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Janesville to require private owners to remove, replace lead water pipes


If you’re one of the few homeowners in Janesville with lead pipes leading from your yard to your house, it’ll be on you to fix that.

Under a new ordinance approved by the city council Monday, the 198 known properties with privately owned lead water lines will be required to remove and replace them at some point.

But don’t fret. The number of properties with lead water lines between the sidewalk and the property is almost nil. And state and federal grant programs will be available to cover part or all of the cost.

Utilities Director Dave Botts said the city is in the midst of replacing about 1,080 lead water service lines on public property, a project that began in 2009. It’s part of the city’s effort to meet Environmental Protection Agency and state Department of Natural Resources mandates for safe, clean water without free-floating lead.

The city plans to knock out public lead pipe removal and replacement over a 13-year time frame, mostly dovetailing that work with scheduled street replacement.

Botts said people who have lead water pipes on privately held property must replace the lines over the next four or five years, with the city scheduling about 40 replacements a year.

That would amount to about $100,000 in replacement costs in the next year.

Botts said the scope of Janesville’s lead pipe problem is much smaller than in cities such as Madison and Milwaukee, which have grappled with similar problems in recent years.

He said the city learned from a local plumbing contractor that plumbers began using galvanized iron instead of lead pipes to pipe water to houses as early as the 1920s.

“We found out they used iron instead of lead because it was lighter weight,” he said. “That means a lot less lead services installed than we anticipated.”

Botts said it’s “very good news” that only a fraction of residents will have to deal with replacing lead lines and that most of the houses affected are in older parts of Janesville—mainly in the “central city” area.

Under the ordinance approved Monday, people with lead water pipes will be notified about removing and replacing them.

They’ll be required to respond to the city within 35 days and coordinate with a private contractor on a list provided by the city.

The cost for water lateral replacement typically runs $5,000 or less per property, but it could be less expensive under a grant funding plan tied to the new ordinance.

Botts said two streams of funding could offset or fully cover the cost of replacing old lead lines.

A state grant could pay for up to $2,500 of the cost of replacement, and federal funding through a community development block grant program will pay “up to 100%” of the cost of replacement for “income-eligible residents,” Botts said.

Residents and property owners must apply for those grants themselves.

City council member Douglas Marklein, the only council member who opposed the ordinance, said he was “uncomfortable” with trying to force property owners who have “property rights” to tackle work that could cost them thousands of dollars.

Council member Sue Conley said Botts and the city’s utility should consider immediately notifying all 198 private property owners with lead pipes that they’re being put on a four- or five-year schedule for replacement.

That, Conley said, could give people with limited means a chance to save money to get the work done.

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Dogs abandoned in Walmart parking lot now up for adoption


Dexter and Berry, two dogs found abandoned and malnourished in a Walmart parking lot in late November, are healthier after extensive treatment and are now available for adoption from Lakeland Animal Shelter.

Shelter Director Kristen Perry said Monday the staff has received some applications and is accepting more in hopes of finding the “right match” for the two dogs, who must stay together.

In a video the shelter shared Friday on Facebook, Dexter, a Dachshund, and Berry, a Doxie-Chin mix also known as Blackberry, are seen energetically wagging their tails, bouncing around with toys and getting belly rubs.

“We really couldn’t hope for better in their recovery right now,” Perry said. “They’re feeling good, enjoying life, and they really enjoy each other’s company.”

The dogs came to the shelter about six weeks ago in much different condition.

They were “extremely emaciated” when they were found in the parking lot of the Delavan Walmart on Nov. 28, according to the criminal complaint charging an Elkhorn man with leaving them there after he took them in months earlier after a divorce.

Jeffery M. Freund, 48, of 270 W. Centralia St., pleaded not guilty Monday to two counts each of mistreating animals and intentionally abandoning animals, as well as a single count of obstructing an officer, court records show. He’s next due in court at 1:15 p.m. Feb. 10.

Under the shelter’s care, Perry said Dexter and Berry had a “regimented” eating schedule—a low-fat diet with feeding every two hours.

When they first came to the shelter, Dexter and Berry weighed 8 and 5 pounds, respectively, the Facebook post states. They recently checked in at 13.3 and 10.9 pounds.

Some exercise was allowed, and officials repeatedly checked the dogs’ bloodwork.

Oral infections also required serious work. Dexter had 16 teeth extracted, and Berry had four. The Facebook post includes recent photos of the dogs’ mouths to show their recovery.

“Pretty major surgery,” she said.

Angela Major 

Berry, left, and Dexter, shown Monday at Lakeland Animal Shelter in Delavan, are now available for adoption. The dogs were nursed back to health after they were found wandering in the Delavan Walmart parking lot.

While the case had “unique” elements, Perry said in the last two months staff has seen seven other cases of severely neglected dogs with overgrown fur and nails, flea infestation, and jaw disintegration from infections.

Perry said it took a team of people to get Dexter and Berry as healthy as they are today, ranging from community support through donations to the veterinary care through the Lake Geneva Animal Hospital.

Over the last several weeks, Perry said shelter officials have noticed how Dexter and Berry do not like to be separated for various procedures.

“It’s very clear that they want to stay together,” she said, adding that’s why they are looking for a home that will accommodate them both.

Those interested in applying can go to lakeland animalshelter.org and fill out a dog adopter profile. Perry said Dexter cannot be with cats, and the duo probably prefer to be the only pets—although that was “not set in stone.”

She said the process usually takes about a week or so, but it depends because the shelter always tries to find the best fit.

“They’re fun, playful little guys. It’s been really neat to get to know their personalities,” she said. “And now that they’re not worried about where their next meal is coming from, you get to see how they are.

“Whoever adopts them is going to be pretty lucky to be able to have them.”

Angela Major 

Berry is one of two dogs who were found in a Walmart parking lot. He’s being held by Tiffini Heim of Lakeland Animal Shelter in Delavan.

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Janesville's Back Bar could lose license for shots-fired incident


The owners of The Back Bar could lose their liquor license over a shots-fired incident last fall.

Co-owner Robert Kerman said Janesville police are wrong about what happened.

Police Chief Dave Moore said the incident at the music venue is concerning enough that he is taking the information to the city’s Alcohol License Advisory Committee.

Moore is asking the committee to recommend revocation of the venue’s liquor license or suspension “for a substantial period of time,” according to a statement to the committee by Moore’s attorney.

The committee meets Friday. If it recommends revocation or suspension, the action would go to the city council for a decision.

The Back Bar, 1900 Beloit Ave., was hosting a private birthday party for an out-of-town man Nov. 23. As the party broke up shortly before 2 a.m., someone fired shots out the window of an SUV, Kerman said.

Kerman said he called 911 right away. Moore acknowledged Kerman made the call.

Moore said no injuries were reported and no arrest was made, although the incident remains under investigation.

Moore contends the owners—Robert and his wife, Diane Kerman—could have done a better job of investigating the background of the person holding the party, who has a criminal record, and could have done a better job of controlling the event, including requiring a contract that would have established rules for guests.

Robert Kerman said his wife checked the person’s background, so he knew about it, but he didn’t expect any trouble for a semi-private event. Kerman said he could have done more checking, but “I thought it was going to be a simple, harmless night.”

Kerman said he has a good relationship with local police, who help him when he is scheduling events, sometimes even checking the backgrounds of the acts. Moore agreed.

“We had a good working relationship with Mr. Kerman of The Back Bar, and he has sought our assistance and advice,” Moore said.

Kerman said he didn’t ask for police to check the person’s background this time because it was just a birthday party with a DJ. About 100 friends were supposed to show up.

Kerman said it appeared the man fired the shots into the air in celebration with no hostile intent. Moore said police have not determined a motive or determined the shots’ trajectories.

Kerman said he was outside thanking patrons leaving the bar when he heard four “pops” and immediately called 911.

Kerman said the shots were fired from a vehicle on Kellogg Avenue, not in his parking lot, and surveillance video he supplied to police will show that. Moore said the incident happened on Back Bar property.

“I can’t control a crowd on Kellogg Avenue after an event. After everybody’s out, that’s not on me,” Kerman said.

Police arrived after receiving a call at 1:59 a.m. and saw many people yelling “Cops! Cops!” and trying to leave the parking lot, according to Moore’s statement.

Some vehicles jumped the curb, some sped away and one almost hit an arriving squad car, Moore reported.

Kerman said people were afraid and trying to flee while staying away from the place the shots were fired.

“The officers will describe the scene as absolute chaos,” the statement reads.

Officers said Kerman and his staff cooperated but only in a “limited fashion,” and officers smelled marijuana in the premises.

Kerman says he cooperated fully, and he asked a bartender if anyone was smoking, and she said only one cigar, which she confiscated and extinguished because smoking is not allowed.

Perhaps people lit up on their way out, Kerman said.

Kerman said his attorney, Scott Schroeder of Janesville, will file a statement refuting Moore’s.

Video shows that soon after the shots, two men stood in the patio doorways with handguns drawn, Moore’s statement says.

“Each (man) appears to yell and direct other patrons for a brief while. One man re-enters the bar with the handgun still in hand and at his side, whereas the other exits the patio area into the parking lot,” the statement reads.

Carrying firearms in places where alcohol is sold violates state law, according to the statement.

Kerman said the video shows the men with the guns were acting defensively and that the video shows they never entered the club.

“Given that something as serious as this did happen, it places significant doubt on The Back Bar’s ability to ensure its patrons’ and the community’s safety while hosting future events,” Moore’s statement reads. “A revocation or substantial suspension of The Back Bar’s license is the only appropriate sanction that would not unduly depreciate the seriousness of these violations.”

Moore said he wants to continue his department’s success in keeping gun crime out of the city. Kerman said he supports that effort.

Kerman said the venue is closed in January, which would give time for him and police to work things out. He said he has seven nationally touring acts booked in February, and he would lose tens of thousands of dollars if he had to cancel.

Kerman said The Back Bar was open for about 100 music events last year, plus 160 days during its summer softball games, and police were called only eight times, some of those only walk-throughs.

Wisconsin judge orders up to 209K voter names be deleted


A Wisconsin judge on Monday found the state’s bipartisan elections commission to be in contempt and ordered it to immediately begin removing up to 209,000 names from the state’s voter rolls or face fines for each day it doesn’t.

Hours later, a divided Wisconsin Supreme Court declined a request from a conservative law firm to immediately hear the case, meaning that the legal battle will now shift to a lower state appeals court.

The case is being closely watched because Wisconsin is a battleground state President Donald Trump won by fewer than 23,000 votes in 2016. Democrats are fighting the lawsuit, saying the purge would unfairly affect their voters. Republicans say they merely want to ensure that people who have moved are not able to vote from their old addresses.

Ozaukee County Circuit Judge Paul Malloy said in his ruling that “time is of the essence in this case” and cannot wait for an appeals court or the state Supreme Court to decide the case. He also seemed perturbed that commissioners hadn’t already begun deactivating the voter registrations as he ordered in December.

“I cannot be clearer on this. They need to follow the order,” Malloy said. He was appointed to the bench in 2002 by then-Gov. Scott McCallum, a Republican, and he has won election three times since then.

The state Justice Department asked Malloy to put his order of contempt on hold pending an appeal of his ruling, but the judge denied the request. Malloy held in contempt the commission itself and its three Democratic members because they had previously voted against moving ahead with the purge. Those three would each face a $250 fine for every day they don’t comply. The commission as a whole faces $50 fines every day the purge doesn’t happen. Three Republican commissioners who pushed for proceeding with deactivating the voters would face no penalties.

The commission’s next meeting is today, hours before Trump was due to hold a rally in Milwaukee. It previously deadlocked along party line 3-3 votes on whether to proceed with deactivating the voters.

Ann Jacobs, one of the three Democratic commissioners, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that she thinks the judge’s initial findings were incorrect and that she does not want to begin taking people off the rolls.

The commission asked a state appeals court to put the ruling on hold while the legal fight continues, but it declined to act while the Supreme Court was considering taking the case. But the Supreme Court, in a 3-3 decision, announced late Monday that it would not take the case for now. Newly elected conservative Justice Brian Hagedorn sided with two liberal justices in declining to take it.

The three conservative justices wrote a dissent, saying the court was disregarding its duty by not taking the case now.

“The case is unquestionably worthy of our prompt attention,” the justices wrote.

Wisconsin Elections Commission spokesman Reid Magney had no comment. A spokesman for the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, which brought the original lawsuit, had no immediate comment.

Those bringing the lawsuit argue that the state elections commission broke the law when it did not remove voters from the rolls who did not respond within 30 days to a mailing in October indicating they might have moved.

The commission wanted to wait until after the November 2020 presidential election before removing anyone because of inaccuracies with a previous round of data identifying voters who had potentially moved. Even if a voter has their registration deactivated, they can register again later or on Election Day when they show up at the polls, assuming they have the required documentation.

Malloy last month sided with conservatives who filed the lawsuit and ordered that the voters have their registrations deactivated.

The affected voters come more heavily from Democratic areas of Wisconsin, including Milwaukee and cities with college campuses. Democrats fear forcing voters whose registration was nullified to re-register would create a burden on them and hurt turnout. Republicans argue that removing the voters would ensure that the rolls are not full of people who shouldn’t be voting.

The League of Women Voters of Wisconsin also filed a federal lawsuit to stop the purge. That lawsuit argues that it would be a violation of constitutional due process rights to deactivate the registrations of the voters without proper notice. The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty and the Republican-controlled Legislature are both seeking to intervene in that lawsuit and have it dismissed.

Dozens of people—some with tape over their mouths—rallied outside the courthouse before Monday’s hearing to protest the voter registration deactivation. Organizers said the purge would unfairly affect voters of color. The Rev. Greg Lewis, who heads the get-out-the-vote group Souls to the Polls Milwaukee, said he worried that the legal fight would lead to confusion that causes some people to give up on trying to vote, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

“This is not checkers. It’s chess, and the people who are doing this understand that the frustration will cause a lot of people not to even want to vote,” he said.

Obituaries and death notices for Jan. 14, 2020

Raymond F.R. Becker

Alfred L. Finger

Iris L. Guelker

Maurice Leslie Hagen Jr.

John Robert Holdorf

Kenneth L. Johnson

Virginia “Ginger” M. Lloyd

Grace A. Terry

Roy “Pete” Russell Stansfield

Wayne C. Starks

James D. Thornton

Lewis D. York