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Former Winter priest found guilty on two charges of sexual assault

A former Catholic clergyman — Thomas E. Ericksen, 71, who served in the early 1980s as the parish priest in the Village of Winter and prior to that as the hospital chaplain in the City of Merrill in Lincoln County — was found guilty of first degree sexual assault against a child and another second degree sexual assault, also against a child.

During the plea hearing on Tuesday, June 11, Ashland County Circuit Judge Kelly McKnight accepted Ericksen's "no contest" pleas.

McKnight said Erickson would be sentenced under state statute that was in effect between 1982-83 when the offenses were committed.

The judge noted the maximum sentence for the first-degree sexual assault had been 20 years and 10 years for the second-degree charge, but there was no minimum sentence.

And at the request of Sawyer County Assistant District Attorney Aaron Marcoux, a $500,000 cash bond against Ericksen, which Ericksen had not been able to raise confining him to the Sawyer County jail, was revoked. In ordering the revocation, McKnight said Ericksen no longer "enjoyed the presumption of innocence."

The judge began a series of questions to determine if Ericksen understood the legal consequences of a no contest plea. Ericksen initially responded, "I guess so your honor."

McKnight said the question was a yes or no question and then Ericksen responded, "Yes, your honor."

As part of a plea agreement with the state, two other charges — both second-degree sexual assault/unconscious victim — will be dismissed but read in for sentencing.

In addition, Ericksen must provide "factual admission" to two other "uncharged counts" from Lincoln County that will be read in for sentencing.

McKnight asked Ericksen if had read the complaint of the first-and second-degree charges and if the substance of the allegations in both were true. Ericksen said they were true.

McKnight also asked Ericksen if he agreed the allegations of the two uncharged offenses from Lincoln County were also true.

"I don't remember," said Ericksen, "but these guys are not liars, so I don't doubt that."

McKnight asked Ericksen's public defender Ryan Reid and Marcoux if Ericksen's response concerning the uncharged Lincoln County offenses was sufficient for an admission and both agreed it was.

McKnight ordered a presentence investigation (PSI) with the Department of Correction for sentencing at 1 p.m. Friday, Aug. 30.

History of offenses

The first four counts against Ericksen stem from a period when he served as parish priest in Winter from 1982-1983.

The first-degree charge is for the sexual assault of a boy under the age of 12 from June 1, 1982 through April 1, 1983.

The second-degree charge is for the sexual assault of a 14-year-old boy on Sept. 17, 1982.

One of the dismissed second-degree felony charges concerns an unconscious teenage boy who had consumed alcohol on Feb. 4, 1983. The second dismissed charge concerns an unconscious victim that occurred in Winter in November 1982.

Two other men have also alleged Ericksen inappropriately fondled them in 1982 while they were both under the age of 12 and patients at Holy Cross Hospital in Merrill.


Barnes EMS asks Sawyer County for help

Town of Barnes (Bayfield County) representatives asked the Sawyer County Public Safety Committee June 6 to have the Sawyer County Ambulance Service help with all their ambulance calls.

Sawyer County Emergency Medical Service (EMS) administrator Nate Dunston said the Town of Barnes is asking Sawyer County to respond to all of the town's ambulance calls with a paramedic vehicle to do intercepts 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This would be about 65 calls per year, for which Barnes would be charged $20,000, he said. The cost to have one EMT and one paramedic respond to each call would be around $34,675 per year, billed to Barnes, he added.

Town of Barnes representative Guy Johnston said their ambulance department has six to seven personnel who respond to calls. "Finding vol-

unteers for sustainable, dependable service is a hard thing to do," he said. "Our population (including about 700 year-round residents) is aging."

Johnston said that Barnes advertised to hire two full-time EMTs but received no applicants as of May 31. With their existing service, "We don't always know when we have people available (to respond to calls). The clock starts to tick," he said. In instances where Sawyer EMS personnel respond to a call and then Barnes finds they are not needed, they could be canceled, he added.

Johnston said the Town of Barnes has budgeted for two new EMTS and a new fire station, including ambulance quarters with two bedrooms, which is being built.

"There is a willingness and awareness that we need to spend some money to make that service work," Johnston said. "Relying on volunteers is wonderful, but in this day and age it's hard to come by."

Dunston said in a lot of the calls he's responded to, the patient is in critical condition and an air ambulance (helicopter) is called in.

Johnston said they met with Great Divide Ambulance Service but "our discussion has been mixed. We never got to the point of coming up with numbers. Then Great Divide shifted their focus to the east and north (Glidden, Marengo) and they opened up another facility to the east."

Also, Gold Cross out of Duluth-Superior "was not interested in providing us with that type of service," Johnston said.

Committee member Dale Schleeter said Sawyer County EMS now provides service to several townships west of Hayward in Washburn County, and Sawyer County charges those towns for the service.

Dunston said the patient is billed for intercept service, but Sawyer County has not had a call from Barnes since Jan. 1. "During our busy season, we sometimes struggle to get trucks moving here in Sawyer County. Our county is first priority."

Dunston added that a call from Barnes takes 40 minutes to arrive on scene, and an average call from Hayward to Barnes averages 55 miles. Under the existing mutual aid agreement, if Barnes ambulance is already on a call and they get a second call, whoever is closest will respond with an ambulance, whether Sawyer County, Great Divide, Gold Cross or Mayo, Dunston said.

Under an agreement signed in May 2018, Sawyer County EMS bills Barnes Ambulance $500 per call and also bills the patient, Dunston said. Under the existing intercept agreement, a paramedic will meet Barnes ambulance on scene or on a highway, get into the ambulance and provide advanced care, Dunston added. Barnes then will bill the patient and will refund Sawyer County the advanced life support (ALS) rate, which is about $250, he said.

"I'm certainly in favor of helping our neighbors, but we can't afford to take on any more operational cost," Schleeter said.

The committee agreed to work with Barnes to come up with more detailed costs before acting on any proposal.

Ojibwa station

The committee voted to ask the full county board to reconsider a proposal to borrow up to $622,975 to construct an ambulance facility near the junction of Highways 27 and 70 in Ojibwa. This proposal failed to pass by one vote at the board's May 16 meeting.

The cost to the taxpayer to pay off the debt is projected at two cents per $1,000 of equalized value for each of the 10 years of debt service.

Chief deputy to retire

Sawyer County Chief Deputy Sheriff Craig Faulstich announced that he will retire July 12 after 36 years in law enforcement. He thanked the sheriffs he's worked with and the public safety committee for its support.

Former sheriff Mark Kelsey said, "I never had to worry about (Faulstich) doing something dishonorable. He's an honorable man who served well."

Committee member Helen Dennis said, "We will miss you. You are an asset to our county."


City gives go-ahead for Hayward's BID district

The City Council of Hayward passed the first ever business improvement district (BID) on Monday night, June 10 for a section of the downtown.

In a unanimous vote, the council approved the formation of the BID, that is defined as " ... an area within which businesses are required to pay an additional tax (or levy) in order to fund projects within the district's boundaries."

Many BIDs in Wisconsin focus on using levy dollars for promotion and attracting visitors.

The BID boundaries include a rectangle section of three blocks bordering Highway 63 to the east, Dakota Avenue to the south, Fourth Street to the west and the alley between Main Street and Kansas Avenue to the north.

Depending on property value, property owners will pay a yearly flat rate levy: property that is less than $100,000 in value, $300 levy; $100,000- $369,999 in value, $400 levy;

and $370,000 and above in value, $500.

The new BID is projected to raise $24,700 levy dollars.

Seventy five (75) percent of the levy dollars will be used for marketing/cross marketing the area and 25 percent on administration.

Several downtown business owners and members of Hayward Downtown Business Council, an offshoot of the Sawyer County/Lac Courte Oreilles Economic Development Corporation, promoted the BID proposal.

Mayor Charlie Munich also appointed members to the BID board. Appointed to a three-year term are Mika Ahlgren, James Netz, Billie Jo Sabin and Jennifer Titus. Appointed to a two-year term are Kathy Peterson, Mike Stamp and Cindy Swift. Appointed to a one-year term are Nate Gall, Larry Mann, Teresa Peters and Jim Miller. Miller, a city alderperson, is also the council's representative on the board.

Approved

• Request to use Hall of Fame Drive for Lumberjack run.

• Request for Hayward Lions Club/Hayward Area Rotary Club for a fermented malt beverage licenses in the confined area of Second and Main streets during the upcoming Musky Festival.

• Request to place a canopy over the front of 10546 Main Street, the gourmet popcorn store.

• Place two city pickup trucks – 1996 Dodge and 2000 Chevy – for sale for approximately $1,000 each.

• One of the city's remaining liquor licenses to Main Street Tacos. The license had formerly belonged to Logger's Mill, now out of business. Main Street Tacos was the only entity that applied for the license.

• Second reading of ordinance regarding tobacco-free school zone and the first reading of an ordinance on juvenile offenses.

Update

Public Works Administrator John McCue said the Highway 27 project appears to be on track for completion of the Highway 63 to the Namekagon Bridge portion by June 28. Work has begun on a portion of 27 south of County Highway B, but he said that work will stop on June 28 and the workers will come back to finish the project after Labor Day. However, a representative of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) has told the Record that work south of B will continue into July.

McCue informed the council the DOT would like the city to pay for half the cost of removing contaminated soil under the south lanes of 27 where the city placed water and sewer lines. The full cost is $25,000; half is $12,500. McCue said he had opposed paying the $25,000 because it was not included in the original contract, but McCue was also concerned with the DOT making the city pay all of the $25,000 versus just $12,500. McCue said often with road projects contaminated soil is allowed to remain because it is covered with asphalt, but the DOT would not allow that on the Highway 27 project.

McCue said he was confused as to why water removed during dewatering of the area was not considered contaminated and was allowed to be flushed into the Namekagon River, but soil from the same area was considered contaminated and required removal. (The Sawyer County Record will follow up on this question with the DOT and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the agency that allowed the water to be flushed into the Namekagon.)

McCue added the city signed a contract for $300,000 to have contaminated water removed by tanker, but when the water was not found to be contaminated the contractor spent under $100,000 for dewatering versus the $300,000, and the city received no compensation from the difference.

Concerning replacing the Smith Creek culvert from the east side of Highway 63 to Lake Hayward, McCue said, he had talked to the DOT and confirmed the city would extend two sevenfoot culverts to Lake Hayward the DOT is proposing laying just under 63 (the DOT's portion of the culvert) in either 2023 or 2024. For that portion of the culvert under the Dodge dealership, between 63 and Railroad Street, McCue said, the city would be seeking an easement.

The year 2023 is the next possible period for the city to apply for a federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), a grant helping with infrastructure that could be used for the Smith Creek culvert. (The city is currently working on a $1 million CDBG application for the downtown. The CDBG application window is every two years.)

City Attorney Michael Kelsey informed the council he had researched the city's easement deed on West Guard Street and discovered the city had been given an easement in 1966 prior to Debra Rankin's purchase of the nearby property in 1968. Rankin has threatened to close off the street unless the city repaves it. It had once been paved but a couple of years ago the city removed the asphalt and replaced with gravel. McCue said the city eventually intends to repave when dollars are available. Rankin has been critical over the dust created by the gravel and the frequent potholes she said appear there.

Under consideration

The city is considering adopting an ordinance against dumping of household garbage in city garbage cans. McCue has complained that several city garbage cans get filled overnight from household waste. An ordinance would allow city police to write a ticket if they see a person stuffing a large garbage bag in a city garbage can.


DIVING FOR DIRT

'Northern Wisconsin is where I feel most at home'
New Cable Area Chamber executive director shares his story

Cable's new Chamber of Commerce Executive Director, J.D. Lind, didn't take the short route to get to his new position. He has a diverse and striking career path that includes serving as Superintendent of the Wisconsin State Patrol under former Gov. Scott Walker. This is his story.

Born and raised in Bayfield, Lind was named James David Lind. His parents, he said, decided before his birth they would call him "J.D." He is the youngest of five siblings, with two sisters being the oldest, followed by two brothers.

"My oldest sister was a Wisconsin State Patrol lieutenant and her husband was a State Patrol captain. The second oldest sister has worked in the food industry for many years and resides in the Madison area. The oldest brother is an auto body mechanic and recently sold his auto body business in Green Bay. The middle brother is a retired UW-Madison Police Department lieutenant and he currently serves as the security director for the Overture Performing Arts Center in Madison.

"My mom and dad are both deceased. We were, in my estimation, fortunate to have a stay-at-home mom. She was an excellent cook and a very loving caregiver to her family. Dad was a very active person who loved to fish, hunt and play golf. He received a bachelor's degree in history and a master's in school administration from UW-Superior. He coached baseball and basketball at Bayfield High School for many years. I'm not certain of the exact year dad started his position (principal) at Bayfield High School. The Bayfield school system is a K-12 facility, which means my dad was my school principal from the first day I started in kindergarten until the day I graduated. I loved having him at the school," Lind said.

After graduating from Bayfield High School, Lind attended WITC in Superior, then majored in marketing education and minored in business at

UW-Stout in Menomonie. He became a teacher.

His first position was in Bemidji, Minnesota, where he taught high school marketing for one year before going to Altoona in Wisconsin, where he also coached wrestling. In 1994 he said he told his wife, Michele, that he wanted to join the State Patrol.

"I followed in my father's footsteps to become an educator; however, I always admired and was interested in what my sister and brother-in-law did as state troopers," he explained.

His wife was supportive of the career change and Lind became a cadet at the Wisconsin State Patrol Academy in July 1994, graduating in December 1994. He was 29.

"I never had any regrets in my decision to leave the teaching profession to pursue a career in law enforcement. Being a state trooper was an amazing experience," he said.

Lind said training at the academy was extremely difficult and challenging. Cadets got up at 5 a.m., fell into formation and did an hour of physical training before showering, dressing in uniform and preparing the barracks for inspection. They marched to the mess hall for breakfast and at 7:45 a.m. began classroom training until dismissal at 4:30 p.m. for another physical training session before dinner.

The night then involved studying but they were allowed to go home for weekends. Lind said he and Michele had two children at the time, ages 2 and 3. Those children are now 28 and 26 years old, he said.

State trooper

After graduation from the Academy, Lind was assigned to a position as trooper in Outagamie County. He later was a trooper in Bayfield and Kewaunee counties, a sergeant at the State Patrol Academy, a lieutenant of the Southwest Region Tomah Post and captain of the North Central Region Wausau Post. In 2012 he was promoted to major at the State Patrol Central Headquarters in Madison and then to lieutenant colonel, followed by colonel, and ultimately to superintendent, the highest-ranking officer for the Wisconsin State Patrol.

"Michele and I have moved 18 times during our 28 years of marriage," Lind said.

As superintendent of the State Patrol, Lind said he developed a new strategic plan for the agency that addressed more current budget, recruitment and technology demands. When he left, the agency had a budget surplus of $600,000.

Coming home

"Northern Wisconsin is where I feel most at home," Lind said, adding that his wife feels that way, too, although she was born and raised in Green Bay.

As the chamber's executive director, Lind said his initial goal is to do a lot of networking with the businesses and members of the communities of Cable, Drummond, Grand View and Namakagon.

"I believe it is very important of me to meet the membership of the Chamber and to discuss ideas for business growth. There are a number of events and meetings that I will be attending in the near future that will also allow me to network. I am hoping to increase chamber membership as well," Lind said, adding membership is now at 108 members.

In the immediate future, Lind said he will attend the ribbon-cutting ceremony for North Country Vacation Rentals on June 14 and the Fourth of July pancake breakfast and parade in Cable.

Lind said the Cable Area Chamber of Commerce exists to promote and market the towns of Cable, Drummond, Grand View and Namakagon as a premier travel destination, calling them the "advertising agent for our communities, relentlessly creating and placing ads inviting visitors to come discover all there is to see and do in this amazing part of northern Wisconsin."


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