MADISON - Walker touts property tax relief throughout Wisconsin
Gov. Scott Walker embarked on a "property tax relief" tour throughout Wisconsin on Wednesday, stopping in Madison to address the Senate Republican caucus.

Walker commended lawmakers for their role in lowering taxes, focusing heavily on the property tax relief provided through aid to schools and technical colleges. The governor signed into law last spring $400 million in relief to technical schools in hopes of lowering their levies.

Walker said the difference in what a typical homeowner owed for property taxes in December 2010, compared to December 2014, is $141.

The governor has committed to furthering tax cuts in his next budget.

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GREEN BAY – Brown County blocks sales tax referendum proposal
Brown County voters will not have a chance to cast their ballots next April on whether the county should establish a new sales tax.

The County Board voted Wednesday against holding an advisory referendum on creating a new sales tax when an existing Lambeau Field tax expires.

The board's action followed a lively debate about whether the county needs additional revenue and whether voters would tolerate a new tax precisely when an old one is going away.

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APPLETON – Health care costs soar in Fox Valley
Health insurance costs have climbed faster in Northeastern Wisconsin than anywhere else in the state over the past 14 years, according to an annual report released this week.

The cost of monthly premiums for large group plans in Green Bay ballooned 366 percent since 2000, a rate that greatly outpaces any other metro area in the state, according the ninth annual Wisconsin Health Insurance Cost Rankings Report.

The region had the lowest-cost premiums for large group insurance pools in 2000, but high rates of inflation have since pushed premium costs well above the state average.

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EAU CLAIRE - City parking ramp preparations continue
Demolishing the former downtown post office and other preparations for a new city parking ramp will continue over winter in anticipation of spring construction.

The Redevelopment Authority approved a $387,340 contract with Haas Sons of Thorp on Wednesday morning to demolish the former post office building, 126 N. Barstow St., and get rid of soil tainted by industries that used to be in the North Barstow Street area.

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LA CROSSE – Study says downtown parking shortage to worsen
Parking problems in the heart of La Crosse could become ever more acute in the next five years, according to a new study that projects the city will need almost 1,700 more spaces to accommodate planned development downtown.

The downtown now is about 300 parking stalls short of meeting demand, according to an updated parking report prepared by Rich & Associates Inc. of the Detroit area.

But with several major developments slated in the next few years — two and potentially three additional hotels, the Lot C complex, the La Crosse County Administrative Center being converted to student housing — that parking deficit could rise to a projected 1,681 spaces needed by the decade’s end, Public Works Director Dale Hexom told the Municipal Parking Utility Board on Wednesday.

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MADISON - T. Wall plan for Park Street dairy site lauded, rapped
It’s been more than a decade since Dean Foods closed the former Bancroft Dairy plant at Park Street and Fish Hatchery Road.

While hardly a work of art, the old dairy served as a reminder of south Madison’s glory days when the corridor was thriving with a curious mix of local businesses.

About half of the 3.3-acre site has since been developed into UW Health’s new 78,000 square foot Wingra Clinic. But the prominent triangular corner remains vacant.

Now, Middleton-based T. Wall Enterprises is floating plans for a mixed-used development featuring 186 apartment units over 13,000 square feet of ground floor commercial space. Three six-story apartment buildings and a two-story townhouse would connect via a 173-space parking deck under a rooftop plaza.

The proposal is leaving some neighbors anxious and others excited.

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RIB MOUNTAIN - Granite Peak's proposed expansion could cost $50 million
The owner of Granite Peak in Rib Mountain on Tuesday outlined a $50 million dollar expansion proposal for the ski area that would add lodging and more than a dozen new ski runs to the grounds and increase the number of hiking trails and summer recreation opportunities there.

Granite Peak Ski Area owner Charles Skinner said he submitted an expansion proposal to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources about a week ago to expand the ski area's leased area within Rib Mountain State Park by 150 acres, from 415 to 565 acres. That would allow Skinner to create a dozen new novice and intermediate runs on the west side of the mountain and an additional two-and-a-half runs on the far eastern portion of the ski area.

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GREEN BAY - Billboard property among Packers’ latest acquisitions
The Road Star Inn on True Lane is the final property the Green Bay Packers need for complete ownership of the block from South Ridge Road to Marlee Lane.

The team recorded the purchase of the billboard that towers above The Blind Ref restaurant on Friday. It bought the billboard property for $50,000 on Dec. 5. The tiny parcel was assessed at $3,800 and 2014 taxes are $75.40.

Also this year, the team acquired four other parcels outside the Ridge-to-Marlee area specifically designated for commercial development.

The Packers now own 61 parcels near Lambeau Field, all in the village of Ashwaubenon, totaling more than 64 acres. The team plans to develop land west of Lambeau Field to provide it with non-football sources of income, similar in concept to New England’s Patriot Place adjacent to Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass. Patriot Place includes restaurants, retail shops, a movie theater, a hotel and a Bass Pro Shop.

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MADISON - Wisconsin ranked as 12th highest taxed state
A new analysis finds that Wisconsin is the 12th highest taxed state in the country and third highest in the upper Midwest.

The nonpartisan Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance said that was based on Census data on tax collections Tuesday. It analyzed the tax data as a percentage of personal income.

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MADISON - New frac sand mines allowed to open despite lack of waterway protections
In early September, discharge from the EOG Resources DS sand mine in the town of Cooks Valley in Chippewa County turned Eighteen Mile Creek milky white with suspended clay for more than a week.

That incident, one of several across northwest Wisconsin in which frac sand mines have adversely affected waterways, is a sign of inadequate state regulations, a state water regulator has confirmed.

The state Department of Natural Resources is allowing frac sand mining to expand even though it let its mine permitting rules expire nine months ago because they weren’t adequately protecting streams from pollution, the agency said.

Agency staff members have been unable to write a new sand mining permit with stronger environmental protections, but the DNR has continued to allow new mines to be opened up, water division deputy director Russ Rasmussen said.

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SHEBOYGAN - Surf simulator aims to draw more visitors to Sheboygan
It’s all about the width, and the pumps. That’s what will make the double surf simulator at Breaker Bay Waterpark in Blue Harbor Resort and Spa one of the state’s largest indoor surf attractions.

This new experience, Riptide, not only is expected to extend Sheboygan’s surfing season amid 84 degree temperatures year-round.

The new $1.7 million attraction opens Thursday. General admission is included for resort guests.

It’s the second attraction added by Blue Harbor in recent months, the first being the black-light golf course, Lost Temples.

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BELOIT - Former team president offers to buy Snappers
Details are slim, but a former board member of the Beloit Snappers baseball team has floated a plan to buy the franchise.

According to a press release from a group calling itself Throwing Cheese Baseball, former Snappers Board President Brian Christianson is offering to buy the Class A Midwest League affiliate.

The release says Christianson sent a three-page memo to former colleagues at the Snappers that “outlined the challenges” for the Beloit franchise, and “makes the case for private ownership.”

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OSHKOSH - Panera Bread restaurant should open by October
Panera Bread received initial approval for plans to open a nearly 4,300-square-foot restaurant on Oshkosh's west side by October.

The Oshkosh Plan Commission approved a conditional use permit and development plans for a Panera location at 1090 N. Washburn St. The site plans include a drive-thru and an outdoor patio with seating for about 30 people.

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FOND DU LAC - Mercury Marine and union agree to extend contract through 2021
Mercury Marine and the negotiating committee of International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Lodge 1947 have agreed to a contract extension through 2021.

The five-year extension (on the current contract which expires in 2016) was voted on Sunday by members of IAM Lodge 1947 and will be signed by both Mercury Marine and its labor union, according to a Mercury Marine press release.

Mercury Marine employs about 2,800 people at its global headquarters in Fond du Lac and more than 5,200 worldwide. About 1,600 of the Fond du Lac employees are hourly.

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JANESVILLE - Dick's, Ulta and a renovation coming to Janesville Mall
The Janesville Mall made official what's been the worst-kept secret in Janesville for months: Dick's Sporting Goods and Ulta Beauty will lease portions of the former JCPenney store.

The mall's owner also said Friday the property at 2500 Milton Avenue would get a multi-million dollar renovation next year.

The renovation will include new soft seating areas, food court amenities, new flooring, ceiling and lighting upgrades.

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