Lieutenant Governor supports armed guards protecting mine siteSubmitted: 07/09/2013

Ben Meyer
Executive Producer

RHINELANDER - The Gogebic Taconite company hired armed to protect land they want to mine in Ashland and Iron Counties.

Two Democratic lawmakers think that's a huge overreach.

But it sounds like Wisconsin's Lieutenant Governor supports the idea.

Gogebic Taconite says they hired the guards because of protests over the mining project.

A spokesman says teams of mining opponents, "violently attacked" the company's drill site last month.

Now, Democratic Senator Bob Jauch and Representative Janet Bewley call the company's choice to hire the high security guards "appalling."

They want the guards removed immediately.

Republican Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch was in Rhinelander Tuesday for a small business roundtable.

I asked her if Jauch and Bewley's request was reasonable.

"Well, I think we have a duty to make sure that those folks who are working to better that double-digit unemployment rate that we talk so much about are safe," she said.

There's no indication Gogebic Taconite will remove the guards any time soon.

The Lieutenant Governor's main mission in Rhinelander was meeting with people involved in small business.

She talked about the challenge of keeping up the workforce in the Northwoods.

"We don't have, nearby, very large city centers. You're looking at attracting a generation of millenials to an atypical location for millenials. That's a challenge we're going to have to overcome," she said.

About two dozen business and community leaders met with Kleefisch.

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PARK FALLS - Many people in the Northwoods go to church on Sunday mornings, and for some of them it may be begrudgingly.

But there are plenty of people, often elderly or sick, who want to go to church but have a hard time doing so.

Peace Lutheran Church in Park Falls wanted to change that. Since May, they've been undergoing some construction. On Sunday, the church had a dedication ceremony for a special new addition—an elevator.

Now people like 100-year-old Ruth Olson can worship with greater ease.

Before the elevator, Olson said she would get to church by literally pulling herself up the stairs using the railing.

Olson's story is like many. As the older population grows, church buildings don't evolve with them. The buildings are often old and sometimes lack accomodating features for the elderly or disabled, and takes money to update the buildings.

"We have churches where the people are getting older and it's very hard for people to get around," said Rev. Dwayne Lueck, the district president for the North Wisconsin District Lutheran Church- Missouri Synod.

Some parishoners couldn't do what Ruth used to do, and so they would have to worship at a service held across the street in the day care center, instead of in the beautiful church.

"Now all the services can be over here," said Rev. Dale Heinlein, the pastor of Peace Lutheran.

The congregation at Peace Lutheran believed in an elevator, so they paid for it.

"We been talking and planning this for...a long time," said Dick Ross, president of the congregation. "Pretty hard for some of the people, and I think you saw them, pretty hard for some of the people to worship here, so it was time."

"You can see it in their eyes more than anything when they know they have access and when they come up here and just enter the building and no steps, it's a great thing," said Buzz Peters, a parishoner who helped design the new elevator and space.

"We can finally have access for everybody to get into the worship facility, free access, that's what this is all about," Heinlein said. 

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MADISON - Two Republican legislators have created a bill that would shift federal road dollars from local projects to major state projects. Opponents say the bill is a backdoor attempt to make sure federal prevailing wage requirements don't apply to local projects.

The bill sponsored by Sen. Duey Stroebel and Rep. Rob Brooks would transfer $47 million in federal funding from local projects to state projects and move $47 million in state dollars from state projects to local ones.

Stroebel says the swap would save money by removing local projects from burdensome federal regulations.

He has been a vocal advocate for doing away with prevailing wage statutes, which require minimum salaries for workers on government-funded construction projects.

Spokeswomen for GOP legislative leaders didn't respond to inquiries about the bill's chances.

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MADISON - New state data show that nearly 15,000 Wisconsin residents lost access to food stamps in the first three months of a new law that requires some recipients to seek jobs.

The Wisconsin State Journal reports (http://bit.ly/1Ple8j5 ) it obtained the data from the Department of Human Services under the state open records law.

The rule took effect in April for participants in the state's food stamp program, FoodShare. It requires able-bodied adults without children living at home to work at least 80 hours a month or look for work to stay in the program.

The DHS data show about 25 percent of the 60,000 recipients eligible to work were dropped from the program between July and September. But about 4,500 found work through a new job training program for FoodShare recipients.

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MINOCQUA - It's that time of year again.

Minocqua kicked off its' Christmas celebrations Saturday.

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WOODRUFF - If they haven't already, people will start bringing out the Christmas decorations.

And it wouldn't be complete without that perfect Christmas tree.

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TOMAH - The Tomah Veterans Affairs Medical Center says it has adopted another plan to improve patient care.

The La Crosse Tribune reports that Friday's release of the "100-day plan" comes almost 11 months after media reports that veterans at the center were prescribed excessive doses of opioid painkillers and that employees who spoke out faced retaliation from top officials.

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APPLETON - The U.S. Marshals Service says a convicted sex offender who was wanted for violating the terms of his release has been arrested in Appleton.

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