Local

December 2014 represented the 31st year that Project Christmas has provided food, gifts and holiday greetings to various Jackson County households, and on Dec. 13 volunteers were able to visit 473 county households.“Each year we are overwhelmed with the generous outpouring of time, talents, gifts and money that makes Project Christmas of Jackson County Inc. possible,” said Project Christmas publicity chairperson Chuck Buswell.“The many donations of food, handmade quilts and blankets, toys and other gifts and financial contributions made to Project Christmas 2014 were again outstanding. Increased financial support offsets the increased number of recipient households and higher costs.”During the week of Dec. 8-13, there were many willing and eager volunteers donating, collecting, loading and unloading, sorting, shopping, wrapping, packaging and delivering the various items.The 473 recipient households include approximately 1,700 individuals with close to 1,000 being children. Many factors such as unemployment, illnesses, household disasters and loneliness make Project...

Read more @ Jackson County Chronicle

Authorities and community members are becoming increasingly concerned about the prevalence of heroin use and dealing in Jackson County.The highly addictive opiate drug is considered “at its peak” based on drug investigations, arrests and other information provided to law enforcement, and its impact in local communities continues to expand, local authorities say.“Overall, I believe that heroin is having an effect in Jackson County because it is not just about recreational drug use. It is about a drug that many times takes lives because people buying and using the heroin don’t know exactly what they are putting into their body,” said Jackson County Sheriff’s Department Capt. Tim Nichols.“It is such an addicting drug that people using it will do just about anything to get more.”Jackson County’s location on the interstate system between major cities like Chicago and Minneapolis has in part contributed to an “inevitable” increase in heroin trafficking in the...

Read more @ Jackson County Chronicle

The Jackson County Board next week will decide on a referendum that would ask voters if they support a project to add a second circuit court.If approved the advisory referendum would go on the April 7 ballot and ask if the county should construct an estimated $2.56 million addition to the courthouse for another courtroom.The board will discuss the referendum at its meeting on Monday at 5:30 p.m.The proposed referendum was introduced by Supervisor Norm Stoker, who has said his constituents have asked if the project is necessary or if there are alternative solutions. He said he feels voters want to have more of a say on it.“(We should ask) our constituents or the taxpayers — are you in favor of (this project),” said the Brockway representative at the Executive and Finance meeting earlier this week.The state ranks the single-judge Jackson County the most in need of another judge. Last...

Read more @ Jackson County Chronicle

It’s official: Elk soon will arrive in Jackson County.The agreement to bring a new herd to the Black River State Forest and bolster another in northern Wisconsin received got the formal go-ahead last week. Trapping efforts now are set to begin in Kentucky with hopes of elk arriving in Jackson County in mid-March.“It feels really good. This is what we’ve been waiting quite a while for,” said Scott Roepke, a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologist who works in Jackson County. “We’re excited to move forward with everything.”The DNR plans to bring about 150 elk to Wisconsin with half coming to Jackson County over a three- to five-year period. The University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, as part of a university project, reintroduced 25 elk into the Clam Lake site in northern Wisconsin about 20 years ago and plans also were made – but never carried out – to reintroduce elk...

Read more @ Jackson County Chronicle

A blast of unseasonably cold January weather prompted school districts to cancel classes last week.The Alma Center-Humbird-Merrillan, Black River Falls and Melrose-Mindoro school districts all closed Wednesday, Jan. 7 when temperatures were forecasted to hit highs of around five below zero with wind chills as low as 35 to 40 below.Mel-Min also had a two-hour delay the morning of Jan. 5.The temperatures didn’t set any new records for Jackson County, but the cold still was an anomaly for early January, said NWS meteorologist Dan Jones.“We typically can see these (temperatures) in the month of January – it’s typically our coldest month,” he said. “But this is unseasonably cold for how cold it’s getting down.”Mel-Min Superintendent Del DeBerg said the district also considered a delay Tuesday, Jan. 6 when temperatures only were forecasted to hit a high of 8 degrees but ultimately opted against it.One bus ended up breaking down due...

Read more @ Jackson County Chronicle

Black River Falls residents are a step closer to voting on whether to keep the city’s police department or receive law enforcement services from the county.A more than 300-signature petition to prompt a binding referendum was turned in Monday, and the city now will begin the process of getting the question on the April 7 ballot.“It was a collaborative organization that set out to get signatures,” said BRF resident Scott Moldenhauer, who helped with the effort. “I firmly believe that the city should be involved with this decision – not simply nine people.”A split city council voted last November to move ahead with dissolving the BRF Police Department and contracting with the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department for law enforcement. Mayor Ron Danielson broke the tie in favor of the county option, and a group of residents subsequently began efforts to collect the necessary 202 signatures to prompt the binding referendum.City...

Read more @ Jackson County Chronicle

Races across Jackson County will feature a host of contested races and will include at least a five-way primary for the judgeship.The race for judge had five official candidates on the ballot as of midday Tuesday and it will prompt a Feb. 17 primary, where the field will be winnowed to two who will face off in the April 7 general election.Races for Black River Falls City Council and the city attorney position also are poised to feature contested races; the BRF School Board election has three people vying for two open seats.The circuit court judge field includes current Judge Anna Becker, who was appointed last fall to finish the term vacated by Thomas Lister. She’s being challenged for the six-year seat by local attorneys Dan Diehn, Robyn Matousek, Mark Radcliffe and James Ritland.Michelle Greendeer also had taken out papers to run, but they weren’t yet filed as of midday...

Read more @ Jackson County Chronicle

The investigation into a case where authorities responded to a fake hostage situation is stalled for now with no leads on the identity of the caller.BRF Interim Police Chief Pat LaBarbera said the manner in which the call was placed is making further investigation difficult to nearly impossible.“There hasn’t been much movement at all,” he said. “The reason is there hasn’t been much movement is that apparently … (the call) sounds like it came from a computer.“It’s frustrating. I guess frustrating sums it up – where do you go, what do you do?”An individual placed a call to the BRF Police Department last October to report he’d taken two people hostage at gunpoint and was holding them at a BRF residence wired with explosives. The caller, who posed as a young resident of the home, asked for a ransom and BRF officers and the Jackson County Emergency Response Team were...

Read more @ Jackson County Chronicle

A new Black River Falls water tower is scheduled to be complete in June and a small rate increase to help fund the project likely will begin three months later.Some work already is done on the nearly $1 million project to replace the aging N. 10th Street tower and more work soon will be conducted in hopes of having it complete by June 1. BRF Municipal Utilities has determined it will apply to raise water rates about 3 percent to assist with its funding.“(Completion) is all weather dependent at this point,” said Utility Manager Jerry Ewert. “If they encounter a long, cold, wet spring the construction may go beyond the substantial completion date. We’ll just have to wait and see.”The utility anticipates applying for the rate increase in June or July with the change likely taking place in September after Public Service Commission of Wisconsin approval. The increase means averages...

Read more @ Jackson County Chronicle

Monday was the final day to submit public comments on a proposed high-voltage power line that would cut through the Coulee Region to deliver energy to the east.Wisconsin utility regulators were scheduled to begin technical hearings Tuesday this week in Madison as they assess the need and impact of the Badger-Coulee project, the second such major transmission line proposed for western Wisconsin since 2011.A $211 million segment of a project known as CapX2020 is now under construction between Alma and Holmen.The Wisconsin Public Service Commission, which has never turned down a transmission project application, will determine whether and where American Transmission Co. and Xcel Energy may build the line, which could encroach on as many as 556 residences, as well as farm, forest and public lands. It is expected to cost up to $580 million, with Wisconsin electric consumers picking up about 15 percent of the tab.ATC and Xcel say...

Read more @ Jackson County Chronicle

Officials are working to mitigate the spread of an invasive plant that is prevalent at Wazee Lake Recreation Area in Jackson County and largely uncommon in the western half of the state.Curbing the infestation of common reed grass, also termed phragmites, will be critical as the state looks to mitigate and eliminate its spread and the harmful ecological effects that come with it.“Ecologically it’s a bad player,” said Brock Woods, a lecturer with the University of Wisconsin-Extension who also serves as the state’s wetland invasive plant coordinator.“Our job is to slow things down and prevent what we can and keep the lid on things long enough so that either new species can integrate into the native (area) without eliminating native stuff or until we can find some natural way to control it.”Non-native phragmites is largely uncommon on the western side of Wisconsin, and the growth and spread of the tall,...

Read more @ Jackson County Chronicle