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Wisconsin roundup: Evers, Holtz advance in state superintendent primary; weather blamed for western Wis. bridge collapse; 8 more state news stories

State public school Superintendent Tony Evers and challenger Lowell Holtz have advanced to the April fourth general election, after easy victories in Tuesday's primary.

Evers, an eight year incumbent, got 70 percent of almost 360,000 votes cast. Holtz, a former Beloit superintendent, got 23 percent and consultant and former Dodgeville school administrator John Humphries was eliminated with 7 percent. The 65-year-old Evers says his large margin of victory shows that Wisconsinites are committed to public education -- and he assumed that Holtz would get funding from the private school voucher advocates that the challenger supports.

The 59-year-old Holtz issued a statement promising what he called "an alternative vision for the future of Wisconsin's students," and Humphries says he remains convinced that youngsters can "achieve so much more with the right leadership" in the state Department of Public Instruction.

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Weather apparent culprit in western Wis. bridge collapse

COCHRANE -- Highway officials in western Wisconsin say wet weather apparently caused a bridge to collapse before two traffic accidents occurred.

Buffalo County sheriff's deputies say 54-year-old Karen Pronschinske could not stop in time to avoid the collapsed bridge on County Trunk U near Cochrane Monday night, and her car went airborne as she sustained minor injuries. Also, 33-year-old Carlos Txompaxtle did not accept medical treatment after his car struck the 100-year-old bridge.

Buffalo County highway commissioner Bob Platteter tells WQOW-TV his crews believe the collapse might have resulted from last summer's floods -- and heavy rains Monday night may have caused the bridge abutment to move. He says more investigating needs to be done to determine the exact problem on a bridge that's used by about 550 vehicles each day.

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Walker capital budget favors refurbishing, not new buildings

MADISON -- Improvements to the Wisconsin veterans' nursing home at King are part of a two-year, 8$803 million capital budget proposed Tuesday by Gov. Scott Walker.

The Waupaca County veterans' facility would get about $12 million to improve its drinking water, electrical system, and food equipment -- after a new veterans affairs secretary was brought in and told to look into reported care problems, mishandling of liquid oxygen, and diversions of federal funds at King. The capital budget also includes a new crime lab to replace the current lab in Milwaukee -- as well as a replacement for the state's main office building in Milwaukee.

Walker's total capital budget is about $47 million less than the current two year total of $849 million. Walker proposes borrowing of $1 billion for building and highway projects, the lowest amount in two decades.

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UW reviews impact on governor's plan to monitor faculty class time

MADISON -- The UW-System says it's reviewing Gov. Scott Walker's budget plan to monitor faculty workloads and reward those who spend more time teaching.

Conservatives have long criticized some professors for not spending enough time in the classroom, and Walker says his plan would "hold faculty accountable." It would make the Board of Regents create a system that monitors teaching workloads, with rewards for those who teach more than "a standard academic load."

Also, the UW-system would set up an accountability device. Spokeswoman Stephanie Marquis tells the Wisconsin State Journal the university already measures faculty workloads and makes them public, but she said that UW would look at the Walker plan, and it appreciates that he sees it as a role for the Regents. Meredith McGlone of UW-Madison says all three university faculty functions need to be recognized in an accountability plan -- class time, research, and outreach.

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State's largest bonding referendum defeated

Wisconsin's largest school bonding referendum on Tuesday was defeated.

The vote was 55-45 percent against a new field house, fitness center, and high school remodeling in the Waterford district in Racine and Waukesha counties. Also, a $4.2 million bonding plan was rejected 54-46 percent in the Dover district in Racine County -- which would have gone toward a new gym, classroom additions, and mechanical improvements among other things.

In Genoa City, two referendums passed with 65-35 percent margins for $6.1 million in various improvements, plus an extra $255,000 in taxes each year above the state's revenue limits. Stockbridge school voters also approved a tax hike of $250,000 above the state limit -- and that was by a convincing 72-28 percent.

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Walker judicial appointee defeated at polls

A circuit judge who was appointed by Gov. Scott Walker last summer has been defeated in his first bid for election.

Trempealeau County Judge Charles Feltes got 29 percent of about 3,100 votes cast in Tuesday's primary. Rian Radtke and Rick Schaumberg each advanced to the April election with 35-percent of the vote. The Republican Walker appointed Feltes last July to replace Judge John Damon, who retired after two decades on the bench.

In Polk County, Daniel Tolan and Malia Malone won a Tuesday primary for an open judgeship as David Danielson was eliminated -- and in Manitowoc County, Bob Dewane and Pat Koppa advanced in a primary to replace Jerome Fox, who did not seek re-election.

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Former state trooper charged with child porn possession

JEFFERSON -- Former state trooper Frank Torrez is free on bond, after making a court appearance on 10 Jefferson County charges of possessing child pornography.

The 53-year-old Cambridge man appeared by phone Tuesday from the jail in neighboring Rock County, where he was held due to his extensive law enforcement experience in Jefferson. Officials say Torrez was caught with child porn during a state undercover investigation of a file sharing network.

He resigned from the State Patrol last Friday, soon after he was arrested -- and an assistant state attorney general is prosecuting Torrez' case, preventing a potential conflict of interest from a local prosecutor. He waived the state's time limit for a preliminary hearing, and he posted a $5,000 bond Tuesday evening.

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State milk output grows for 33rd straight month

MADISON -- Wisconsin milk production keeps growing, though not as quickly as the 23 major American dairy states.

According to the state Ag Statistics Service, Wisconsin farmers made 2.54 billion pounds of milk in January. That's 1 percent more than the same month in 2016, while the national output rose 2.7 percent to almost 17 billion pounds.

It was the 33rd straight month that Wisconsin's milk output was higher on a year to year basis, as the production per cow rose by 20 pounds to 1,985 while the state's total number of dairy cows stayed the same at close to 1.3 million. California, the nation's top milk producer, had a decrease of 0.6 percent last month to 3.4 billion pounds.

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Semi vs. school bus crash injures 11

NEW LONDON -- Eleven people, including at least three children, are being treated for injuries following a crash involving a school bus and semi near the Waupaca County and Outagamie County line.

Deputies say the semi driver was airlifted to ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah Tuesday morning. Television station WLUK reports ten people, including three children between the ages of 11 and 14, are being treated at ThedaCare in New London. The bus is from the New London School District and officials say there were about 30 students on the bus at the time of the crash.

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Milwaukee streetcar system construction to start in April

MILWAUKEE -- Construction will start in April on Milwaukee's downtown streetcar system.

Officials plan to have it up and running by late next year, with a loop to the lakefront ready for passengers in late 2019. Crews have been digging up streets for more than a year, but the first tracks have yet to go in to formally start construction of the system. The Milwaukee Business Journal reports 10-foot-wide parts of West St. Paul Avenue and North Fourth Street will be the first to be removed for the tracks in April.

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