News from around Wisconsin at 5:28 a.m. CST

Monday, January 27, 2014

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Persistent below-zero temps visit Midwest again

CHICAGO (AP) - Another winter day, another below-zero high temperature for many parts of the Midwest - at least, it seems that way. The deep chill has returned, bringing with it wind chills ranging from the negative teens to 40s, school cancellations and sighs of resignation from residents who are weary of bundling up.

A persistent weather pattern that’s driving Arctic air south will drop temperatures for about 2½ days, starting overnight Sunday. Actual temperatures will range from the teens in northern Kentucky to double-digits below zero in Minnesota, but wind chills will be even colder - minus 43 in Minneapolis, minus 23 in Chicago, minus 18 in Dayton, Ohio, minus 14 in Kansas City, Mo., and minus 3 in Louisville, Ky.

“I’m sick of it,” Chicago resident Matt Ryan, 19, said Sunday on his way to his family’s home in the suburb of Oak Park.

“I came home to steal a scarf from my parents,” he said. Ryan’s plan for Monday, when the high is forecast to be a mere minus 4 degrees and the wind chills could dip to 40 below: Dress in layers, carry hand warmers and wear long underwear.

National Weather Service Meteorologist Scott Blair stopped short of calling the latest round of cold part of the polar vortex, a system of winds that circulate around the North Pole.

“There’s really nothing abnormal about the air that’s coming into the area,” he said. “It’s just been a very persistent pattern” of cold air.

Blair said it’s an amplified pattern of the jet stream, with cold air filtering in behind a large trough of low pressure. Simplifying, he explained: “Troughs are typically associated with unstable or unsettled weather, and, at this time of the year, much colder air.”

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Wis. lawmaker offers pollution-reduction option

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) - State Sen. Rob Cowles has introduced a bill designed to encourage industrial polluters to fund efforts to reduce farm pollution.

The measure would allow wastewater-treatment plants and other producers of phosphorus to delay their own reduction efforts if they helped pay for efforts to cut farm runoff, Press-Gazette Media reported (http://gbpg.net/1e0MoOhhttp://gbpg.net/1e0MoOh ).

Cowles, R-Allouez, said he’s concerned about oxygen-deficient areas in the waters of Green Bay and elsewhere. He said the so-called dead zones point to a need to rein in phosphorus runoff from the largest contributors - agriculture and urban storm water.

“Green Bay’s dead zone is similar to sections of Lake Erie and the Gulf of Mexico, where there’s so little oxygen that fish and aquatic organisms struggle to survive,” he said.

Industrial polluters are already cutting down on the amount of phosphorus they discharge into state waterways. Tougher government standards call for more cuts, but Cowles says those reductions will be expensive and only marginally helpful.

For example, to comply with the government regulations, NEW Water, the brand of the Green Bay Metropolitan Sewerage District, would have to spend more than $200 million to install filtration technology at its wastewater-treatment plants in De Pere and Green Bay.

But NEW Water contributes just 2 percent of all the phosphorus that ends up in Green Bay, executive director Tom Sigmund said. Running and maintaining the filtration system will cost another $2 million per year, he said.

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Walker focuses on hiring people with disabilities

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Nobody can fold a box quite like Patrick Young.

Gov. Scott Walker learned that first hand as Young, who has Down syndrome, led a 2012 tour of Tailored Label Products in Menomonee Falls. Young challenged Walker to put together specialized packaging used by the company - think of it as a complicated pizza box - as quickly as he could. As Walker fumbled at the flaps, Young adroitly snapped everything into place in seconds.

Walker said meeting Young helped inspire an initiative he unveiled in his State of the State speech last week. The effort, called “A Better Bottom Line,” is aimed at getting more Wisconsin companies to hire people with disabilities including autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury and mental illness.

People with disabilities account for about 9 percent of the state’s workforce, based on data provided by Disability Rights Wisconsin. But their employment rate is less than one-third that of workers without disabilities, and workers with disabilities on average earn 30 percent less.

Walker has proposed spending $800,000 by mid-2015 to expand an on-the-job training program for workers with disabilities. He hopes to expand the program from seven to 27 companies over the next three years.

The governor plans to highlight employers and organizations that help people with disabilities find work, in part by talking about the issue during stump speeches around the state. He also is ordering state agencies to focus on building, recognizing and promoting public and private programs and organizations that improve employment opportunities for those workers.

One of the biggest barriers people with disabilities face in finding work is the attitude of employers and the community, said Beth Swedeen, executive director of the Wisconsin Board for People with Developmental Disabilities.

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Pasch: Mentally ill need more treatment help

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Legislation aimed at improving Wisconsin’s mental health system is nearing final approval, but one state lawmaker said the measures don’t do enough to ensure that mentally ill people who might be a threat to themselves or others get the treatment they need.

The bills awaiting Gov. Scott Walker’s signature include more funding for mental health services as well as money for programs that provide alternatives to incarceration for the mentally ill, the Wisconsin State Journal reported (http://bit.ly/1ciTMTghttp://bit.ly/1ciTMTg ).

But State Rep. Sandy Pasch, D-Shorewood, says more needs to be done. She cites the case of Jaren Kuester, a 31-year-old Waukesha man who pleaded insanity to killing three Wiota farmers last year.

In the days leading up to the slayings, his family tried to persuade Waukesha County officials to detain him. Kuester, who had a history of depression and psychosis, had been delusional following his dog’s death, according to his father, Jim Kuester.

But a social worker sent the family away because the elder Kuester couldn’t provide convincing evidence that his son was a danger to himself or others, said Peter Schuler, who was director of Waukesha County Health and Human Services at the time.

The standard of determining whether someone is dangerous enough to warrant commitment is fuzzy, Pasch said. There needs to be a clearer legal standard to ensure the mentally ill get help before others get hurt, she said.

“They need somebody to see them all the time in supportive housing, and they need to be helped through the process as they’re evaluated and studied for changes,” she said.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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