RHINELANDER - On Monday, some Oneida County Supervisors hoped to end any future mining exploration.
They wanted to remove the current rules, making it more difficult for mining to come back before the board.
But, the full county board decided today to push the idea back to the Forestry Committee, which oversees mining, to make that call.
Any future mining projects would have to write new rules and form a new committee.
Supervisor Paul Dean put forth the resolution.
"Without the language there, that means whoever wants to start this up again will have to go through the language and startup a new committee," Dean said.
"It makes a little bit harder to have another committee or people saying we want this."
Other board members thought removing the committee would waste time in the future if the issue comes up again.
"I don't think it does any harm to anybody to leave this on the books," Supervisor Tom Rudolph said.
"Rather than in case there is some interest in mining or a referendum indicates we should resurrect this issue, we don't have to start again from scratch to draft a new ordinance."
The board voted 15 to 4 to send it back to committee.
Technology upgrades were also up for debate.
The board is looking into county wireless or internet coverage.
Dave Hintz and others mentioned the benefits of enhancing coverage across the county.
"The purpose of this committee would be to enhance internet service throughout the county and cell service throughout the county," Hintz said.
"Basically like an economic development effort to improve service in the area that was facilitated by the town of Three Lakes."
Supervisor Bob Martini thinks the expansion could help business, tourism, and residents.
"I think the more counties that undertake a coordinative role in this subject, the more this whole system will advance across the nation," Martini said.
While some support the idea, Jerry Shidell thinks wireless and information technology should be left to the private sector.
He doesn't think taxpayers should float the cost for people who live in areas without coverage.
"If you live out in the middle of the boondocks, you chose to live in the boondocks," Shidell said.
"Does that mean that, I, who chose to live in the city or others who chose to live in a more populous area have the responsibility to provide you with your coverage? I don't believe so. Especially since you can get that coverage from a satellite, if it is that important to you, put up a satellite."
The board ultimately voted to create a technology committee and explore the options.
ROTHSCHILD - Wisconsin farms play a key role in our economy, but today's farm owners aren't getting any younger.
One apprentice program hopes to change that.
The Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship program is building and preparing the next generation of farmers. It gives young farmers hands-on training and a path to a career in dairy farming.
"There's a lot of farms that are going to be transitioned and transferred in the next decade or so, and what we really need is somebody to be able to take these farms over," says program director Joe Tomandl. "We don't have that training program in place, and that's what the dairy grazing apprenticeship is about."
A recent government census of American agriculture found the average age of a farmer is 58 years old. Leaders believe the apprentice program has already seen success with new farmers over the past few years.
"We have a number of new producers just in the last four years in Marathon and Lincoln counties now running their own dairy farms using managed grazing techniques," says Paul Daigle of the Marathon County Conservation, Planning, & Zoning Department. "It's still a struggle no matter what, but it offers a profitable way to get into farming today."
Cattle farmers met at the 20th Annual Winter Grazing Conference today in Rothschild.
MADISON - A Wisconsin Rapids woman will spend three years on probation for threatening to kill a federal administrative law judge.
51-year-old Norma Prince was sentenced Thursday. Prince pleaded guilty in December.
Prosecutors say the incident happened Jan. 31, 2013, when Prince appeared at a Social Security disability benefits hearing in Wausau.
Administrative Law Judge Thomas Sanzi was presiding over the hearing by teleconference from Madison. Prosecutors say Prince became upset and threatened to shoot Sanzi and cut off his head. The hearing was halted and Prince was escorted from the courtroom.
Prince's husband told a federal agent that his wife had bought two .22-caliber rifles about a month before the disability hearing.
At sentencing, U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman said Prince's mental health issues can be controlled through medication and supervision.
ACROSS THE NORTHWOODS - Senate and House Representatives hope a wildfire disaster bill will help the U.S. Forest Service battle forest fires and still have funding to do its job.
The Wildfire Disaster Funding Act of 2013, SB 1875, would treat extreme forest fires like a natural disaster. That would trigger access to separate pool of funding that would help some lawmakers believe would substantially help the Forest Service.
President Obama included the reforms in his proposed 2015 budget released earlier this week. The reforms would change how the government pays to fight wildfires.
Since 2002, The Forest Service has spent nearly $3 billions dollars of its funding to fight forest fires.
According to the department, Congress paid back the majority of that money, but that still delayed services from the department because payments were done after the fact.
That meant the Forest Service had to pull money away from programs like timber management and fire prevention programs to pay for fire suppression.
Sen. Tammy Baldwin-(D) Wisc. believes that is hurting the department and ultimately businesses and workers that rely on timber harvests in the national forests.
"Because we have had so much severe wildfires, it has left the rest of the forest service with insufficient resources to do their job," Baldwin said.
The Forest Service says funding is one of their key obstacles to increasing timber harvests.
The Chequamegon Nicolet National Forest(CNNF) stretches across parts of Northern Wisconsin. The forest's land management plan allows more than 130 million board feet of timber to be harvested every year, but only half of that allowable level has been harvested each of the past few years.
Baldwin believes the proposal would give the department more resources to improve harvest and land management.
"That will in my mind, in my mind if we are successful in seeing this through," Baldwin said. "We'll safeguard the funding that is really supposed to be used for other purposes to maintain healthy forests in the United States."
That will allow the Forest Service to use resources for the purpose they were intended for.
Baldwin hopes the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act gives leaders at the CNNF the resources to harvest levels closer to the allowable levels.
"The idea here is to that when we have an extreme wildfire event that they will be treated as the natural disasters that they are," Baldwin said. "And that a separate stream of funding will be used."
According to a American Forest Foundation report, the proposal would creates a budget cap adjustment for a 30% portion of wildfire disaster funding for USFS and DOI. They compare the structure to what the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) uses for other natural disaster response.
Most of the senators and representatives that are sponsoring the legislation come from states impacted by wildfires and the timber industry.
"We'll be leading this effort and we're just hopeful that we'll be able to see some progress," Baldwin said.
The proposal is in committee in both the House and Senate. Baldwin says she’s confident they’ll see progress with it this year. Rep. Reid Ribble-(R) Wisc. is a co-sponsor of the House version of the bill.
RHINELANDER - Your water and sewer bill could soon be on the rise if you live in Rhinelander.
Unlike other Northern Wisconsin cities, the water utility rates haven't changed since 2008.
The public works director says the cold winter only played a small role in the proposed increase.
Rising expenses and upgrades are the main reasons they hope to soon raise utility costs.
"Sewer rates are going up 13 percent in the city largely due to the expenses the utility has experienced because of the upgrades that have taken place and our best efforts to deliver the utility at a low expense," said Public Works Director Tim Kingman.
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