WAUSAU - Northern Wisconsin Congressman Sean Duffy didn't know just how much hunger and homelessness affects our communities.
A group of local pastors tuned him in to the problem.
"It surprised me. I think a lot of people aren't aware of how bad this problem is, and I thought I could be part of a growing solution to address those issues of hunger and homelessness in Wisconsin, especially right here in central Wisconsin," Duffy said.
Duffy hosted Wednesday's Hunger and Homelessness Summit in Wausau.
He says nearly 14 percent of people in central and northern Wisconsin faced food hardships in 2011 and 2012.
Thousands spent time in homeless shelters.
But how these issues look in our part of the state is much different than in other areas.
"I think when you think of homelessness, you often times think of urban centers. But the fact is, we have it right here. One of the issues is it's harder to address in smaller communities," Duffy said.
More than 125 people came together Wednesday to give their input and learn about hunger and homelessness issues.
We'll take you live to Crandon and update you on the death of a Lac du Flambeau woman whose body was found following a report of a gunshot early Wednesday morning. Three people were put in jail following the reported incident.
A lake in Conover has flooded, but not just from the rain. We'll bring you the details.
And we'll show you a Rhinelander pasty shop that is getting ready to re-open its door nine months after it caught on fire and closed down.
We'll bring you the details on these stories and more tonight on Newswatch 12 - news from where you live.
RHINELANDER - Hodag Park received a sizable donation Thursday morning. New sand was dropped off to help the Rhinelander Parks Department grow the beach back to its original shape.
There were thousands of pounds of sand dropped off and spread out. There was a high need for this because of all the rain we've had this season.
"It was getting in pretty poor shape and washing out more and more, but this year especially, it just seems like we've lost a lot of sand. So now we're going to shape it up nicely and hopefully it'll last the year," said Rhinelander Parks Director, Jeremy Biolo.
All of that sand was donated and delivered by a company in Rhinelander.
"Musson Brothers, Inc. donated all the sand and they said we could help ourselves to as much as we want, which is unbelievable because this beach really needed some work," said Biolo. "Every little bit like that helps our community out and it improves the community. It's awesome that the Musson Brothers stepped up and would do that for us."
CONOVER - June 22 makes it the 14th day of rainfall for us this month, and it's not been very convenient.
People all over northcentral Wisconsin have had to deal with storm damage or flooding in some way.
Pioneer Lake in Conover has had a particularly tough time with flooding not only because of the rain, but also because of a dam upstream.
"We've got 20 piers here, and they're floating away, they're underwater," said Maple View Resort and Campground Owner Tony Osiecki. "I've never seen it like this in fifty years."
Osiecki blames the deluge of rain we've gotten in the past few weeks for the flooding in his resort. But he and many others on the lake also blame a dam upstream.
It's located on the southwest side of South Twin Lake in Phelps. It's owned by Wausau-based Wisconsin Valley Improvement Company, and it's meant to maintain the levels of the Twin Lakes. Peter Hansen, the company's Vice President of Operation, admits they are releasing a lot of water--because they are federally required to.
"We are releasing an amount of water that is more than the 500-year rain event," Hansen said. "That means the rain that we've had, according to our calculations, is only supposed to happen every 500 years...We're doing everything within our federal license to lower the water level on Twin."
Downstream of the dam is the Twin River, which flows into Pioneer Lake. Hansen says the company is not responsible for what happens downstream.
That leaves some people frustrated
"[People] have been calling wanting to know what we're doing about the water and what they've got to do to fix it," said Pioneer Lake Association President Terry Wright. "If it's affecting us we have to have somebody we can call to change it."
In the meantime, Osiecki deals with the flooding.
"Move everything back a bit and try to get someone to close the dam and compromise," Osiecki said.
Hansen says the company has been able to cut back on the water release in the past few days, but with more rain in the forecast, that might change. He says Pioneer Lake does not have a controlled structure to help with the lake's water levels.
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