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Local
Village of Walworth seeks 15 percent water rate increase

MADISON

The Walworth Municipal Water Utility is seeking a 15 percent rate increase—about $6 per quarterly bill—to pay for future improvements, according to a rate application filed Thursday with the state Public Service Commission.

It’s the first full rate case the utility has filed in 11 years. If approved as submitted, it would boost the quarterly cost of 9,000 gallons of water for average residential customers from $39.36 to $45.26, a $5.90 increase.

The increase to individual customers would depend on usage and other factors.

The utility’s rates were increased 3 percent in 2015 through a simplified procedure used to help utilities keep up with inflation, said Lisa Rogers, village deputy clerk. The utility now needs additional revenue to build cash reserves to to pay for repainting the village’s 500,000-gallon water tower and rehabilitate a well, Rogers said.

The 500,000-gallon tower was repainted in 2006-07, according to the application, and will need repainting in another five years at estimated cost of $500,000. A well is scheduled to be rehabilitated next year, although no cost estimate was provided.

A call to Tim Boss, public works director, was not returned by deadline.

The utility will hire an additional employee for field operations next year, Rogers said. The added cost will boost annual labor expense from $55,510 to $98,025, according to the application.

Before the 2006 rate increase, the utility went about 20 years without raising rates, leaving it “cash poor,” Rogers said. Instead of raising rates, the utility borrowed money from the village, she said. The utility reported owing the village $1.51 million last year and will owe $1.29 million in 2018 after making annual payments, according to the application.

The requested rates are projected to increase annual revenue by $74,165 to $520,387. After estimated expenses of $479,251, the utility would have a $41,136 net operating income and a 5 percent rate of return on the value of its infrastructure investment, according to the application.

Before new rates are set, PSC staff will analyze the application and recommend how much revenue the utility needs to be financially viable. The public can comment on the recommendation at a public hearing to be held simultaneously in Walworth and Madison. The PSC will designate a time and place for the hearing in a future order.

Rogers said she hopes to have new rates set by the end of the year.


Crime
Death of Jordan White ruled suicide, but questions remain

JANESVILLE

The Rock County Medical Examiner’s Department has classified the death of Jordan R. White as a suicide, although police acknowledge they don’t know exactly what happened to the 23-year-old whose body was found in the Rock River on Jan. 1.

The medical examiner’s report says White died of drowning, Janesville police Lt. Terry Sheridan said.

The pathologist’s report also states that drugs found in over-the-counter cough syrup—chlorpheniramine and dextromethorphan—were found in White’s blood and likely caused significant impairment.

Levels of the drugs were well above therapeutic dosages, Sheridan said.

White had at least one previous suicide attempt, which figured in the medical examiner’s conclusion, Sheridan said.

Sheridan said he interprets the report as saying suicide can’t be ruled out as White’s intent, but he was impaired to such an extent that whatever caused him to enter the river, the result would have been death.

Police do not know where White entered the river.

White was seen leaving his south-side home on his bicycle Nov. 8, en route to an acquaintance on the near east side. The bicycle was later recovered near the cave at Monterey Park.

No suicide note was found, Sheridan said.

“That’s tough for the family—the suicide ruling by the pathologist—especially when there is no note,” Sheridan said.

The investigation is closed but can be reopened.

“If we get information that might shed light on it, especially if somebody was with him, we would follow up” and refer any new information to the medical examiner’s department, Sheridan said.


News
top story
Competency evaluation ordered in assault-of-elderly case

JANESVILLE

A 16-year-old boy charged as an adult with sexually assaulting an an elderly Beloit woman last July was scheduled to be sentenced Friday in Rock County Court, but Judge Michael Haakenson called it off and ordered a competency evaluation.

Christopher E. Brooks Jr., of 817 Lincoln Ave., Beloit, had pleaded guilty in February to second-degree sexual assault by use of force. Charges of aggravated battery and burglary were dismissed but read into the record as part of a plea agreement.

Defense attorney Ashley Morse told Haakenson that an evaluation of Brooks, which she didn’t receive until Tuesday, turned up serious concerns about his ability to understand the legal process.

He was not able to tell an evaluator the function of a jury, identify who represented him in court or give a definition of “innocent until proved guilty,” Morse said.

Distrit Attorney David O’Leary said he was frustrated at the 11th-hour change, especially because of the effect on the victim. Morse had warned O’Leary of her concerns ahead of time, so the victim was told to stay home Friday.

Haakenson cited court cases that say that in order to be competent, the accused must be able to consult with his attorney and understand court proceedings.

Haakenson said he also was concerned for the victim and her family: “I imagine they’re reliving that horror each time they get ready (for court).”

But Haakenson said he didn’t have much choice.

Haakenson set a status hearing for Sept. 1, when attorneys will consider the evaluator’s report, and Haakenson will decide if a competency hearing is needed.


Local
Judge OKs jury hearing about sex assault, child porn allegations in Whitewater homicide case

ELKHORN

If a Whitewater murder suspect can show a factual basis for self-defense, then allegations against the murder victim of sexual and physical assault and child pornography possession would be admissible during his trial, a Walworth County judge ruled Friday.

The crux of the case is not whether Alan M. Johnson, 32, killed his brother-in-law Ken Myszkewicz, 43, in Myszkewicz’s Whitewater home Oct. 25.

The main arguments center on why Johnson showed up in Myszkewicz’s home that night and searched Myszkewicz’s computer for nearly two hours, as Johnson’s lawyer Stephen Hurley argued.

Johnson, who is charged with first-degree intentional homicide and armed burglary, claims he went to Myszkewicz’s home to find child porn he believed to be there after having seen some on Myszkewicz’s computer five or six years earlier, according to court filings.

In April 2015, citing fear for the safety of his goddaughter around Myszkewicz, Johnson filed a report with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children about the child porn he said he found years earlier.

Walworth County sheriff’s deputies interviewed Johnson the next month and told him the information was dated and they did not have enough to start an investigation. If Johnson found new information, he should report back to them, they told him.

After Johnson confided to his father, former Racine County Sheriff Eric Johnson, that Myszkewicz had sexually molested him as a child and that he had found child porn on Myszkewicz’s computer, Eric Johnson told Myszkewicz to get help and told Alan Johnson to report the child porn.

Alan Johnson decided after Myszkewicz delayed getting help that he would return to find more recent evidence police had asked for, according to court documents.

Judge Kristine Drettwan ruled Friday that the defense can include this argument as to why Johnson went to Myszkewicz’s home.

Defense lawyers argue in court filings that Myszkewicz, while naked, found Johnson in the small room with the computer and charged at him.

“Alan extended his left arm to block the charge, and his right arm to shoot,” according to an affidavit Hurley filed July 6. “Ken died.”

Drettwan also ruled to allow the defense to include allegations from Alan Johnson and his sister (not the one married to Myszkewicz) that Myszkewicz choked them both nearly to the point of passing out when they were children, Hurley’s affidavit states.

Drettwan also would allow Johnson’s allegation that Myszkewicz sexually molested him as a child.

Assistant District Attorney Diane Donohoo argued introducing allegations of sexual assault, physical assault and child porn possession would create several trials within one murder trial.

Drettwan ruled the information was relevant.

Drettwan ruled the defense cannot reveal to a jury what Johnson or police might or might not have found on Myszkewicz’s computer the night of the murder.

That night, Johnson found more than 5,000 files of neighborhood girls going to and from school or participating in athletic events, Johnson’s lawyers past and present have argued in court filings and in open court. Myszkewicz’s home is near a school. Many of the files were organized into categories such as “Blondie’s.”

Drettwan ruled that information would be “unfairly prejudicial.”

“(It) is not relevant. It doesn’t matter, frankly,” Drettwan said. “Whether the defendant was correct or incorrect about the child pornography is not relevant to the homicide, to any claim of self-defense or to the burglary charge.”

After Drettwan’s ruling, Hurley said arguing why Johnson showed up to the Myszkewicz house without being able to show what he found could leave the jury to assume he found nothing.

“That will make it appear to the jury that there was none,” Hurley said.

“Not necessarily,” Drettwan responded.

Drettwan also ruled the defense cannot make arguments that Myszkewicz was “self-absorbed, domineering and aggressive,” as Hurley wrote in July 6 affidavit.

Johnson is scheduled for a jury trial from Oct. 30 to Nov. 3, with a final pretrial conference at 2:30 p.m. Oct. 19.


Local
Jonah goes to the fair and asks, 'What's best about the fair?'

JANESVILLE

There were tears.

There was a burp.

There was a grown man enjoying a big purple slide.

Gazette reporter Jonah Beleckis went to the Rock County 4-H Fair on Tuesday to get a feel for the fair’s appeal.

We got to hear what locals recalled as their best fair memory and what their favorite part of the fair is.

Some loved the rides. Others said showing animals was their favorite.

What is your favorite memory of the fair? The cheese curds? The sheep? Seeing Clark Kent in person?

Have a question for another video Jonah should ask the people of Janesville?

Comment online or email jbeleckis@gazettextra.com.


Alan M. Johnson