- Associated Press - Sunday, March 9, 2014
Rural schools ask Wis. lawmakers for more cash

CUBA CITY, Wis. (AP) - If one employee leaves Cuba City High School for a higher-paying position elsewhere in Wisconsin, it can leave the school short of instructors in two or more subjects.

When rural districts need to stretch dollars, staffers often do more than one job. In Cuba City, the math and computer teacher are the same person. In Mineral Point, the superintendent also serves as business manager and director of technology.

Rural educators struggling with high transportation costs, old buildings and the loss of staff told state lawmakers studying the issue that their employees and budgets have been stretched to the limit. Without more money, they will have to close schools and could see massive deficits and their best teachers leave for better-paying jobs elsewhere. But lawmakers on a special task force said an overall funding increase is unlikely, although some money might be found for specific needs.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos created the rural schools task force in September after seeing districts like Rhinelander fail repeatedly to get more money by appealing directly to voters. Rhinelander residents rejected referenda in 2005 and two in 2008, preventing the district from upgrading its buildings and forcing it to consolidate some schools.

Rob Swearingen, a Rhinelander Republican and task force chairman, said the committee initially aimed to get rid of inefficiencies and find cost saving measures, not dish out more money to schools. He was surprised during visits to rural schools to see them stripped to bare bones. Dozens of rural districts are slated to ask voters April 1 for money just to keep operating and avoid closing schools; many are likely to fail.

“Referendums are just tearing these schools apart,” Swearingen said, noting the votes in Rhinelander were narrowly split.

Wisconsin law requires referenda for districts to exceed statewide revenue limits. Eighty percent of such votes are held in rural districts, said Jerry Fiene, executive director of the Wisconsin Rural Schools Alliance.

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Hydrologist warns of floods if snow melts quickly

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - If all the snow that fell this winter melts too quickly, there could be severe flooding in areas of Wisconsin, according to the National Weather Service.

The ripening flood conditions have been caused by higher-than-usual snowfall and frost depths nearing 8 feet in some places.

“If the melt comes too quickly, we could see some pretty good flooding. It’s still far away, but we see the conditions are laid out,” said Steve Buan, the senior hydrologist for the National Weather Service’s North Central River Forecast Center in Chanhassen, Minn.

The frost can cause problems because water will have trouble seeping into the ground, and that forces the runoff into the rivers, Buan told the Wisconsin State Journal (http://bit.ly/1edJuRGhttp://bit.ly/1edJuRG ). The frost is particularly hard, too, because of adequate moisture in the soil going into the winter. That makes it even more impenetrable, he said.

Unlike most years, there was not a warm stretch in January or February to help melt some of the snow.

He warned that cities along the Wisconsin, Rock, Fox, Pecatonica and other state rivers should prepare for flooding. The Portage area is the biggest concern because of an expected overload from melting snow in northern Wisconsin flowing down the Wisconsin River.

Heavy snow also covers southern Wisconsin, around the Rock and Fox rivers. And marshes and other areas that handle overflow from those rivers are already saturated from floods of the past few years, he said.

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Appleton cops inspect bar plumbing in murder case

APPLETON, Wis. (AP) - Law enforcement officials say they have exhausted all efforts to recover a handgun thought to be used in the shooting of a 25-year-old man in an Appleton nightclub, including taking apart some of the club’s plumbing system.

Chong Lee, 28, is charged with first-degree intentional homicide and possessing a firearm as a felon in the death of Joshua Richards, of Green Bay, at Luna Lounge on Dec. 8.

Outagamie County District Attorney Carrie Schneider said Appleton police made significant efforts to find the gun.

“We’ll keep following up on any other leads at this point, but for the information we have, we’ve pursued it as far as we could,” she told Post-Crescent Media (http://post.cr/1kFLfi0).

Joe Thor, a friend of Lee, told police that Lee said he ran to the nearby Shark’s Club and flushed the gun down the toilet, court records said.

Investigators examined all 22 billiards tables at the downtown pool hall and the bar’s plumbing system.

“Police pulled the contents of our sewage storage pit and found a cellphone,” Phil Moore, manager of the bar, told Post-Crescent Media. “I personally don’t think (Lee) ever brought the gun down here. I don’t think there’s any way a gun traveled through those pipes.”

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4 workers at veteran’s hospital face drug charges

MILWAUKEE (AP) - Four workers at Milwaukee’s veteran’s hospital are facing drug related charges.

WISN-TV reports (http://bit.ly/1dAW9RHhttp://bit.ly/1dAW9RH ) 38-year-old Jermaine Cohill, 35-year-old Ryan Driscoll, 27-year-old Alicia Ojeda and 46-year-old Yvette Wright are charged with felonies related to possession or delivery of oxycodone from the Milwaukee VA Medical Center.

The investigation began in December after a co-worker reported seeing three certified nursing assistants and a licensed practical nurse passing or exchanging medications.

The complaint says oxycodone and Percocet pills were transferred and sold among the four for several months.

They are scheduled for court March 27. A message left for Cohill wasn’t immediately returned Sunday. No numbers or attorneys could be located for the others.

No one immediately responded to a call and email sent to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Sunday.

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