MERRILL - Three years ago, Lincoln County got good news.
The federal government planned to spend $1.5 million to help give rural parts of the county broadband internet access. It was part of Frontier Communications' agreement to accept $283 million for broadband expansion nationwide.
But then, the contractors, equipment, and better internet were slow to arrive.
Now, Frontier is finally at work, but plenty of people are still waiting anxiously for their high-speed connection.
Jeremy Ratliff is one of the people waiting for a better connection. He lives in the rural town of Pine River.
"We do have internet service, if you want to call it that," Ratliff said. "It's almost like 20 years ago having dial-up speed. We deal with it, because it's the only internet option out there."
In addition to his day job, Ratliff serves on the Lincoln County Board and the Merrill School Board. He was excited when, in 2015, Frontier took the federal money as part of the Connect America Fund II initiative. But he was among the people in Lincoln County soon confused and frustrated.
"[In 2016, Frontier] made a promise to the county board that they were going to have plows in the ground by the following spring. That didn't happen," Ratliff said. "Leaving the county and the county board to basically scratch their heads like, 'Okay, what's going on? What's next?'"
"We decided at that time [Frontier's plan] seemed like a good deal," said Hans Breitenmoser Jr., a longtime member of the county board. "Now, of course, we're waiting for things to get done."
Frontier wouldn't even return calls or emails from the county last year, according to Randy Scholz, the administrative coordinator for Lincoln County at the time.
Finally, this spring, Ratliff noticed broadband crews on roads near Merrill. Frontier told him it actually completed work in the Tomahawk area last year and planned to connect 2,400 more rural customers this year.
Now, Ratliff is trying to be confident it will actually happen.
"We can hope that they are going to follow through on this. They say they're going to do it," he said. "It looks like work is being done."
Frontier has until the end of 2020 to complete its broadband expansion plan in Lincoln County. It got federal money to do work in 46 different Wisconsin counties.
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.
(Suspects identified clockwise, beginning with upper-left: Robert Daniels, Andrew Phillips, Richard Harris, Geraldine Dubray, Allyssa Wamego, Tammy Mann)
A report of a noisy house party and fight near Crandon led to six drug-related arrests earlier this month. Officers eventually found heroin, cocaine, and guns along with other drug items inside, but getting there took some extra work.
According to a release from the Forest County Sheriff's Office, police responded to a home at 7840 Love Knot Lane in the Town of Lincoln, which is east of Crandon, on March 7 around 7:15 p.m.
RHINELANDER - A Rhinelander man could face prison time after police arrested him in an online underage sex sting. Oneida County prosecutors charged Adam Van Roy with three felonies on Monday.
A Wisconsin Department of Justice Special Agent working with the Oneida County Sheriff's Office posed as a 19-year-old woman named 'Julia G' on several social media applications March 13-15. Van Roy, 36, started talking with 'Julia' during that time.
'Julia' soon told Van Roy she was actually only 15 years old.
The agent's notes show Van Roy asked 'Julia' for pictures, including nude images, and asked her "what do you like in the bedroom?"
MILWAUKEE - Officials say a man shot by University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee police on campus is hospitalized in stable condition.
University Police Chief Joe LeMire said at a news conference Tuesday two officers found the man, armed with a gun, sleeping on a bench in the Fine Arts Complex building around 7 a.m., an altercation occurred and he was shot. The police officers were treated for minor injuries.
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.
LAND O'LAKES - People in rural Wisconsin face some hardship when it comes to getting dental care. Some don't have access to it and many can't afford it. Both Gov. Tony Evers and state lawmakers hope that a new class of healthcare providers called "dental therapists" can help solve this issue. Local dentists aren't convinced.
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