ACROSS THE NORTHWOODS - Railroads give businesses a chance to move loads of material for a low cost. Loggers could use rail as an alternative to trucking material, but many businesses don't get that opportunity in the Northwoods anymore.
Canadian National bought rail in the Northwoods about a decade ago. They have cut back service drastically since then.
Some counties haven't seen train travel in years, which hurts business. Now, those businesses want to reestablish rail service.
In response, a group of counties in Northern Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan formed the Northwoods Rail Transit Commission.
Their goal is to bring back efficient rail to their counties. The group has been working with Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) officials, like Dennis Leong, since forming the group in 2012.
Leong believes there is an opportunity to bring back rail to the region based off of the feedback from businesses and local governments.
"We did a survey of businesses in the Northwoods area and found potentially quite a few business interests in rail," Leong said. "They're meeting with CN (Canadian National) and having discussions, so hopefully maybe certain sections can be brought back to service."
Leong wants to help expand rail in the north, but private companies might only re-establish rail if they think they can make money on it.
"Part of the challenge is that you have to have the volume in which the railroads want to make sure they have an operating system to put back in service," Leong said.
Leaders at the Northwoods Rail Transit Commission are trying to win a multimillion dollar federal grant, TIGER, from the U.S. Department of Transportation to get more log cars for rail in the Northwoods. They'll host their monthly meeting Friday at 10 a.m. at the Oneida County Courthouse.
Wisconsin has 13 freight railroads using a system of more than 33 hundred mile of rail, according to WisDOT.
WAUSAU - The Wausau School District will use a large grant to renovate the school's planetarium. The current Wausau School District planetarium was built in the late 1960s, and it needs some upgrades.
The school just received a $230 thousand grant to complete the project. It is expected to take two years to complete.
"The first year is running the software, showing it, using it in our classrooms in our curriculum," said planetarium director Chris Janssen. "Finding out, 'is this going to work 100% of the time?' Year two then is going to be the actual, physical structure upgrades. The dome will get replaced, seats, cement contractors will come in and tilt the floor and so-on."
The planetarium can hold 54 people, and organizers are hoping to keep it that way.
"For curricular needs, when you have two classes come in, and the classes are about 26 kids each, you gotta have that sweet spot of about 50-54 seats. When you tilt the floor, you lose some space, so I really want to try and keep it at about 50 seats."
WESCOTT - The body of a man who jumped in a Shawano County lake to rescue his 10-year-son has been recovered.
The body was found after authorities resumed a search of Shawano Lake early Thursday.
Shawano County Sheriff Adam Bieber says the boy was tubing on the lake without a lifejacket Wednesday and lost his grip while trying to get back on a pontoon boat. Bieber says the boy's father jumped in the water, and the boat carrying the boy's grandfather and 9-year-old brother drifted away.
Sheriff's officials found the 10-year-old boy in the water near a buoy.
RHINELANDER - A Norther Lights Tour scientist explained Rhinelander's role in potato breeding and genetic studies on Wednesday night.
Every year about 50,000 varieties of potato are tested to see if they could be commercially sold.
Only about one in a 100,000 will become a named potato variety.
"The Rhinelander agriculture research station on Highway C is really where that process starts by making the cross pollination, raising those plants for the first time in a greenhouse and then evaluating them in the fields there for a couple years," said UW- Madison Assistant Professor of Horticulture Jeffry Endelman.
MADISON - A convicted sex offender from Rhinelander can keep pictures of children he cut out of magazines.
A state appeals court dismissed new charges against Albert Chagnon Thursday.
Prosecutors charged the 33-year-old last year with 23 counts of intentionally photographing a minor without consent. Chagnon was about to be released from prison when a guard discovered a notebook in his pants containing photographs of fully-clothed young girls cut out of magazines or newspapers, including the Lakeland Times.
Chagnon argued that the charges should be dismissed because he didn't take the photographs. The 4th District Court of Appeals agreed with him Thursday, saying state law doesn't cover Chagnon's conduct.
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