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Joint Finance Committee approves mining legislation, Democrats expect court dates in the futureSubmitted: 02/25/2013

Lane Kimble
Managing Editor/Anchor
lkimble@wjfw.com


MADISON - Lawmakers took another step toward making it easier to mine in Wisconsin.

The state's Joint Finance Committee passed the new Republican mining bill on a 12 to 4 vote Monday afternoon. The bill now moves to both the full state Senate and Assembly.

The GOP's bill is mainly designed to make it easier for a mining company to open a large mine. It would be on the border of Ashland and Iron Counties.

Democrats think the bill's language doesn't do enough to protect the environment.

But Ashland Representative Janet Bewley thinks the progress can be slowed in the courts.

"There are so many things in the bill that are ambiguous that will end up in court," Rep. Janet Bewley said. "I don't want to say I'm grateful to (Republicans) for writing such a sloppy bill, but the bill is written in such a form that there are many opportunities for it to end up in court."

Republicans don't think they're rushing anything. Hazelhurst Senator Tom Tiffany points to numerous changes from the first bill to this version.

He hopes it doesn't end up in the courts.

"We passed 11 amendments out of our Senate committee about two weeks ago," Sen. Tiffany said. "We've really, thoroughly vetted this bill. Will there be lawsuits, as Representative Bewley hopes? Perhaps, because some people will sue over anything in modern society. But this is really a good bill that protects the environment, while giving certainty to an applicant."

The mining bill will likely pass because Republicans control both the Senate and Assembly. Senator Tiffany thinks the Senate will take up the bill Wednesday.

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EAGLE RIVER - The Vilas County Sheriff's Office says no one was hurt after a 48-year-old Mark Mayo of Eagle River threatened to hurt himself with a firearm near Eagle River Wednesday night.

Crews responded Wednesday evening near to the area near Deerskin Road north of Eagle River and south of Phelps to reports that a man wanted to hurt himself and was armed with a 9 mm handgun and two magazines. That report came in around 3:55 p.m.

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EAGLE RIVER - An old jail doesn't exactly make for great office space.  But some Vilas County departments have used those parts of the courthouse as offices for decades.  That makes construction that started this week a welcome distraction.

Work to tear down the Social Services wing of the courthouse started Wednesday.  Crews will build a two-story expansion on the east side of the courthouse.

That will allow Social Services, Veterans Services, the Commission on Aging, Tourism and Publicity, and other departments to move into the same building.  The expansion will also include new break rooms and conference rooms.

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VILAS COUNTY - Soon snow will be falling. In fact, preparation for snowmobile season starts as soon as next month.
Cross Country Cruisers Snowmobile Club President David Assmann and his crew are just about ready to hit the trails, starting in September.

"We cut all the brush and everything that's low to the ground," said Assmann.

His crew spends a lot of volunteered time making sure 93 miles of trails near Arbor Vitae are ready and safe to use in the winter.

"We have at least five guys going out, sometimes twice a day. We do trails in the morning and then trails late at night," said Assmann.

Many people who live here use the Northwoods trails, but so do a lot of tourists during the winter months.
"We are able to go out, get these trails groomed so that the tourists that come up can go on our trails, can get to the different businesses in the area, and that helps the economy up here," said Assmann.

With so many miles of trails in Vilas County, one of the best parts is that there is equipment made to maintain those trails, right in St. Germain.

Arrowhead Groomers has been in Vilas County since 1976. The company builds equipment that levels out the trails.

"We manufacture the snow groomer drags primarily for snowmobile trails. Some of them end up getting used on cross country ski trails as well," said Walker Equipment owner Dave Walker.

Another local snowmobile club, Bo-Boen, uses the Arrowhead Groomers on their trails as well.

"I have 17 drivers on my staff that maintain 100 miles of trails here in St. Germain. We're very cognizant of the fact that we have to do a good job to bring those people here so they can spend their money and keep our economy going," said the trail boss for Bo-Boen snowmobile club Jim Wendt.

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VILAS COUNTY - Seven departments and two SWAT teams swarmed an area in Vilas County Wednesday evening, responding to an armed man.

On Thursday, we learned that man is 48-year-old Mark Mayo of Eagle River, and he was threatening to kill himself. That was near a home between Eagle River and Phelps.

Mayo is safe, but now in Vilas County Jail.

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Oldenburg Group announced today its Heavy Equipment Group has been sold.

That includes its Defense and Mining business units.

J.F. Lehman and Company will take over control of the operations.

The company was founded in 1992 by former Navy Secretary John Lehman.

The former Oldenburg operations will be renamed Lake Shore Systems, Inc.

The existing management team and employees will stay in place, and all plants will operate as normal.

The deal includes the plant in Rhinelander and several facilities in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

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The state Elections Commission is slated to approve the ballot on Tuesday.

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