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Zookeeper stresses safety while working with animals

CHIPPEWA FALLS — Chippewa Falls zookeeper Jennifer London entered the predatory animal building in Irvine Park on Wednesday, greeting the restless hyenas and anxious tigers. She chatted with them and prepared their meals while getting ready to let them into the exterior cages so she could clean their interior pens.

While London has a friendly rapport with the animals, treating them almost like household pets, she never forgets they are dangerous.

“You always have to be on your toes, and aware of where you’ve been and what you’re doing,” London said. “And you have to read their behavior.”

On Sunday, a 22-year-old zoo worker was attacked and killed by a lion at a conservation center in North Carolina. The woman, Alexandra Black, had worked at the center for 10 days. She was cleaning an animal enclosure when the attack occurred. Law enforcement shot and killed the 14-year-old lion.

London has served as head zookeeper in Irvine Park for 18 years, working 80 hours a week, including every other weekend, feeding, cleaning and caring for the animals. She has a lot to do each day, but she makes sure she takes the necessary precautions with each pen.

“You get in a hurry,” she said. “Any animal is potentially dangerous. Any time an animal is afraid, it is more dangerous.”

The bears, tigers and hyenas are in exhibits that were constructed between 2005 and 2010. London said the back rooms, which the public never sees, were well-designed by the handler who provides the animals to the park.

“You always want at least one more cage than you have animals,” she said.

Each cage has guillotine doors and pulleys, so the animals can be moved side to side in adjoining rooms, and also sent outside, while their cage is cleaned.

“Everyone has a transfer cage,” she explained. “You try to lure them over with a piece of meat.”

London has a key to the back door and a different key to enter each of the animal exhibit areas. There are multiple, metal chain doors throughout the building, providing backup safety redundancies. There also is a lift-entry system that the animals cannot figure out how to open, if they were somehow able to get out of their first cage.

Prior to the current pens opening, the park had a smaller building where bobcats and cougars were housed. London recalls that building as having multiple safety issues. The old small animal building, which was constructed in 1914 and rebuilt in 1962, was torn down.

“You can’t even compare it,” she said. “First, (those animals) were raised, so they were looking you in the face.”

That building also was not lit well and had rusty, older doors.

In June 2016, the new, 9,400-square-foot small animals building opened as part of a $3.9 million zoo improvement project, which houses the Capuchin monkey, lemurs, coatimundi, fishing cats, porcupines and maras. London said this new facility was well designed for safety. However, the fishing cats are predatory animals.

“Our cats aren’t trying to get at you, but you don’t want to lean against the fence either,” she said.

The coatimundi, similar to raccoons, are also carnivores. She’s also cautious around the monkeys.

“The Capuchins, they are so smart, you have to watch where they are running,” she said.

The porcupines are “slow and docile — if you don’t know where they are, you aren’t paying attention,” and the maras are “like rabbits — they are skittish.”

The city budgets about $150,000 annually for the zoo. That pays for a full-time zookeeper, a part-time worker, food, vitamins, testing and other expenses.

The bear exhibit, which opened in 2005, is about 5,000 square feet. The cougar display, which opened in 2008, has about 2,600 square feet and now houses two tigers. The final exhibit, which opened in 2010, is about 2,000 square feet and now houses two hyenas. Those three exhibits cost about $1.2 million and were paid for entirely through donations.

Evers open to vetoing entire GOP-written budget if necessary

MADISON — Democratic Gov.-elect Tony Evers said in a Wednesday interview with The Associated Press that he isn’t ruling out vetoing the entire state budget if Republicans completely ignore his proposal and decide to write their own two-year spending plan.

Evers reiterated that he wants to work together with Republicans who control the Legislature. But when asked if he would veto a GOP-written budget that disregards his plan, Evers said that “anything’s possible.”

“We have to find some common ground ,” Evers said. “People in Wisconsin during the campaign made it clear that they were sick of partisanship. They want people to actually accomplish things instead of fight. And I’m not sure that that is consistent with the Republicans’ plan to have their own budget.”

Evers replaces Republican Gov. Scott Walker on Monday. Evers is required to submit a two-year state budget early this year that could include many provisions Republicans oppose including expanding Medicaid, using money from a corporate tax break to lower middle class income taxes by 10 percent and increasing funding for public education by $1.4 billion.

Evers is also considering raising the gas tax and other fees to pay for transportation needs, something that hit a road block in the Senate last session, although Assembly Republicans were open to the idea then.

Evers told the Wisconsin State Journal that his budget would include a “clear pathway” to increasing the state’s $7.25 minimum wage but wouldn’t say by how much. Evers told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that he will propose in his budget to allow immigrants living in the U.S. illegally to qualify for driver’s cards; give immigrants who came to the state illegally as children the chance to pay in-state tuition; allow property taxes to rise by more than they have in the past; and maybe let local governments increase sales taxes.

All of those proposals are likely to find Republican opposition.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald of Juneau said he’s “deeply concerned” with what he called Evers’ plans to “hike” taxes on small-business owners and farmers. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos of Rochester did not immediately return a message seeking comment Wednesday.

The Legislature generally spends months dissecting a governor’s budget plan, but Republicans could start from scratch and ignore Evers’ proposal. The new budget year begins in July, but state government won’t shut down if that deadline is missed.

Evers can partially veto spending items in the budget. That means he could sign into law some parts of the budget and reject others.

Evers said Wednesday that he also wouldn’t be shy about vetoing non-budget bills.

The near certainty of vetoes will be a stark contrast from Walker’s eight years in office, where he worked closely with the Republican Legislature.

Any Evers veto is likely to stick. The state Legislature has not overridden a governor’s veto since 1985. And while Republicans will maintain their majorities in the Senate and Assembly, they will not have enough votes to override an Evers veto without Democratic support.

Evers also told the AP that he will also proceed with plans to cut the adult prison population in half, but specifics were still being worked out.

“I don’t think it’s going to be solved in this first budget,” he said, adding that he remains opposed to paying for opening a new prison to ease overcrowding.

In another break with Walker, Evers said he would be open to pardoning people if they have been rehabilitated and demonstrate they deserve it. Walker never pardoned anyone during his eight years as governor.

Evers told the Journal Sentinel that he would not go along with parts of the laws enacted during a lame-duck legislative session last month that limited his powers, but wouldn’t specify which ones.

Evers also told WISC-TV that he’s open to criminalizing first-offense drunken driving, something he also said during the campaign. Wisconsin is the only state where a first offense is a traffic infraction and not a crime.

“We have to find ways to make that first offense more meaningful to the offenders so they don’t offend again or don’t offend the first time,” Evers said. “Whether that’s making it a felony or not, I’m not sure.”

Many candidates seeking Eau Claire City Council positions

Eau Claire City Council positions are becoming increasingly attractive, if filings for the April 2 election are any indication.

Twelve candidates filed nomination papers for the council’s five at-large seats by the 5 p.m. Wednesday deadline, necessitating a Feb. 19 primary election to narrow the list of candidates to 10.

In addition, two candidates — acting council President Andrew Werthmann and Councilman Terry Weld — will seek the council president job. That election will be April 2.

Those seeking at-large council positions include current Councilwomen Kate Beaton and Catherine Emmanuelle. Former Councilman David Klinkhammer will seek a return to the council after losing his seat in April to Councilwoman Emily Anderson.

Others filing papers to run for a council position include Kirk Ausman, Laura Benjamin, John Lor, Chandler Lorentz, Kate Martin, Dale Poynter, Echo Reardon, Donald Motzing and Kyle Woodman.

Reardon ran as a Republican for the 91st state Assembly District in the Nov. 6 election and lost to Democrat Jodi Emerson.

Longtime at-large council members David Strobel and Michael Xiong previously announced they will not seek re-election.

The filings for City Council seats are the most in recent years, city officials said. The last time an election for the council’s five at-large positions attracted as many candidates was in 2004, when 12 people sought those jobs.

“It’s certainly been a busy day” with so many election filings, many of which were filed Wednesday, city clerk Carrie Riepl said.

The 2004 council election triggered a primary vote, as did the 2009 race, when two district races attracted three contestants each.

Last spring’s City Council election also attracted more candidates than usual. Nine people sought the council’s five district seats, and Weld defeated Zachary Meives in a special election for that at-large position.

The race for council president is a special election, and another election for the council’s leadership position will occur next spring. The special election was triggered by the June resignation of former longtime council President Kerry Kincaid after significant turnover in last April’s council election. Werthmann was subsequently named as acting council president.

If he is not elected as council president, Weld would lose his council membership as he cannot seek both the president and at-large positions in the same election. If Werthmann loses to Weld, he retains his District 5 seat.

To be on the ballot, candidates had to garner at least 100 signatures. Council members are elected to three-year terms and are paid $3,000 annually except for the council president, who is paid $3,600.

Chippewa Falls

Chippewa Falls Mayor Greg Hoffman figures he has at least one more term in him.

Hoffman was appointed mayor in August 2008 and recently marked his 10-year anniversary in the position. He joined the City Council in 2001.

Hoffman has filed for re-election and once again has no challengers. He has yet to have an opponent in the spring election, either as a council member or mayor.

“I just enjoy serving the community and working with the citizens, and I like where the city is going,” Hoffman said Wednesday. “My goal is to lead the community in the right direction for the future. All I’m doing is building on what prior councils did.”

Along with the mayor position, four council seats are up for re-election in Chippewa Falls, and all four incumbents have filed for re-election: John Monarski (1st Ward), CW King (3rd Ward), Paul Olson (5th Ward) and Bob Hoekstra (7th Ward) all are running unopposed.

Chippewa Falls council members earn $3,000 annually. The mayor earns $10,000 per year.


Two of the three incumbents on the Altoona City Council up for election this year are seeking another two-year term.

Matt Biren (District 4) and Tim Sexton (District 5) have filed papers to run again, while in District 6, incumbent David Rowe filed his non-candidacy forms. However, his wife, Susan Rowe, filed nomination papers to join the council and take his place.

The mayor’s seat and districts 1 through 3 are up for re-election in 2020. Altoona council members earn $2,000 annually.


Five of the six Menomonie City Council members up for re-election this year hope to return.

The Menomonie council has 11 wards, with the odd-number districts up for election this year. Incumbents Jeff Luther (Ward 1), Eric Sutherland (Ward 3), Faith Bullock (Ward 5), Nathan Merrill (Ward 7) and Randy Sommerfeld (Ward 11) all have filed re-election papers.

In ward 9, incumbent Hector T. Cruz filed his non-candidacy papers, but Chad Schlough turned in his nomination papers seeking that seat.

Menomonie council members earn $220 per month.


File photo 


School board incumbents seeking re-election across Chippewa Valley

Two newcomers and two incumbents will seek three open seats on the Eau Claire school board as one longtime board member has announced she will leave.

Current board Vice President Aaron Harder and board member Eric Torres have filed as candidates seeking election, as did newcomers Erica Zerr and Tim Nordin, who returns from an unsuccessful run last spring.

Former board President Chris Hambuch-Boyle will not be seeking re-election in the April 2 contest, marking the end of a nearly 40-year career with the Eau Claire school district.

Hambuch-Boyle got her start in the district in 1979 as a speech and language pathologist, eventually becoming an early childhood consultant with CESA 10 and 11 in western and central Wisconsin, organizations that provide resources to school districts.

During her tenure in the district, Hambuch-Boyle helped launch the 4-year-old kindergarten program and dedicated herself to expanding educational opportunities for students with disabilities.

After retiring from the district in 2012, Hambuch-Boyle joined the school board in 2013.

“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed serving Eau Claire on the school board, but I’m going to take some time off now,” Hambuch-Boyle said. “We’ve got an amazing board and we’ve had amazing engagement with people who want to participate on our school board. I think that says a lot about our community.”

Harder, an Eau Claire native and graduate of Eau Claire schools, joined the board in June 2016. He owns a web software business with offices in New York and Eau Claire.

Torres, who joined the board in April 2017, is an education professor at UW-Eau Claire.

Chippewa Falls

No changes are likely on the Chippewa Falls school board, as board President David Czech and incumbents Kathy Strecker and Jennifer Heinz have all filed for re-election for another three-year term. No other opponents have filed.

Last April, voters approved a $65 million referendum to replace Stillson Elementary School and renovate other buildings in the system.

“Over the last three years as a board member, and now president of the board, I have had the opportunity to serve our great district,” Czech said Wednesday. “During that time I believe we put the schools on a path for success both academically and fiscally. I am proud of what we have accomplished so far, and would be honored if the community directed me to continue.”

Chippewa Falls school board members earn $750 annually, with the president earning $900.


Two of the three incumbents up in the Altoona School District are seeking re-election.

Incumbents Dan Gluch and David Rowe both filed their nomination papers. Brad Poquette, who joined the board in 2013, filed non-candidacy forms.

Poquette will likely be replaced by Taylor Neff, who has filed his paperwork to fill the open seat.

Altoona school board members earn $40 per meeting.


With two of three incumbents leaving the Menomonie school board, a number of challengers have filed to fill the openings.

David Styer, the board treasurer, filed for another term. However, board members Tanya Husby and John Sobota are not seeking re-election.

Five challengers have filed along with Styer for the openings: Chris Freeman, Bayard Godsave, Urs Haltinner, Neil Heifner-Johnson and Clint Moses.

Husby served on the board from 2012 to 2015, then was appointed to fill a vacancy in January 2018. Sobota has served since 2016.

Menomonie school board members earn $800 each, with the president earning $1,000.


Hambuch- Boyle