Local

The Melrose and Merrillan village boards will have contested races in the spring election.Melrose has five people running for three open seats, and Merrillan will have four people on the ballot who are vying for three positions.Melrose incumbents Nathan and Brant Young, both first elected in 2012, are seeking re-election and will be challenged by newcomers Erik Byom, Ben Boardman and Bette Stern. Stern has sought a village board position in the two past elections.Former trustee Tom Dobbs was nominated to run at the village’s caucus but declined to seek election.In Merrillan, incumbents Doreen Demaskie, Gayle Horton and Debra Horan will be on the ballot and challenged by newcomer Paul Harmer. Demaskie has been on the board since 1998 and Horan since 2012. Horton was first elected village president in 2011 and then was appointed last year to fill a vacant trustee spot after Margaret Young was elected village president.Alma...

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Monroe County authorities have charged a mental health worker accused of sexually assaulting patients at the Tomah VA Medical Center with sexual exploitation by a therapist.Charles W. Davis, a peer support specialist, was arrested earlier this month after two female patients accused him of ongoing harassment, exposing himself and receiving oral sex in his office.Davis, 47, was charged in Monroe County Circuit Court with two counts of sexual exploitation by a therapist, each of which carries a maximum 12-year sentence. He was also charged with lewd and lascivious behavior, a misdemeanor.According to the criminal complaint, Davis made repeated sexual advances to two patients, including a 26-year-old veteran receiving treatment for past “military sexual trauma.”She told VA police that Davis called her into his office in December and exposed himself.A 32-year-old patient said Davis sent her sexually explicit pictures of himself and that she gave him oral sex in his office,...

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A New Jersey man was sentenced to serve jail time for stealing a vehicle near Black River Falls and leading authorities on a high-speed chase into Monroe County.Andrew J. Bae, now 22, received 90 days jail last fall and was given credit for 84 days served for the August 2015 incident in which he took a vehicle near Walmart in BRF and then led a deputy on a chase that reached speeds of 100 mph.Bae last fall pleaded no contest to charges of negligent operation of a vehicle, operating a vehicle without consent and resisting or obstructing an officer, all misdemeanors. Judge Anna Becker also ordered Bae pay court costs and other fees.He previously had been charged with second-degree recklessly endangering safety, taking a vehicle without consent and fleeing an officer. Bae had been recently...

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A conservative advocacy group is standing by its claim that former Sen. Russ Feingold was warned of problems at the Tomah VA Medical Center and failed to respond, which Feingold — and the author of a memo central to the claim — are disputing.The group, Wisconsin Alliance for Reform, featured the claim in an ad in the Green Bay Press-Gazette this week and hasn’t ruled out running more such ads.Feingold responded a day later, flatly saying the attack ad “is not true.”The Tomah VA center has been in the headlines since an investigation by the VA’s Inspector General found deficiencies in care at the facility contributed to the 2014 death of a U.S. Marine from Stevens Point, Jason Simcakoski. The facility’s director and chief of staff were fired last year after those findings were disclosed.Other lawmakers such as U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, have faced blowback about their office’s handling...

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Opposition to frac sand mining in Jackson County is ramping up as landowners sue companies in hopes of halting their operations and express environmental concerns to zoning officials.A group of landowners sued Terracor Resources and AllEnergy Hixton within the last week, arguing the proposed processing plants in the towns of Alma and Hixton are private nuisances.Members of the public also packed a Monday county zoning committee meeting to voice opposition to conditional use permits requested in the town of Adams by Terracor for a rail load-out, which would be situated near Halls Creek and part of its proposed operation mostly located in nearby town of Alma.“I represent many people who will be irreparably harmed if this rail trans-load facility goes forward at this location. The whole county will be harmed. Our wetlands and the beautiful Halls Creek will be harmed,” said attorney Tom Lister, who spoke against the permits Monday...

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A proposed bill that the Ho-Chunk Nation says would endanger sacred burial sites likely won’t be up for a vote in this state legislative session following public input and a rally attended by a thousand people at the state Capitol last week.The bill would have required the state historical society to allow property owners to excavate in order to determine whether human remains are present in effigy mounds on their land. The legislation, from Republican state Sen. Chris Kapenga and Rep. Robert Brooks, drew ire from Native American and non-native people who organized a rally to voice opposition last week Tuesday.“Overall, everyone said that the rally was well put together, and I give credit to the office staff and the (Nation) legislature for all the behind-the-scenes work because it did take a lot. Tribes from all over the state the country were in attendance, and we’re happy, despite the cold,...

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Melrose-Mindoro received feedback from community members last week as it evaluates how to address the future of the school district’s facilities.Mel-Min held its first public forum last week Tuesday to garner community input as it looks to launch a facilities study to gauge building needs.The meeting was well-attended by parents and community members and fielded a variety of opinions ranging from waiting to get cost estimates to support for building a united campus.“I thought (the meeting) was awesome. I thought it was very healthy,” said Mel-Min Superintendent Del DeBerg.“I thought it was a good discussion talking about education, talking about what’s best for our district and what our vision is.”The district recently launched discussions about the future of facilities in light of aging buildings and the upcoming end of some past referendum debt. The three buildings have undergone some renovations over the district’s 50-year history but are starting to show...

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Melrose-Mindoro schools went into lockdown all day Wednesday last week after a report of a man with a gun in Melrose.The report of the weapon turned out to be unfounded, but three people eventually were arrested in connection with what the sheriff’s department says was a drug-related incident.The district was notified about 10 a.m. that a man may be in Melrose with a gun, prompting officials to send all three of its schools into lockdown procedures. It was only the second time in Melrose-Mindoro’s history that schools went into lockdown, Superintendent Del DeBerg said.“Safety is No. 1, and if we’re ever going to be put in a decision like that, we’re going to err on the side of being safe – we have to,” he said. “We’re going to get everyone safe and then wait for updates and make decisions based on how the incident unfolds.“We do have a plan,...

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The organizers of two Black River Falls festivals have announced they are combining efforts to create a premier summer event.The 2016 Karner Blue Butterfly Festival to be held Friday, July 1 and Saturday, July 2 will include additional events and entertainment formerly a part of Festival in the Park.Events on Friday and Saturday will be held in downtown Black River Falls before shifting to Lunda Community Park on Saturday night for music and fireworks. The Black River Area Chamber of Commerce Karner Blue Race also will be held on Saturday, July 2.“This promises to be a weekend full of events and activities for everyone,” said Chris Hardie, executive director of the Black River Area Chamber of Commerce.“This collaborative effort will be bigger and better than ever.”Black River Falls City Administrator Brad Chown said organizers of the Festival in the Park are excited to join forces with the BRF Downtown Association...

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Coulee Region drivers passing gas stations are doing a double-take, perhaps wondering whether they took a wrong turn as they see $1.79-a-gallon gas prices.Local prices for unleaded regular plunged from $1.95 a gallon two weekends ago to $1.79 last week — 15 cents below the national average.The tanking gas prices, compared with a smidge over $2 at this time last year, gave folks cause to brave single-digit temperatures to pump their fuel.“I’m quite pleased,” Cami Haley of La Crosse said as she took advantage of the price at a Kwik Trip.Asked to speculate about the cause of the price decline, she pondered her answer before suggesting that it might have something to do with this being an election year.“I’m just happy that it is. Despite the cold, I thought it was worth stopping while the price is good,” she said while she pumped in 5 degree weather.Gas prices were even...

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The city of Black River Falls has adjusted the service hours for its shared-ride taxi service in an effort to curb long wait times patrons have been experiencing.The city council voted last week to make the change following a public hearing where members of the Jackson County Tavern League provided feedback on the taxi service.City Administrator Brad Chown said the changes will go into effect in February, and he hopes wait times improve as patrons and the taxi company adjust.“It’s going to take a couple months to figure that out,” he said after the hearing and vote. “We’ll make the change and keep an eye on wait times and see if we solve the problem.”The city switched to a new taxi service company in early 2015 and patrons at times have experienced waits that have reached anywhere from one to three hours. Running Inc., a Viroqua-based company, won the city’s...

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