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NEWS STORIES

Central Wis. Man Gets Ten Years for Texting & Driving HomicideSubmitted: 11/12/2012
Story By Lyndsey Stemm

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RHINELANDER - A central Wisconsin man will spend a decade in prison for killing a man by texting and driving.

John French admitted to texting his girlfriend and speeding right before he ran a stop sign and slammed into two cars in 2010. He killed 32-year-old Robert Walker.

Today a Wood County Judge sentenced the 23-year-old to ten years in prison, and seven additional years of extended supervision.

The crash happened the same month Wisconsin's texting and driving law went into effect in 2010.

"You're not allowed to compose a text message or email message and send it. That's utilizing your fine motor skills of typing into a keyboard because it's taking your attention away from operating that motor vehicle," says Lt. Lloyd Gauthier, from the Oneida County Sheriff's Department.

It can be tough to enforce this law because it's hard to see exactly what people are doing. There are plenty of complexities to it too. You can't type or send a text, but the law doesn't keep you from reading one or even going on the internet. But the law still makes room for that.

"It's specifically sub-categorized as inattentive driving. So if we're investigating a motor vehicle accident and the driver is telling us that they were reading a text message on their phone and not focusing on driving, yes, the appropriate citation would be inattentive driving," says Lt. Gauthier.

The fine for inattentive driving is the same as texting and driving, up to $400. In both cases you can lose four points on your license. Still, two penalties that are much better than taking someone's life.

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 IN OTHER NEWS
Many Northwoods voters will consider whether to accept federal BadgerCare moneySubmitted: 10/22/2014

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RHINELANDER - Voters in Oneida, Lincoln, Florence, and Iron Counties will tell the state whether it should accept federal money to expand BadgerCare.

That's Wisconsin's health insurance program for low-income people.

Gov. Scott Walker rejected federal money offered by the Affordable Care Act.

President Obama promised that money would cover at least 90% of the cost of expansion for years into the future.

Walker has said Wisconsin can't trust the federal government to keep paying the money.

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Integrys declines Eaglewatch bidSubmitted: 10/22/2014

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ST. GERMAIN - The winner of a huge Northwoods land auction will end up getting nothing.

The parent company of Wisconsin Public Service won't go through with the sale of its large lakefront property, Eaglewatch, in St. Germain.

Integrys declined a $3.8 million bid for the 187-acre property.

It held the auction last month to sell off the land.

That property also has 10,000 feet of lake frontage.

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State water use declines in 2013Submitted: 10/22/2014

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STATEWIDE - Cooler temperatures helped the state use less water in 2013 than it did in 2012.

The state DNR found Wisconsin's groundwater and surface withdrawals dropped by 6% from the year before.

Power generation makes up 74% of the state's water use.

Cooler temperatures in 2013 meant power plants didn't need to use as much water to cool down equipment.

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Northwoods Parish raising money for school, church upgradesSubmitted: 10/22/2014

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RHINELANDER - A Northwoods Parish wants to raise at least two million dollars to renovate its schools and church.

Nativity of Our Lord Catholic School needs technology and infrastructure upgrades. One of the school's buildings hasn't been updated since the 1950s.

School leaders think it's important to also upgrade the school's wireless ability. The school has SmartBoards, iPads, and laptops, but they want the equipment to work better.

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Volunteers needed for new community warming centerSubmitted: 10/22/2014

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MERRILL - The first community warming center in Merrill is set to open in less than two weeks. However, Merrill Area United Way organizers still need volunteers to help manage the center.

The group recently re-fit the former Lincoln Community Bank Drive-Thru on W. Main Street in Merrill to serve as the center. It will help homeless people stay warm from November to April at night. The Lincoln County Homelessness Task Force reported more than 20 homeless living in the area as recently as July.

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20 flu-related hospitalizations in Wisconsin so far in OctoberSubmitted: 10/22/2014

MADISON - State health officials say the flu season is off to a strong start in Wisconsin.

State epidemiologist Thomas Haupt says influenza hospitalizations have been unexpectedly on the rise in October. 20 people have been hospitalized in the past three weeks. Haupt tells WISN-TV (http://bit.ly/1wo5JOD ) one or two hospitalizations are common this time of year, but not 20.

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3 teens dead after crash in Shawano County Submitted: 10/22/2014

SHAWANO COUNTY - Three teens died after a two-car accident in Shawano County Tuesday evening.

The Shawano County Sheriff's Office responded to a call about a two-car crash along Highway 22, north of Friendship Road in the Town of Bell Plaine.

A white car was heading northbound on Highway 22 and lost control while trying to cross into the southbound lane. The passenger in that car was hit by an oncoming SUV driving, also traveling southbound.

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