State News: Road Funding, Little Plover River, Addiction Hotline

Roads Are an Issue Throughout State

Wisconsin has about 12,000 miles of state highways, and about another 100,000 miles of local roads. As voters head to the polls this fall, the quality of this infrastructure is something they’re thinking about.

In every corner of Wisconsin, we’ve heard people say the same thing about the roads: they need work.

“The roads in my area are horrible, horrible, horrible,” said Rachael Anderson, of Kenosha. “Something needs to change. It’s causing taxpayers tons of money every single year to deal with these crappy, crappy roads. I’m sick of it.”

In Tomah, Shannon Gabower said, “Roads, bridges, everything seems to be deteriorating. We see a lot of patchwork going on.”

Robert Swenson from northwestern Wisconsin, saw road damage firsthand when he traveled to Ladysmith.

“I think they should probably just close them roads and let people walk because you’ll ruin your car driving on them,” he said. “There’s not potholes, there’s just a constant source of ridges and dips and bounces.”

According to an audit of the state Department of Transportation, 32.8 percent of Wisconsin state highways were in fair, poor, or worse condition in 2015.

Not every voter has an opinion about why roads are in bad shape, but Swenson has a theory. In 2006, a bipartisan coalition repealed a longstanding law that indexed the gas tax, or tied it to inflation. Swenson thinks that was a mistake.

“Everybody thought it was wonderful because they were saving probably $5 or $10 a year, and now our infrastructure is falling apart,” he said.


Little Plover River Watershed Project Funded

More than $2.6 million from public agencies and private sources is supporting efforts to increase the flow of the Little Plover River and improve the watershed. The river in central Wisconsin has been closely studied and monitored as stretches of the river have run dry in recent years due to pumping from high-capacity wells. The Central Sands area has more than 3,000 high-capacity wells that withdraw as much as 100,000 gallons of water per day. Now, growers, conservationists, local government and others are partnering to restore the Little Plover River and watershed.

Village of Plover Administrator Dan Mahoney said the village is buying 60 acres of farm land owned by Myron Soik & Sons Inc. with the help of $1.4 million from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. The purchase involves taking land of agricultural production and decommissioning a high-capacity well.

“Of that 60 acres, half of it will be restored to wetlands, and there’s been some ditches that have been dug to help drain that property,” he said. “Those ditches will be filled back in and the other half of the property will be restored to upland prairie.”

Other projects include habitat and forest restoration, as well as voluntary soil and water conservation practices with farms. They also include efforts to reduce the width of the river and deepen the channel.


Three Counties Fund New Groundwater Quality Research

Three counties in southwestern Wisconsin are commissioning a new study of private wells in response to growing concerns about groundwater contamination across the state.

Grant, Iowa and Lafayette counties are funding the Southwest Wisconsin Groundwater and Geology (SWIGG) study. Hundreds of private wells will be tested to measure the amount and source of contamination.

“We will determine for the private wells in that area if the contamination is coming from septic systems, dairy manure or hog manure,” said Mark Borchardt, a USDA microbiologist and one of the researchers conducting the study.

Around 44 percent of residents in Grant, Iowa and Lafayette counties get their water from private wells.


Wisconsin Addiction Recovery Hotline Open

Seeking to answer a collective cry for help from those who abuse opioids and other substances, the state of Wisconsin has started a new addiction hotline. The Wisconsin Addiction Recovery Helpline started operating Monday. It’s a free, confidential service that is available 24 hours a day statewide.

In 2016, there were 827 deaths in the state from prescription painkillers, heroin and synthetic opioids, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. The department plans to publish 2017 opioid deaths soon. More people had fatal overdoses last year and officials say the death toll has climbed to 916.

The hotline, which can be accessed by dialing 211, is also for those who abuse alcohol, methamphetamine and other substances.

“It’s going to be a database that can get individuals the resources that they need at a time they need them most. When they are realizing at that point in time ‘I need help’ and they reach out,” explained Paul Krupski, director of Opioid Initiatives with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

The hotline is designed to help individuals and their families find local options for counseling, treatment and other resources.


Rod Serling Recordings Preserved by UW

More than 1,000 pieces of audio recorded by The Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling are being digitally preserved by the Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison recently received a grant to digitize recordings of scripts, correspondences and notes the prolific screenwriter recorded in the 1960s on a now defunct piece of technology, the dictabelt.

The recordings offer a glance into the more personal side of Serling, said Lily Holman, a graduate student at UW-Madison.

“We’re very used to hearing Serling’s voice as this very polished kind of all powerful narration,” she said. “When you first tune into these dictabelts it’s kind of uncertain and rough, you have this kind of immediate counter to what you’re used to.”

Invented in 1947, the dictabelt was used by many screenwriters, doctors and businessmen to keep notes and correspondences through the 1970s, said Mary Huelsbeck, director of the Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research.

Serling preferred a dictabelt to a typewriter when working on scripts, she said.

“He didn’t sit at a typewriter and type it out and then make changes. It’s just coming straight from his mind onto the dictaphone,” she said.

Listening to Serling speak into the dictabelt offers a unique insight into his work, Holman added, something both Holman and Huelsbeck hope scholars will take advantage of.

“Your first reaction is surely he’s reading off of something … surely that’s not all in his memory,” she said. “But then you find out that it is and then you hear him kind of hem and haw about like what quality of alabaster he wants (in the script).”

Serling began donating his dictabelt recordings to UW-Madison in the 1960s when the university put out a request to those in the film, television and theater industry to add recordings to their collection, Huelsbeck said.

All of Serling’s recordings have been digitized, along with several other screenwriters’, which is notable, she said. Most dictabelt recordings were thrown out after they were transcribed and, because dictabelts are made from plastic, they have a shelf life.

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