Thursday, April 1, 2010

Fire struck Stan and Sue Gausman’s home

Although the home of Stan and Sue Gausman in the Town of Hammond, north of Baldwin along USH 63, is still standing, it remains to be seen whether it can be salvaged.
Sue Gausman said on Monday of this week that the insurance adjuster hasn’t given a verdict whether the home is totalled, or not.
The fire is still under investigation, Sue added, but it’s obvious that the fire started at the fuel oil burning furnace in the basement of the home.
In the meantime, soot covers everything in the house. Sue said the house was filled with smoke and although most of the burning was in walls and ceilings, there is also some outward evidence of burning.
Sue said the house can be stripped down to the wooden studs and everything can be cleaned of soot. But all the woodwork will have to be cleaned, sanded, restained and varnished if the house is deemed not destroyed by the fire and smoke.
Sue said the house is 70 years old and was well-built. Before Sue and Stan raised their family there it was occupied by Stan’s parents and before that by the Bernard Donkersgoeds.
While awaiting a decision on what will happen to their house, the Gausmans have been able to rent a nearby house.
Sue said she isn’t sure what the future holds and for now it is one day at a time.
“I am so overwhelmed,” said Sue, but not by the fire that may lead to the razing of their house, but “by people’s kindness. When I sit down and cry at night it’s because I’m overwhelmed by all the kindness. We live in such a kind community.”

NSP substation planned for August completion

The new NSP-Wisconsin electric substation taking shape on Woodville’s western edge is planned for an August completion, according to Brad Nelson, Project Manager.
Nelson said the new distribution substation is being build to replace the existing “east Baldwin” substation. The new substation is necessary because this area of western Wisconsin has experienced substantial population increases and the current substation is inadequate for the load, Nelson said.
According to Brian Elwood, Manager of Corporate Communication for NSP-Wisconsin, the substation is designed to take high voltage electricity and transform it to a lower voltage, although not necessarily to a low enough voltage for consumer use.
The work at the site west of Woodville first required substantial fill to make a level site for the substation, said Nelson. A temporary road was also built across some wetlands to the west of the substation to build some new distribution facilities and re-build some others. The temporary road was used in an effort to preserve and prevent damage to the wetlands.
The company worked with the Public Service Commission, the Department of Natural Resources and St. Croix County in planning the new substation, Nelson said. As a result of county input, there will be a 12 foot berm constructed on the north side of the new substation on which trees will be planted as a buffer from the road.
The electricity coming into the new substation is 161,000 volts and is part of a transmission grid served by several sources of electricity which are interconnected with each other, Nelson said.
During the transfer to the new substation there should be no significant electrical outages, Nelson said. There could be minor outages but NSP will work with customers to minimize the effects.
The effect of the new substation will probably not be noticeable, Nelson said, other than enhancing the electrical distribution system to make it more reliable.

Sheriff Hillstead announces he will not seek re-election

Sheriff Dennis Hillstead announced last Friday that this will be his last term as St. Croix County Sheriff. Hillstead said he made this notice early enough so those interested in seeking the Office of Sheriff will have sufficient time to make an informed decision and to gear up for a run for the office this year.
Hillstead expressed his deep appreciation to the people of St. Croix County who have allowed him to serve these past 12 years as Sheriff. Many changes have taken place since he began his law enforcement career in 1970. When he started in the Sheriff’s Office in 1972 the department consisted of Sheriff Charlie Grant, five patrol deputies and six jailer/dispatchers and a budget of around $400,000. There are now 86 full time employees, 14 part time and a 172 bed jail according to Hillstead. The county population has doubled in size to over 80,000 and the number of calls for service has gone from 3,000 a year to 13,000 with a budget in excess of nine million dollars. St. Croix County is unique in that three quarters of the population live in unincorporated portions of the county that the Sheriff has total responsibility for, along with assisting the Village and City Police Departments.
There have been many accomplishments, said Hillstead, along with a few pit falls since he assumed the Office of Sheriff. St. Croix County Sheriff’s Department consists of highly trained and dedicated men and women. Hillstead believes the greatest success would be in the response to the meth problem during the first seven years of this decade. It is one of the few times that law enforcement, courts, prosecutors, treatment and the state legislature came together in a joint effort and were successful in those efforts. During the early part of this decade meth was at epidemic proportions in St. Croix County. At one point the jail reached a population of 168 inmates with roughly 60 percent in jail for meth related crimes. St. Croix County jail population is currently half of that number with an estimate of 20 percent meth related. This is an example of how when organizations work together it can result in a positive outcome, said Hillstead.
The position of Sheriff as the Chief Law Enforcement Officer in the County is one of extreme importance. It is one that requires experience, education, training, patience and a heart for the people that he/she serves. It is not a job for the faint hearted, nor for those who seek power or authority according to Hillstead. It is Hillstead’s hope that the person selected to fill this office will possess those attributes.
“Although this is a difficult decision for me, I believe that it is time, along with my wife Kristine, who has stood by me for 40 years, to seek a new path to walk. It has been a time of blessing for me to have served you,” Sheriff Hillstead said.

From the Exchanges
Interesting items from
surrounding communities

TRIBUNE PRESS REPORTER (GLENWOOD CITY): One of the Glenwood City School Districts wish list items was checked off at Monday night’s school board meeting with the donation of an electronic roadside events sign from Hiawatha National Bank. Bank representatives Jim and Jeanene Meisser and Cindy Tuttle attended a meeting with Jim Meisser, president and CEO, giving an oral presentation. Meisser said they had decided to donate the sign for several reasons. These included that many of their clients have children attending the school, many of their local directors are involved with the school, many of their employees attended and graduated from the school, and the bank acknowledges the importance of the school’s job in educating the children in this community. The external electronic events sign will display the time and temperature and messages that can be viewed from the road. Meisser said they would be purchasing the sign in the second quarter.

PIERCE COUNTY HERALD (ELLSWORTH): A Pierce County employee was charged in circuit court Wednesday with falsifying records and theft. Roger L. Billeter, 51, of Beldenville, who works for the highway department is looking at two Class I felonies, which each carry a maximum penalty of $10,000 and/or 42 months in prison , if found guilty. His first court appearance is scheduled for 10 a.m. Monday, April 19. According to the criminal complaint, sheriff’s department investigators were first notified of the alleged incident in November when Chad Johnson, highway commissioner and Jim Harris, highway superintendent came to them with information Billeter was involved in the theft of diesel fuel. Harris old investigators there was documentation Billeter, a highway employee for 12 years, has had a pattern of inconsistent fuel shortages and record keeping since April 2008. The continued that, in his job as foreman, Billeter is to transport diesel fuel in his assigned truck to the job site and fuel equipment unable tot be driven back to Ellsworth to be fueled at the central pumps located at the highway. Harris said that from his review of the documents involving Billeter’s hand receipts he has identified approximately 145 incidents of fuel receipts/records as being either filled out incorrectly or falsely altered to hide the theft of fuel from the highway department.

RIVER FALLS JOURNAL: School board members expressed frustration and regret Monday night but unanimously passed a $366,600 reduction package to balance next year’s budget. The savings will come from all grade levels and the central administrative office. Other savings will come from buying one less school bus and raising music instrument rental and high school activity fees. And there will be fewer paraprofessionals, middle school band lessons, math and reading specialists and high school electives, including an end to Japanese foreign language after next year. School board member Manny Kenney, running unopposed in the April 6 spring election called the 2010-11 budget reduction package part of a “long and painful process for all of us.” The reduction package was crafted over several months by administrators and principals with input from teachers and staff. A large crowd at a March 8 public hearing spoke for preserving the level of paraprofessionals, middle school band lessons and Japanese program.

HUDSON STAR OBSERVER: An accident Wednesday morning, March 17, at the intersection of Crest View Drive and Industrial Street took the life of 19-year-old Kevin W. Johnson of Hudson. Johnson was struck by a heavy-duty truck and trailer as he was attempting to cross Industrial St. at the traffic signals. The truck was operated by Steven W. Sherman, 51, of Brooklyn Center, Minn., a driver for Northern Metal Recycling of Minneapolis. Sherman was northbound on Industrial Street and had stopped for a red light at Crest View Drive before beginning a right turn onto Crest Vie, according to a press release from the Hudson Police Department. The press release said Johnson was attempting to cross Industrial Street from east to west and entered the crosswalk area at about the same time that Sherman began to turn onto Crest View. Johnson died at the scene. He had a bicycle with him, but the police weren’t certain immediately following the accident if Johnson was riding it or walking with it when he was struck. Hudson Police Lt. Paul Larson said that the Wisconsin State Patrol was called in to reconstruct the accident because it involved a commercial vehicle. He said four state troopers had inspected the scene and would be issuing a detailed report. He said a witness who was in a vehicle on Crest View Drive approaching the intersection from the west saw the truck stopped at the red light. The witness also saw Johnson on the east side of Industrial just before the accident, but didn’t notice if he was on or off his bicycle. The triple-axle truck used to haul metal for recycling was pulling a double-axle trailer.

THE SUN (OSCEOLA): Polk County will sell or dispose of nearly $40,000 worth of new tables, chairs and other items ordered without authorization “by whatever means necessary.” A Wonderland-like twist to the county’s furniture fiasco is that the county board last week rejected a proposed resolution that would have given the county ownership of the merchandise, corporate counsel Jeff Fuge said, and then passed a motion by a 12-10 vote to proceed with the disposal of the property by whatever means necessary. Human Services Director Sherry Gjonnes ordered the furniture in late December without authorization from the Human Services Board and in violation of the county’s purchasing policy. While Human Services Board chair Diane Stoneking favors trying to return the merchandise to Staples, Fuge has said at several meetings that Staples representatives have indicated to him the furniture is non-returnable because the finish on the tables and chairs made them custom-order items. The order included 40 tables, 80 chairs, five lecterns, a table cart and three projection screens. It was intended for use in four conference rooms in the Polk County Government Center to allow those rooms to be used for more in-house training of county employees. The resolution at issue at the county board meeting called for some accounting adjustments to void the 2009 purchase and transfer the necessary money into the Parks, Buildings & Solid Waste Department to allow for the purchase as part of that department 2010 budget. “To me this should be soundly voted down,” Finance Committee chairman Gary Bergstrom said. “It’s unfortunate that it was purchased but nevertheless: it’s not budgeted. We should not approve this.” The Human Services board will deal with the disciplinary element related to the purchase Gjonnes made.

SUN-ARGUS (PIERCE COUNTY): There’s a lot going on in the media concerning the Village Board of Elmwood and a former employee. It appears the split was not as easy as it was hoped to be. Jodi Pulk resigned her position as the clerk and treasurer of the Village in January after being suspended in November from her duties. When she resigned there were some unanswered questions, but in the end it seemed that the parting of ways was in the best interest of both parties. According to Village Trustee Bob Rupakus, Pulk resigned but likely would have been fired had she not resigned. “She certainly followed improper procedures, Rupakus said. At one point we had even considered filing criminal charges but decided not to. According to Rupakus, the Personnel Committee met with Pulk in January of 2009 and discussed some of the accusations that had arisen. The committee then met again in November of 2009 and discussed more accusations that had come to light. There were quite a few issues brought up in that time, something Pulk had a problem with. “The night that I was suspended they brought up any problem, large or small, going back years,” Pulk said. “This board chooses not to deal with an issue when it occurs but to save up many small items to make a mountain out of a mole hill.”