May 30, 2015

Budget panel approves new Wisconsin state park fees

Capitol_clearYou’ll pay more to use Wisconsin state parks, beginning next year. The legislature’s Joint Finance Committee signed off Thursday, on a package of fee increases from state Senator Howard Marklein (R-Spring Green).

Governor Scott Walker’s budget eliminated more than $4.5 million in funding from state general purpose revenues. The increased fees approved Thursday – actually larger than those recommended by the governor – will need to make up for much of that.

Democrats questioned how realistic that is. “There are no park systems that are self sustaning, based on fees” anywhere in the U.S., argued Representative Chris Taylor (D-Madison) “It’s not sustainable.”

The package of fee increases passed on a 12-4 party line vote.

Fee increases include annual resident state park vehicle passes going from $25 to $28, and annual resident trail passes from $20 to $25. Resident state park camping fees will increase to $20 nightly for campsites with electricity.

An amendment from Democrats, to prohibit the sale of state park naming rights to corporate entities, was rejected on a 12-4 vote.

“Given that no new increase in revenue, there might be some people that think, why not have a Shopko State Park,” said Representative Gorden Hintz (D-Oshkosh).

Dominican makes history, Germantown denied at 100th WIAA Basketball Championships

WIAA logo

Two teams entered the 100th WIAA Boys State Basketball Championships with an opportunity to add their name to the list of teams to win four-straight state titles, and only Whitefish Bay Dominican accomplished the task at the Kohl Center in Madison.

Six-foot-10 Diamond Stone a game-high 23 points as three-time defending champion Dominican beat previously undefeated Mineral Point 75-49, joining the Randolph teams of 2002-2005 as the only schools in state history to pull off the four-peat. Both did so in Division 4.

Earlier in the Day, Stone and Rice Lake’s Henry Ellenson were named co-Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association Mr. Basketball. Ellenson, who is headed to Marquette, did not play in the Division 2 title game against Mt. Horeb due to a broken left hand suffered in Friday’s semifinals. [Read more…]

Filing Wisconsin unemployment claims now easier online

Filing your unemployment insurance claim online has gotten a lot easier. The Department of Workforce Development (DWD) is encouraging Unemployment Insurance claimants to file initial and weekly claims using the agency’s improved online system.

“If they would face a wait of a number of minutes on the phone, they could avoid that by going directly to the website and filing there,” said DWD spokesman John Dipko. DWD rolled out a number of improvements to online filing this fall.

Claimants who file initial claims online can take advantage of several improvements that were rolled out this fall:

· Added features to allow most initial claims to be completed online without the assistance of a claims specialist. Claimants also can save their work and finish their claim at a later time.
· A new employer search that makes it easier for claimants to add employer information to their claim.
· Enhanced search capability for claimants to select specific occupations.
· Online fact-finding capability to resolve certain eligibility questions online quickly, reducing the need to mail paper questionnaires to a claimant to complete by hand and mail back.
· User-friendly assistance for new claimants who are unfamiliar with the online system.

Those who file weekly claims online also have access to additional features, such as:

· Viewable, printer-friendly UI payment history with the ability to select a specific time period for review and print.
· Additional details of UI benefits paid, monetary issues, eligibility determinations and appeal information.
· An enhanced online UI benefits calculator with expanded functionality to provide more precise calculations for partial and full-time wages.

Wisconsin and other cold-weather states typically experience an increase in “unemployment” claims during the late fall and first half of winter. Dipko said DWD wants to get the word out about saving time online, but the agency is also taking steps to make the phone-in system more efficient as well.

“We’ll be extending call center hours as necessary during the upcoming weeks. And we’re also encouraging claimants who prefer to file by phone to do so on certain days of the week.”

Wisconsin’s unemployment rate recently reached a new post-recession low of 5.5%, but the expected seasonal increase in claims activity seen in cold-weather states is an annual occurrence that is independent of any general trend in unemployment rates.

‘Original Famous Dave’s’ destroyed by fire

A northern Wisconsin landmark has burned to the ground. The original Famous Dave’s BBQ Restaurant, the first location for the successful barbecue chain, was destroyed in a fire early Monday morning.

The Sawyer County Record reported that dispatchers began receiving 911 calls around at 4:30 a.m. Flames being seen jumping from the bar area of the restaurant on Round Lake near Hayward. Fire crews from the Town of Hayward and Town of Round Lake Fire Departments responded and found the structure engulfed. No one was inside the building at the time the fire was discovered.

Famous Dave’s founder Dave Anderson expressed his sadness in a Facebook post early Monday.

“At 4:30 AM I was awakened by a call that my first restaurant The Original Famous Dave’s in Hayward Wi was ablaze. 20 years of memories. We will rebuild,” wrote Anderson. “For all our employees– Kathy and me and our GM Dave Von Rueden…we will find a location to be open ASAP. Maybe even in one of our pole barns at the family farm. Just know we will reopen and start serving great BBQ all over again! Please let everyone know this is only a temporary setback and we will begin anew!!!”

Anderson opened the original restaurant on Round Lake in 1994. The chain has expanded and now has locations in 34 U.S. states, Puerto Rico, and one Canadian province.

Suspect jailed in Packers ticket scam

A Marshfield man is under arrest for scamming fifteen Green Bay Packers fans out of $46,034 dollars. Patrick Blachut, 37, was arrested by Marshfield Police Wednesday. Lieutenant Darren Larson said Blachut approached people in personal and business settings claiming to be an agent selling tickets for players and others associated with the team, offering “tickets essentially at face value at very desirable locations of Lambeau Field.”

Blachut earned their trust and made the sales, but never had the tickets. Police have identified victims in several communities, including Auburndale, Chippewa Falls, Fond du Lac, Marshfield, Plover, Wausau, and Wisconsin Rapids.

The victims lost between a few hundred dollars up to over $6,000 dollars each. Most of the money is gone and cannot be recovered. Investigators believe the money was used for online gambling.