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A handful of construction projects are slated to repair aging stretches of roads across Jackson County.Work is scheduled on several streets in the city of Black River Falls, on one county highway and a stretch of Interstate 94 this year.The city will conduct complete reconstruction work on stretches of Adams, Forrest, Gilwest, Pine and 11th streets and Evergreen Drive in what Street Superintendent Todd Gomer said is the “biggest year” for repaving work.“They were the ones that needed to go into the cycle this year,” Gomer said.The city work – over 4,100 feet of street – totals $183,000 with the Adams Street project receiving some grant funding through the Municipal Street Improvement Program. The city plans to pay for the 2015 projects from the street department’s reserve fund over a seven-year period.Bids for another project to repair a section of Commerce Street are due this week after which Gomer plans...

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Nearly a fifth of the first elk brought to Jackson County this spring died from a tick-borne illness, but wildlife officials are optimistic about the re-introduction of the animals to Western Wisconsin despite the loss.The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources revealed last week that five of the 26 elk captured in Kentucky died in the weeks after arriving March 26 at a temporary enclosure in the Black River State Forest.But the remaining elk are healthy three weeks since the last death, said Tami Ryan, the DNR’s wildlife health section chief.Tests showed that a cow and four calves died as a result of babesiosi, a parasite carried by deer ticks. Ryan said the parasite is prevalent across the nation.“This is an endemic disease that we knew … was here,” she said. “It comes with the territory of a natural environment inhabited by ticks.”Though elk and red deer are susceptible to babesiosi,...

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Several groups opposed to a high-voltage transmission line across Western Wisconsin have petitioned state utility regulators for a new hearing on the controversial $580 million project that was approved last month.The Citizens Energy Task Force and Save Our Unique Lands jointly petitioned the Public Service Commission last week for a rehearing on the panel’s April 23 decision to approve the line, known as Badger-Coulee.A joint venture of Xcel Energy and American Transmission Company, the 345-kilovolt line will originate at a substation under construction near Briggs Road that is part of CapX2020, another high-voltage transmission project running across Minnesota and western Wisconsin. Crews are at work raising towers along the $211 million portion of that project between Alma and Holmen, with work expected to be completed this summer.ATC and Xcel say the project will improve system reliability, deliver cheaper power and provide a pipeline for wind energy from Minnesota and Iowa...

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A combined $3.8 million will be disbursed next year to Jackson County and seven municipalities in environmental impact fees associated with the construction of the Badger-Coulee power line, American Transmission Co. announced Monday.The county will receive a one-time $1.919 million payment and the same amount will be divided between the city of Black River Falls and six townships according to how much of the line runs through each municipality.The seven municipalities also will receive a combined $230,263 annually for the life of the project, according to numbers released by ATC, which is building the line with Xcel Energy Corp.The fee is paid to monetarily mitigate some of the long-term and short-term impacts of the 345-kilo volt power line including land use restrictions, loss of woodlands and aesthetics.By statute the payments are disbursed based on the project’s total cost and the length of the line through each municipality said Jackie Olson,...

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The group working to restore Douglas Mill Pond and the Melrose Village Board sparred again last week over the current dam’s condition and the group failing to provide required financial statements.Village President Tory Lockington said concerns recently arose when the village was contacted by its insurance carrier after a public presentation implied the current dam’s hazard level had changed.“Basically, you need to tell the truth when you’re asking for fundraising,” Lockington told group representatives at the village board’s May 6 meeting. “You can’t misrepresent the truth.”Lockington also said the village only has received one financial statement after the group agreed to start providing monthly reports last fall.Officials from Friends of Douglas Creek and Melrose Mill Pond firmly dispute misrepresenting the dam’s current status during public informational meetings and said that being “reprimanded in a public meeting is inappropriate.” They also said they plan to provide the financial statements.“Tory, we don’t...

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The Alma Center-Humbird-Merrillan School District is working to revamp its bullying policy after a recent student sit-in and concerned parents spoke out.Students held a sit-in during school last month in an effort to highlight the issue and parents soon after went before the school board to express what they say is sometimes unaddressed verbal, cyber and physical bullying.“The reason I got involved is because I was bullied when I was young and I’ve seen what’s been going on,” said Scott Sanders, a parent of four Lincoln students who spoke at the recent school board meeting. “One student getting bullied is just too many. That affects that student for the rest of their life.”District officials since have met with a committee of students and parents to address the concerns and bullying policy, which prohibits a variety of bullying and outlines a procedure for filing complaints and possible disciplinary action.Superintendent Paul Fischer...

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The Jackson County Sheriff’s Department will acquire a drone to better assist with search and rescue efforts.The department will use up to $5,000 from the county’s Ho-Chunk Nation funds to purchase a drone – or quadcopter device – to give it quicker and more efficient means for searches and reduce manpower needs.“We think it has some real benefits to have it,” Jackson County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Mark Moan told the county’s executive and finance committee Monday. “It sure does replace people (and) saves manpower.”Moan said the department could have seen benefits from having drone capabilities during recent cases that required wide-spanning searches. The search for the still-missing Gene Cloud Jr. is one example, and it also would have been helpful while searching for the Hixton-area man accused of killing his father in the days while he evaded law enforcement.The drone only will be able to be used in searches where...

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A video posted to Facebook shows what appears to be a man eating an endangered Karner blue butterfly.The 38-second video was posted last week Monday to the Facebook page of Walt Pankowitz. The man in the video announces and shows what looks like the butterfly, puts it in his mouth, chews and swallows.“They make a big deal out of them around here; I’m not really sure why,” the man says. “But everybody else is on board (so) I guess I’ll try one.”After showing there is nothing left in his mouth he says, “I don’t see what the big deal is. I don’t think they should have their own parade,” referring to one of the events at the annual Black River Falls Karner Blue Butterfly Festival.As of Tuesday the video had 142 views with nine “likes.”The Karner blue butterfly is protected under the Endangered Species Act. Wisconsin DNR conservation warden supervisor...

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Area legislators and residents expressed a variety of concerns over the proposed state budget at a hearing in Jackson County last week.State Rep. Chris Danou and Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, both Democrats, held a hearing at the Ho-Chunk Nation’s executive office building to provide information on Gov. Scott Walker’s budget and field questions and concerns, including those about cuts to the state parks system and K-12 education and the University of Wisconsin System.“There are some very concerning proposals in there that came directly from the governor’s desk,” said Ryan Greendeer, the Ho-Chunk Nation’s executive governmental relations officer. “We want to send a very clear message down to the governor’s office, and we have in the past few months.“This is going to affect our everyday lives.”Both legislators and hearing attendees discussed the proposal to eliminate state dollars for the state parks system – an item approved along with increased camping fees by...

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Jackson County is moving ahead with making the courthouse’s Main Street door accessible to only employees in an effort to improve building security.The executive and finance committee Monday voted to send a resolution to county board that would set the building’s south door for employee-only use for a trial period of no more than a year. It would, however, be open to the public from July 1-31 for best access to the county’s treasurer’s office during real estate tax time.Jackson County Board Chair Dennis Eberhardt, also an executive and finance member, said the county sees a lot of public use of the door but noted security is top priority.“… I still believe security is much more important than that,” he said at Monday’s meeting.Randy Bjerke, the county’s veterans service officer, said later in the meeting he has concerns about the proposed change. Bjerke, who gave his comments after his monthly...

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Overturning a lower court ruling from last year, a federal appeals court recently said the Ho-Chunk Nation can offer video poker at its Madison casino because federal law doesn’t allow Wisconsin to bar that game if it hasn’t criminalized it for everyone in the state.U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb last year ruled that the Ho-Chunk must stop offering video poker at its casino on Madison’s Southeast Side because it violated the terms of the tribe’s gambling compact with the state.Crabb agreed with the state that the game is a Class III card game, prohibited by the compact, while the Ho Chunk argued that it is a permissible Class II game.The Ho-Chunk began to offer video poker at the casino in late 2010, and the state and tribe have argued about its legality since.But in a 20-page opinion, the Chicago-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit wrote that because...

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