State drug agents worried about synthetic drugsSubmitted: 09/26/2013

Adam Fox
10 p.m. Anchor/Reporter

MINOCQUA - A Wisconsin Department of Justice Special Agent believes synthetic drugs are on the rise in Wisconsin. That's what he told parents and community leaders Thursday night in Minocqua.

The synthetic drugs are marketed as legal and harmless. They vary from potpourri to bath salts. Both are labeled as not for human consumption, but can be crushed and smoked to get high.

Bob Kovar is a prevention specialist at the Marshfield Clinic. He's a member of the Marshfield Clinic Center for Community Outreach Northwoods Coalition. He's seen the dangerous effects of these drugs in person.

"They could potentially die," Kovar said. "Their body core heat is up, they're having seizers, they're combative."

Lawmakers make certain ingredients illegal, but producers find a new ingredient before the law even takes effect.

State Lawmakers introduced a bill Thursday that would broaden the definition of synthetic drugs, which would make them more inclusive of all the various ingredients.

They believe that will help police react more effectively.

The Lac Du Flambeau tribe declared a fight against drugs this spring. Two operations since then have flushed drug users and producers from the reservation.

The tribe is its own sovereign nation, so laws are different than state and local governments.

Kovar says the county and state don't have as much flexibility as the tribe.

"We can't react as fast," Kovar said. "But we can certainly learn and try and react faster."

The special agent held the presentation at Lakeland Union High School.

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MERRILL - This weekend Northcentral Technical College hosted its fourth annual Fire and EMS University for firefighters across Wisconsin.

It provides training on firefighting and EMS techniques at the Public Safety Center of Excellence in Merrill.

In a simulation training exercise, firefighters have their hoods covering their face so they couldn't see anything when they entered a basement. They had to feel a fire hose and use teamwork to get around and save a dummy.

Firefighters from all over Wisconsin can come to the all-day event. They came to refresh their skills, teach and learn new techniques.

"We put out some classes that are very interesting and not run every day and if it applies to their department they'll send people," said Dean of the Public Safety Division of Northcentral Technical College Doug Jennings.

The school keeps adding other training tools as well. Just this year they added more training features, such as a simulator that allows law enforcement to practice driving trucks, squad cars and EMS vehicles.

On Saturday the students also trained with the aerial ladder.

"We are the only fire department in Lincoln County with an aerial ladder," said Merrill Fire Chief Dave Savone. "And so most of our firefighters have to operate our aerial ladder. And so we felt this truck operation aerial ladder operations is a great class for them to come and see."

UST Fire Apparatus brought a new aerial ladder truck for the students to practice with, and teachers from southern Wisconsin and St. Louis, Mo., also came to help coach.

Firefighters say they want to constantly re-educate themselves.

"It's great to get the extra practice," said Dean Johnson from the Town of Wausau Fire Department.

Northcentral Technical College also offers semester schedule curricula for law enforcement and fire science. 

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MILWAUKEE - A published report says unauthorized improvements have been made to a footpath on state land that a donor to Gov. Scott Walker has been trying to buy.

A spokesman for business executive Elizabeth Uihlein acknowledged that workers at her adjoining property may have cleaned up the trail slightly.

But the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (http://bit.ly/1Z18WU8 ) reports those who have seen the trail say the improvements are significant.

Uihlein is seeking to buy 1.75 acres along Rest Lake, where the footpath is located. But a tentative deal with the Department of Natural Resources was put on hold after critics raised questions.

A DNR spokesman says the agency inspected the site on Thursday and found an "established trail." He declined to say whether the department had talked to Uihlein or her representatives.

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MERRILL - Merrill residents might have heard a lot of music in town today.

Merrill High School hosted the Merrill Marching Invitational. Three high school marching bands took over the football field at Merrill High School Sunday.

Antigo, D.C. Everest, and Merrill high schools all showcased their musical creativity.

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NEKOOSA - People in Nekoosa could go back in time this weekend.

Volunteers at Pointe Basse recreated a historical camp that portrayed the lives of people from the 1700s and early 1800s.

Volunteers from all across the U.S. had a piece of history to share.

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EAGLE RIVER - Eagle River hosted its 36th annual Cranberry Fest during October's first weekend.

Organizers say the weather this year brought in many more visitors.

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RHINELANDER - Harvest Hoedown started Saturday at noon at the Woodpecker Bar and Grill in Rhinelander.

The event featured a hay maze, horse-drawn carriage rides, food, and live music all afternoon.

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THREE LAKES - A Northwoods priest may never experience a mass as large as he did this past Sunday. It was Pope Francis' final mass in the U.S. during his trip. Organizers predicted nearly 500,000 people would attend.

Father Bala of Three Lakes was able to make it to Philadelphia for the mass. He was one of a small group from the Northwoods who made the trip, and he said it felt like an extremely personal gathering.

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