$1.3 trillion federal spending plan good news for Northwoods aging departments, public radioSubmitted: 03/26/2018
Ben Meyer
Ben Meyer
Managing Editor / Senior Reporter

$1.3 trillion federal spending plan good news for Northwoods aging departments, public radio
CRANDON, RHINELANDER - Working with little money to spare is nothing new to Tammy Queen.

"We make it right now, but it's tight," Queen said. "It's very tight."

Queen runs the Forest County Department on Aging. She got great news last Friday.

The federal government poured more money into aging programs as part of a $1.3 trillion spending bill President Trump signed Friday.

Three-quarters of Queen's budget goes to senior meal programs in Crandon, Laona, Wabeno, Armstrong Creek, and Alvin. But she'd love to extend that. With more money, she might be able to serve seniors in places like Hiles, Argonne, and Pickerel.

"It helps you keep going," Queen said of the program. "It's not about being old. It's about making sure you're staying active after retirement."

The federal funding increase for aging programs is the first since 2010.

"Every year, we have all been talking about how we need more money, we need more money, and yet the federal government...has been talking about cuts to the aging program," Queen said.

Other local organizations will also benefit from the spending plan.

About a year ago, Trump proposed eliminating a half-billion dollars in funding for public broadcasting. WXPR public radio in Rhinelander relies on federal money for 20 percent of its budget.

Last Friday's bill kept that money in place. But until then, WXPR was planning for how it might deal with a major funding cut.

"Would it hurt us? Of course it would hurt us," said Jeff Burke, the board chair of White Pine Community Broadcasting, WXPR's umbrella group. "They would have involved program cuts, as I referred to earlier. And yes, they would have led to staff cuts as well."

Preserving federal funding will mean WXPR doesn't have to make those tough decisions.

"We're just very thankful that the legislators did what they did," Burke said.

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RHINELANDER - A house fire in Rhinelander left one man dead Friday.

Emergency responders got the call around 7:30 p.m. for a home near Hodag Park.

Steve Smith heard a dispatch call over his step-sons radio about the fire at his neighbor's home on Rose Street.

"We walked out the front door and it was plain as day," said Smith. "The flames were rolling out of the front window."

At first, Smith wasn't sure if anyone was in the home. "There was a man they brought out," said Smith. "unfortunately, I heard he was deceased,"

Police Chief Lloyd Gauthier confirmed the victim was found dead on the scene.

"Life saving measures were done by the paramedics. Unfortunately, the male had passed away," said Gauthier. "At this point, it appears that it was due to something left on the stove."

Gauthier says more details about the victim will be released on Monday. 

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RHINELANDER - A man died after a house fire in Rhinelander on Friday night.

According to a press release from the Rhinelander Police Department, Rhinelander police and firefighters responded to the fire at 320 Rose Street near Hodag Park around 7:30 p.m.  

Firefighters went inside the house soon after they arrived and found an unresponsive man on the floor.  Firefighters and paramedics tried to revive the man, but he was pronounced dead at the scene.

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A 16-year-old girl is missing from Sawyer County according to the Wisconsin Department of Justice. Angel Marie Simonson is reported as an endangered missing person. She is a white female, 5'7", and 220 lbs. 

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THREE LAKES - After 30 years, Dr. George Karling decided it's time to retire as the Three Lakes District Administrator.

He plans to leave after the school year ends, but the school board is already preparing to find his replacement.

Early next month, the Three Lakes School District will host two input sessions for the public.

Three Lakes residents can go to give their opinions on what they want in a replacement. 

Karling's decision to retire comes about a month after he faced criticism for allowing the district to be featured in a campaign ad for Gov. Scott Walker. 

People who can't make it can still send their thoughts to the Three Lakes Board of Education. People can submit comments by writing to:

Board of Education, Three Lakes School District
6930 West School St. 
Three Lakes, WI 54562 

or email: tr@threelakessd.k12.us.

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WOODRUFF - Ascension Wisconsin Spirit Medical Transport hosted a fun-filled day for family and friends on Saturday.

This comes about five months after one of its helicopters crashed, killing three Spirit employees.

Regional manager Charles Kotke said those men were in mind today,

"Today is a day of bringing people together, as well as a celebration of our 25 year anniversary," said Kotke. "This team did an amazing job getting us back to caring for our patients and doing what we need to do to care of our community."

Flight paramedics showed off the aircrafts to people and the helicopter was a big hit.

"They definitely like to look at the aircrafts. See how we transport patients from point A to point B," said Northern Region Supervisor Ryan Short.

Next Saturday, Spirit is celebrating with more associates. The second part of the celebration will be in Stevens Point.

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