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Neighbors hope to save remaining Jenifer Street tree canopy

A group of residents of an east side neighborhood are banding together to save its tree canopy. Neighbors say nearly three-quarters of Jenifer Street's roughly 40 trees have been removed due to a nearly $3.5 million construction project, which started Monday. They've organized a group called Madison Canopy Street Trees dedicated to preserving tree canopies in historic neighborhoods throughout the city. Marquette Neighborhood Association volunteer Gary Tipler said the city is replacing the trees with smaller shrubs, which don't offer the same canopy cover or aesthetics. "The problem with that is people's houses will be in permanent sunlight, no summer shade," Tipler said. "The trees filter street lighting. They filter views for privacy, they buffer the sound. They provide habitat for birds and they have an aesthetic that can't be measured." Tipler said the tree canopy is deeply important to neighbors and the value of having a large amount of tree cover can't be replaced. "What the trees do for us is something that is remarkable and that is individual for each person," Tipler said. Dennis Nuzback, who has lived on Jenifer Street since 1961, said while construction is inevitable, the trees should be preserved as much as possible. Nuzback lives in front of what he said is the oldest tree on Madison's east side. "They're improving the street, that's what they have to do," Nuzback said. "This is the oldest tree here on the east side of Madison and they're preserving that one, but they shouldn't be cutting all of those other trees down." According to residents, nine trees are temporarily being marked for preservation. Tipler said city officials would be able to save the remaining trees by agreeing to bury high-voltage power lines that run along Jenifer Street. He said without a power line burial, the remaining trees would face certain removal. Tipler said he believes the plan would be cost-effective. He said after neighbors asked MGE to give an estimate of how much burying the lines would cost, the company sent an electrical engineer, who determined it would cost $197,000. Tipler said Madison officials told him the city didn't have the funds to pay for burying the lines, but he is hopeful that city leaders are beginning to come around. "We were told it wasn't in the budget," Tipler said. "I think that the idea is gaining traction. It's going to be something that will be reconsidered." "I think that there's a will and we will find the way," Tipler said. Tipler said he hopes city officials will consider putting underground power lines in other historic, dense neighborhoods with tree canopies facing removal. News 3 reached out to officials from the City of Madison forestry department Thursday afternoon but did not get a response. Construction is expected to go through October.

Published: Fri, 27 May 2016 02:14:16 GMT

Family at home during lightning strike: 'It sounded like a bomb went off'

The family inside a home likely hit by lightning Wednesday night said it "sounded like a bomb went off." Nick and Eva Laskaris own Mt. Olympus Resort and a home on Claire Isle in Lake Delton. The home was damaged by fire Wednesday night that was likely started by a lightning strike, according to the Lake Delton Fire Department. "Just out of nowhere one big boom," Nick Laskaris said of the strike, which happened while the family was eating dinner just before 7 p.m. "Like the biggest fireworks you could ever listen to, and the whole house shook really bad." Eva said she ran outside to see a part of the house had been blown off. When they came back inside, there were flames through the roof and the house was filling with smoke. "I was trying to get my parents out and my daughter was coming down the stairs in a towel [from the shower] and I was like get out!" Laskaris said. The fire department was on scene within minutes. Crews could see thick black smoke coming from the second floor when they arrived, and found fire in the attic space. "A couple challenges that we had were the fact that the home is so large and tall," Lake Delton Fire Chief Darren Jorgensen said. "We did bring in a lot of mutual aid resources. I believe there were six fire departments total and about 45 firefighters." The fire was out in 45 minutes but crews spent five hours putting out hot spots. The 18,000-square-foot home sustained smoke and water damage, putting numerous holes in the roof and turning white onyx floors to ash gray. The couple spent three years building the house, which they've lived in for 10 years. "It's a lot of us into the house, we built it," Nick Laskaris said. "A part of our family is gone now." According to fire officials, damage is estimated at $750,000, but the family says the home alone is valued at $5 million and they're not sure yet whether they'll remodel or rebuild.

Published: Thu, 26 May 2016 23:57:03 GMT

Search crews find body in Rock River, police say

A body was found in the Rock River three days after a man was seen jumping into the water from the bridge, officials said. Janesville police Lt. Keith Lawver said search crews found a body at 10:55 a.m. Thursday near the Court Street Bridge. Police had been searching the river since Monday night. A witness told police a man, about 6 feet tall with brown curly hair was seen jumping from the Centerway bridge into the river at about 10:30 p.m. The body has not been identified, police said. Janesville police also posted a missing person alert this week, saying relatives and friends hadn't seen James N. Brieske since Monday. Police said Wednesday it was possible Brieske was the man seen jumping into the river.

Published: Thu, 26 May 2016 17:56:31 GMT

Sheep eat cannabis plants, terrorize town

A group of sheep in South Wales are stirring up trouble after officials suspect they have ingested cannabis plants that were dumped by an illegal cannabis factory, UPI reports. "I dread to think what will happen if they eat what could well be cannabis plants," said Swansea County Councillor Ioan Richard. "We could have an outbreak out of psychotic sheep rampaging through the village." It was reported that a flock of sheep has been seen about a Welsh village, apparently intruding on people's homes. The cannabis waste has since been removed from the area, and the Swansea council and South Wales Police are urging anyone with information to come forward.

Published: Thu, 26 May 2016 14:40:36 GMT

New bike bridge to offer amazing infrastructure

I’ve been pedaling bikes around Madison so long I remember when we’d cross the West Beltline Highway at Old Sauk Road by waiting for traffic to clear and then dashing across four lanes of concrete. Talk about an adrenaline rush. Old Sauk Road used to intersect U.S. Hwy 12 at the same level, with just a stop sign between riders and a 55 mile-per-hour kiss from a front bumper. But in those days Old Sauk was the preferred “escape route” for cyclists looking to get on hilly country roads as quickly as possible. So despite the risks, we used it frequently on the way to Cross Plains and points beyond. How times have changed. Old Sauk and the Beltline is now a tangled mess of SUVs, stoplights, fast food and strip malls. Only the most confident bike riders use it—and those who do must exercise extreme caution. Fortunately, transportation planners in Wisconsin have continued to build bicycle paths, dedicated lanes, underpasses and overpasses that have more than made up for the increases in automobile congestion. In fact, I’d argue that bicycle riding in the Madison area has never been better—or safer. Aside from a few small-minded drivers who still insist on shouting out the window or trying to intimidate cyclists by blowing clouds of black diesel exhaust, bikes and motor vehicles seemingly have reached a level of peaceful coexistence. A big reason is that public officials have continued to create separate routes for bicyclists away from the roads. Everyone wins. Bikes get their own paths and drivers don’t have to worry about getting slowed down or hitting anybody. The latest piece of amazing bicycle infrastructure is the new bike-pedestrian bridge across the Yahara River, connecting Dane County’s Lake Farm County Park with McDaniel Park in the Village of McFarland.  Due for completion next summer, the project includes over a mile of bridges and boardwalks. In fact, it will feature the longest pedestrian/bicycle bridge and boardwalk in Wisconsin that has never been used previously by trains or motor vehicles. “We’re excited to begin construction on this long anticipated project and thankful to have the Wisconsin Department of Transportation as a partner to assist us with completing this very complex first phase of trail construction,” said Dane County Executive Joe Parisi in kicking off the bridge construction last week.    The $5.9 million “Lower Yahara River Trail” will eventually link Lake Farm Park with the city of Stoughton.  Dane County has pitched in $1.3 million, with the balance funded by the Federal Highway Administration Transportation Alternative Program.  The county has also provided another $593,000 for design and engineering. A video of the future trail is here. In addition to the bike trail, the project includes an accessible fishing pier near the railroad trestle on Lake Waubesa along with rest stops and observation areas. It also features historical markers honoring the Ho-Chunk Nation, which has long called the area home. Personally, I can’t wait to pedal the new trail with the family. It sounds like a game-changer in terms of linking Madison to points south. Schwinn provides bikes for Habitat For Humanity Baby boomers zipping around on expensive carbon fiber bikes might not always realize that new bicycles can be cost prohibitive for many others. But in an effort on that front, Madison-based Schwinn Bicycles is partnering with Habitat for Humanity of Dane County to offer new bikes to local families whose homes are completed by Habitat this year. Since 1987, Habitat for Humanity of Dane County has built 241 solid and affordable homes. The homes are built in collaboration with the families, who provide labor and make monthly mortgage payments at a 0 percent interest rate. “We want to thank Schwinn Bicycles for partnering with us,” said Valerie Johnson, Habitat CEO in announcing the program. “It’s a great gift to our families and helps make Dane County an even better place to live.” Schwinn is looking to give away about 50 new bikes this summer so participating families will get a chance to explore Madison on two wheels and learn about the city’s incredible cycling infrastructure, says Milissa Rick, senior director of marketing for Schwinn.  “Our goal is to get families on bikes,” says Rick. “We want to encourage parents and children to ride together, as well as instill healthy habits and excitement around bicycles.” Obtained by Pacific Cycle in 2001, Schwinn employs 93 people in Madison designing all of their bicycles. Pacific Cycle—located on Hammersley Road off the Beltline—also owns the Mongoose, Roadmaster, IronHorse, InStep and Kid Trax brands. In addition to the Habitat bike program, Pacific Cycle has partnered with the Wisconsin Bike Federation on various local rides and programs, including the UW-Madison Department of Human Oncology/Carbone Cancer Center on the first ever “The Ride”, scheduled for Sept. 16. Nice stuff. Mike Ivey is a Madison-based freelance writer following a 30-year career at The Capital Times.

Published: Wed, 18 May 2016 20:33:10 GMT

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Published: Tue, 10 May 2011 13:51:57 GMT

PHOTOS: Fire likely started by lightning strike damages Lake Delton home

A home in Lake Delton was damaged by fire that was likely started by a lightning strike, according to the Lake Delton Fire Department. Read more

Published: Thu, 26 May 2016 22:17:52 GMT

Overture briefly evacuated due to 'unsubstantiated threat'

A downtown performing arts building was briefly evacuated Thursday for an "unsubstantiated threat," a spokeswoman said. Sarah Knab, communications manager for Overture Center for the Arts, said the building received a threat Thursday and per policy, evacuated. According to a release, the threat came in as a recorded telephone message. People were allowed back into the State Street building at about 1:30 Thursday afternoon, Knab said. She said police were at the Overture investigating the threat and that all the activity was a matter of precaution and was not meant to cause alarm.

Published: Thu, 26 May 2016 20:01:59 GMT

Man killed in suspected drunken-driving crash identified

The man who was killed in a rollover crash in Green County was identified as a 21-year-old village of Oregon man, according to a release from the Green County Sheriff’s Office. Deputies were called at 3:15 a.m. to County Road E at Attica Road in the town of Albany on a report of a single-vehicle crash. Deputies found a truck that was involved in a crash, but no one was at the scene. They said the truck had been traveling north when it entered the west ditch and overturned several times. Alice Patchen and her husband, Barry Patchen, have seen a number of traffic accidents living off of Attica Road and County Road E where the road curves, but none quite like Wednesday's accident that woke the couple up at 3 a.m. Barry Patchen said he went out to help when he noticed the truck and a second car at the scene with several people who claimed they were fine and had already reported the accident. "Both of us heard this yelling, 'Hurry up, come on, you need to get in here,'" and my husband said, 'Something's not right.' He called 911. They hadn’t called it in. By the time he came up here (to the crash scene) the other vehicle was gone," Alice Patchen said. Barry went back to the truck with a flashlight to see if anyone was hurt. To his surprise, no one was there. "The people who were in this second car had gotten these people in (the second car)....they didn’t call the ambulance," Alice Patchen said. The Oregon Police Department found the driver, Brett A. Leutenegger, 21, of Oregon, at an address in Oregon. Leutenegger was taken to St. Mary’s Hospital where he was treated for injuries. Madison police contacted deputies about a man who had been pronounced dead by the Dane County Coroner’s Office at Meriter Hospital. Deputies said the man, identified as Dylan J. Anderson, was a passenger that had been in the truck during the time of the crash. Sheriff’s officials said they are investigating how the man got to the hospital. Leutenegger was cited on suspicion of first-offense operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated. 

Published: Thu, 26 May 2016 23:53:52 GMT

Clean Lakes Alliance expands water condition monitoring

A one-of-a-kind program looking at water conditions in the Yahara Watershed is expanding. The Clean Lakes Alliance launched the LakeForecast.org program in 2013. It utilizes volunteers who monitor water clarity along with air and water temperatures. The data has provided information on the health of the lakes and beaches. “We know a lot more about the state of the lakes. There’s a lot more data that we’re able to collect. We’ve gone from 10 monitoring stations in 2013, well zero in 2012 to now over 70 monitoring stations,” said Katie Nicholas, watershed coordinator for Clean Lakes Alliance. The observations and data from the volunteers provide a real-time glimpse of the water conditions and can be viewed at www.Lakeforecast.org. For users of the lakes and beaches it can help them know what water conditions they can expect in various locations. Last year more than 6,600 unique users visited the website. Over time it is hoped the data will provide a picture of the overall health of the lakes. “Tracking algae bloom formations, movement and water quality conditions over time can really help us understand from a monitoring and research aspect of how our lakes are doing” Nicholas said. Data collection points have been established at specific points around lakes Monona, Mendota, Wingra, Waubesa and Kegonsa. This year the program has also added offshore testing. Using boats, volunteers are monitoring water clarity, and water and air temperatures in the deepest spots of lakes. “It is fun to provide data to something bigger about lakes and since I care about the lakes and I care about people using them and enjoy them I’d like to do my part to help people using them,” said Parker Waller, a monitoring volunteer.

Published: Fri, 27 May 2016 01:14:27 GMT

2 charged in sexual assault of child on Halloween

Two men are accused of sexually assaulting a Madison girl on Halloween, police said. Madison police said 21-year-old Abraham J. Simmons, of Sun Prairie, and Emmanuel M. Haslett Sr., 31, took a 13-year-old girl to a hotel on Oct. 31. The girl was sexually assaulted. Police had released a surveillance photo of a person of interest in the case in mid-November. Police said citizen tips helped detectives identify the man as Simmons. Haslett and Simmons each face a charge of second-degree sexual assault of a child, according to a release. Police said Haslett is homeless.

Published: Thu, 26 May 2016 16:16:19 GMT

Vos: Data shows UW tenure means job for life

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos says he has obtained data that proves university tenure means jobs for life. Vos released an email Thursday that UW System State Relations Director Jeff Schoenfeldt sent to his office this week in response to a request for historical tenure data. Schoenfeldt said that six tenured faculty have been dismissed for cause system-wide between 1996 and 2015. System faculty have been upset with Republican lawmakers for removing tenure protections from state law and with system President Ray Cross and regents for adopting weaker tenure policies. Gov. Scott Walker earlier this month accused faculty of groaning and called tenure a job for life. David Vannes, president of the Madison's American Association of University Professors chapter, said the system wouldn't have earned its sterling reputation with underperforming faculty.

Published: Thu, 26 May 2016 20:28:45 GMT

Water treatment system aims to keep water clean, beach open

A new program at Mendota County Park will keep the water clean and limit beach closures with the help of a new water treatment system. Dane County Executive Joe Parisi announced the new pilot program Clean Beach Corridor, which sets up a protected, clean pool of water within a lake, according to a release. A barrier is established in the lake adjacent to a beach while a treatment system treats and circulates the water in that corridor, which reduces the muck and bacteria that results in beach closures when the weather gets warmer, officials said. The $80,000 project will help families continue to enjoy area lakes, Parisi said. The Dane County Land and Water Resources Department has been working on improvements to the beach at Mendota County Park, on the western shore of Lake Mendota in the town of Westport, according to the release. The program will improve beach and lake access, minimize the occurrence of beach closures and provide clean and safe water for beach users, officials said. Before the improvements, the beach area was elevated about 4 feet above the lake and was separated by a wall of boulders, known as riprap, according to the release. The beach improvement project removed the riprap and created a gentle, sloping beach of sand to the water. The beach is susceptible to sand movement, so a floating curtain was installed to contain the beach sand, officials said. The curtain is anchored at four points and will help create a barrier between the lake and swimming water to protect swimmers from offshore bacteria or algae. An on-site treatment system will also be able to clean any contamination that occurs inside the swimming water, according to the release. The system pumps swimming water via two intake pipes and returns clean water back to the swimming area. The treatment system uses a strainer, sand filter and ultraviolet disinfection to clean the water in 24 hours, officials said. The treatment system was created in partnership with the town of Westport, University of Wisconsin-Madison engineering, Madison Gas and Electric and Madison Metropolitan Sewage District.

Published: Thu, 26 May 2016 19:58:35 GMT

Baraboo EMS to handle 911 calls in Adams County another 2 weeks

Baraboo District EMS agreed to continue staffing a rig in Adams County for an additional two weeks with an option to extend the contract for another three-week term beyond that, officials said Thursday. The Adams County Ambulance Committee agreed Tuesday night to extend an offer to Baraboo District EMS to cover 911 calls in the county. The committee met Tuesday night to figure out who will be providing 911 services in that area after an ambulance service was shut down last week. Ambulance Committee Chair Jesse Pitzley told WISC-TV the committee approved a motion to extend an offer to Baraboo District EMS to handle all emergency calls in the county, with no end date scheduled for the service. However, Pitzley said all nine towns must meet before Friday to approve funding for the deal, and the committee will need to meet before 5 p.m. Friday to sign paperwork to approve the deal. Pitzley said the ambulance service will provide coverage for nearly 10,000 people in Adams County. The committee met in Adams to discuss the contract it has with Adams County Emergency Services (ACES). ACES was shut down by the state last week, citing safety violations with its ambulances and issues with licensing and approvals. The state also revoked the EMT license of ACES owner Christopher Quinnell, citing a recent guilty plea for attempted sexual assault of a child. Baraboo District EMS has been covering calls since 7 p.m. Thursday, and has been billing customers for the rides, but is not yet being paid by any municipality in Adams County for providing the service. "We've done some very rough preliminary numbers, and I'm still getting them in today," Chief Dana Sechler said. "Based upon the call volume we've had thus far and what our expenses are, we're right at that breaking-even point as of today." Sechler said they've responded to 13 calls since they started service and if they move past that break-even point they will bill the communities in Adams County for the remainder. "All I can say is I'm waiting to hear back from the Adams County Ambulance Commission on what their proposal is and if they would like us to be there beyond Friday," Sechler said. A spokeswoman for the state said there was no definite timeline on when a final decision may be made on the ability of ACES to provide ambulance service.

Published: Thu, 26 May 2016 23:18:04 GMT

Scammer texting Craigslist car seller attempts fraudulent check scam

A west Madison man avoided a check scam as he tried to sell a vehicle on Craigslist, police said. Madison police said A 41-year-old Waterford Road resident posted a car for sale on Craigslist. His asking price was $1,500. The seller received some grammatically poor texts from someone who wanted to buy the vehicle claiming to be a soldier at "camp."  The seller got a check for $2,300 in the mail, $800 over the price of the vehicle. The business check was issued from an Ohio-based bank, so the seller contacted the bank--which was a legitimate bank--and learned the financial instrument he received is connected to a closed account, and that a series of fraudulent checks have been issued from that closed account in recent months. The seller contacted Madison police, and an investigating officer told him to expect contact soon from the crook. Police said in this type of scam, the fraudster requests the seller return a portion of the overpayment. The seller was asked to MoneyGram $700 to a California address. The fake buyer told the seller to keep $100 of the overpayment for his trouble. Police said the seller didn't fall for it.

Published: Thu, 26 May 2016 21:39:01 GMT

Operation Fresh Start helps disadvantaged kids get education, job skills

New trails at Prairie Moraine Park outside Verona are breathtaking, but what may be more impressive is the story behind them. Operation Fresh Start is a program that gives disadvantaged youth an opportunity to get an education and job skills. Participants helped build the new trails. “I'm just proud of our OFS participants,” coordinator Andrea Rieck said. “They've overcome a lot of challenges to get their high school diplomas, learn a skill and help themselves get ahead. Not many people do that anymore.” Zach Midstokke is one of those kids. At 19, Midstokke said he has made enough bad decisions involving drugs and was ready to start a new part of his life. "[The program] really shows people that no matter what you’ve been through, they'll give you a fresh start," he said. "They'll give you a chance to be who you deserve to be and who you want to be." Operation Fresh Start has helped more than 8,000 Wisconsinites start their adult lives off on the right foot.

Published: Fri, 27 May 2016 01:15:12 GMT

Republican National Committee to add staff in Wisconsin

The Republican National Committee says it plans to add 250 additional staffers in battleground states, including Wisconsin. The RNC issued a news release Thursday saying it will add staff in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin. When the addition is complete it will bring the total number of paid staffers in those states to 466. The number of Wisconsin staffers will grow to 49. The release didn't say how many staffers are currently operating in those states. RNC Political Director Chris Carr didn't immediately respond to an email seeking those figures.

Published: Thu, 26 May 2016 22:39:43 GMT

Democrats to debate eliminating super delegates

Wisconsin Democrats are slated to debate a nonbinding resolution supporting the elimination of super delegates, the party insiders who can support whoever they want for president. The resolution made public Thursday is among 22 to be debated at the state party convention June 4 in Green Bay. Some supporters of Bernie Sanders have been outspoken against the super delegate system, saying it gives candidates favored by the party establishment an unfair advantage. Sanders won the popular vote in Wisconsin on April 5, but because of super delegates backing Hillary Clinton he only has a five-delegate advantage. Three super delegates are undecided. The resolution says super delegates "have eroded the faith of the base in its ability to affect the outcome of the presidential nomination."

Published: Thu, 26 May 2016 21:01:26 GMT

Gov. Walker's son takes job in NC politics

The son of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has taken a job working for North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory. Twenty-one-year-old Matt Walker graduated from Marquette University on Sunday. His biography on Twitter says that he is working as the digital director for the Republican McCrory. He is running for re-election this year. Matt Walker did not immediately respond to a message sent over Twitter seeking comment. Spokesmen for Walker also did not immediately comment. But Walker on Thursday posted a picture of himself on Twitter holding his son shortly after his birth saying he can't believe he's "grown, graduated, working & living on his own." Walker's other son, Alex Walker, is a junior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and spoke at the state Republican Party convention earlier this month.

Published: Thu, 26 May 2016 21:43:28 GMT

Burglar shatters gas station door's glass, steals $12K worth of cigarettes

A burglar made off with thousands of dollars' worth of cigarettes from an east Madison gas station, according to a report. Madison police said officers responded to an alarm at 3:49 a.m. Thursday at the BP gas station on Eastpark Boulevard. Officers said a cinder block was used to shatter a glass door. The smash-and-grab burglar entered the store and left with about 150 cartons of cigarettes worth an estimated $12,000 worth.

Published: Thu, 26 May 2016 22:16:04 GMT