PLOVER - The rush to pick the potato crop has hit central Wisconsin.
A rainy day couldn't spoil Tuesday's harvest.
But beyond just digging those spuds, we explore the life of a potato - all the way to your plate.
It's the peak of potato harvest season in central Wisconsin, and Gagas Farms near Stevens Point is in full swing.
"Some of our neighbors are claiming really fantastic yields. Some of our fields were, and others have been kind of average. Quality has been pretty good this year," says Cliff Gagas of Gagas Farms.
Cliff Gagas has been growing potatoes here as long as he can remember.
His farm produces several different varieties.
Today they were harvesting Burbanks, which will eventually go to McCain Foods near Plover.
They'll get there after being sorted, the rocks taken out, and put on one of as many as 60 truckloads in a day.
Those Burbank potatoes from Gagas come to McCain.
"It goes through a washing, a scrubbing, a peeling, then a preheating, which takes the potato to a temperature where it's able to be cut. We then cut the potato into strips, which in turn is French fries, we cook them, fry them, freeze them, and then package them and send them out as a delicious McCain product," says Dan Snyder of McCain.
Those potatoes don't come from just anywhere - it's mostly local.
"We get 70 percent of our raw product from the central sands area, which is about a 30 mile radius from the Plover facility," he says.
After McCain's packages the products, it heads to supermarkets all over the region - and country.
Shopping at the store, you can get anything from hash browns to crinkle cut fries to potato wedges for your table at home.
RHINELANDER - Many older people in the Northwoods still love their paper-and-print books. The task of choosing between today's e-readers and tablets can seem daunting. But e-readers and tablets are creeping in as popular options too.
The Rhinelander Library held a class today to teach people about the different options for going mobile. Educating older people is especially helpful.
“If you're just interested in books people usually want to have an e-reader,” says Erica Brewster, Family Living Agent with Oneida County UW Extension. “If you're interested in doing a lot more maybe you want to watch Netflix movies or you want to be on the internet than you want to look at a tablet.”
Some of the popular tablets include the iPad and the Microsoft Surface. People interested in an e-reader might consider the Kindle or the Nook.
“We've gone from computers being something we have on a desk and we work with, to taking it for granted that we have a cell phone, we have a tablet, something that travels with us,” says Brewster. “So the mobile technology is the newest and greatest breaking trend really that we have is being able to carry our technology with us.”
E-readers are typically cheaper than tablets which can cost a few hundred dollars.
Northwoods middle school starts fundraiser to help homeless shelter
EAGLE RIVER - A Northwoods middle school started a fundraising competition Monday that will help raise money for the Frederick Place in Rhinelander.
Grades six through eight at Northland Pines Middle School in Eagle River will compete to raise the most money.
Students donate a dollar to buy a brick. The goal is to get the most bricks on the tape framed house on the wall in the school's cafeteria.
Eighth grader Zach Neddo helped put the project together.
"It feels better knowing that we're helping homeless people get a home so that we know exactly where its going," Neddo said. "Its not like your just mailing it off somewhere not knowing what it's being used for."
Other students like the Student Council President Sophie Spiess hope the competition encourages others to help with homelessness in the area.
"It really does make kids realize that homelessness is a part of our community, that we do need to take action and help people out," Spiess said.
Neddo says the donations have increased since the competition started Monday. He hopes more students begin to donate.
"It's going good right now, I just hope more kids get involved because if you look at all of the bricks with the names on them, a lot of names keep repeating, so I just hope more kids get involved and help support homeless people," Neddo said.
The competition runs through Friday. You can contact the Northland Pines Middle School to donate or help.
RHINELANDER - “This time of year is just a little different because the pressure is more,” says Anthony Turek, Rhinelander Postmaster. “Christmas is coming we’re a little over 2 weeks away I think right around two weeks and this is it.”
Its crunch time at the Post Office. With Christmas fast approaching it’s important to keep a few things in mind when sending packages this holiday season.
“You’re going to want to take your packages and gently shake them a little, just to make sure that you are comfortable that they’re packaged tightly and securely so that nothing happens to them,” says Turek.
First don’t be a procrastinator! It’s never too early to start sending out your packages.
Also remember to write neatly. Make sure and double check the shipping address and return address is correct.
Lastly you’re going to want to keep a few dates in mind. If you want your mail to be delivered by Christmas Eve you need to send it out by December 20th unless you want to pay more for priority mail.
“So those are just a couple things that people want to do to make it so that the packages that they send here end up where they’re supposed to go on time and safely,” says Turek.
RHINELANDER - A Rhinelander employee union believes the city illegally rejected their collective bargaining agreement,now they’re suing the city.
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 1226 represents City of Rhinelander workers from public works, wastewater, parks, water and golf course employees. They filed suit against the city on Dec. 4, 2013.
The union says they reached a tentative agreement for a new collective bargaining agreement in early December 2012. But according court documents, the union claims the city council illegally rejected the agreement and didn’t tell the union about it.
Aaron Halstead, from Madison-based firm Hawks Quindel, S.C., has been a labor lawyer for more than 20 years and says he has never seen a municipality do something like this before.
"I've never had any municipality do what the city did here which is to reject an agreement with the union, despite the fact that they had an agreement on all of the terms," Halstead said.
The union believes the city is violating Wisconsin Municipal Employment Relations Act. In 2012, city workers asked for a one percent wage increase starting January 1,2013.
Halstead said the city and union agreed to that increase in their tentative agreement. According to the group's complaint, the city council rejected the tentative collective bargaining agreement, but passed the one percent wage increase as a resolution.
But the union claims the collective bargaining agreement wasn’t renewed. Instead the group says the city passed a resolution putting the terms into a personnel manual.
Rhinelander city council met Monday night to discuss how to move forward once the city is formally served with lawsuit.
"I think it's unfortunate. We have a good relationship with the union, and a good relationship with the employees," said Blaine Oborn, Rhinelander city administrator. "We have a lot of outstanding employees. So unfortunately, with all this ambiguity [concerning] Acts 10 and 32, I think that this kind of stuff unfortunately [happens]."
The complaint also claims that the city reduced the wages of newly hired people by $4 an hour. They say this violates the terms of the parties' tentative agreement. Halstead says they still haven't received an explanation.
"The city contends that it doesn't have to, but it has never provided a satisfactory answer as to what it is that is objectionable about the agreement that was reached," Halstead said.
Monday nights' meeting was a closed session.
The city will have three weeks to respond to the complaint.
FOND DU LAC - A police standoff has ended in Fond du Lac with a man in custody.
Officials say the standoff outside an apartment may be connected to a house fire in the city Monday morning. Police tell WBAY-TV (http://bit.ly/18wYmYO) that a man holed up in an apartment fired shots at officers, but no one was hurt.
Police negotiators were able to talk to the man on the phone and get him to leave the building and surrender. He was taken into custody without incident.
Authorities say the man in the apartment is a ``person of interest'' in the fire at a two-story house elsewhere in the city.
Police have cleared the scene and say no explosives or anyone else was found in the apartment. Neighbors can return to their homes.
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