Legislature Favoring Private Municipal Water Owners

Feb 1, 2016

A state Senate panel has endorsed a bill that could make it easier for private investors to own public water utilities in Wisconsin.

The G-O-P measure was endorsed on a three-to-two party line vote, and it now goes to the full Senate after the Assembly earlier approved a similar bill. Right now, private out-of-state firms can buy public water supplies, but affected voters must approve the deals in referendums.

The bill from Assembly Republican Tyler August of Lake Geneva would make referendums optional.

While parts of Wisconsin are seeing very low unemployment numbers, 5 of the 15 highest numbers of unemployment come from Northwoods.

Preliminary December 2015 rates decreased or remained the same in 68 of Wisconsin's 72 counties compared to rates in December 2014. The latest rates ranged from 2.9 percent in Dane to 8.7 percent in Iron. lsewhere in the Northwoods, Vilas had the state's fifth highest rate at 7.8 percent, Forest at 7.2, Oneida 6.2, Langlade 5.9, Lincoln 4.9 and Price at 4.7 percent.

Caterpillar Inc has confirmed they will close its forest products facility in Prentice and move production to existing Caterpillar facilities in LaGrange, Georgia, and Victoria, Texas.

The company issued a statement on its reorganization today.

The transition will impact approximately 220 positions in Prentice. Those positions include office and production employees as well as agency workers.

  The Town of Newbold is working to build an outdoor recreation area, but the committee is asking for sponsors to support the build. The area will offer a hiking/snowshoe trail, disc golf course, birding, wildlife viewing and benches. Committee member Jackie Cody says people can make an unrestricted donation or fund their project through a sponsor.

“…they can support it through a basket or a hole at the course or they can donate toward the hiking and snowshoeing trail or they can donate for a bench that will be placed along the walking trail.”

Midwest leaders from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Health and Human Services are reminding rural uninsured residents that the deadline to enroll for healthcare is coming soon. The next open window in the Health Insurance Marketplace under the Affordable Care Act closes on Sunday.

Stan Gruszynski is state USDA Rural Development Director. He says prior to the the Act, rural families paid nearly 50 percent of health care costs out of pocket. He says nearly one in five farmers are in debt because of medical bills....

Wisconsin's Natural Resources Board this week approved a record number of bear harvest permits.

DNR wildlife biologist Dave MacFarland of Rhinelander told the board the goal is to maintain populations in the Northwoods. They would also like to stabilize the population south of Highway 64, and reduce the population in northwestern Wisconsin. He says bear population numbers and conflicts are the highest in that part of the state. MacFarland says the DNR would authorize 11,500 permits with a bear harvest quota of 4.750. He says interest in bear hunting continues to grow...

Seven persons have died in fires this week in Wisconsin and an American Red Cross spokesperson says it's time for everyone to check for fire hazards.

Two children in Sheboygan Falls died this week in a house fire. Another fire in Antigo injured a teenager. Several other fires have been reported in the Northwoods this winter.

American Red Cross spokesperson Barbara Behling says fires kill more people each year than tornadoes, hurricanes and lightning strikes combined. She says one of the deadly fire starters is smoking in bed...

Aspirus and WPS Health Solutions announced the formation of a new health insurance company in north-central Wisconsin.

Called Aspirus Arise, the company will begin marketing individual marketplace, small and large group and self-funded plans in 16 counties in this region. A holding company owned equally by Aspirus and WPS will provide governance of the new company.

President and CEO of Aspirus Arise Brett Davis says the goal is to provide an affordable healthcare option..

Area Chambers Say Winter Tourism is Picking Up

Jan 27, 2016

  El Nino hindered the first half of winter halting major fundraisers and tourism for local communities. But with the last couple of weeks dipping into sub zero temperatures and a couple inches of snow area chambers report winter activity is picking up around the Northwoods. Minocqua Area Chamber of Commerce Director Krystal Westfahl says business owners were prepared for the El Nino year, but remained optimistic.

Final Pre-Referendum Meeting Held At Northland Pines

Jan 27, 2016

The final public information meeting on a proposed $3.9 million Northland Pines school district referendum for the next three years set for a vote Feb. 16 was held at the high school in Eagle River with four members of the public present.

Two resolutions to expand the Vilas county courthouse narrowly passed the county board this week.

An original resolution for $16 million dollars was amended after the board decided not to add the additional space for another courtroom at this time.

The board adopted a resolution first funding two phases of the expansion, known as 1 and 1B, at a price of more than $10 million. That would add just under 36,000 square feet for that cost. The board needed a two-thirds majority to pass that resolution which it did 15-4.

The DNR is taking another round of public comment on a proposed 10-year panfish management plan.

DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter says the plan aims to improve panfish opportunities for anglers including restoring size structure on lakes where smaller fish have become more prevalent in recent years, improving habitat, engaging anglers and supporting research on panfish. He says other species have their own plan..

CANtastic Event Needs More Build Teams

Jan 26, 2016

  The Rhinelander Area Food Pantry and the Rouman Cinema are sponsoring their 6th annual CANtastic event, but are in need of more teams. CANtastic is a competition area businesses showcase their talents by constructing sculptures made with canned foods. The creations are judged based on color, creativity and complexity. Director Guy Hansen says this year’s theme is “drive out hunger,” and all food used will be donated to the food pantry.

Nicolet Area Technical College

Students have another option to raise money for classes at Nicolet College as the college Foundation is accepting online scholarships now through February 26.

Foundation Executive Director Heather Schallock says they expect to award more than 250 scholarships....

"....for most of our scholarships we require a 2.5 cumulative GPA. There are a few scholarships that require a higher GPA, but for the most part, that is accurate. We also have part-time scholarships for students enrolled in part-time credits...."

Legislation has been proposed in Madison that would make some broad changes in how the state and counties administer local veterans services.

Among the provisions, it would allow counties the option to keep the current arrangement for a County Veteran Service Officer, or not have a local officer and go into a consortium with other counties. Currently the CVSO's are mandated by the Wisconsin statutes in each county. It would allow non-veterans to be that CVSO and eliminate several duties now done locally and put them under the direction of the state.