016 February primary. Here in Lincoln County, nearly 5,800 voters cast ballots in last Tuesday's election. In February 2016, there were 2,975 voters. The ballots were light in both instances. Each carried a state Supreme Court primary. Last week's election saw one primary for Merrill City Council, while the 2016 ballot had a 4-way primary for Mayor in Tomahawk. The main difference was the two high profile primaries for the vacant 7th district congressional seat. Other counties within the 7th district saw similar or even larger increases. While last week's numbers were significantly higher than a typical spring primary, they were well behind a typical presidential election. For example, in November of 2018, Lincoln County voters cast more than 13,500 ballots.
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Tomahawk Food Pantry Ups Collection Effort, Thanks Community
Published on 02/26/2020 under News With depleting inventory last year, the Tomahawk Food Pantry increased their collection efforts. Yesterday, several volunteers stopped by the WJJQ studios to thank they community. We were joined by Tom Kelly and Jim LaPoint on our Tuesday morning forum. LaPoint noted that they've had a tremendous response over the last six months. That followed a previous drop in donations of food items and financial donations. Kelly says they formed a special committee to address some of those collection issues. That included ideas as simple as creating an online presence, reinvigorating collection efforts, exploring outside help from larger hunger programs, and focusing on more efficient distributions based on their current inventory. While they realized that they were competing for donations from other organizations, LaPoint noted those groups which include Kinship and the Salvation Army Backpack program will often work together. After the lean times, Kelly was happy to say that things are going well. He says there is food back on the shelves and money on hand. While they are in better standing, they encouraged people to keep the Food Pantry on their minds when considering donations. You can hear that entire conversation in the WJJQ Audio Center.
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Tomahawk Board of Public Works-Water Rate Hearing
Published on 02/26/2020 under News The lengthy process for a water rate increase in Tomahawk has moved on to the next phase. Yesterday afternoon, the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin held a remote public hearing via telephone out of City Hall. Just one member of the public attended to get a question clarified. At last night's Public Works Meeting, Clerk Amanda Bartz briefly went over the year long process. The city submits 3 years of financials to the Commission that include revenue and usage rates, along with operating costs, system investments and maintenance. That formula provides a recommended rate of return. As we previously covered, the formula computed an additional revenue recommendation of $280,000. To achieve this, the average residential home's quarterly rate would increase by approximately $17, varying based on usage. Following yesterday's hearing, the Commission will consider the data and recommendation before returning a final rate decision._____ The Board of Public works granted a request from Verizon to upgrade their existing equipment located on the city's water tower. Public Works director John Cole noted that the improved technology will result in a smaller footprint on the tower. The change will not affect the existing lease agreement with Verizon. Cole anticipated the 2 to 3 day project would take place some point next month. After the council sent the proposal back to committee, the Board postponed their conversation on driving over curbing. They have gathered the related ordinances from a number of neighboring communities and wanted additional time to go over that information. A related topic that emerged from the curb conversation, winter parking regulations, was postponed indefinitely. In general conversations, the board determined that the existing rules have been working. The board awarded bids for a pair of previously planned purchases for a loader/backhoe and a valve turner/vacuum trailer. The loader/backhoe purchase came in below the anticipated cost. They anticipate the purchase will allow for more in-house work. The valve turner equipment proposal was revised from the original request after they found a lack of used units available. Head Water Operator Rich Thiemer said the units last, and the city wouldn't need to consider another one for a long time. The Board approved starting the process of hiring a new crewman, this is to prepare for the upward movement of current staffing in anticipation of an upcoming retirement. During his director's report, Cole says their crews have been scraping snow and steaming catch basins in preparation of the spring melt.
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Merrill FD Says "Close Before You Doze"
Published on 02/25/2020 under News As part of a nighttime routine, one area fire department is urging people to shut their bedroom doors at night. With their recent safety push following a series of tragic incidents, the Merrill Fire Department has been asking to "Close before you Doze." Fire Chief Josh Klug says it's a newer, fire safety phrase, but very relevant to the fires they see. He says by closing your bedroom door, you create a safety barrier that will allow you to wake up when a smoke alarm sounds. Without that barrier, smoke and poisonous gases can spread into the bedroom before you wake up. Klug says that the amount of escape time in a house fire has been reduced in recent years because modern materials, which cause fires spread faster and burn hotter. Average escape times have dropped from 17 minutes down to 3 minutes. Klug says if you "close before you doze" and are awoken a fire alarm, follow the basics. Feel the door to see if it's hot. If it's cool proceed and stay low to the floor. If the door is hot, use a second escape such as a window. Once outside go to a prearranged family meeting place to call 911. Once you're out of the home, stay out. Of course, homes should be equipped with working fire alarms. The Merrill Fire Department, through a grant from the American Red Cross, continues to provide and install smoke detectors to homes in our jurisdiction free of charge. You can learn more by visiting closeyourdoor.org
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Seventeen Fatal Snowmobile Crashes in Wisconsin this Year
Published on 02/25/2020 under News With 17 snowmobile deaths in less than two months, state officials continue to urge caution on the trails. Analyzing the data shows as many differences as commonalities in these fatal crashes. The victims have ranged in age from just 6 years old up to 62 years old. Thirteen victims were men, and four women. Eight of the fatal accidents have occurred in Vilas and Oneida Counties. Nine fatal accidents involved sleds striking trees, including all three from this past weekend. Six crashes have been confirmed to involve alcohol with several investigations pending. Nearly all the victims were wearing helmets. The DNR says riders should slow down, check conditions, ride sober, travel in groups, and consider a snowmobile safety course.
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New Wisconsin National Guard Leader from Antigo
Published on 02/25/2020 under News The new leader of the Wisconsin National Guard originally comes from the Northwoods. Yesterday, Governor Tony Evers announced that Brigadier General Paul Knapp has been chosen as the Adjutant General of the Guard and to lead the Department of Military Affairs. Knapp was raised in Antigo and is currently in his 28th year of military service. Brig. Gen. Knapp's appointment fills a vacancy created by the resignation of Maj. Gen. Donald Dunbar in December. Gov. Evers called for the resignation after a top-to-bottom review of the Wisconsin National Guard detailed system failures in its handling of sexual assault, sexual harassment, and retaliation allegations. In the announcement, Knapp referenced his hometown. He said, "Being appointed as the Wisconsin Adjutant General by Governor Evers is a dream job for this kid from Antigo, Wisconsin, who chose a military career. I am humbled, grateful, and privileged to serve the professional soldiers, airmen and civilians of our amazing state." Evers called Knapp a "dynamic, proven leader." He was selected from a nationwide search. With the new appointment, he'll also be promoted to the rank of Major General.
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Local Schools Receive Grants to Address Alcohol, Tobacco and Vaping
Published on 02/25/2020 under News More than a half dozen local school districts will share in funding for student initiatives aimed at addressing alcohol, drugs, tobacco, and vaping in their local schools. The 78 groups were awarded $1,000 grants through the DPI's Student Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Mini-grant Program. Now in it's 31st year, the program supports education, prevention, and intervention initiatives designed by students. In addition to targeting substance abuse, they also address other risk behaviors such as bullying prevention. Local recipients including the Athens Elementary, Chequamegon High School, Lac du Flambeau Cultural Connections, Minocqua Elementary, Northland Pines Middle/High Schools, Phillips Elementary and Rib Lake Middle/High Schools. State superintendent Carolyn Stanford Taylor said in announcing the grants, "Positive peer influence is a powerful prevention tool for many risks and challenges facing students in our schools. For more than three decades, the Student AODA Mini-grant Program has helped inspire students to be the change." This year, the DPI's Student AODA Mini-grant Program encouraged applicants to specifically address tobacco and vaping in their efforts in developing initiatives.
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Fire in Antigo Shuts Down Hwy 45 Monday Afternoon
Published on 02/25/2020 under News A fire in Antigo shut down Highway 45 for several hours yesterday afternoon. That fire happened in a building that was a combination insurance business and home located at the intersection of North Avenue and Highway 45 in Antigo. The initial call came in at shortly after 1pm. All occupants and several pets were able to evacuate safely. The cause of fire was not immediately determined. According to the Department of Transportation, that segment of Highway 45 was closed for nearly three hours. The incident was cleared at a little before 4:30pm.
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