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Govt-and-politics
Holmen village president: Nancy Proctor vs. Patrick Barlow

Nancy Proctor is seeking a sixth term as Holmen’s village president. To get it, she’ll need to defeat a familiar and formidable challenger.

Proctor

Barlow

On Tuesday, voters will choose between the 79-year-old Proctor and the 47-year-old Patrick Barlow, who sits on the La Crosse County Board and is an administrator at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.

Proctor said she and her staff have done a lot of good for the village of Holmen in recent years — from building parks to attracting new businesses — and that she’d like to keep that momentum going.

“I’ve been at it for 10 years, and I’ve got some ongoing projects that I’d like to see finished,” she said. “There are a lot of businesses ready to come in, a lot of homes ready to be built.”

Barlow said he would take a more proactive approach in running the village, whose population has nearly tripled in the past 30 years. He would use data, he said, to help bolster and streamline village services, including the police and fire departments.

“As more residents and businesses come in, you’re going to have more calls for service,” he said. “We need to find ways to fund, staff and equip these departments, so they can better meet the needs of our residents.”

As Holmen’s population continues to climb, village leaders are working to ensure that its businesses and infrastructure keep pace with the boom.

Proctor pointed to two projects — a bridge over Halfway Creek and the development of a north-end TIF district — as especially significant.

The Halfway Creek bridge, planned for 2020, will improve access to and from the Remington Hills neighborhood.

The TIF district, meanwhile, is already home to a new memory-care facility and even newer apartments, Proctor said, and there are a couple businesses with plans to move in.

“There’s stuff going on all over, and it’s our job is to keep up with it, keep services at the level they need to be at to keep everyone happy,” she said.

Barlow expects that Holmen’s population will continue to grow — and quickly. It was at 9,000 during the 2010 census, and could hit 13,000 in the next 10 or so years, he said.

Building community gathering places, like parks, he said, will be just as important as attracting new businesses.

“You’d like enough businesses where people don’t feel the need to go to La Crosse or Onalaska not just for basic purchases — milk and eggs — but for clothing and other items,” he said. But the village also needs “parks and greenspaces, places for neighborhoods and communities to come together. We want to keep that community-friendly culture.”

Proctor, a former office manager at a concrete company in La Crosse and longtime public servant in Holmen, said the voters she’s spoken with haven’t raised many issues about the direction of the village.

“A lot of the people seem very happy,” she said. “The village has a lot to offer our children and families.”

Barlow, the assessment coordinator at UW-L and a Holmen resident since 2006, said two themes have emerged from his conversations with voters.

They’re concerned about roads, he said, especially about cars passing through town at unsafe speeds.

They also have designs on a park — not for themselves or their children, but for their dogs.

“Every third door I’ve knocked on, there’s a furry friend at the door, barking at me,” he said. “I think a dog park is something that’s worth exploring.”


Flooding poses potential risk for 1 million private wells

ST. LOUIS — More than 1 million private wells that supply drinking water in mostly rural parts of the Midwest could face the risk of contamination from floodwater, posing a health concern that could linger long after the flooding subsides.

Major flooding along the Missouri and Mississippi rivers and several smaller waterways has inundated states in the middle of America, from the Canadian border south to Kentucky. The National Weather Service has warned that with snowmelt in northern states only beginning, the threat of additional flooding persists well into spring.

The high water and swift current carries raw sewage from overburdened treatment plants, animal waste and pesticides from farm fields, and spilled fuel.

“Whatever was on the land is in the water now,” said Steve May, assistant chief of the Missouri Bureau of Environmental Epidemiology.

Contaminated water can carry bacteria such as E. coli that can cause gastrointestinal illness, reproductive problems and neurological disorders, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Infants, young children, pregnant women, elderly people, and people with compromised immune systems are particularly vulnerable.

The National Ground Water Association, a trade group for the industry that includes well systems, said there are 1.1 million private wells in 300 flooded counties in 10 states: Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri, Kansas, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota and Kentucky.

Stagnant water could linger for days or even weeks even as flooding starts to subside in hard-hit areas, raising the risk that some of it will get into wells by flooding over the top, seeping through cracks or as a result of other flaws in the well structure.

Liesa Lehmann, private-water section chief for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, said her state has an estimated 700,000 to 800,000 private wells. The National Ground Water Association said the current flood poses a risk to more than 280,000 Wisconsin wells, the most in any state.

“Anyone who has a private well within a flood plain area of a major river, those wells are certainly going to be vulnerable to contamination,” Lehmann said.

Drinking water comes from a variety of sources. Some public water supplies use rivers, streams, lakes or other bodies of water. Others use water from the ground. Either way, public water supplies are government-regulated and have safeguards to protect against contamination.

But the federal government estimates that about 15 million U.S. households — most often in rural areas that don’t have access to public drinking water systems — rely on private wells. Those wells are not typically regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency, so it’s up to the well owner to make sure the water is clean.

Owners of private wells use a variety of methods to remove contaminants, including filtration systems, water softeners, distillation systems that boil out the impurities, and disinfectants such as chlorine. But if floodwater gets into a well, those efforts may not be enough.

Lehmann said well owners who see floodwater near or over their wells should assume the drinking water supply is contaminated. She encouraged them to watch for any change in the color, smell or taste of their water, and to consider alternatives such as bottled water.

Once flooding recedes, remaining well water should be pumped out and the well should be disinfected, said Chuck Job, regulatory affairs manager for the National Ground Water Association. Lehmann said that because the presence of so much water poses an electrocution risk, well owners should hire professionals to do the work.

Once the well is disinfected, water should be tested to make sure it’s safe, Job said.

At least one state is offering free well-water testing in flooded areas. Missouri property owners seeking free testing must obtain collection kits from the Missouri State Public Health Laboratory and submit samples using those kits.


Second judge blocks parts of GOP lame-duck laws limiting powers of Tony Evers

In the second judicial rebuke to Republican legislators in less than a week, another judge has blocked parts of GOP laws limiting the powers of Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and Attorney General Josh Kaul.

Dane County Circuit Court Judge Frank D. Remington issued the ruling Tuesday.

It compounds the legal woes for Republican lawmakers who, along with former Gov. Scott Walker, enacted the laws just before Evers and Kaul took office. In a separate case last week, Dane County Judge Richard Niess blocked all of the laws from being enforced.

Remington’s ruling was more narrow, leaving parts of the laws intact. Republican lawmakers noted that while pledging to appeal other parts of the ruling. They contended the laws ultimately will withstand a barrage of legal challenges.

Tuesday’s ruling came in response to a lawsuit by a group of labor unions contending parts of the GOP laws violate the constitutional separation of powers between the legislative and executive branches.

Remington, a Walker appointee, halted enforcement of a key provision of one of the laws that gave lawmakers, instead of the governor, final say on whether the state Attorney General ends or settles the state’s involvement in a lawsuit. His ruling also suspended a measure that allowed a legislative committee to effectively block administrative rules advanced by the governor from taking effect.

“The Legislature has the power to change the responsibilities assigned to the Attorney General, but it may not castrate his/her ability to act as the lawyer for the State of Wisconsin nor can it constitutionally usurp the power of the executive branch,” Remington wrote in the 49-page ruling.

Remington’s ruling also appeared to respond directly to Republican lawmakers who justified the laws as simply giving them a “seat at the table” with Evers.

“Even the casual observer cannot miss the fact that this ‘rebalancing’ of power, and the defendants’ repeated demand for ‘a seat at the table,’ was not considered until the voters elected a Democratic Governor and Attorney General,” Remington wrote.

Second ruling in GOP lawsuits

The ruling rejects requests by plaintiffs in the case to halt other provisions of the laws, including one permitting lawmakers to intervene in court cases that involve a challenge to state law. However, those provisions remain on hold while an appeals court considers whether to stay Niess’ ruling from last week.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, responded to the ruling with a statement saying they’re encouraged Remington upheld parts of the laws.

“However, all of the Legislature’s actions are consistent with the separation of powers that the Wisconsin Supreme Court has upheld for decades,” Fitzgerald and Vos said. “We will appeal this decision.”

Evers issued a statement saying the decision “upholds our constitution’s separation of powers, which has guided this state since 1848.” He added that the ruling shows it is “time to move beyond this chapter.”

“It is now abundantly clear that the lame duck session was nothing more than an illegal power grab intended to override the will of the people,” Evers said.

Remington presided over a court hearing Monday in the lawsuit, brought by a group including Service Employees International Union, Milwaukee Area Service and Hospitality Workers, American Federation of Teachers and Wisconsin Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals; and nine individual plaintiffs including state Sen. Janet Bewley, D-Mason.

The hearing unfolded as the state Capitol was still grappling with the ruling on Thursday that suspended all three of the GOP laws enacted in an extraordinary session in December. In that decision Niess ruled the extraordinary session was not allowed by the state constitution.

A ruling from a state appeals court could come anytime on whether it will uphold last week’s directive. GOP lawmakers asked a state appeals court Friday to reverse Niess’ ruling and put the lame-duck laws back in place.

Plaintiffs in that case included the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, Disability Rights Wisconsin and Black Leaders Organizing for Communities.

By targeting the session in which the laws were passed, that ruling vacated 82 appointments by Walker to state councils, boards and other bodies that senators confirmed during the December extraordinary session. Evers has said he plans to redo those appointments.

Evers and Kaul also moved quickly after last week’s ruling to seek to withdraw Wisconsin from a multi-state legal challenge to the federal health care law known as Obamacare, which one of the laws previously barred them from doing.

Meanwhile an attorney for GOP lawmakers warned the ruling’s findings about extraordinary sessions could undermine more than 300 other laws or resolutions enacted during previous extraordinary sessions in the last four decades.

There are two additional ongoing legal challenges to the GOP extraordinary session laws. A federal judge backed one of them, a challenge to one of the laws’ restrictions on early voting.

The other suit, filed in federal court by the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, contends the laws violate the rights of Democratic activists and voters who elected Evers. That case has yet to have a court hearing.


Proctor


Crime-and-courts
FBI helps nab 72-year-old fugitive from town of Campbell on child porn charges

A 72-year-old man from the town of Campbell has been apprehended in Wyoming by the FBI in connection with child pornography charges.

Hansen

David E. Hansen was charged with 10 counts of possession of child pornography, according to police. The FBI worked with police from Campbell and Holmen.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children tipped off the Coulee Region Children's Internet Protection Task Force from the Holmen Police Department about a residence in the town of Campbell responsible for downloading child pornography in March 2017, authorities said.

The task force assisted Campbell police in a search warrant and arrested Hansen March 12 at a motel in Gillette, Wyo., police said.

An extradition felony warrant was issued in April 2018 after Hansen failed to appear in court, according to a press release.

Authorities requested assistance from the FBI in August 2018 when police learned that Hansen fled to Oregon to avoid persecution, law enforcement said.

Hansen left the Campbell County Jail in Wyoming on Tuesday morning and is being extradited to La Crosse County.


La Crosse County Circuit Court felony cases in March
La Crosse County Circuit Court felony cases in March