Eau Claire police have identified 21-year-old Jaime Thayer-Vega from the Hayward/LCO area as the deceased male found in the residence of a structure fire that happened at 4:12 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 19, on Congress Street.
Police say a tenant saw an intruder in his home and a confrontation started. The tenant then notified the other occupants of the fire and they were able to make it out of the residence.
Police Lieutenant Derek
Thomas said none of the six college students living in the home knew Thayer-Vega.
Fire officials found the victim inside the home. An autopsy report shows Thayer-Vega's cause of death was smoke inhalation.
Police say one of the tenants saw an intruder in his home and that intruder is identified as Thayer-Vega.
"There was a physical confrontation that ensued with this intruder," Lt. Thomas said.
"At that point, he noticed there was a fire, and it's still under investigation whether or not it was active prior to him making contact with the intruder or after he made contact with the intruder."
Thomas said the tenant then notified the other people living there of the fire, and they were able to make it out of the house safely.
Thomas said Thayer-Vega was a stranger.
"Nobody inside of that house knows who he is," said Thomas. "Nobody inside the house knows why he was there or what he was doing.
Nobody in the house knows exactly when the fire was started, how it was started, and when it was started.
Town of Hayward voters will have a chance to give their opinion Tuesday, Nov. 5, in a referendum asking them whether the town board should borrow up to $5 million to construct a new facility to replace its current town hall and offices, fire station and highway shop/garage on the town's 13-acre property on Highway 77 East.
This summer, the town board held two public hearings on a facilities feasibility study conducted by consultant Legend Architecture, and also conducted a tour for people to get a closer look at the present facilities.
Town Chairman Jeff Homuth said the referendum will be nonbinding.
"The other thing I'd like people to understand is that we have to do something," Homuth said. "If we stay in the building we're in now, in or-
der to repair and fix the things that need to be addressed and do the inside remodeling to make it better for the highway shop, that would be close to $2 million worth of work. And we would still be stuck with a 55-year-old building that's too small for all the other departments.
"In my mind, it makes more sense to stick that money into new buildings," he said.
The town is mailing out a flyer outlining the facilities proposal to all eligible town voters. Homuth said there are about 2,500 eligible voters in the town, out of a total population of about 3,660 people.
"We've got plenty of land" for new facilities, Homuth added. "With the new design, we'd have a better way out (onto Hwy. 77), and would make better use of the land, with a lot more green space in the front."
Besides the two public hearings, Homuth has spoken to several local organizations about the public services proposal and answered phone inquiries.
According to the town's brochure, the current 55-year-old structure is inadequate in space to meet community needs and statutorily mandated requirements. Through time, all departments have expanded in equipment and services to satisfy these necessities.
If the town borrows the money to construct the facilities, it is estimated that a taxpayer's property taxes would increase about $150 per year for 10 years on a property valued around $150,000.
The brochure states that it would cost an estimated $1 million to make necessary repairs and code upgrades to the existing buildings before any additions could be made.
A new facility would provide more efficient emergency service responses, increased secure voting spaces and public areas or community events, the brochure states.
Through public input this year, the initial footprint of the proposed new facility was reduced, the brochure states. Each department evaluated its basic regulatory needs for present and future work space.
The brochure adds that postponing construction would increase the facilities' costs more than $200,000 every year. If all the new facilities are built at the same time, it would reduce costs by about $400,000.
The Town of Hayward has a full-time clerk, highway department, police department and volunteer fire department.
The feasibility study and other information on the facilities can be viewed on the town's web site.
Hayward Community School District taxpayers will see a decrease in the tax rate of about 10 cents per $1,000 of property value, according to the 2019 tax levy approved Monday, Oct. 21, by the Board of Education.
The board certified a tax levy of $17,377,509 for general fund school operations and $1,431,500 for a non-referendum debt payment on the facility energy efficiency improvements, for a total levy of $18,809,009.
The district's equalized property value has increased 3.55 percent from last year to a total of more than $3 billion ($3,036,307,124), so "our mil rate will fall another dime" from the amount projected at the district's annual meeting, said Finance Committee Chairman Dr. Harry Malcolm.
The tax rate will be $6.1947 per $1,000 of equalized property value, which translates to a bill of $929.20 on a $150,000 property, a decrease of $15.37 from last year's tax bill.
The rate decrease comes despite an increase of $345,149 (1.87 percent) in the total levy over last year. That's because the tax is spread out over a larger district property value. "Even though we have a little more generous budget, we're still able to cut our mil rate by a dime, which is pretty amazing," Malcolm added.
Malcolm observed that the average tax rate for all school districts in the state is more than $10 per $1,000 of property value.
The board also approved the apportioned levy for each of the 13 taxing jurisdictions in the school district, accord
ing to their percent of the total district equalized property value.
The board adopted a 2019-20 budget of $24,808,143, which is a "break-even budget," Malcolm said. "We are looking forward; our school administration gets the credit. We're looking at some things we need to do (such as raising co-curricular and substitute staff salaries), and we're budgeting for that."
In other actions on Monday, the board:
1. Approved a series of board policy updates in consultation with NEOLA, a firm which states that their mission is " to help school leaders set direction through policy and address the policy implications and mandates of the ever-evolving laws and regulations from all levels of government."
2. Approved an application from a high school student to take a psychology course for college credit.
3. Approved the resignation of intermediate school housekeeper Teresa Moore and voted to hire intermediate school housekeeper Lori Schrauth.
4. Approved the transfer of middle school special education paraprofessional Regan Kohler to high school special education paraprofessional.
5. Voted to hire Darlene Kirchdoerfer as part-time middle school adaptive physical education teacher. She is the grades 6-8 career exploration teacher.
6. Voted to hire Kimberly Decker as middle school special education paraprofessional.
7) Voted to hire Lynn Tamm as intermediate school special education paraprofessional.
Supt. Craig Olson reported that after-school tutoring has begun for students in grades 3-12.
Also, a new after-school enrichment program initiative will begin second semester at the intermediate school, Olson said. It will be similar to the popular enrichment camps offered to students in grades 2-5 last summer. There will be a fee to participate. Sign-up has not started yet.
Olson reported that new legislation would allow retired teachers to substitute in-house for two days per week, which would help resolve the problem of the lack of substitutes for school staff. Olson said he hopes that retired teachers will be allowed to substitute five days per week, "which would help us immensely here."
Board President Linda Plante said, "The substitute issue is huge in the whole area. We have a lot of retired teachers in the area and if that pay bubble can be remedied, I think our sub situation will look a little different."
Olson said that by December the finance committee will present a new pay schedule for substitute staff to the board. Also a "sub fair" will be held to give information to people interested in applying for those jobs. Also, he advised the board to review the co-curricular pay rates.
Learning Like A Cane
Third grade teacher Stacy Wilson presented one of her 16 student readers, each of whom gets a new book to take home every month through the Scholastic Book Club. The cost is borne by various community sponsors.
Several students in Lisa Johnson's fourth grade class recited different style poems they created or borrowed. They also recited a group poem on "Why You Need A Skeleton."
Olson informed the board of several recent donations to the schools:
• Small calculators from Peoples Bank Midwest, which were distributed among intermediate school and primary school classes.
• One hundred binders from Walmart to be used by sixth graders in the new English Language Arts (ELA) curriculum.
• Spider Lake Church Women's Fellowship donated $400 worth of sweatpants, leggings and shirts.
The finance committee presented a list of what the annual donations from the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation were used for this past year. A total of $24,750 was spent for student athletic and activity expenses. There is $119,760 remaining in this fund.
City of Hayward Main Street business owners pressed Mike Stoffel, project engineer for Ayres Associates working for the city, to incentivize bids to ensure completion of the first two blocks of a 2020 Main Street project by Memorial Day.
Stoffel and the city's Public Works Director John McCue, along with Mayor Charlie Munich and alderpersons, met with Main Street business owners at 3 p.m. Monday, Oct. 21 at city hall and later at 5:30 p.m. with the Hayward Business Improvement District board at the assembly room of the county courthouse.
Earlier in the year the city was awarded a $1 million federal community development block grant (CDBG) that requires a city match of $500,000 to be used for improving Main Street and replacing a sewer line from 5th Street and California to Nyman Avenue.
The Main Street project will replace sewer and water lines and replace pavement, curb and gutter and sidewalk.
The scope of the project is from Highway 63 west to Fifth Street and includes 3 rd and 4th streets from Main to Kansas Avenue.
Originally, when the $1 million was awarded, Stoffel said, there would be dollars for beautification and enhancement along with infrastructure, but as his project estimates have become clear-
er, he said on Monday that just the infrastructure improvements would be slightly over $1.5 million. Any additional cost would have to be covered "locally," meaning by the city.
The consensus from several of the business owners is the project will reduce their sales by 50 percent. They advocated for the narrowest construction window possible during the time of the year with the least impact.
Steve Butchart, owner of Outdoors Ventures and Lake Kids, said that 60 days of prime tourist season is critical because it's when most make the majority of their profit for the year.
"Unfortunately, tourism season and construction season is the same time," said Stoffel.
Pressed on what can be done to minimize the impact, Stoffel said the construction could, theoretically, start the day after the Birkie finished in February and be finished by Memorial Day.
Specific concerns were expressed for the first two blocks from Highway 63 where most of the businesses are located.
Stoffel said the future bids could be written to incentivize completion of the first two blocks before Memorial Day. The incentive, he added, would be a penalty payment each day the project falls behind its deadline.
Several asked if the project couldn't be split in two sessions like the Highway 27 project this year, with much of the work accomplished before Musky Fest in June and the remaining work completed after Labor Day.
Stoffel said the concern is pouring concrete in October and allowing it enough time to cure before salt is poured on it, which could destroy the concrete. He said the preference is to pour the concrete in the spring, allowing months to cure.
Both Stoffel and McCue said if the weather permitted, the first two blocks could be completed by mid-May and the full project finished in early to mid-June before the Musky Fest. However, neither said they could guarantee that schedule because of the unpredictability of the weather.
To minimize impact, Stoffel said, the underground work for sewer and water would be completed in one block and then proceed to the next block while street work came behind in the first block.
The new sewer and water lines, Stoffel said, will be placed deeper to prevent freezing, and building owners should talk to their plumbers on making adjustment to the new depth and use the opportunity to replace old and outdated internal plumbing.
Concerning the footings for roofs and balconies that overhang the sidewalk, Stoffel said, the bids would be worded to work around them.
However, the mayor and others discussed the concept of replacing the overhangs with canopies to create more open space on the sidewalks, but the mayor and Stoffel said the cost to convert to a canopy would have to be borne by the business owner.
Butchart expressed concern with the impact of work on nearby buildings. He said his building's basement and four others experienced problems after the 2nd Street construction in 2018.
"What we are digging has been dug before," said Stoffel. "We are putting pipes in roughly the same location as the old pipes. We are not going to do anything different from what has been done before."
Alderman Jim Miller is advocating for "bump outs," expanded areas of the sidewalks, for placing bike racks or a kiosk, but McCue said bump outs are difficult to maintain, especially during winter snow plowing when they often are damaged.
McCue said bike racks could be placed in parking slots, and Teresa Peters, owner of Backroads Coffee and Hayward Coffee Company, advocated for having mobile bike racks with the nearby business owner paying advertising to have the bike rack located by its site.
Antique store proprietor James Worman said Main Street looks "tired" and was a proponent of removing the overhangs to free up sidewalk space. He also offered the concept of moving the city's fountain from the east side of 63 to the intersection at either 2nd or 3 rd street and making both intersections roundabouts.
Andrea Marple Wittwer, owner of Grey's Barbershop, said the fountain is where it had been historically located, but she wasn't against moving it.
Several asked about dollars to provide a facelift to Main Street so that once the construction is completed the shoppers would be impressed by the "wow factor," and this would also offer the businesses some form of compensation for loss in sales during construction.
Miller said there are building facade grants he would explore through Northwest Regional Planning Commission.
Ben Popp, executive director of the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation, advocated for making Main Street more pedestrian friendly for walking and biking.
There will be a special city council meeting at 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 28 at city hall to finalize the footprint of the project to allow Stoffel to create plans for bidding in January.
Sawyer County authorities this week charged a 28-yearold Reserve man, Jonathan Ray Kakazu, with first-degree reckless homicide by delivering drugs (fentanyl and heroin) to a local woman, 21-yearold Cassidy Joy Metropulos, who used the drugs and was found dead at a residence on Water Tower Road on the LCO reservation Aug. 27 this year.
Kakazu is currently in the Sawyer County Jail awaiting an Oct. 29 court appearance.
The charges were filed by District Attorney Bruce Poquette based on an investigation by Sawyer County sheriff's detectives.
According to the court complaint, detectives responded to a residence on Water Tower Road after being informed by a deputy who was investigating a report of an individual who had died of a suspected drug overdose and was found dead in the house.
A 28-year-old man who lived at the house told the detectives that he woke up at 6:20 a.m. and found Metropulos cold and unresponsive. He called 911.
In an interview with the detective, the man said that Me-
tropulos was a friend who usually does not stay at his residence. He stated he met her earlier that night and they decided to go to the casino for a drink.
Upon their return to the residence, the man said he observed her messaging someone and asked her who it was, and she responded that it was Jon Kakazu. The man said he "figured she was looking for drugs, because Jonathan Kakazu has a reputation in the community for being a drug dealer."
The man stated he then observed Metropulos standing outside, taking money out of her pocketbook and entering a dark-colored SUV, which had stopped in front of the residence. The SUV left toward Drytown, and five minutes later returned and dropped off Metropulos. He said he saw her consume drugs. They then went to sleep and he later woke up and found Metropulos unresponsive.
The detective collected a swab from the end table and sent the evidence to the state crime lab. The swab tested positive for tramadol, heroin and fentanyl.
Friends of Metropulos told the detective that they had been with her the previous night and she seemed completely normal.
Detectives obtained a search warrant for Metropulos' and Kakazu's Facebook accounts and observed the messages on them. A detective said he reviewed more than 40 messages on Kakazu's account "discussing the sale of heroin in almost every conversation."
The detective reviewed information recovered from Kakazu's phone by the state Department of Criminal Investigation forensics lab, which indicated that he phoned Metropulos at 7:05 a.m. Aug. 27 and had added numerals and symbols in an effort to prevent anyone else from tracking the conversation.
Metropulos' body was taken to the Midwest Medical Examiner's office in Ramsey County, Minnesota, where an autopsy was performed. A blood sample was sent to a lab in Pennsylvania, which indicated that Metropulos' blood contained tramadol and fentanyl.
"Your complainant states that fentanyl is a potent opioid and is commonly mixed with or added to heroin," the detective states.
The medical examiner's report identified the presence of fentanyl and a fentanyl metabolite in Metropulos' blood.
The medical examiner, Dr. Anne Bracey, stated, "there is no apparent anatomic cause of death." She added, "Fentanyl is a potent opioid that can cause respiratory depression, coma and death."
The blood screen also showed a prescription pain medication, tramadol, to be present. Dr. Bracey concluded "the cause of death to be attributed to fentanyl toxicity."
If convicted of the first-degree reckless homicide charge, Kakazu would face a maximum possible sentence of 40 years in prison plus a $100,00 fine.