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News 03.16.17

17 March 2017 News


The Sheboygan County administrator says he’s concerned that a Highway 23 expansion project has lost its momentum and isn’t sure when it would resume even if a federal lawsuit is resolved today. Adam Payne says the estimated cost to complete the project has increased nearly four times original projections when the project was first enumerated nearly two decades ago. Payne says unfortunately the governor’s proposed state budget eliminates funding for Highway 23, delaying the project for at least another three years. The project to widen 23 to four lanes between Fond du lac and Plymouth has been on hold since a lawsuit was filed in 2014 to halt the project.

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Rosendale Intermediate School officials notified parents after a student brought a substance to school Wednesday, telling other students it was mercury. Superintendent Wayne Weber says many students handled the metal believing they were holding mercury, even though they had been taught in science class how dangerous the metal is. But Weber says it was determined that the chemical was actually a metal called gallium. Gallium is not toxic and naturally occurs in small amounts in the body, but should not be ingested in large amounts. Principal John Hokenson says there was no mercury in the school or buses. He says it’s a good time for parents to remind their kids that if anyone ever asks them to hold mercury or any other dangerous material they should always say no.

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A Wisconsin state Senate committee votes to approve Gov. Scott Walker’s pick as head of the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs. The Senate Transportation and Veterans Affairs Committee voted unanimously Thursday to recommend confirmation of Dan Zimmerman to head the department. Zimmerman’s appointment drew support from the president of County Veterans Service Officers and state commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars at Thursday’s hearing. Zimmerman says he has been working to reach out to various veterans groups and improve conditions at the King veterans home. Zimmerman is a retired lieutenant colonel and military intelligence officer. He replaces John Scocos, who resigned amid allegations of mismanagement at the veterans home at King. The full Senate will vote on Zimmerman’s confirmation in the coming weeks.

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Democratic lawmakers from the Madison area are circulating a bill that would give state and local governments the authority to prohibit weapons on public transit. Its unveiling Thursday comes even though Republican leaders overseeing record majorities have already said they have no interest in such legislation. The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled last week that Madison’s Metro Transit cannot continue banning weapons on city buses under the state’s concealed-carry law. Soglin says the bill is the “only safe and prudent way” for the city to handle safety issues raised by the ruling. Other cities whose policies were impacted include Oshkosh, Janesville and Beloit. Rep. Lisa Subeck says the group has not spoken with other cities concerned about the ruling. Subeck says the bill returns local control.

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Opponents of a bill that would relax high-capacity well regulations are telling lawmakers that the measure will simply lock in existing problems. The Republican proposal would allow well repairs, reconstruction, replacements and ownership transfers without state oversight. A line of opponents told the Senate labor and Assembly agriculture committees during a hearing Wednesday that removing oversight will lead to wells draining lakes and hurting tourism. Criste Greening, co-founder of the Citizens’ Water Coalition of Wisconsin, says a lack of review of ownership transfers means people could hand over wells to large farms, which could then pump as much water as they wish. Supporters countered that the bills’ opponents are spreading misinformation and the public can still challenge wells in court.

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President Donald Trump wants to eliminate federal support of a program that addresses the Great Lakes’ most pressing environmental threats. Trump’s 2018 budget released Thursday would remove all funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which has received strong support from members of Congress in both parties since President Barack Obama established it in 2009. The program has pumped more than $2.2 billion into the eight-state region for projects that have removed toxic wastes from industrial harbors, fought invasive species such as Asian carp, restored wildlife habitat and supported efforts to prevent harmful algal blooms. The initiative has generally received about $300 million a year. Congress voted last year to authorize the program for five more years. A Trump campaign representative said last fall the Republican nominee supported the program.

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