RHINELANDER - Making fewer trips to the gas pump should make most drivers happy. But filling up less could result in worse roads--especially in rural, Northwoods counties--if the state doesn't find a way to generate more cash.
Money from the state gas tax and vehicle registration fees make up more than half of Wisconsin's nearly $7 billion transportation budget.
But in June, state Transportation Secretary Mark Gottlieb said gas tax revenue is dropping. Without new funding, Gottlieb says the state will only have enough money to focus on the "backbone," major roads.
Oneida County Highway Commissioner Freeman Bennett worries that decreased could mean that smaller counties like his will lose out to projects in the southern part of the state.
"We're still up here," Bennett said. "We still enjoy tourists coming to our area. We want nice roads for them to drive on. And first and foremost is safety."
Bennett says about half of Oneida County's road construction budget comes from state funding and grants. He suspects that money would disappear if the state cuts back on transportation spending.
State Rep. Rob Swearingen (R-Rhinelander) knows a bitter fight over transportation funding already happened during the last budget cycle.
"I am somewhat frustrated and a little embarrassed, quite frankly, that the Legislature did not fix the transportation shortcoming in the last budget," Swearingen said. "Now here we are headed into the next budget cycle with the governor wanting to kick the can down the road."
Swearingen sees a handful of possible fixes: raising the gas tax, building toll roads, or borrowing more money. But Gov. Walker says he won't allow any of those changes to the funding formula.
"I'm not in favor of raising gas taxes either, but if the state doesn't do something, all it does it push the onus back on the local governments, the counties, the towns," Swearingen said.
Bennett says the budget gap is worrisome, but he doesn't want drivers to worry yet.
"I believe that [state lawmakers are] going to come up with a way to make things work for us, I truly do," Bennett said. "They have a huge investment. They're not going to let it fall behind."
RHINELANDER - For decades, homelessness has been a problem that defies easy solutions.
The number of homeless veterans in Wisconsin increased by 8.1% over the past year.
Assistant Oneida County Veterans Service officer Jason Dailey said that may be due to certain that issues effects of military service.
"There's a lot of the big issues for veteran's homelessness, there's a lot of post-traumatic stress and other mental health issues than cause issues maintaining employment," said Dailey. 'But we don't have the economy to support all those people necessarily as far as jobs go.'
Dailey believes the lack of triggers from a larger city that draw veterans to the Northwoods.
MINOCQUA - Something as easy as telling time or spelling a five-letter word backward can get more difficult as we age. People in the Northwoods can test their ability to complete those simple tasks with a memory screening at the Pastime Club Adult Day Center in Minocqua. Individuals or their caregivers can then present that information to a medical provider for further evaluation.
RHINELANDER - Lead ammunition remains the most popular option for hunters in Wisconsin. That's because it's cheap and gets the job done. However, experts encourage hunters to switch to a copper-based ammunition in order to protect other treasured species.
Wild Instincts Rehabilitation Center has seen nearly 30 cases of lead poisoning in bald eagles this year. Rehabilitators say the higher cost of copper ammo is a small price to pay for wildlife safety.
"It's not a gun control issue. It's not about trying to take anybody's rights away, it's to make it safer," said wildlife rehabilitator Mark Naniot. "We took lead out of our paint, out of gasoline because it was affecting us as humans. And of course we're affecting tons of animals out there."
RHINELANDER - The middle of November is usually a lull period between musky and ice fishing season. This year, that period was shortened.
Lakes began freezing a few weeks ago thanks to cold temperatures. Now that ice has formed on the lakes, people are venturing out to ice fish.
Some lakes look quiet at the moment, but as temperatures continue to get cold, that will be changing.
"Usually ice fishing season starts around here, end of November, right after deer season people start," said The Fishing Hole owner Gary Mangerson. "This year we're super early, which I enjoy because I don't have much down time."
ANTIGO - Like many cities, Antigo puts a room tax on it hotels and motels. The revenue generated is then used by a "tourism entity" to promote more overnight visitors in Antigo. For thirteen years that tourism entity has been the Antigo / Langlade County Chamber of Commerce, but another option is being explored.
Drew Lundt, board president of the chamber, never wanted this to come to a lawsuit.
"Unfortunately if this has to go to a legal battle, nobody's going to win that," said Lundt.
But recent disagreements have put that partnership in jeopardy.
Public meeting documents show Mayor Bill Brandt thought the combined chamber / visitor center was promoting its members, rather than the entire community.
Mayor Brandt pointed to the Visitor's Guide as an example. In the February 27th meeting, he expressed disappointment that only one Antigo hotel was shown in it.
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