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Owners line up their sheep for judging during the sheep show at the Rock County 4-H Fairgrounds in Janesville on Tuesday.

4-H'ers find a way: Sheep judging held despite cancellation of this year's fair


Morgan Wywialowski enjoyed herself on the Rock County 4-H Fairgrounds on Tuesday, but she wasn’t at the fair.

The fair, scheduled for this week, was canceled over coronavirus concerns.

Morgan, a Clinton FFA/Turtle 4-H member, got to show Betty, a lamb she had raised, and win a blue ribbon, and she got to hang out with her fellow 4-H buddies.

But that’s as much fair as she will see this year.

The sheep show, with more than 50 exhibitors and over 100 animals, was the first one ever conducted by the Rock County Sheep Producers, said the organization’s Aaron Bennett.

“We do it all for the kids because they might be the future of the Rock County Sheep Producers,” Bennett said of the adults’ substantial organizational effort.

The local Boer goat raisers were scheduled to have their show Tuesday afternoon. Swine producers are scheduled for Wednesday, beef cattle Thursday and dairy cows Saturday. The public is not invited.

The differences from a real fair were readily apparent Tuesday. Half of the fairgrounds was snow-fenced off, preserved for use if the county needs a COVID-19 isolation shelter, which is a major reason the fair was canceled.

There was no music, no food and no midway where teens could stroll and ride the carnival rides.

“The fair is always fun,” said Morgan, 15.

“I miss watching all the people walking around and looking at all the animals. … It’s not the same,” said Baylin Crull, 16, of Evansville 4-H.

Baylin was not showing, but he was there to support his sister, cousins and friends who were. He planned to show swine today.

The young 4-H’ers were eager to participate in the show, Baylin said. “With all the hard work they put in, they want something out of it.”

Despite the lack of fair fun, the show had its positives.

“It seems a lot less stressful” than the fair, said Morgan, who has shown swine and beef cattle at previous fairs. “I’m really happy we had it, so we could all get out and show what we’ve done with the animals.”

Ribbon winners got cash “premiums” at the fair: $8 for first place, maybe $6 for second, Morgan said. This year was different. Kids got T-shirts or sturdy water buckets for their animals, all donated. Morgan won a sheep blanket.

The fair premiums weren’t a lot, but they added up with other projects the youths submitted. Morgan could have won more cash with her welding, for example, but those and so many other parts of the fair will not happen this year.

Sheep were driven into the fairgrounds in trailers and stayed there unless their owners were leading them around on leashes. The animals’ bleats and hoarse growls filled the grassy area in front of the stock pavilion, where a temporary show ring was set up.

The animal stalls and other buildings remained empty and silent.

In the ring, youths wrestled with their lambs, some of them as heavy as their owners and not interested in being led around like, um, sheep.

The kids stood in front of their animals, grabbed them by the head and pushed back as Judge Mark Johnson inspected them for the qualities that make for good lamb meat.

“You want them to push against you so you can show the muscle in the back,” Morgan said.

Most attendees did not wear masks, but they were required to sign forms releasing the sheep producers from liability from coronavirus infection. There was plenty of room for folks to keep their distance, though.

Morgan said one thing was like the fair: friends helping friends.

One of her friends was showing for the first time. “She’s really nervous. We’re all trying to help her calm down. We’re telling her it’s going to be fine.”

A boisterous sheep waits to enter the show ring during the sheep show at the Rock County 4-H Fairgrounds in Janesville on Tuesday.

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Data Dimensions to lay off 111 after government contract not renewed


Data Dimensions has announced it intends to lay off more than 100 people at its two facilities in Janesville after a major government client did not renew a contract it held with the document and data management company.

According to a notice the company filed Friday through the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, Data Dimensions is laying off 111 people at its locations at 423 Midland Road and 400 Midland Court.

In the notice, which also is addressed to the Janesville City Council, Data Dimensions CEO Jon Boumstein wrote that “Data Dimensions just recently received notification from its government client that its current contract with the business organization will not be renewed at this time, resulting in a sudden and substantial unforeseen loss of business.”

The layoffs and notice come after a preliminary warning Data Dimensions issued to the state’s workforce agency March 27 that the company was experiencing “unforeseen disruptions” in business that it said stemmed from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Data Dimensions said at the time if those disruptions continued, it could have to lay off as many as 260 people.

In March, the company said the possibility of major layoffs loomed as it was “waiting on a contract renewal to extend certain operations past May 2020,” and that the renewal “in part was contingent on the effects of the COVID-19 crisis.”

It wasn’t immediately clear if the contract mentioned in the March notice was the same contract the company is now saying was not renewed. Data Dimensions did not name the client in either notice.

Data Dimensions processes data and documents for property and casualty insurance, financial services and government clients. Past clients have included the Veterans Administration, company officials have said.

According to the notice, the layoffs are “permanent” and will occur over the next few weeks. Many of the 111 people being laid off are rank-and-file employees within the document processing divisions.

Late last year, the company reported employing about 1,000 workers.

In the notice last week, Boumstein wrote that the government client that chose not to renew a contract planned to rebid “a portion” of the work under the former contract, but he wrote that Data Dimensions has “no guarantee as to when the RFP (request for proposals) will be issued,” what the contract might look like or whether the company would qualify for it.

Last year, St. Louis private equity firm Thompson Street Capital Partners acquired Data Dimensions as part of a partnership with a Chicago-based venture capital firm.

Data Dimensions had been owned since 2014 by Tampa, Florida, private equity firm HealthEdge Investment Partners.

Police agencies pulling out of Democratic convention


More than 100 police agencies are withdrawing from agreements to send personnel to bolster security at next month’s Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee in part because they are concerned about a recent directive ordering police in the city to stop using tear gas to control crowds.

A citizen oversight commission last week directed Milwaukee’s police chief to publicly account for why the department used tear gas during protests in late May and early June after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and to change Milwaukee’s police policies to ban the use of tear gas and pepper spray. The Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission said in its order that Police Chief Alfonso Morales could be fired if he fails to comply.

That order came amid intense scrutiny of police tactics at protests in Portland, Oregon, and elsewhere.

Since the Milwaukee order was issued, more than 100 law enforcement agencies in Wisconsin and across the country decided against coming to Milwaukee, Morales told WTMJ-TV on Tuesday. They were concerned with directives placed on the police department, including not allowing tear gas or pepper spray, he said.

Morales did not say which agencies would not be coming or how many officers were still expected. The original plan was to have 1,000 officers on hand from outside agencies to assist with security. Morales said utilizing the National Guard or enlisting federal assistance was under consideration.

The convention, scheduled for Aug. 17-20 at the Wisconsin Center in downtown Milwaukee, has been scaled down to a mostly virtual event, with only about 300 people expected to attend in-person. Most of the speeches will be delivered online from other locations, though former Vice President Joe Biden has said he will be in Milwaukee to accept the nomination. Despite the event’s smaller scale, police are preparing for potentially large protests in and around the venue.

A spokeswoman for the convention did not immediately return a message seeking comment Tuesday. The Milwaukee police oversight commission also did not return a message seeking comment.

Fond du Lac Police Chief William Lamb told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that the agreements were collapsing, saying he expects other agencies in the state to also withdraw. Lamb chairs the Wisconsin Police Executive Group, which is made up of police chiefs from cities with populations of more than 20,000 people.

Lamb sent a letter to Milwaukee police July 6 outlining his organization’s concerns about limiting the use of tear gas and pepper spray. West Allis police first sent a letter to Morales with concerns in mid-June after Milwaukee’s Common Council temporarily halted the purchase of those chemicals.

“Our concern is that in the event protests turn non-peaceful, such a policy would remove tools from officers that may otherwise be legal and justifiable to utilize in specific situations,” West Allis Deputy Chief Robert Fletcher told the Journal Sentinel in an email.

Waukesha’s police chief said he was consulting with the city attorney’s office on how to withdraw from the agreement, which had promised about two dozen Waukesha officers.

Not all police departments withdrew because of the tear gas order. The Madison Police Department notified Milwaukee early this month that “an accelerating COVID-19 pandemic coupled with ongoing protests in Madison” had strained its resources, making it impossible to commit resources to the convention, the Wisconsin State Journal reported.

Madison originally committed to providing 100 officers to Milwaukee for what was to have been a 10-day convention before it got shortened and postponed until August.

Obituaries and death notices on July 29, 2020

Betty Brander

Terry L. Fell

Dillon Geise

Kathleen Annette Kettle

Marlene A. Liner

Judith Kay Pass

Robert J. Silha

Democrats, GOP far apart on virus aid; Trump wants a deal


A day of shuttle diplomacy on Capitol Hill over a coronavirus aid package produced few results Tuesday with stark differences between the $3 trillion proposal from Democrats and $1 trillion counteroffer from Republicans as millions of Americans’ jobless benefits, school reopenings and eviction protections hang in the balance.

As top White House negotiators returned for a second day of talks, the Democrats’ leverage is apparent. They are meeting again in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office. Republicans are so deeply divided over the prospect of big government spending that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is left with a severely weakened hand.

President Donald Trump said the Republican effort is “semi-irrelevant” as talks launch with Democrats.

“We want to do what’s best for the people,” Trump said at the White House.

Striking any agreement with Congress by Friday’s deadline for expiring aid will be daunting. But the outcome will be a defining one for the president and the parties heading into the November election as an uneasy nation is watching and waiting for Washington to bring some end to the health crisis and devastating economic fallout.

“We cannot afford to fail,” Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said.

Key to the debate is the $600 weekly unemployment benefit bump that is expiring for millions of jobless Americans. Republicans want to slash it to $200 a week as an incentive to push people back to work. Democrats have shown flickers of willingness to curb the federal aid but held firm in first-round talks.

Wider disputes will punctuate the discussions over money for cash-strapped states and cities, schools to prepare for fall, virus testing, and billions of dollars to shore up American households and small businesses facing potential ruin as the virus rages and stay-home orders resume.

With the virus death toll climbing and 4.2 million infections nationwide, both parties are eager for relief.

But McConnell acknowledged the limits with Republicans split: “We’ve done the best we can.”

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows spent hours going back and forth between the leaders’ offices at the Capitol.

McConnell set the tone by insisting he would accept no package without a liability shield against COVID-19 lawsuits, his top priority from the start.

But he is coming to the negotiating table with half the GOP senators expected to oppose any virus relief deal, and the Democrats swiftly rebuffed his demand, telling the White House negotiators to ask if he was serious.

Pelosi called it “liability on steroids”—a sweeping ban on injury lawsuits—and she said McConnell ”sounded like a person who had no interest in having an agreement.”

Mnuchin and Meadows also heard an earful during a private GOP lunch.

Several senators vigorously questioned Mnuchin, Meadows and McConnell and warned against caving to liberal demands, said two Republicans who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the closed-door meeting. Senators predicted the price tag will balloon past $1 trillion.

“It’s a mess,” said Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo. “I don’t know what we’re trying to accomplish.”

By day’s end, Meadows acknowledged that talks are not “getting closer.” The White House officials plan to return today.

The two bills are widely seen as starting points in talks. Among the differences to be bridged:

  • Republicans seek $16 billion for virus testing; Democrats want $75 billion.
  • For school reopenings, Democrats wan

t four

  • times the $105 billion that Republicans propose.
  • Democrats want to extend a federal eviction moratorium on millions of rental units that is expiring Friday, but Republicans are silent on evictions.
  • While McConnell insisted on the liability shield, Democrats want tougher federal workplace safety oversight.
  • Democrats proposed nearly $1 trillion in funding for states and cities to avert municipal layoffs, but Republicans prefer providing them with flexibility in previously approved aid.

An area of common ground is agreement on a new round of $1,200 direct payments to Americans earning $75,000 or less.

But Democrats also added a “heroes’ pay” bonus for frontline workers, money for food stamps and other assistance.

Conservative Republicans quickly broke ranks, arguing the spending was too much and priorities misplaced.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said McConnell would be lucky to get half the Republicans on board.

“We’re in a war, OK, with the virus,” Graham said at the Capitol. “If you don’t think we need money for hospitals and doctors, you’re not looking at the same movie I’m looking at.”

As Republicans tried to justify the White House’s request for $1.7 billion to replace the FBI headquarters in downtown Washington, McConnell said he opposed the provision. The building is across the street from the Trump International Hotel.

As bipartisan talks unfold, the White House has suggested a narrower relief package might be all that is possible. Democrats have dismissed that as too meager. And Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said, “I haven’t heard any support for that.”

The $600 weekly jobless benefits boost, approved as part of the March aid package, officially expires Friday, but because of the way states process unemployment payments, the cutoff effectively began last weekend.

Economists widely see signs of trouble in the economy as the virus crisis continues.