'Cowboy vigilante': Gleason man accused of attacking snowplow driver with baseball bat after mailbox knocked overSubmitted: 03/19/2019

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GLEASON - A snowplow driver in Lincoln Co. couldn't believe what he was seeing last month.

The Town of Russell driver, Jesse Mattson, said he had just knocked over a mailbox by accident while plowing snow on a gravel road near Gleason.

Then, according to Mattson, the mailbox's owner, Peter Wegner, wheeled his SUV in front of the snowplow, forcing it to stop. Wegner got out with a baseball bat, threatened to kill Mattson, and tried to force his way into the cab.

"Normal people just don't act like some kind of cowboy vigilante," Mattson said Tuesday. "It's scary. I'm not that big. When a guy like that has a bat, all you can think of is protecting yourself."

Mattson had called 911, and a dispatcher was on the line as Wegner climbed toward the cab. Mattson said Wegner got in a few swings and knocked the wind of out him.

Mattson thinks it was the third time this winter he's knocked over the mailbox, all by accident, and all from the force of spraying snow and ice from the road, not from contact with the blade itself.

"No one ever leaves [for] work in the morning, leaves their wife or their fiancée or their girlfriend or their kids and thinks, 'Well, I'm going to go plow the roads, today I could be assaulted.' I shouldn't have to face a deadly weapon just doing my job, taking care of my town," Mattson said.

Mattson is in his first year working for the town.

Wegner is also a public employee, working as the assistant planning and zoning director in Oneida Co. Two weeks ago, he was honored by the county planning and development committee for 20 years of service.

Lincoln Co. Assistant District Attorney Kurt Zengler charged Wegner with two misdemeanors, battery and disorderly conduct. But the Town of Russell is concerned Wegner won't be punished enough.

In a March 6 letter, Zengler offered Mattson the opportunity to weigh in on a deal he was proposing. Prosecutors would dismiss the charges against Wegner after twelve months if he completes alcohol evaluation and treatment, isn't arrested, and stays away from Mattson.

Mattson and the town are contesting the plan.

"As far as the prosecutor, I'm not happy. I feel this needs to be prosecuted to the fullest extent to set a precedent," said Russell Town Board Supervisor Dave Heller. "To give a slap on the hand and then all this [goes] away after so long, it's not right."

Heller feels the proposal sets a bad course for protecting public employees.

"You don't want everybody, whether it's in the Town of Russell, Lincoln Co., Marathon Co., wherever, to think that they have the right to go after a municipal employee on their own," Heller said.

Zengler didn't respond to a call for comment on the plan on Tuesday.

Mattson is glad he doesn't have lasting injuries. Now, he's hopeful to see punishment that leaves people like him confident in their cabs.

"There has to be a precedent set that we're safe at work," Mattson said. "We're trying to keep people safe. We would expect the same."

Wegner and Mattson took out restraining orders against each other after exchanging threatening text messages.

Wegner didn't respond to calls or emails on Tuesday.

His attorney, Brian Bennett, chose not to comment on the case.

The Lincoln Co. Sheriff's Office denied Newswatch 12's open records request for the 911 call and documents in the case, citing a continuing court proceeding.

The next event on the calendar in Wegner's criminal case is a scheduling conference on March 28.

Story By: Ben Meyer

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CRANDON - Recently, flooding closed roads and frustrated communities from Rhinelander to Plover. A bad combination of rain and melting snow led to days of flood warnings. As those warnings go away, a related risk could do a lot more than frustrate you - it could make you sick. Flooding can cause contamination in wells, but the Northwoods is lucky to have a world-class water testing facility.

RT Krueger's Northern Lake Service in Crandon has about 50 specialized machines that test drinking water for half of the municipalities in Wisconsin. Krueger tests Rhinelander's water three times a week. Every year 65,000 water samples flow in and out of this lab.

"The safe drinking water testing for the city of Madison is being performed up in little tiny Crandon," said Krueger.

Many people have their own wells, which are not tested regularly like municipal water. If your well is submerged due to flooding, filtered groundwater mixes with potentially harmful surface water.

"You're introducing the bacteria and all the compounds and organisms that are normally above the water that you're drawing," said Krueger.

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The victim of the accident was 77-years-old.

Police have ruled the death as an accident, and it was determined that the subjects involved were performing maintenance on the dump truck when the accident happened.

The Wood County Sheriff's Department, Hewitt EMS, Marshfield Ambulance, and the Wood County Coroner's Office all responded to the accident.

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What We're Working OnSubmitted: 03/19/2019

- Tonight on Newswatch 12:

We talk to a snowplow driver in Lincoln County who says he was attacked with a baseball bat after accidently knocking down a mailbox.

We'll take you to the ribbon cutting for a new utility garage in Stevens Point and show you some sustainable design features that are part of the facility including the largest solar array in Central Wisconsin.

And we'll speak with a water testing specialist in Crandon to go over the importance of testing groundwater especially after there has been flooding in the area.

We'll bring you this and more tonight on Newswatch 12 - news from where you live.

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"If we don't solve the demographics issue in this state of an aging population and both retaining the young folks that we have in this state, as well as attracting additional young folks, the level of skills of those employees won't matter," WMC Foundation Executive Director Wade Goodsell.

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