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Local Effects of Sequestration UnclearSubmitted: 02/25/2013
Story By Lex Gray

Local Effects of Sequestration Unclear
RHINELANDER - First, we went off the fiscal cliff. Then, Washington lawmakers pulled us back up -- but not for long.

Now, the country faces what politicians are calling "the sequester."

If Congress can't reach a deal by Friday, $85 billion will be cut from public programs.

In Wisconsin, that includes schools, the military, and programs for the environment, seniors, public health, child care, and more.

That comes from a 50-page report from the White House on how Wisconsin would be affected.

The report didn't give an exact or estimated dollar amount, and no one around the Northwoods seems to know exactly how they'd be affected, either.

That's true for Dianne Jacobson, director of the Oneida County Department on Aging.

The federal government funds twenty percent of her department.

"That's a significant amount but as I said, we don't want anyone that we serve to worry, 'Oh they're going to cut that program or they're going to reduce that.'" Jacobson said. "We always will have to look based on the funding that we get, but at this point, we are not anticipating a cut of our services."

Jacobson encourages seniors to talk to their local representatives.

Congressman Sean Duffy spoke to us on the phone from Washington, D.C.

He said he wants to prevent cuts to essential services, but the compromise should be about cutting spending, not raising taxes, as the President has proposed.

"We think we have to get our spending under control. And if we don't, you can't tax your way out of this problem," Duffy said. "I'm trying to look for ways, per the prior agreement with the President, to get us to a place where we can actually live within our means. And that means to start cutting the fat and waste within the federal budget."

The Federal Aviation Administration would be included in the cuts, but the Rhinelander-Oneida County Airport is so small, it likely wouldn't be affected.

But the Chippewa Valley Airport would close.

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RHINELANDER - Dozens of people suited up with helmets, and handle bars ready to participate in the fifth annual RASTA Rally in Rhinelander Sunday.

It was the first race of the season but racers say they were ready for the challenge.

"At the start you're really pushing hard, your heart rate is really getting up there [and] your legs are burning," said race competitor Adam Maki.

Maki competed in the seven mile race at the RASTA (Rhinelander Area Silent Trails Association) Rally bike race in Rhinelander Sunday.

Dozens of people like Maki have looked forward to Sunday for months.

"This is one of the first mountain bike races of the year because some of the other ones got canceled because of the bad weather earlier in the year," said RASTA President Richard Reidinger.

Even though Maki was able to fly through the race, Reidinger said the trail was anything but easy.

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RHINELANDER - Spring clean ups get rid of the mess winter left behind.The Drs. Foster and Smith Dog Park in Rhinelander was no exception Sunday.About 20 volunteers helped with the 2nd annual dog park cleanup Sunday.

Park founder Tina Werres said people helped rake, blow and pile leaves and pines to clear the park for the dogs. 
 
"We like the base to be clean and nice and ready for the whole summer it makes it easier for the people to walk," said Werres. 

Werres says it's her responsibility to maintain the inside of the park.Some volunteers said since opening last year, the park has done so much for their community and they wanted to pay it forward. 

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CITY OF PORTAGE - At 9:53 AM Sunday The Portage Police Department received a call about a structure fire at the Historic Apartments on 207W. Cook St in the City of Portage. Officers found the hallways and staircase filled with heavy smoke. Officers started evacuating residents when they were told a young child was possibly trapped in an apartment on the fifth floor. 

Due to fire and smoke firefighters could not reach the child. Later firefighters were able to access the fifth floor and remove the child. The child was transported to Divine Savior Healthcare where the child passed away. 

Multiple residents at the Historic Apartments are currently displaced and receiving assistance from the American Red Cross. 

The fatal fire is currently under investigation by the Portage Police Department and the Portage Fire Department. 

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RHINELANDER - The process of applying to college can bring headaches and stress.
Paying for it once you're in is a bigger challenge. Rhinelander businesses and donors provided $300,000 to Rhinelander High School seniors to remove some of that financial weight in college.

The Rhinelander Area Scholarship Foundation gave out 187 scholarships this year.
PR Chair Kelsey Thompson said the community's contribution shows the value it has in students' college education.

"This is a community that really stands behind these seniors and puts a vote of confidence in their futures and says that we as a community want to support them and believe in them," said Thompson. 

There were 90 student applicants and 87 recipients this year.

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MONICO - Around 4 PM Sunday Monico Fire Department, Oneida County Sheriff's Department and DNR Fire all responded to a backyard fire on Neptune Lake Road in Monico.

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Girls on the Run is an organization that helps young girls grow to be confident and healthy.

The 5K fun run is just one way to promote a healthy body image.

Girls on the Run Park Falls coach Katie Rybak said the run isn't about time or winners but to make sure everyone knows that they are capable of finishing.

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MERRILL - Organizers broke ground on the Northwoods Veterans Post in Merrill Saturday.

It will serve veterans, boy, girl and cub scouts as well as the community.

Northwoods Veterans Post marketing Chairperson Tracy Jopek lost her son in 2006 when his truck hit a bomb while he was serving oversees in Iraq.

"I'd like to think if he was the one that came home, that he would have a place to go. It's important to not just talk the talk about supporting the military but to actually do it," said Jopek.

Saturday, Jopek and other organizers broke ground on the Northwoods Veterans Post in Merrill.

"The Northwoods Veterans Post offers a place that we can bring in resources," said Jopek.

Those resources were never offered at the more than 100-year-old Merrill VFW building.

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