With the cold snow blowing outside, the Taylor County Personnel committee meeting got a bit heated at times Wednesday. With the recent resignation of the county’s Veterans Service Officer, the committee approved Marie Albers as acting head of the office with a pay raise of $3 per hour.
About a dozen veterans were in attendance to show their support for the veterans service officer position. Dave Krug spoke indicating that as a veteran, he felt that while the job is important, the work load doesn’t justify a full time position. He said there was documented evidence which couldn’t be released now, which indicates we don’t need a full time veteran’s service officer. He told the group that Administrative Assistant Marie Albers does the bulk of the work.
Marie Albers was asked for her opinion and she indicated that a part time Veterans Service Officer possibly would be part time committed to our veterans. She said that in 2012 veterans assistance programs provided in excess of $3 million to vets in Taylor County.
Lester Lewis asked Ms. Albers if the office staff was cut to 1.5 positions, who would be part time, the officer or assistant. Marie Albers replied the veterans deserve a full time officer advocate. But she didn’t think it was fair to ask her to cut her position.
Chuck Zenner indicated he felt the veterans office could operate with 1.5 positions, with Marie fulltime and the Officer half time, until Marie retires then the service officer would be full time and assistant half time.
Ray Soper expressed frustration indicating it’s wrong to base job descriptions on current staff capabilities. He said the first job of the officer is to be an advocate for veterans. Soper felt the county needs a full time veterans service officer.
Scott Mildebrand said eventually the office will be 1.5, best served by a full time V.S.O. and part time assistant.
Bob Lee told the committee it’s tough to get an advocate for injured veterans. He said, "when you’re strong and capable to march, they take good care of you, but when you’re injured, they don’t care so much". Mr. Lee continued, "this is not a position to cut, when you make a decision, consider who you’re affecting".
An Iraq veteran addressed the group indicating he spent 2 years in Iraq and has recently learned he has a heart condition. He said, "if you cut the position, where will I go"?
The committee voted unanimously to hire a full time Veterans Service Officer.
Viet Nam veteran Gary Henkel stood up after the vote and said, "you talk about finances. If you cut the veterans service officer here in Taylor County, how many veterans would move to a county with a full time Veterans Service officer"?
Next the committee considered replacing an administrative support position shared by the Forestry and Zoning departments. Scott Mildebrand suggested waiting until the January 15th county board meeting, telling the group it’s not business as usual.
Chuck Zenner said we keep saying we have budget constraints, but nothing changes, I support waiting.
Zoning Administrator Kyle Noonan said if the position wasn’t filled they couldn’t stay afloat and plumbers, electricians and homeowners would be put on hold.
The vote to fill the position failed by a 3 to 2 vote.
The Landua Jensen American Legion Post #147 in Medford is conducting a drive to raise funds to help with the cost of constructing an expansion to the Veteran's Memorial Wall at the Flag Field. The current wall has been filled and the American Legion continues to get requests for stones to honor the veterans from our area. The project is hoping to expand the Legacy Wall to accommodate an additional 288 stones at a cost estimated at $31,681.00. Medford Flag Field Project Chairman, Roger Emmerich, recently stopped by the K99 Radio Studios in Medford and shared with K99's Russ Gowey some of the history of the Legacy Wall and the goals and hopes the American Legion Post #147 has for it's future......................
How do you trim over a half million dollars from a county budget?
Very carefully! Monday morning County board chairman Jim Metz urged a joint meeting of the personnel and finance committees to be careful with what they do to county employees. Chairman Metz told the group he didn’t like the idea of chopping employees to make budget. As an opening statement to the meeting Mr. Metz continued: “While the state government is holding us to the wire, I’d encourage you guys to be careful”.
County accountant Larry Brandl indicated that the projected 2016 budget is $515,519 over the levy limit. He indicated a lot of counties are in the same situation. He also urged a degree of consideration and urged the committees to think this thing out while trying to overcome the half million dollar deficit.
Sheriff Bruce Daniels expressed optimism at increasing jail revenues. The Marathon County jail has a capacity of 250 inmates and currently has 367 inmates. Taylor County has a capacity of 88 and now has 37 inmates. Sheriff Daniels indicated the jail could take in 33 inmates from neighboring counties with each of them bringing in revenue of $45 per day.
Supervisor Lewis said he didn’t think continually borrowing money to operate was a good way to run county government. He felt one department which should be scrutinized was the extension.
Taylor County voters will be asked for up to an additional $1 million in a spring referendum. Supervisor Scott Mildebrand felt that voters wanted to see what services would be cut if the referendum fails.
Supervisor Tim Hanson didn’t feel it was realistic to think the committees could formulate a list of vulnerable programs before January 15th. Lewis disagreed saying the committee could come back with operational budget adjustment recommendations and leave the actual decision of how to meet those budgets to the department head.
Chuck Zenner suggested straight percentage cuts to all departments. Mr. Lewis felt the smaller departments couldn’t do that, and said he felt only the bigger departments could make significant cuts.
Supervisor Fuchs said he felt only 3 or 4 departments could be looked at for budget adjustments. He said the board tries to make cuts every year at budget time and it’s difficult. He asked the group: “who do we cut?”
Once again the Extension was brought up and Land Conservation was brought into question.Lewis said that many counties have combined their Land Conservation, Zoning and Forestry departments. But, he said I don’t know if it would save any money.
Supervisor Dave Krug said this committee was influenced by political pressure recently when they voted to hire a full time Veterans Service Officer. He said, if you talk about cutting Extension, you haven’t seen anything yet.
The issue of how to possibly trim a half million dollars from the 2016 Taylor County Budget will be dealt with next at a joint personnel and finance committee meeting on Thursday.
The Taylor County Board met Thursday, January 15. In a nutshell: the board said No to a $1 million referendum, Yes to refinancing, and No to a new finance director for human services.
They voted to refinance the county’s debt. The past debt of $3,385,000.00 will be added to $1 million for highway projects for a total bond amount of $4,385,000.00. The new interest rate of 1.947% will result in a savings of $203,000 in interest expense. The board approved the new bond.
Next, the board considered eliminating the referendum question which was seeking up to $1 million for county expenditures. Larry Brandl cautioned that the timing wasn’t right. With the anticipated state deficit, the county’s financial condition could get worse. Lester Lewis indicated some committees appear to be micro managing instead of giving the public the opportunity to express their opinion.
Scott Mildebrand felt the committees were moving forward and have found between 300 and $320,000 in potential budget savings.
Supervisor Thums agreed with Lewis indicating he favored listening to department heads for suggestions. He said a gentleman from the extension service had ideas on how savings could be realized, but he was never asked.
Chuck Zenner disagreed indicating that department heads had received emails asking for their attendance and input. The board voted to remove the $1 million referendum from the spring ballot with Lewis voting no.
The cost to stay in the county jail is going up. The board approved the Huber release rate of $30 for the first day and increasing from 16 to $18 per day thereafter. The daily per person rate of $30 for the first day in jail and increase from 10 to $12 per day thereafter. The cost for drug tests will be $10 per test.
In October the board approved hiring a financial manager to oversee the human services $8 million budget. Supervisor Thums asked why the board was initially told that the position would pay for itself and now that has changed. Chuck Zenner stressed the board should be proactive and hire the finance manager. Accountant Larry Brandl indicated he started working at human services and when he was moved to the courthouse, many of the compliance duties followed him. He said as compliance requirements increase, he’s falling behind. Human services director Amber Fallos told the board that the position has been requested for years. She felt the reporting on the department’s $8 million annual budget isn’t being done accurately.
Supervisor Breneman said if we want the grant money, we need to jump through the hoops. Supervisor Mildebrand said he disagreed with the position saying there is some restructuring that could be done to shift job duties. Breneman challenged: do you realize the caseloads these people have? They’re already multi tasking!
County Clerk Bruce Strama suggested accountant Larry Brandl could delegate more duties under the scrutiny of the finance department.
Lester Lewis reminded the board he had made the motion for the position. With the retention of grant funds it was possible the position would be self funding. He said they’ve been talking about the position since 2002 and now is the time to hire.
Supervisor Krug questioned the timing of this issue considering the financial constraints the county is under. He said, we’ve got a long ways to go and with the advent of Family Care, Taylor County is one of 8 remaining counties in the state not enrolled in Family Care. Family Care could mean the elimination of 2/3 of the case workers.
Bob Lee indicated he was in favor of deleting the position based on the fact the county doesn’t have the money.
Supervisor Bizer cautioned that the county gets paid 7% of $2 million to administer a state funded program. The county is in jeopardy of losing that $140,000 if the proper reports aren’t submitted.
Tim Hanson questioned, Why now, why wasn’t this done 10 years ago?
Lester Lewis replied, we tried, now we have a study and an auditor which both say we need this position now!
Mr. Thums said, let’s ask the department head, Larry, do we need a financial manager or not?
Brandl told the group he’s putting in between 60 and 70 hours per week, something needs to be done!
A roll call vote was taken on eliminating the as of yet unfilled financial manager position at human services. The vote to eliminate the position passed by a 10 yes and 7 no vote with Lemke, Zenner, Bizer, Thums, Lewis, Breneman and Metz voting no.
In other county business the board was unanimous in approving an increase in the classification and compensation step plan for 2015 which will result in an increase of ½%.
They approved a resolution proclaiming the week of April 19-25 as Sweeten your week with maple syrup in Taylor County.
The final item of business was the approval of the 2015 County Forest annual work plan.
Life of an Athlete, a FREE Parent & Community Presentation, featuring Olympic and Navy Seal Trainer, John Underwood, will be held on Monday, March 9th beginning at 7:00 P.M. in the Red White Theatre of the Medford Area Senior High School. As a community member, he'll discuss your responsibility in supporting the youth of our community. You'll leave with clear ideas on how you can help improve youth performance through understanding how the adolescent brain responds to nutrition, sleep, training and the avoidance of alcohol and drugs. To reserve a seat, visit taylorcountydop.weebly.com or contact the Taylor County Drug Oppostiion Partners at 715-748-1410. John Underwood and local athletic stand outs including former NFL player Owen Schmitt, Paul Henrichs, Steve Guden, former UW Oshkosh Volleyball Coach Marty Petersen and others share their experiences with K99's Russ Gowey....
Forestry & Recreation Committee Approve Land Purchase
April 14, 2015
The Taylor County Forestry and Recreation Committee met Tuesday morning, April 14, and gave preliminary approval to purchase 77.2 acres of land in the Town of Rib Lake with County Forest Land Acquisition Funds. The parcel adjoins county owned land on the north and west side with access to Kennedy Lake which is just out of the northwest border of the village of Rib Lake. Mature timber accounts for about 44 acres of the parcel. The current property taxes on the parcel is $2,243.00 per year.
After a unanimous decision to recommend the land purchase, the committee approved an application for Knowles-Nelson Stewardship funding, if the program is placed back in the proposed state budget. Purchase of the land will now require approval of the Taylor County Board. The selling price of the 77.2 acres is $199,900.00.
Taylor County is losing a pair of campgrounds due to federal budget cuts. The forest service has announced that the campgrounds at Kathryn Lake and North Twin Lakes will be closing as part of federal budget cuts.
The Taylor County Board of Supervisors met Tuesday, April 21st. The board approved the appointment of Jason Julian and James Gebauer to fill 2 county board vacancies. In a presentation of plaques to former supervisors, “Foxy” Dennis Fuchs gave an emotional farewell. Foxy said he had one piece of advice especially for the two new members: “Keep your ears, eyes and mind open, and make your decision that way”. The board gave a standing ovation to Mr. Fuchs. Several retiring county employees were presented plaques. The family of the late Joe Sweda accepted a plaque in observance of his 34 years as a county board member. The long list of committees which Sweda served on included one called the Dance Hall Committee. Marie Albers accepted a plaque of appreciation for the 3 times in recent years that she continued to operate the Veterans Office in the absence of a Veterans Service Officer.
Supervisor Lester Lewis told the board he introduced an ordinance which was designed to spread the power of the county to more people. Currently, he said the county seems to be run by a select group of 4 or 5 people. The ordinance read: “No committee shall be so made up as to constitute a quorum of any other committee except for elected committees.” Lewis said: this works in other counties, it would make for more diversity on the committees. Chuck Zenner objected stating that the county has 5 – 3 member committees, saying he didn’t see how they could implement this. Supervisor Sue Breneman felt there should be some kind of change; indicating there are 4 or 5 people from near Medford who control the committees. Chairman Jim Metz responded there was a time when the board was run by western Taylor County with control by Mr. Sweda and Beadles. Tim Hanson said he took offense to the accusation that he may make decisions which would affect his district. Hanson said he votes for the well being of the county. As the roll call vote made it’s way around the room, with all members voting no except for Bob Lee, the vote got to author Lester Lewis who responded “I’m Present”. County Clerk Strama told the group that the ordinance was defeated by a 15 no vote, 1 yes vote and 1 “I’m present” vote.
Another emotional issue was the purchase of 77 acres of land to add to the county forest. Supervisor Breneman questioned the purchase indicating the Rib Lake school district would be the loser. She asked about the several potential building sites on the shores of Kennedy Lake which is part of the parcel. Chamber director Sue Emmerich felt that the county could gain tourism dollars from use of new cross country ski trails on the property. Dave Lemke said the trails are perfect for not only skiing but also logging. About 44 acres of the parcel are ready to be logged. The parcel has 1600 feet of frontage on Kennedy Lake, ¾ mile of cross country ski trails, and 2 miles of other mowed trails.
Bob Lee said he didn’t think the county needed the new land and that land is for private ownership.
Lester Lewis said maybe the county could sell some of their other land. And as far as development goes, you’re not going to get any development there anytime soon. Lewis continued: Rib Lake isn’t going to grow anytime soon. Supervisor Mildebrand questioned if it was proper to take money out of budgets, and asked if the board could approve the purchase contingent upon the Knowles Stewardship being reinstated into the state budget. Zenner quickly said "No". Former county forester Brad Ruesch gave some background into the land acquisition fund. Originally, counties borrowed money from the state interest free to purchase county forest. The loans were paid back from timber sales. The current half million dollar Taylor County land acquisition fund was built up from timber sales over the past 20 years.
Rollie Thums stood up to express his opposition to the purchase. Thums said that Taylor County has 17,536 acres of county forest, or 489 40 acre blocks. Thums said “we beat the snot our of our department budgets!” He asked who is going to maintain the trails on the parcel. He reminded the board that last year the town of Rib Lake approached the county board to ask that they take over the Harper Lake beach and the board said no, they couldn’t afford to take care of it. Thums continued that the county has some 40’s that no one walks on and he’d be in favor of selling those and use that money for the new purchase. Thums concluded by asking, "who’s making our taxes high? We are!"
Bob Ruesch addressed the board indicating we have a wonderful county forest, but it is lacking in lake access. He said they were not only buying forest land, but guaranteeing access to the other adjacent county forest. While the parcel generates $2,243 in annual property tax, the Rib Lake school budget is in excess of 4 million dollars.
The vote to purchase the 77.2 acres for $199,900 passed by an 11 yes and 6 no votes.
At the close of the meeting Dave Lemke told the group that he is concerned about the federal forest service closing the Kathryn Lake campground. He has been in contact with the Park Falls office and is working to set up a meeting at the Grover Town Hall to address possible opportunities to keep the Kathryn Lake Park open. He said the conservation group has spent a lot of time and money in the park and it would be a shame to have it locked by the federal agency.
The Taylor County Board of Supervisors met Wednesday morning (Oct 29). They presented a plaque to retiree Jean Nuernberger for her 33 years of service with human services and the circuit court.
Recently, Bobbi Damrau of N.T.C. asked the county board members of the education committee if they had specific goals. Roger Ewan indicated the committee supported NTC’s efforts with the Literacy Council and a program for people over age 18 becoming eligible to receive a diploma. Sue Breneman indicated she resides in the Chippewa Valley Tech district but was a member of the NTC education committee. Rollie Thums proposed trimming membership from 3 to 1 county board member. He felt there was a disconnect between the county board and NTC. Sheriff Bruce Daniels expressed his support for NTC programs indicating that he recently received a grant for his leadership staff to attend employee development classes with college credits at no cost to the county. The county’s conservation department utilizes NTC’s nutrient management programs. Mr Thums indicated that none of the county board committee members were aware of the programs and questioned the need for paying 3 committee members to attend bi-monthly NTC meetings. Sue Breneman called it a waste of taxpayer money. The board voted to refer the county’s membership on the NTC education committee to the committee on rules for their recommendation.
Should the county board meet at designated times, or when there is a need to meet? Supervisor Sue Breneman told the board that many people in her district are surprised there aren’t set meetings. She requested that the board meet on designated dates either monthly or bi-monthly. She indicated the county board is the only government body in the county which doesn’t meet on designated dates. Lester Lewis responded that Taylor County has transitioned to a committee run system. He felt it is a more efficient way to get things done on a county level to meet on an “as needed” basis. Chuck Zenner agreed that the committees run the county. But, he said, if you’re not on a “major” committee, you’re out of the loop. Sue Breneman felt that more county board meetings would provide transparency for the taxpayers. Dennis Fuchs indicated the county would have to change their whole structure of how they do business to make the meetings meaningful. Supervisor Bizer questioned whether it was in the best interest of taxpayers to pay $50 to 17 members for every meeting. Diane Albrecht indicated she stays informed by reading the minutes of other committee meetings on her computer. The issue of how often the county board should meet was referred to the committee on committee on rules.
Representative Mary Williams presented the county with a flag that was flown over the state capital on the date of the courthouse rededication. Mrs. Williams reminded those present that she started on the county board and she urged them to consider making a run for the state senate or assembly.
The board agreed with Highway commissioner Jess Sackmann to not spend nearly $220,000 for a 3 mile bikeway. The blacktop pavement on County E between County O and A is scheduled to be replaced. Wisconsin Code trans 75 requires the construction of bikeways on certain roads unless there is excessive cost, and the board could not justify an additional 25% cost to add a bikeway on the rural highway.
There was considerable discussion regarding spending powerline impact money for the purchase of an $18,000 Honda UTV with tracks and heated cab for grooming trails and tubing hill at the Perkinstown Winter Sports area. Lester Lewis felt a machine for half that price could to the job. Mckovskey felt they could use the airports machine. Chuck Zenner indicated it would cost $8,000 to make the airport’s machine compatible for the task. Jim Metz felt the powerline fees were intended for this purpose and supported the purchase. The board voted 15 to 2 in favor of purchasing the UTV with powerline impact money.
The board acted on the 2015 budget and approved 2 amendments to the proposed budget. The first addition was $110,000 to add a financial supervisor position and remodeling at human services. The county’s auditors strongly recommended the change indicating that the expertise in obtaining grant funds could pay for the position. Supervisor Scott Mildebrand felt it was irresponsible to spend money the county doesn’t have. He asked the board to wait until they identify the areas to be affected by proposed cuts in January. Human Services director Amber Fallos said the county was losing out by not having a financial supervisor. The amendment to create the new position using money from the fund balance passed on an 11 yes and 5 no vote with Hanson, Lee, Mildebrand, Thums and Soper voting no.
The next change to the budget came with Tim Hanson speaking on behalf of the county libraries which had $25,887 trimmed from their combined budgets. Hanson indicated that the cuts amounted to 15% of the Rib Lake library budget. The money would be transferred from the savings of a proposed note refinance measure. Rollie Thums warned the board to not turn their backs on education. The board was unanimous in restoring $25,887 to the county library budget.
Ultimately the board approved the revised county budget of just under $11 million. The budget will result in a mill rate of $8.27, compared with $8.17 last year which will result in an additional $10.00 tax on a $100,000 property.
With state tax limits the board is facing a 2016 deficit forecast to be about $500,000. Lester Lewis proposed a referendum which would ask county residents to allow the county to exceed the levy limit by $1 million per year for 5 years. Lewis proposed taking $500,000 for funding possible programs which otherwise would be cut, $100,000 for highways, and $400,000 to boost the county’s dwindling reserves. By a 15 to 1 vote with Soper voting no, the board approved a referendum on the spring ballot which will seek approval to not exceed $1 million over the state levy limit each of the next 5 years.
Judge Ann Knox-Bauer addressed the board and supported a resolution which would object to a proposed lapse in state funding to the Wisconsin circuit court system. The cuts which are included in the pending 2015-17 state budget would eliminate $66,000 which taylor county would need to add into future budgets. The board was unanimous is their opposition to the proposed cuts.
The county board was unanimous in supporting resolutions for the county bridge aid, and the 2015 Highway Department equipment schedule with expenditures of $450,000. They approved appointing Scott Perrin as medical examiner and Schmiege and Graff as Corporation Counsel. The board supported authorizing a general obligation note in an amount not to exceed $4,385,000 with $1 million additional funding for maintaining the taylor county highway system. That was some of the business which was conducted at the Taylor County Board meeting on Wednesday.
The Westboro man who fired near-fatal shots at a Taylor County deputy is headed to prison. Judge Ann Knox Bauer presided in Taylor County Court on Friday, October 31st with defendant Alexander Schneider dressed in an orange jail jumpsuit. Special agent David Forsythe testifed that he interviewed Schneider after his arrest. Schneider told the agent how he knew that Deputy Chad Kowalcyk couldn't see him when he pulled up a :22 caliber rifle and shot at the officer's head, then went back to a bedroom in his Town of Westboro home on September 8th, 2013 and waited for the fleeing officer to take another 3 shots as he approached his squad car. He admitted the officer was just doing his job and he shot him. During emergency surgery, a bullet, which entered the side of Officer Kowalcyk was removed from his colon. The chief surgeon indicated the bullet missed a major artery by 1 centimeter. Had the bullet severed the artery, Officer Kowalcyk would have died within minutes. A second bullet was found, believed to have been stopped by his bullet proof vest.
District Attorney Kristi Tlusty played an audio recording from Officer Kowalcyk's recorder which gave the sounds of the moments leading up to the shooting. Officer Kowalcyk knocks on the door, then pleads with Schneider to come out of his Westboro mobile home. Schneider yells through the closed door a barrage of profanities. After several minutes, Deputy Kowalcyk can be heard calling dispatch for back up, calmly voicing concern that Schneider may be suicidal. Then the officer tells Schneider to trust him. Moments later, shots ring out and the sound of a person running away is heard. After an interlude of running sounds, more shots are heard and Officer Kowalcyk's voice is heard radioing "shots fired, shots fired, I think I'm hit".
Next, Deputy Chad Kowalcyk took the stand. He told the court that he was responding to a restraining order violation on the day of the shooting. He said it was difficult to come to court because he's a pretty "humble guy". He began getting emotional when he said, "if you play this incident over again and again, 9 out of 10 times you'll have a dead officer." He told the court that one bullet grazed his face and the other one nearly killed him. His voice cracked as he told how it's difficult to explain to a 3 year old and his girlfriend why this happened and it's not going to happen again. He wakes up everyday and looks at the surgical scars. Officer Kowalcyk told the court that Schneider "did everything in his power to end my life." Kowalcyk concluded by saying "I'd be very disappointed if anything other than the maximum sentence was imposed". The judge asked him if he suffers from any physical problems as a result of his injuries. Kowalcyk called them minimal, but said his digestive system isn't the same and he has to watch what he eats.
D.A. Kristi Tlusty asked the judge to impose the maximum sentence of 40 years and 20 years of extended supervision. She told the court, Schneider lacks remorse and shows no interest in rehabilitation. She said "this wasn't an accident". The D.A. continued saying "the impact is always present, now every time family members hear a siren, they wonder if their loved one will be shot".
Defense attorney Vorhees told the court that Schneider had expressed a high degree of hopelessness and helplessness in his life. He said it scares Schneider a lot that he's wasted his life. He had a chaotic childhood and never knew his father.
Defendent Schneider addressed the court beginning with an apology to the court, indicating he had a hard time understanding everything which had occurred. He said he didn't like who he was. He apologized to the individuals he hurt or was illegally involved with. He said when he heard the recording of Officer Kowalcyk asking for backup fearing Schneder's suicide, he heard honest concern in the officer's voice. He said he only found out yesterday that the officer has a 3 year old son. Schneider continued saying, "I've never had a relationship with a father, I can't imagine his son losing his father".
Judge Knox-Bauer expressed her concern about how Schneider had hidden a sawed off shotgun in the abandoned house next door to use on either himself or law enforcement. She said it was "by the grace of God that Deputy Kowalcyk is here". She compared law enforcement jobs to soldiers. She spoke of the impact of being shot, that horror will never be forgotten by him, his son, his significant other, his colleagues and community. The judge expressed her disgust with the fact that after his arrest, Schneider assaulted another inmate and a jailer while in jail. She said that at age 29, Schneider was beyond adolescence, when young people make mistakes. In stern words, Judge Knox Bauer told Schneider that "others have had crappy upbringings, but others don't have sex with a minor, shoot at an officer or beat up people in jail". The judge called Schneider a very dangerous individual with a high risk to re-offend. She felt he didn't fully appreciate all that these people will go through because of him.
The judge imposed the maximum sentence of 60 years, which includes 40 years of prison and 20 years of extended supervision, if eligible. A cash bond of $5,300 was applied to restitution and court costs. The judge indicated they need to "protect our community and send a message, suicide by cop is not acceptable".
The former Medford High School student who is facing a felony Bomb Scare charge was in Taylor County Court on Tuesday. Jacob Gouza, appeared with his attorney Daniel Cveykus. District Attorney Kristi Tlusty requested that bond be continued at $3,000 with the conditions that Jacob Gouza use no social media and not enter any property owned by the Medford School District. Judge Ann Knox-Bauer agreed and stipulated that Gouza would be allowed to continue attending the alternative school. The pretrial conference for Jacob Gouza was set for January 15th at 9:30.
Following Gouza’s appearance during a brief recess, court security officer Lisa Kaufmann asked a male subject to leave the courtroom as she smelled the odor of intoxicants. The individual took a sobriety test in the courthouse hallway. When Judge Knox-Bauer returned to the courtroom she was informed by D.A. Tlusty that the defendant, John Whetstone had blown a .12. The judge ordered him held in the county jail until he is legally sober. Whetstone had been scheduled to appear in court for possession drug paraphernalia.
WKEB/WIGM Radio, Taylor Electric Cooperative, along with Touchstone Energy and members of area cooperatives are once again sponsoring the Christmas Wish Program. Contributors to the Christmas Wish have undertaken a mission to bring holiday cheer into the lives of those around us. Christmas Wish requests will be accepted until December 12, 2014. Send your wish request for someone who needs some holiday cheer to: WKEB/WIGM Radio, P.O. Box 59, Medford, Wisconsin 54451, phone 715-748-2566, fax 715-748-2752 or visit the K99 Radio web site...k99wigm.com. K99's Russ Gowey recently chatted with Taylor Electric Cooperative President and CEO, Mike Schaefer about this season's Christmas Wish Program....
The Taylor County budget cutting meeting took on a “we’ll do it later” theme on Thursday. The combined Personnel and Finance committee meeting started with chairman Chuck Zenner expressing the opinion that the committee was moving too fast. He said the goal to have a list of $500,000 in 2016 budget cuts before January 15th is “insane”.
Scott Mildebrand indicated he understood that with proposed budgetary cuts, the county could lessen the impact. "If we don’t make cuts we could be $915,000 short in 2016".
Tim Hanson said that 2015’s budget is done, and we have 10 months to get 2016 done.
Lester Lewis said the reason he proposed a referendum was so the county wouldn’t have to cut services. He said if we wait until October, then we’re cutting services. Lewis said that every year since he’s been on the board they’ve spent money out of the reserve fund.
Dave Krug indicated he thought Thursday’s meeting was an idea search, with committee members to make recommendations for budget cuts, like tossing spaghetti at the wall to see if it sticks. Then, through the media the committee would get feedback on what the public thinks.
Chuck Zenner said again that January 15th was too soon.
Lewis challenged, "when are you proposing we pose the referendum"?
Zenner indicated he didn’t have a date.
Krug said he agreed it was too hasty. He called it a very delicate process involving people’s livelihood. "At some point we may have to challenge the state, we can’t go on like this".
Lester Lewis made a motion to recommend that the county board postpone the referendum asking for up to $1 million until the April 2016 ballot. The measure to postpone the referendum passed by a 4 yes 3 no votes. At that point Supervisor Lewis stood up and left the meeting, indicating he had better ways to spend his time.
Chairman Zenner asked the group for ideas on additional revenues for the county. Department heads indicated that they could charge more for permits, they reminded the committee that the funds would be coming from tax payers and that would only add several thousand dollars to the bottom line. Larry Wobeking indicated that 10 inmates from Marathon County would be housed in Taylor County’s jail bringing in an extra $400 per day.
Jim Metz asked if the sheriff’s department could share squad cars. Larry Wobeking responded that they currently have about 12 and would need to have at least 4 or 5. But he cautioned that instead of replacing 2 per year as they do now, they would need to replace 4 per year. He said it may cost more as they wouldn’t be able to lease the vehicles.
Supervisor Fuchs indicated he felt cuts could be made in the Extension Office, maybe with the exception of 4-H. He said that could save over $200,000.
Dave Krug said he saw a value on paying 40 cents on the dollar for research information from specialists. The state pays 60% of the extension department expenses. Mr. Krug felt perhaps 2 of the extension departments could be scrutinized.
Mr. Fuchs said that perhaps law enforcement could cut from 3 on each shift down to 2. And that the highway department could save fuel and miles by not doing full patrols each day. He said when it snows the drivers could be on-call and eliminate overtime pay.
Chuck Zenner felt that cuts could be made to the Westboro library, the humane society, the grazing specialist, the assistant position in the register of deeds office, and some of the fair board expenses.
Continuing on potential cuts, Jim Metz questioned Northwest Regional Planning, who’s incubator building in Medford which was designed for business start-ups, is now a glorified storage building.
Scott Mildebrand suggested closing the housing authority office and shifting it to Northwest Regional. He suggested cutting the support staff in the Veterans Service Office to ½ time, shave $20,000 from the airport budget, and $20,000 from the IT office, not replacing a half time retiree. He felt the conference training budget could be cut by 20%, and the highway department equipment replacement fund could be trimmed.
Tim Hanson suggested eliminating the Human Services department financial director for a savings of $100,000. He wanted highway department overtime eliminated by changing the schedule. Regarding the funding of the ambulance service he felt Aspirus could take a more active role.
Supervisor Krug questioned the $14,000 for the uniform address system. He also thought that county board pay should be capped for half day attendance.
Dave Bizer questioned the $5,000 given as startup money every year for the Taylor County Fair.
Mr. Zenner asked if any county property could be sold such as the Pirus shooting range?
Jim Metz concluded the meeting by asking all department heads to talk with board members about suggestions for efficiency.
The Taylor County Board will vote in December on whether or not to delay the proposed April referendum which is asking for up to $1 million in additional county budget funding.
The sport of Curling has had a rich and varied history in Medford. From curling on the Medford Millpond to hosting premiere curling bonspiels, Medford Curling has created numerous memorable experiences and long lasting friendships. Winter is not so long and not so cold as long as there's ice, rocks, brooms and curling. January 23rd through the 25th, 2015, the Medford Curling Club will celebrate 100 years and everyone is invited to share in the Centennial Celebration! Recently curling enthusiasts Jeff Mueller and Elmer Balko shared some of the history of Medford Curling and previewed the weekend centennial events with K99's Russ Gowey....
Eleven Fire Departments Assist At Main Street Fire
An early morning main street fire in Thorp prompted a call for assistance from 11 surrounding fire departments Monday morning, March 23rd.
The Abbotsford fire department was called out at 5:34 A.M. Monday for mutual aid at the Sun-Up Saloon on Main Street in Thorp. Abbotsford firefighters joined departments from Thorp, Owen-Withee Curtiss, Gilman, Colby, Dorchester, Lublin, Chippewa, Greenwood, Stanley, and Cadott. The residents of upper level apartments were able to escape without injury. The Sun-Up Saloon was totally destroyed.
Firefighters focused their energies on preventing the blaze from spreading to adjacent main street buildings and were successful. No injuries were reported.
The Abbotsford fire department returned to the hall at 10 Monday morning, March 23rd.
Turnout for Wisconsin spring election tops 18 percent
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Fewer than two out of every 10 possible voters in Wisconsin cast ballots in a state Supreme Court race.
Unofficial results from Tuesday's election show that just over 18 percent of the state's voting-age population participated. That is with 99 percent of precincts reporting as of Wednesday morning.
State elections officials had predicted 20 percent turnout.
Justice Ann Walsh Bradley defeated challenger Rock County Circuit Judge James Daley by 16 points. Voters also approved a constitutional amendment to give justices on the court the authority to choose the chief justice, rather than go to the most senior member.
That amendment passed by a 6-point margin. It likely will mean long-time Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson will be replaced.
Dorchester Village President,
Wayne Rau 127
Deb Koncel 18
Dorchester Village Trustee (3)
Mathew Derrico 105
Randy Cook Sr 103
Warren Oscar Underwood 111
Deb Koncel 35
Thomas Nelson 223
Patrick Pfeffer 72
For Complete election results visit the Taylor County Webpage
The Medford Area Senior High School was the scene of a bomb scare on October 1st, 2014. After the school was evacuated, student Jacob Gouza admitted to posting 3 messages on the internet site Yik Yak, with 2 of the messages making a reference to a bomb in his locker. Later that afternoon, Gouza told law officers that the bomb scare was a joke.
In Taylor County Court on Tuesday, March 17, 2015, Taylor County D.A. Kristi Tlusty offered a plea deal and Gouza was found guilty due to no contest pleas to 3 counts including: disorderly conduct, unlawful use of a commputerized communication system and obstructing an officer.
Judge Anne Knox Bauer imposed a withheld sentence of probation for 1 year, jail for 60 days with Huber privileges, a letter of apology to the victim and Gouza must obtain a high school diploma or equivalent. Restitution and court costs totaling $4,360.37 were imposed.
Sheldon Man Guilty Of Killing Hunter 2/26/15
It took a Taylor County jury one hour of deliberation to declare James Winchel of Sheldon guilty of 6 felony charges Thursday night. The charges stem from a November 29, 2013 crash in western Taylor County that claimed the life of Juan Salinas as he stood on a rural roadway following a day of deer hunting. Injured in the same crash was Fernando Salinas, who was transferred to the Wausau hospital with a broken right leg.
State trooper Eric Hanson, who specializes in crash scene reconstruction utilized 2 methods to determine Winchel’s speed at the time of impact. One of them: The “throw distance” of the pedestrian, showed that the victim was thrown 138 feet after being struck by Winchel’s car. Hanson said, for a moment after impact, the struck body moves at the speed of the striking vehicle. Trooper Hanson estimated the vehicles speed to be between 43 and 52 miles per hour at the moment of impact. Hanson went into detail regarding the 3 phases of twilight as the prosecution worked to show that there was ample light to see the hunters in the roadway at the time of collision.
As a result of the crash, Winchel received a head injury as Juan Salinas’s rifle flew through the windshield and struck Winchel in the head. James Winchel was transported by helicopter to Luther Hospital in Eau Claire. A blood draw at the hospital indicated that Winchel’s blood alcohol level was .196. In Wisconsin, after a driver is convicted of their 2nd OWI, the legal blood alcohol limit drops from .08 to .02. James Winchel was facing his 5th OWI. D.A. Kristi Tlusty told the jury that Winchel’s .196 equated to nearly 10 times his legal limit of .02. The day after the crash Officer Nick Synol was told he could talk with Winchel as he was transferred out of intensive care. In a signed statement, Winchel indicated he saw the hunters after cresting a hill on Countyline Road. Winchel told Synol he was intoxicated after stopping at the Curve Inn bar and consuming 5 or 6 tap beers. Winchel said the beer had an impact on the crash.
Trooper Hanson estimated that Winchel had 10 seconds to react after seeing the hunters in the roadway. In closing statements to the jury, D.A. Kristi Tlusty asked the jury to close their eyes to illustrate the duration of 10 seconds. The courtroom fell silent until a computer “beeped” at the end of 10 seconds. Tlusty told the jury, that was how long Mr. Winchel had to either slow down, hit the brakes, or take the ditch, and he did nothing. D.A. Tlusty also used a graphic display to convince the jury that each of the elements required for guilty verdicts had been proved by her.
In closing statements Winchel’s defense attorney told the jury that alcohol wasn’t a factor in the crash, and that this was a case of “misplaced blame”. He pleaded that this accident would have happened anyway.
The jury didn’t agree and after listening to 2 full days of testimony from hunters who witnessed the fatal crash and officials involved in the investigation, took just one hour to deliver 6 guilty verdicts on every felony charge. The charges included homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle, OWI causing injury, and OWI-5th offense. Judge Ann Knox Bauer will determine the fate of James Winchel following a pre-sentencing investigation.
A potentially deadly apartment fire was averted Saturday, January 24, 2015, on Medford’s Main Street. The Medford Area Fire Department was called just after 12 noon to the Riverview Apartments at 346 South Main for the report of smoke coming from an apartment. For the safety of the tenants, an evacuation was ordered and the 3 story building was emptied. A Krug Motorcoach was brought in and tenants of the building were temporarily taken to the Medford High School.
Mild temperatures in the mid 30’s made the transition for some of the disabled individuals more bearable. Medford firefighters applied positive pressure and entered Apartment 207 which is a second story room. Firefighters were able to extinguish the fire which was in the area of a coffee table. No injuries were reported. The fire in the room was unable to spread because the apartment’s door was closed.
Aside from some smoke and water damage, the fire’s damage was limited to the second floor apartment. Cause of the fire is under investigation.
Assisting at the scene was the Medford Ambulance, Medford and Taylor County officers, and the Stetsonville Fire Department. Medford firefighters were on the scene at the Riverview Apartments for about 3 hours.
The Medford Area School Board has announced the acceptance of the immediate resignation of longtime teacher and coach Ron Lien at the regular Medford School Board Meeting on Thursday, February 19th, 2015. Ron Lien taught business and technology classes at the Medford Area Senior High School for more than 30 years and was the boys varsity basketball coach and boys JV golf coach. Medford Area School District Superintendent Pat Sullivan shares more details with K99's Russ Gowey.......
It was a memorable 2014 college football season for the Wisconsin Badgers. A season that began in Houston with one coach and ended in Tampa with a different, all be it legendary, coach. A 1st place finish in the Big Ten West Division and a Outback Bowl victory. Former Medford Raiders high school football stand out and current Wisconsin Badgers offensive lineman, Ben Hemer, experienced it all. Recently Ben Hemer stopped by the K99 Radio Studios in Medford and visited with K99's Patrick Porten. He shared his memories and experiences this past season and his expectations for the future.............