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NEWS STORIES

Rhinelander Police officer and lawmakers work on fighting huffing and drivingSubmitted: 03/01/2013
Story By Lane Kimble


RHINELANDER - It can kill you the first time you try it, but kids and adults seem to be doing it anyway. Inhaling aerosol sprays for a simple high. It's called huffing. But it wasn't illegal in Wisconsin until 2005.

"Having a legal thing that people can do made it more appealing that you can just go to the store and get chemical sprays and dusters and get high off that and not face any consequences," Rhinelander Police Sgt. Kurt Helke said. "At least now there's a consequence to that."

Helke helped lead the charge seven years ago to make huffing a crime. Now it's a class A misdemeanor. But his fight is far from over.

About a month ago, a Rhinelander driver named Matthew Taulbut crashed his car into the curb here, on Baird and Dahl streets near the county courthouse. Police found him slumped over the wheel with aerosol cans in his lap.

But ironically enough, Taulbut, who crashed just a block from where the law is upheld, couldn't be charged criminally with his 4th OWI. Huffing isn't defined as an intoxicant. At least not yet.

State Representative Rob Swearingen is a co-sponsor of this bill making its way around the Capitol. Sergeant Helke contacted him and other lawmakers with hopes of amending the drunk driving laws.

"Essentially what we're going to do is open up the word intoxicant and include the word inhalant, like huffing, and include that so that police actually have some teeth when they try to enforce the law," Swearingen said.

Lawmakers from both sides are coming together to draft the bill. The next stop will be in a legislative committee before heading to a hearing. Swearingen thinks the process should be smooth.

"It's highly likely, depending on any opposition, and I don't know why anyone would oppose this, but pending any opposition, something like this is good, common sense legislation," Swearingen said.

That's good news for Sgt. Helke and police everywhere.

"Unfortunately in most places, they aren't aware or there isn't anything spurned until somebody dies," Helke said. "And we don't want to wait until somebody dies until the awareness is risen."

Awareness and a law, that should make the roads safer.

"I think this is a simple fix, I don't think it's a big deal, but it's something that should get done, needs to get done so they can do their job," Swearingen said.

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 IN OTHER NEWS
What We're Working OnSubmitted: 03/06/2015

- One Northwoods football field needs major repairs. Football officials say the field at Jay Stadium in Merrill is almost unplayable. The Merrill Area Public School administration wants to fix the field, but it doesn't know what to do yet. Newswatch 12's Karolina Buczek went to Merrill to find out more.

- Plus, the Phelps basketball team takes being a family to the next level. Four out of their five starters are related

We'll have the details on these stories and more tonight on Newswatch 12 - news from where you live.

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RHINELANDER - There could be a new trail running along Pelican River. The plan is to have the river trail run from the Chamber of Commerce out to the new boat landing. It'll travel up the Pelican River and connect the hotels along Kemp Street.

"Historically, the city has kind of viewed this river as an industrial river," said Rhinelander City Council Member Alex Young. "In the last few years, there's been a push to take advantage of the more recreational and aesthetic aspects of the river rather than the industrial aspects."

The proposed trail will run about a mile. The city council will pay about one hundred thirty thousand dollars for the project. The rest will be funded by grants.

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RHINELANDER - Prosecutors think 40-year-old Shannon Wolf played a role in the 2003 death of Kenneth Wells. Police found Wells' body in the Wisconsin River near Rhinelander 12 years ago, but no one was ever charged with a crime in connection to his' death.

Now the case against Shannon Wolf will move forward after prosecutors showed a DVD reenactment to the court on Friday and successfully established that there is probable cause for the case to go to trial.

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MERRILL - A Merrill man will spend less than a month in jail for disorderly conduct and carrying a concealed weapon.

Daniel Osness was originally charged with a felony for endangering safety and four other misdemeanors. He took a plea deal Friday.

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MADISON - A representative of Wisconsin's Native American tribes told state lawmakers about the challenges facing tribal communities.

Chris McGeshick, chairman of the Sokaogon Chippewa Community delivered the annual State of the Tribes address Thursday.

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BARABOO - Circus World, with its roots in the Ringling Bros., says it's committed to keeping elephants in its shows in Baraboo.

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GALENA, IL - The latest derailment of a train carrying oil brought another failure of a safer model of tank car.

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