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

Ben Meyer
Managing Editor / Senior Reporter
bmeyer@wjfw.com


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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"This ain't no joke out here," said Tom Quandt, Jr., the owner of Bulldog Off-Road Recovery Service. "I do get nervous, and today's a day I'm nervous because of the ice conditions."

That nervous energy is what likely helps Quandt and his crew carefully cross the ice and get sunken vehicles back above water level.

It's not easy. Quandt and his crew set nerves aside, driving in a bombardier about two miles off the shore on Willow Dam Road to get to the truck, which was near an island.

"I was looking at the ice," Quandt says as he describes the drive out to the car. "I was looking for holes in the ice, I was looking for the color of the ice...There was water coming up out of spots as we were driving out here."

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The team got the car out and onto the island around 1 a.m. Wednesday.

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