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Eric Lee, La Crosse Tribune 

Aquinas junior Victoria Nolte makes a pass during a recent practice at Aquinas High School. Nolte, who made the switch to libero for the Blugolds this season, has been an important piece of Aquinas' postseason run.

La Crosse woman pleads guilty to illegally dispensing opioids while working at Tomah VA

MADISON — A La Crosse woman, who was a nurse at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Tomah, pleaded guilty Wednesday in federal court to unlawfully dispensing opioids.

According to court documents:

Jennifer Amble was a nurse practitioner authorized to prescribe and dispense controlled substances to patients at the VA Tomah Medical Center.

On or about Feb. 26, 2017, Amble dispensed 60 hydrocodone pills, an ingredient in painkillers such as Vicodin, to a person who wasn’t a patient at the VA and not for a legitimate medical purpose.

The pills varied in dosage from 10 to 325 milligrams.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s office said Amble was caught by the inspector general’s office when an irregularity was noticed in medication records.

Amble faces maximum penalties of 20 years in prison, a $1 million fine and at least three years supervised release at her Jan. 15 sentencing.

District Judge James Peterson will consult advisory sentencing guidelines, which have less severe penalties and factor in the seriousness of the offense, her timely guilty plea, any prior convictions and the total amount of control substances involved in the offense.

For sentencing purposes, attorneys for the government and Amble agreed that the amount of controlled substances involved in the case is 3,420 milligrams of hydrocodone.

Amble pleaded guilty at her initial court appearance. Peterson released her on standard conditions.

The opioid crisis: Every state's overdose death rate, ranked
The opioid crisis: Every state's overdose death rate, ranked

Snow fly zone

The La Crosse area received between 3 and 4 inches of snow Tuesday night and Wednesday.

A La Crosse city ordinance requires snow and ice to be removed from the sidewalk and curb ramps within 24 hours after the snow stops.

Failure to comply with the ordinance will result in the city clearing the sidewalk and billing the adjacent property owners at a rate of $2.50 per linear foot, plus a $50 administration fee.

The city also provides a sand/salt mix for use on the city sidewalks free of charge to residents. The mix is available at: Fire Station No. 2, 626 Monitor St.; Fire Station No. 4, 904 Gillette St.; Erickson Fields parking lot, S. 21st Place; and 1000 Marco Drive, the southeast corner of Hood Street and Marco Drive.

New La Crosse police policy requires upfront payment from presidential campaigns

After presidential campaign visits left the La Crosse Police Department with unpaid invoices three years later, the department will require presidential campaigns to provide 50% of payments for anticipated expenses up front during this election cycle.

The police department charges campaigns to offset the cost of overtime for officers and supervisors required during the visits. The department announced its intention to ask for half of the estimated bill prior to each visit Tuesday after noting three unpaid invoices adding up to more than $10,000 from the 2016 campaign season.

“The implication of having $10,000-plus of unexpected overtime expenses can cripple a budget that we have worked hard to maintain. Ultimately, we want to ensure that city taxpayers are not stuck footing the bill for presidential campaign visits; especially considering the millions of dollars these campaigns raise,” Assistant Chief Rob Abraham said.




The three unpaid invoices include a $225 bill dated Dec. 31, 2016, to the Speaker Paul Ryan Bus Tour; a $3,595.25 bill dated Sept. 28, 2017, to the Donald J. Trump for President campaign for a rally by Vice President Mike Pence; and a $6,308.93 bill dated Sept. 16, 2016, to the Donald J. Trump for President campaign for his Aug. 15-16, 2016, campaign visit.

Sgt. Tom Walsh stressed that the new billing policy isn’t partisan, saying the department likes working with any campaign, regardless of party affiliation, to keep everyone safe and provide a forum for a dialogue.

“We like having them. We’re going to do everything we can to have a safe environment for all of our political campaigns. It’s an honor to have them in La Crosse. We just need them to understand there’s a cost associated with that for our local taxpayers,” Walsh said.

With the 2020 presidential election ramping up, the La Crosse Police Department is prepared to provide security; although it does include significant stress on city resources.

The department knows that La Crosse has become a destination for presidential candidates in the past 20 years, said Walsh, and it wanted to be transparent with potential visitors.

“We don’t want this to be a surprise to anybody when these campaigns start coming to La Crosse,” Walsh said.

The department has sent notices of its policy to the county and state Democrat and Republican parties and encouraged party representatives to contact it with any questions.

Unpaid Invoices

From Tribune files: Donald Trump visits the La Crosse Center in 2016
From Tribune files: Donald Trump visits the La Crosse Center in 2016

Wisconsin bill seeks to stop under 21s from vaping, smoking

MADISON — Wisconsin lawmakers are moving ahead with a bipartisan proposal to limit the sale of vaping and other tobacco products to people over age 21, holding a public hearing Wednesday on a measure designed to address what advocates called a public health crisis facing young people.

Consideration of the bill comes amid a vaping illness outbreak in Wisconsin and nationwide that has sickened nearly 1,900 people and killed 37 since March, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A majority of those sickened said they vaped products containing THC, the high-inducing ingredient in marijuana.

Proponents for setting the minimum age for purchasing vaping products in Wisconsin at 21 — who also support raising the age to buy cigarettes and other tobacco products from 18 to 21 — said it would help curb use among young people. Electronic cigarette use by high school students has skyrocketed despite concerns about damage the chemicals in the devices cause to the heart and lungs.

“We have a crisis of youth tobacco use both in Wisconsin and nationwide,” said Dr. Michael Fiore, head of the University of Wisconsin Center for Tobacco Research and Prevention. He was one of many doctors and other medical professionals who testified in support of the measure.

E-cigarette use increased by 154% between 2014 and 2018, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. As of last year, one out of every five students used them, the department said.

Research shows that 95% of people become addicted by age 21, so anything that can be done to reduce use among young people will save lives, Fiore said. Based on data from other states with a 21-year-old age limit, use would reduce in Wisconsin by about 12%, he said.

Eighteen states and the District of Columbia have already passed similar bills raising the minimum age for purchasing tobacco, nicotine and vaping products to 21.

Republican Rep. John Nygren, a member of the committee that considered the bill, questioned whether it was appropriate to set the minimum age as high as 21 given that people can join the military and vote at age 18.

Fiore said that while setting the age at 21 may not be perfect, it “will save lives in Wisconsin and help protect kids.”

Gregg Wieczorek, the principal of Arrowhead Union High School in Hartland, testified that he thought tobacco use among young people was under control before vaping became popular in recent years. It’s so pervasive, Wieczorek said, that he’s seen student athletes lose eligibility to play their sport because they’ve been caught vaping so often.

“Feeding their addiction for nicotine was more important than the passion for their sport,” he said.

The proposal is supported by public health and school groups including the American Heart Association, the Association of Wisconsin School Administrators, the Wisconsin Medical Society and the Wisconsin Public Health Association.

The Cigar Association of America and tobacco manufacturer Swisher International registered in opposition. E-cigarette manufacturing giant Juul Labs supports raising the purchasing age for all tobacco products, including vaping products, to 21.

The bill would have to pass the state Senate and Assembly and be signed by Gov. Tony Evers before becoming law. Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said last month that he wouldn’t rule out the proposal, but the soonest the Senate could take it up is January. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Evers did not immediately return messages seeking comment.

Electronic cigarette use by high school students has skyrocketed despite concerns about damage the chemicals in the devices cause to the heart and lungs. As of last year, one out of every five Wisconsin students used them.

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Update: Man shot, killed by officers in Monroe County standoff

TOWN OF LEON —A man was killed Tuesday evening in an officer-involved shooting in the town of Leon.

Authorities responded to The Cotter Pin, a restaurant and bar, for a domestic violence call. Patrons were barricaded inside the business, and law enforcement officers negotiated with an armed man outside the business.

Monroe County sheriff’s deputies and a Sparta police officer shot the man.

Officers immediately provided medical aid, but the man later died of injuries at a local hospital, according to the Wisconsin Department of Justice. His name has not been released.

The Wisconsin State Patrol assisted on scene. No law enforcement officers were injured.

Three Monroe County sheriff’s deputies and one Sparta police officer have been placed on administrative leave, per department policy.

The Wisconsin Division of Criminal Investigation is leading the investigation and will turn over its report to the Monroe County district attorney once the investigation concludes.

Both lanes of Hwy. 27 were closed for several hours during the investigation, and the restaurant closed and plans to re-open at 5 p.m. Friday, according to The Cotter Pin Facebook page.

“Everyone is safe and thank God for some quick thinking staff and patrons. This was not an incident which originated at The Cotter Pin but an unfortunate event for all involved. Thoughts and prayers for all involved and thanks to the Law Enforcement officers who responded,” read a post by the restaurant.