This hunting season, hunters across the Northwoods are being asked to submit samples of their deer to be tested for Chronic Wasting Disease.
As the invariably fatal disease continues to spread across the state, with new CWD-positive deer being found in areas that formerly only had a single positive, there has been a renewed push for testing — which is offered by the Department of Natural Resources at no cost to hunters. This is the first time in nearly a decade that there has been a concerted effort to look for the disease in the northern region of the state.
In order to get enough samples to achieve relative assurance that the disease does not exist in northern counties that are not already CWD-positive, the DNR has to depend on hunters to submit samples of their deer for testing.
CWD has been found in 56 of Wisconsin's 72 counties, according to the DNR, including Vilas, Oneida, and Lincoln, which border Price County to the east.
While the disease has not been found in Price County, there have been a very small number of samples sent in for testing over the past several years. In the 2018 sample year (which runs from April 1, 2018-March 31, 2019), a total of 52 Price County deer were tested for CWD. In 2017, 23 deer were tested, three in 2016, three in 2015, and zero in 2014. The highest number of deer sampled for CWD in Price County was 483 in 2002, followed by 441 in 2008. Apart from those two years, there haven't been more than 100 samples taken in a single year.
A minimum of 369 samples would need to be received for Price County in order to achieve a 95% confidence level that the disease does not exist in the county, according to local DNR wildlife biologist Derek Johnson.
"We can never be 100% sure, but by sampling 300 deer in the county, there's a high likelihood that we would have found it," said Johnson.
So far this sampling year, there have been 59 samples sent for testing in — the majority of which have been collected from deer harvested on agricultural permits.
"As far as hunter-harvested samples, we've been pretty few and far between," said Johnson.
Due to the new online registration process, Johnson explained that the DNR has to rely on hunters to voluntarily supply samples for testing.
CWD testing is completed at no cost to hunters, and there are numerous sites throughout Price County where hunters can drop off samples of their deer for testing. These include Wildwood Taxidermy in Fifield, Roscoe's Country Sausage outside Phillips, Ball Petroleum in Phillips, Raab's Extra Innings in Ogema, Still Life Taxidermy in Park Falls, Laurie's Coach Bar and Grill in Ogema, and the Northwoods Convenience Station in Hawkins.
There are also 24/7 selfservice kiosks at the DNR locations in Park Falls and Prentice.
In order to submit a sample, hunters must deposit the deer head with three to five inches of neck attached, as the lymph nodes located in the neck are what is tested for the disease. The harvest authorization number, harvest location, and contact information is also needed.
If the sample is dropped off one to three days after harvest, it can be kept at temperatures 40-degrees or cooler. Any longer than that, the head should be frozen.
In order to make special arrangements for dropping off a sample in Price County, hunters can call Johnson at 715-762-1340 or email him at email@example.com.
The lymph node samples collected in Price County are sent to the DNR's CWD processing center in Black Earth. Each sample is cataloged and the samples then send on to the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at UW-Madison for testing. Results will be provided to the hunter and the DNR within two to three weeks.
Members of the Phillips School Board convened in a special meeting on Nov. 6 to learn the results of a community survey conducted by research firm School Perceptions this past month.
The results were presented by School Perceptions representative Sue Peterson via phone.
The purpose of the survey was to educate the local community about the facility needs identified at the district, and to present a few options for resolving those needs. Data gathered will help inform the school board's decision-making process while determining whether or not to pursue a referendum in April 2020.
The survey was conducted in October, and all residents in the Phillips School District were mailed a paper survey. A total of 878 responses were received for a total participation rate of 28% and a 3.3% margin of error.
The majority of the respondents at 41% were age 65 or older; 19% were 56-64; 15% were 46-55; 15% were 36-45; 9% were 26-35; and 1% were 18-25.
The survey also broke the respondents down into categories of parent, staff, and non-parent non-staff — the latter of which are considered statistically most important as they make up the majority of voters. The total respondents category is over-representative of staff and parents, according to Peterson.
Of the respondents, 231 are parents with children attending the district, and 82 are teachers in the district.
The vast majority of respondents live within the towns of Worcester and Elk and the city of Phillips, with smaller percentages hailing from the other towns within the school district.
Survey-takers were asked if they supported closing the current elementary school and moving to the same location as the middle/high school, to which 67% of all respondents said yes, 17% said no, and 16% said they were unsure or needed more information.
The survey then presented two options for how to renovate and redesign the school buildings to accommodate for all students on a single campus.
The first option, coming in at $9.86 million, would add 25,000 square feet to the middle/high school, create a new secure entrance to the elementary, renovate existing space, add eight classrooms on the east side of the school, expand and renovate the technical education space, and improve the storm water issues in the east parking lot. This would result in an annual tax increase of approximately $130 for each $100,000 of property value if passed in a referendum.
The second option, coming in at $6.99 million, would add
14,500 square feet to the middle/high school, create a new secure elementary entrance, add five new classrooms for pre-K and kindergarten, add four classrooms and renovate existing space for the middle school, and improve student traffic flow.
A slight majority of survey-takers supported the first option, with 51% of all respondents indicating they would vote yes, 38% would vote no, and 11% undecided. When broken down to the nonparent non-staff respondents, 49% said no, 43% said yes, and 9% were undecided.
Approximately a third of the undecided respondents will likely vote yes in a referendum, according to Peterson — just barely nudging the percentages in favor of those supporting option one in a referendum.
"If this were to go to the polls tomorrow, we would say you have support, but it's going to be extremely tight," Peterson told the school board. "There's definitely a need to continue to educate people and let them know the benefits of option one.
"You're not going to win by a landslide, but there is support," said Peterson. "People do agree with the fact that you need to consolidate your schools, and they are leaning toward option one."
The second option received less support, with 43% of all respondents saying no, 39% saying yes, and 18% undecided. Of the non-parent non-staff respondents, 48% said no, 34% said yes, and 18% remained undecided.
The survey also asked community members if they would support demolishing the 1950s and 1970s portions of the elementary school at the estimated cost of $565,000 — to which 46% of all respondents said yes, 36% said no, and 18% remained undecided. Of non-parent non-staff respondents, 42% said no, 38% said yes, and 20% remained undecided.
When asked if they would support a $1.425 million project to upgrade and expand school parking, 40% of all respondents said no, and 39% said yes, and 21% were undecided. Of the non-parent non-staff respondents, 48% said no, 32% said yes, and 20% were undecided.
Peterson said this result showed these issues are not seen as an important priority at this time.
The results of the survey will be up for discussion at the school board's regular meeting, held at 6 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 25.
Should the school board decide to pursue a referendum in April 2020, a resolution to that effect will need to be adopted by Jan. 28, 2020.
Concerned about the future of the Park Falls mill property and what presumptive owner Niagara Worldwide might do with it, the Park Falls Common Council passed two ordinances Monday night intended to guard against the property becoming blighted or simply a pile of rubble.
Ordinance 19–006 grants the city oversight to the way in which buildings over 100,000 cubic feet can be demolished. By the new ordinance, the owner of such a property is subjected to permitting approval by the common council for a partial or interior demolition that would affect more than 10 percent of the replacement value of the structure. A permit would first be considered by the Board of Public Works, which is given a great deal of leeway in deciding whether to recommend approving or denying the permit.
Ordinance 19–007 works in parallel to 19–006 by requiring a property owner to apply for a demolition permit for salvaging operations. It also dictates that no commercial salvaging may take place without demolition.
The ordinances allow the city to inspect such properties at any time during regular business hours, require the property owner to carry insurance, suspend salvage or demolition operations, enforce fines and penalties for non-compliance, and seek injunctive relief by the court if needed.
"Our nightmare scenario ... is somebody comes in, pulls out the things of value [and] we're left with the structure and now we have to knock it down," said City Attorney Bryce Schoenborn in explaining the ordinances to the council Monday night.
"[The ordinances] would require that before you get a permit for salvaging, you also have to have a permit for demolishing the building when you're done. I have been given plenty of examples of industrial buildings in small cities in Wisconsin in the past that haven't had the benefit of these ordinances."
Cities given as examples included New London, Brokaw,
and Manitowoc, each of which had industrial properties purchased by Niagara Worldwide president Eric Spirtas.
In Manitowoc and New London, Spirtas faced lawsuits over properties becoming public nuisances and building condemnation orders years after purchasing old industrial sites, according to media reports.
"We have been, for almost two decades, buying and selling ageobsolete assets [and] operating facilities," Spirtas said to the Review on Monday. "We do repurposing of old idle, industrial assets just like [Flambeau River Papers]. We know what we're doing. We will give more information as the acquisition matures and as we close on the property. We're going to be working with the local authorities and the local businesses to do the right thing for the area. Getting into any other details is tough right now."
Park Falls contracts residential building inspection with T.A.K. Inspections, but for a property required to go through the larger demolition permitting, a specialized contractor could be hired.
"For something like this we may not have a building official named, which gives us the flexibility to hire a building inspector," said City Administrator/Clerk Brentt Michalek told the Review. "We would bring in a firm and name them building inspector for that project."
Some of the language of the new ordinances is based off the Department of Natural Resources model ordinances.
"This is such an issue that in 2014 the DNR created model ordinances and encouraged municipalities to take a look at doing something like this," Schoenborn said. "It's drafted as narrowly as it possibly can be because we're not trying to overreach but we do have legitimate concerns when it pertains to industrial salvaging."
The council unanimously passed the ordinances, which go into effect in 60 days.