EAGLE RIVER - A 40,000 square-foot addition designed to last 100 years opens up in less than two weeks. A number of Vilas County offices are set to move into the courthouse expansion in Eagle River on August 24th and 25th.
Construction on the building started in August 2016. The $11 million project stayed on budget and had just one week's worth of delays. That was due to getting a proper air handling unit shipped and installed.
"There was a lot of common sense and practicality that went into the design, but we've also designed for the future," county clerk Dave Alleman said. "We all certainly hope that there needs to be no more additions like this for Vilas County government."
The new building will house social and veterans services, public health, and the commission on aging all under one roof, although the latter two will take until the end of October to move into the new building. Alleman says staff is ready to make the transition.
"Once everybody is moved in after that two-day move, my expectation is that Monday morning the public will be doing their business here," Alleman said.
You'll also notice a stronger security presence when you walk into the new courthouse building. Visitors will eventually need to clear a security checkpoint.
The county agreed to a contracted security proposal, but it still has not chosen a provider for that service. Alleman said the county is considering Per Mar security, but guards' presence likely won't be in place until January due to budget planning.
"Vilas County understands that the safety of the public and the safety of county staff is of utmost importance," Alleman said.
The building is ADA compliant and will feature a large drop off and parking area in the front. The end of August will mark the end of Phase I. Phase II of the project will involve building a walkway between the new building and old courthouse.
"I think it's a great building, I think our contractors did a great job and a lot of kudos to the architectural firm," Alleman said.
CRANDON - Forest County Sheriff's Deputy Craig Justice was justified in shooting and killing 31-year-old Brandon Cude on Jan. 4, Forest County District Attorney Chuck Simono ruled Friday.
The Wisconsin Department of Justice released the results of its investigation in the case, and Simono's decision, Friday afternoon.
The DOJ documents detail how Cude swung a shotgun at Justice at close range. The deputy had just learned Cude had felony warrants against him, and Justice was trying to arrest Cude. Justice fired four shots on the scene, a rural road south of Crandon.
"He didn't get a shot off?" a fellow officer asked Justice after the shooting.
"No. He tried, though. Pulled that sucker out and pointed it right at me," Justice replied in an exchange recorded on a body camera.
EAGLE RIVER - Vilas County officers can now respond to active shooter calls better prepared.
All deputies and patrol offices now have access to steel-plated body armor, something only the Vilas County SWAT Team had before.
"We want to make sure our staff are fully protected," said Vilas County Sheriff's Office Captain Gerard Ritter. "I never want to see anything happen to any one of my staff. And we should outfit them with the protection they need."
Before the new body armor, Ritter said officers and deputies only had access to soft body armor.
"The weave material is designed to stop or slow down a projectile," said Ritter.
Officers will still wear the soft-bodied armor every day, but in active shooter situations, officers can now essentially double up on protection, protection once only offered to the SWAT Team.
"There has been an increase in active shooter incidences across the United States," said Ritter.
MINOCQUA - Only about one-third of students showed up to classes at Lakeland Union High School Friday morning, with many staying home after police verified a shooting threat.
More police officers were on hand at the school Friday morning.
On Thursday evening, Minocqua Police Chief Dave Jaeger confirmed the discovery of shooting threats in the ladies' bathroom near the LUHS auditorium. The threat noted an attack would be similar to Wednesday's school shooting in Parkland, Fla., which killed 17 people.
RHINELANDER - Police think an Oneida County man downloaded hundreds of pornographic pictures of young girls using a private chatroom.
During Danial Smith's preliminary hearing Friday, Smith's attorney asked if police had any way of knowing it was his client who downloaded the more than 700 photos.
The state Department of Justice learned a computer near Rhinelander downloaded the pictures in late 2016 thanks to a tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The internet protocol (IP) addresses from the downloads were linked to Smith's home on County C in the town of Stella.
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