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Amid record-setting May heat, lawns shoot up, city's splash pad opens early

JANESVILLE

As you might have noticed, we’re in a bona fide, midsummer heat wave. But wait: It’s not midsummer. Not even close.

In fact, National Weather Service meteorological archives show that it’s not been this hot and muggy in early May since 1993. Then, daytime highs hit 87 degrees. On Wednesday, the mercury hit 93 degrees and partly sunny in parts of Rock County as a dome of hot, humid air continued to hover above Wisconsin.

The “partly sunny” part is what’ll get you. It’s that soup, that heaviness in the air that feels more like early July weather, that caused local grower Tim Reilly to break a legit summertime sweat first thing Wednesday morning.

“It’s weird. One day you’re running the furnace at night, the next day, it’s this,” Reilly said as he dumped a sack of Pioneer seed corn seed into one of the hoppers of a planting machine parked alongside a freshly furrowed, 100-acre farm field off East McCormick Drive on Janesville’s north edge.

Neil Johnson/njohnson@gazettextra.com 

Local grower Tim Reilly dumps a bag of corn seed into the hopper of a planting machine at a farm field Wednesday on Janesville’s north edge. Reilly said planting of the field had been running about 10 days behind schedule amid an otherwise wet, cold spring. But the spate of 90-degree heat that’s come this week has heated the soil enough to plant. He was fighting 100-degree heat-index temperatures on Wednesday as he raced against pending rain to the get corn planted across a 100-acre parcel.

Reilly was wearing boots, jeans and a T-shirt with the sleeves ripped off. His bare arms were dusted with dry field dirt the way that flour coats moist chicken that’s headed for the deep-fat fryer.

That’s not typical spring corn-planting attire.

But given the weather in recent weeks, this sudden warm snap smacks of agricultural irony in more ways than one.

Until just a few days ago, Reilly’s spring corn planting schedule had been prisoner to an unseasonably cold and at times snowy spring with a recent wet spell softening a months-long drought.

Reilly had been waiting for soil temperatures to finally hop up to levels that will give corn seedlings the nudge they need to sprout. He said planting in that field was running about 10 days behind normal.

Not a major delay, but he and Jayden Dunphy were hustling field-side early Wednesday to load a planter with seed and get planting. Their strategy was to hedge a mounting chance of rain that forecasts show could come later this week.

By 9:15 a.m., it already had topped 84 degrees with a heat-index temperature of 95. By rights, it should have been partly sunny with a daytime high of about 65.

That’s what Wisconsin normally gives you in early May, National Weather Service meteorologist Kevin Wagner said. Not the blazing, 103-degree heat index temp like what came and lingered all afternoon and evening Wednesday.

Wagner said a dome of warm air from the Gulf of Mexico has reared its head up north. The warm, muggy air has formed a protective cap in the upper atmosphere that’s caused it to stick around, keeping any serious threat of rain and precipitation pushed off to the west, in Minnesota.

Wagner said a comparably colder front ought to push down into Wisconsin toward this weekend, bringing the next real shot at rain and likely cooler, more seasonable 70-degree weather by next week.

“This (heat-wave) pattern will start to break down by about Friday,” Wagner said. “A cold front could come in and it could stall, and that could make it just a bit cooler by Saturday, and rainy. By Sunday, we’re back in the ‘70s, and after that, you probably won’t need to be running the air conditioner again for a while.”

Neil Johnson/njohnson@gazettextra.com 

A city of Milton employee trims a field of dandelions in Crossridge Park near the Parker YMCA in Milton on Wednesday.

Andy Oldfield, who runs Janesville lawn service Andy’s Lawn & Snow, said in the several years he’s cut grass for a living, he can’t remember a slower, colder spring coming to a roiling summer boil this fast.

Oldfield was in the midst of his day’s work, which entailed 12 customers’ lawns, some of which had reached heights of 10 or 11 inches over the last few days.

That’s grass long enough to require a zero-turn mower to make three, sometimes four passes to clean up the heavy, sodden clumps of cut lawn. Oldfield said he’s now in for 12-hour days, about as long as a spring day and local rules will allow him to mow.

Some lawns have gotten extra shaggy, Oldfield said, because residents are now observing “No-Mow May,” a grassroots environmental movement that’s meant to support bees and other pollinators. The idea is to let grass grow all May to foster more spring blooms such as dandelions to bolster bees.

Some local residents, however, have begun to blanch at the sudden rate their grass and dandelions are growing. For them, “No-Mow May” has become “May I back out of this deal May?”

“I had a couple of clients for the year that said they were holding off on cutting to try to the No-Mow May. Both of them opted out of that pretty quick this week. After that rain last week, and then the warm weekend, it didn’t take much at all, and whoah! Suddenly, it’s long,” Oldfield said.

“We’re now definitely playing catch up. A good handful of calls for people that just want to knock it down now because they just they can’t stand what it looks like. It’s like summer now. Crazy how fast it’s come.”

Splash pad opens

On the north side of town, meanwhile, there’s a whole lot of splashing going on.

Shelly Slapak, who runs the city of Janesville’s parks recreation division, said city workers rushed this week to open the splash pad at Riverside Park.

Slapak said it will be open now until September. Actually, she blasted that announcement out on the city’s Facebook page on Wednesday.

Karyn Saemann/Adams Publishing Group 

People cool off at the splash pad at Riverside Park Wednesday in Janesville under a hazy sky and amid 93-degree heat. National Weather Service data shows that daytime highs have cracked the former record temperature for May 11 in southern Wisconsin. The old record of 87 degrees has stood since 1993.

By mid-afternoon, families were flocking there.

For those hoping to splash around in the city’s downtown water feature, the Bubbler at ARISE Town Square, Slapak said that’s not open quite yet.

The Bubbler has an electronic control system that’s user operated, and the system needs repairs. Slapak said the city will announce soon when it might open—probably when it gets really, really (really) hot.

Neil Johnson/njohnson@gazettextra.com 

Local grower Tim Reilly works to load bags of corn seed into the hopper of a planting machine at a farm field Wednesday morning on Janesville’s far north edge. Reilly said planting of the field had been running about 10 days behind schedule amid an otherwise wet, cold spring. But the spate of 90-degree heat that’s come this week had finally spiked soil temperature enough to plant corn. Reilly was fighting record, 100-degree heat-index temperatures on Wednesday as he raced against pending rain to the get corn planted across a 100-acre parcel.


Metal sculptor opens studio west of Beloit

BELOIT

Turning trash into treasure is a challenge many hobbyists joyfully take on. But not all do so at the level that Chris Flippin does.

The Janesville native’s new studio, Flippin’s Welded Imagination, opened officially Saturday, giving visitors fascinating glimpses into what Flippin is capable of creating.

The drive leading to his studio at 9702 W. Highway 81, two drives west of Kauffman’s Country Market, is lined with life-sized metal sculptures. Inside the roomy studio, there’s a lot to take in, from the light fixture in the center ceiling that was once a round hog feeding trough to impressive metal and wood creations.

“My grandfather was the inspiration for my art. He would go to all the flea markets and bring back all sorts of things,” Flippin said. “I really didn’t have an interest in welding until he showed me what he did. And he explained it was cheaper to weld things himself rather than buy them.”

But Flippin wasn’t able to truly get into his passion for metal sculpture early on. Life intervened. He said he built a home in Clinton and worked in Belvidere, Illinois, for many years.

Then he and his wife, Virginia, along with their six children, bought a failing camp resort near Leland, Illinois.

“We turned it into a huge success,” he recalled. “We focused on family-oriented attractions and offered weekend-long programs with games and other events. We even built a water park. But it meant working 120 hours a week. I hardly got to do anything with my family. When you run a business where there are guests 24/7, you have to be there for them. After 11 years, we sold it and I retired.”

But ideal retirement venues including Florida where he lived on the beach with a boat, and Arizona didn’t satisfy him.

“I did buy a wood lathe in Arizona,” Flippin added. “My son and I worked on a science project in which we built an 18.5-foot-long horn and experimented with how sound was amplified. We set it up in the desert and inserted a cellphone. We were amazed to find we could hear the phone from a half-mile away.”

That discovery led to the wood lathe and a collection of wood-turned cellphone speakers sized to sit on a table or shelf. Each speaker was unique and crafted from all natural woods.

“Cellphones don’t have the most efficient sound systems,” Flippin said. “When you slide your cellphone into the bracket, the speaker not only amplifies the sound, but also improves its tone by bringing out the bass notes. These are perfect for seniors and for listening to music.”

Another facet of Flippin’s art focuses on his complex welded tabletops displaying multitudes of metal items including vintage clocks and farm implement items. Along with these is another eclectic collection of hand-turned wooden bowls and vases. His studio walls and customer service desk reflect Flippin’s skill with wood. Flippin is also a proficient oil paint artist.

But metal sculpture remains his passion. Among the sculptures lining the studio drive is his favorite, an almost bigger than life trio of jazz musicians that capture the joy and enthusiasm of the jazz genre.

Flippin’s Welded Imagination’s opening was timed to coincide with Kauffman Country Market’s first farmers’ market of the summer. Flippin added that the florist who originally owned his studio has returned and relocated immediately west of his studio location.

“We will be open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Saturday and by appointment,” Flippin said. “I also accept commissions.”

To date, the studio has not developed a website but for more information, call 608-751-8545.


Death_list
Obituaries and death notices for May 12, 2022

William J. “Bill” Carter

Jeremy S. Chapman

Betty J. (Klementz) Hantke

Gertrude “Trudy” Stansfield


Education
Janesville School District
Janesville School District will give teachers one-time bonus from saved revenue as positions went unfilled, substitute hours not used
Includes a $600 payment, three additional sick days

JANESVILLE

The Janesville School District will give eligible teachers recognition bonuses and additional sick time days paid out of funds saved from unfilled positions.

During its Tuesday, May 10 meeting, the Janesville School Board unanimously approved a plan recommended by administration. It will give teachers and other eligible staff a one-time payment of $600 and add three days to their sick-time bank, after the district saved nearly $927,000 in wages and benefits during the 2021-22 school year.

The district saved that over periods of time when staff members resigned and administration had yet to fill their role with a replacement. The district also saved money through a reduction in the number of substitute positions filled that money had been allocated for in the 2021-22 year, according to a memo to the board included in the May 10 agenda.

District chief financial officer Dan McCrea said while the district allocated about $1 million in substitute pay alone for the 2021-22 year, it didn’t come close to crossing that threshold.

In April, the board directed district administration to look into ways to recognize its current staff members for the work they put in over two years of teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic.

At prior meetings, at least one teacher had advocated during the public comment period of the meeting for teachers to receive federally funded bonuses out of the federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief III (ESSER) funds allocated to the district. A petition started by the Janesville Education Association, seeking that use of ESSER funds, had received 598 signatures by early March.

None of the money now being allocated for bonuses is from the district’s ESSER allocation.

Janesville Education Association president Laura Mattison said she was pleased to see a proposal for one-time bonus and additional sick days brought forward, saying it showed the school board was listening to the staff and the Janesville community who wanted to see staff recognized for their work during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’d also like to thank the board members who read many pieces of information that I sent to you, and all the literature and personal stories—for example, hundreds of the ways in which we have adapted and overcome the many hurdles,” she said.

Those eligible for the one-time bonuses and the additional sick leave include current full-time staff who worked during the 2021-22 school year, not including substitutes, limited-term employees or seasonal positions. The sick bank can be used for family and medical leave or the purchase of additional health insurance in retirement.


Boston Celtics center Al Horford (42) stops Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, left, on a drive to the basket during the first half of Game 5 of an Eastern Conference semifinal in the NBA basketball playoffs, Wednesday, May 11, 2022, in Boston.


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