With seven more positive cases reported in the previous week, the Sawyer County Health Department on Tuesday, July 28, reported that the county's total number of positive COVID-19 cases had increased to 26.
The seven new cases is the highest number reported in a week since the county began tracking positives. The first new positive case was reported Thursday, July 23, then another was reported Friday. Over the weekend, four more cases were confirmed and the last new positive case was identified on Tuesday, July 28.
Two cases are now reported as being hospitalized and 18 cases are listed as "recovered." No deaths have been reported due to COVID-19 in the county.
"We are definitely on the uptick," said Sawyer County Public Health Officer Julia Lyons. "We are seeing an increase of cases. They are symptomatic (with symptoms) for the most part. We are seeing multiples (of positives) in households where those people are in close contact to get it."
Lyons also said she is seeing more people who have had close contact to someone who has tested positive.
"We need to limit our close contacts and we need to be masking whenever we are inside any business or anyplace with others," she said.
Lyons added that there has also been an increase in positive cases in most of the surrounding counties, and she expects more positive cases in Sawyer County.
In Sawyer County, more than 10% of its full-time residents, or 2,370 persons, have tested negative for the coronavirus.
On its COVID-19 website, Bayfield County Public Health under its "Community Exposure" category has listed Lakewoods Resort outside of Cable as having a "medium" level of exposure from July 9-12 during a "undefined" period related to wedding attendees, bar patrons and staff.
The "medium" designation means there has been a positive case identified at the location and there is a moderate risk of contracting COVID-19. Persons who were at the facility during the related time period are advised to monitor their condition and be tested if they have symptoms. Quarantining is not suggested if there are no symptoms.
A Sawyer County Community COVID-19 Screening Hotline has expanded days
of operation and will now be open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday and from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
The purpose of this hotline is to help identify people in the community who may be appropriate for coronavirus testing.
All individuals who experience the symptoms of coughing, fever or shortness of breath should call the hotline at (715) 934-4518.
An Exeland man, Jason Paul Arnold, 38, faces five felony charges in Washburn County after he was arrested following a high-speed chase from Hayward to the Sarona area on Wednesday, July 22.
Arnold is charged in Washburn County with two counts of first-degree felony recklessly endangering safety, battery to a law enforcement officer, reckless driving-causing great bodily harm, fleeing or eluding an officer, and six traffic violations. He is being held on a $50,000 cash bond.
The complaint states that Arnold had active arrest warrants and had recently been arrested following a standoff with law enforcement in Exeland to which the Washburn County SWAT team responded.
Arnold appeared in Washburn County Court Monday, July 27, where District Attorney Aaron Marcoux requested a competency evaluation for him. Judge Angeline Winton granted the request and set a competency hearing for Aug. 25.
Also on Monday, Arnold faced an extradition hearing in Sawyer County Court. On the request of District Attorney Bruce Poquette, Judge John Yackel dismissed the charge prior to the scheduled court appearance. Poquette stated that Arnold is in custody in Washburn County and has a valid federal warrant for his arrest.
The July 22 pursuit started in Hayward around 2 p.m. after Arnold entered the Sawyer County Record office on Highway B. Sawyer County officers arrived at the scene, and Arnold pulled out of the parking lot in a white pickup truck and fled westbound on Highway B.
Arnold did not stop for officers and headed south on Highway 27 to Highway 70, turned west onto Highway 70, went through Stone Lake and into Washburn County.
Sheriff Stuart said that Washburn County deputies took the lead on the vehicle pursuit when it entered the county.
Arnold's Chevy truck entered Washburn County with 10 to 12 Sawyer County law enforcement squads in pursuit.
Washburn County deputies and a State Patrol trooper joined the pursuit, with speeds varying between 35 and 70 mph as the procession continued west on Highway 70.
When Arnold went south on Cranberry Drive, some officers went west on Highway 70 and then south on Highway 53 to try cutting Arnold off on Cranberry Drive.
However, Arnold took a different route: He cut through a hay field, through a barbed wire fence and up a steep embankment and onto Highway 53, heading south in the northbound lane.
"There was a fair amount of traffic and multiple vehicles had to apply their brakes to avoid colliding with the white truck," a Washburn County deputy's report stated.
By this time three deputies and an investigator were following Arnold, their lights and sirens all activated. Arnold cut over on a crossover near the Barron County line and headed back north at speeds of 60 to more than 100 mph.
At one point Arnold was boxed by a semi in the right lane, a deputy beside the truck in the left lane, and the investigator behind him.
Arnold turned east onto Long Lake Avenue and maintained speeds of 90 mph to more than 100 mph. He and the two remaining squads slowed to make a 90-degree corner on the road.
Arnold reportedly blew through the stop sign at Highway D and was almost hit by another truck, but the other truck was able to stop in time and then back up out of the way of the squads.
"The pursuit continued north on Lapcinski Road, where this truck was traveling at such a high rate of speed it was very difficult to maintain contact. There was not any license plates on this truck," the report said.
Arnold turned west onto Audubon Road, and a deputy set up stop sticks at the intersection with Highway P, but they did not have the desired effect. He drove over them, turned north on Highway P, with two officers still on the chase, and then turned west onto Miller Lake Road or Miller Landing Road, a dead-end road that ends at a boat landing.
Suddenly Arnold reversed course and sped back toward the squad cars. He tried to bypass one of them, but the deputy shifted it to block Arnold as the officer "did not believe this individual should be allowed to escape and had already risked many people's lives with this pursuit," the report said.
Arnold went right, to the deputy's left, and the deputy turned into the truck and braked. They collided head on, forcing the deputy's truck backwards to the left. Arnold then shot down a driveway and the deputy accelerated to get ahead of him, fearing Arnold would try to go through the backyard of the residence and possibly into the house, where people might be put in danger.
Arnold's truck then hit the deputy's right door and kept going. The deputy exited his truck, drawing his pistol and positioning himself be hind the truck with a clear view of Arnold.
"The driver had his hands up and was yelling 'Are you OK,'" the report said. The deputy yelled for him to get out of the truck, and Arnold continued to ask if he was OK. As the deputy repeatedly told him to exit the truck, Arnold asked for his Bible but said he did not know where it was. Arnold said he did not have any weapons.
Meanwhile, the K-9 Onyx had arrived, and a trooper and deputy were behind Arnold's truck in a better position to take him into custody. Arnold lit a cigarette and left the truck from the driver's side. A deputy took the keys out of the ignition from the passenger side.
The truck had three flat tires "but did not sustain much damage at all in the crash," the report said.
The deputy whose truck had been rammed went to the emergency room at Spooner Health with possible neck injuries.
Wanted in Michigan
According to news media articles from Michigan, Arnold is wanted for felony malicious destruction of property at the Schoolcraft County Courthouse and for misdemeanor reckless driving on June 24.
Manistique Public Safety reported a vehicle had driven onto the front lawn of the courthouse, causing major damage to the grass. A sign was left on the property that suggested the subject was upset with the Department of Health and Human Services, which has offices in the building.
In July 2014, the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Michigan, Patrick Miles, announced that Jason Paul Arnold, 32, formerly of Garden, Michigan, received five years in prison for being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm. Arnold was previously convicted by a jury after a one day trial in Grand Rapids on March 17, 2014.
U.S. Attorney Miles stated the series of events that led to Arnold's conviction began in January 2013, when Arnold threatened to start "World War Three" if Child Protective Services (CPS) workers removed his children from his custody. Arnold was temporarily detained by police when CPS did remove his children.
While detained, Arnold attempted to commit suicide in a police vehicle. Arnold was involuntarily hospitalized following this suicide attempt. In March 2013, Arnold, who has an extensive adult criminal history that includes violent crimes, again attempted to commit suicide and was hospitalized.
In early April, after his release from the hospital, Arnold obtained a Winchester .30-06 caliber rifle and affixed a scope to it. He also purchased five boxes of ammunition and shot most of this ammunition in target practice.
The Michigan State Police learned that Arnold might have obtained this high-powered rifle and questioned him. After Arnold admitted that he possessed the rifle, he was arrested. A search of Arnold's house resulted in the discovery of the Winchester .30-06 rifle with a round in the chamber, a fully loaded magazine attached and a scope mounted on it. Additional rounds of ammunition were found along with the rifle. Arnold explained to police that he purchased the firearm simply to kill himself, which at a minimum didn't explain the need for a high-powered rifle, scope and multiple rounds of ammunition, Miles said.
Julie Hustvet, Spooner Advocate, contributed to this article.
The Great Divide Ambulance Service was a major topic at the Town of Cable's annual meeting Wednesday, July 22, as about 45 townspeople heard reports regarding operational challenges faced by the 10-township ambulance agency. Townspeople then voted to authorize the service to purchase a building on Highway 63 to provide living quarters for emergency medical personnel.
Great Divide Ambulance Service business manager Laura Bjork said the agency recently settled a lawsuit against them concerning employee overtime for more than $350,000. The agency hired a human resources specialist from Duluth who helped draw up and implement an employee handbook. The ambulance service added overtime wages and benefits and took $600,000 from its Safe Building fund to balance its 2019 budget.
Bjork said the ambulance service's offer to purchase the former Runamuck Rides building on Highway 63 South in Cable has been accepted. The offer is contingent upon the approval of the four towns that own the service: Cable, Namakagon, Drummond and Grand View.
The building will be renovated at an estimated cost of $250,000 and will be used for EMS personnel living quarters, Bjork indicated. The current EMT house will be sold, and the proceeds could be applied toward the cost of the renovation.
Bjork said 2019 was "very busy," with 1,272 ambulance runs, 31 fire stand-bys, 10 dead-on-arrival cases and 246 transports to hospitals. Of the calls, 873 were nonemergent.
"Currently Great Divide is running nonstop," Bjork added. "We are still in need of employees, preferably paramedics." In addition to the four Bayfield County townships, Great Divide contracts with six townships in Ashland County, serving a 780-square mile area in the two counties.
"Currently the ambulance service uses state funds to balance their budget and this cannot continue," Bjork said. "Our funds will run out."
Ambulance service coordinator Rob Puls said it has been a "tumultuous" year.
"These are dynamic times for all of us," he said. "We need to pull together to get through this."
Puls said the three ambulances situated in Cable "are all well north of 200,000 miles. I'm getting good at repairing them." A cardiac monitor costs $37,000 per ambulance, he added.
"We continue to have personnel shortages," he said. "We cannot get people to move here and work for us." This is despite the fact that an entry-level EMT can make $60,000 a year plus benefits while working three days a week, he said.
"You should be very proud of this ambulance service," Puls added. "We have the highest level license you can have in the state. With the COVID situation, we have never seen so many unstable patients. Everybody quit going to the doctor and put off things; we saw people accumulate very serious acuity conditions. That was a huge strain on us and our folks performed very well."
He added, "It gets harder every year. We're trying to hold onto the spirit" that the service founders had. "When an accident or illness strikes, we're there to make it your best worst day. We've had case after case with positive outcomes."
Last year, cardiac provider Essentia Health awarded Puls for having more positive outcomes than any other individual in the two-state region. "I've got good people working for me," he added.
Cable Fire Chief Kevin McKinney said the department added five firefighters in the past few months, bringing the total number to 10, which is "still a low number." The new members must take a Firefighter 1 course through WITC.
On a related issue, Cable Area Police Officer Kevin Johnson urged people who dial 911 accidentally to call back and let the dispatcher know if they're OK. Otherwise officers will come to the caller's door. "They have bigger and better things to do," he said.
Town Chairman Brett Rondeau announced that the National Guard on Aug. 14 will conduct free testing for COVID-19 at the Cable Community Centre, with hours to be announced. Up to 400 people will be tested, first-come, first-served.
The testing is "targeting southern Bayfield County and northern Sawyer County," Rondeau said. It is open to all, even if they're not a resident, he added.
Rondeau noted that several people had recently retired from town government, including the former clerk and treasurer. The new appointed clerk is Elaine "Bunkie" Miller and the new treasurer is Bobbi McCauley.
Deputy Town Clerk Deanne Allen said the town received a $12,000 state grant to conduct aquatic invasive species (AIS) boat checks at public landings on Cable, Perry and Takodah lakes. Also, the town received a $6,000 Firewise wildfire grant. The town received $9,625 cost share reimbursement from businesses for new sidewalks that were installed.
Miscellaneous donations and contributions for community projects such as the historical mural and bicycle park were "up significantly" from $7,669 in 2018 to $29,254 in 2019, Allen said. "These donations are really amazing and show the interest in Cable in bringing amenities to our town."
The "town is solvent, we have no debts and we are operating within budget," Allen said.
Forest Lodge Library Director Kristine Lendved said the library had 789 registered town resident patrons and 284 nonresident patrons in 2019. The library offered Makerspace events, author events, trick or treat for Halloween and Christmas stories by the fire.
The library has purchased a lot next door and plans an expansion that will preserve and incorporate the current 95-year-old building. The expanded facility will provide improved safety and accessibility with a main entrance and parking located on the building's north side. It will also include meeting spaces and study rooms, increased technology services, more shelving and displays for print and non-print collections, additional patron seating and reading areas, more space for quiet study, computer training and library programming.
The library plans to launch a fundraising campaign for the expansion in early 2021 and hopes to begin construction in the spring of 2022.
Sanitary District President Dave Popelka said the system passed inspections and audits by the DNR and USDA this spring "with flying colors."
The system processed 1.3 million gallons of wastewater last year, which is about 40 percent of the capacity of the treatment plant, Popelka said. Septic haulers provide 10 percent of the treatment system's income.
Popelka said the biggest problem is debris plugging up the pipes and pump, including diapers, wipes and even spandex shorts, which users have flushed down their toilets.
Popelka said the sanitary district has talked with the Telemark Interval Owners Association (TIOA) and American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation about extending sewer to the Telemark property. The TIOA has agreed to provide the local match for a state Idle Sites grant, and to pay any expenses not covered by the grant.
The treatment plant could easily handle the flow from the Telemark properties, which would be equivalent to about 110 homes, Popelka said.
Cable Union Airport Commission President Doug Rowe reported that Cooper Engineering is preparing an environmental assessment with public input for obstruction removal at the airport. This would extend the north-south runway's useable length to its pavement distance of 3,700 feet.
The airport has two undeveloped hangar sites and the commission is pursuing options to replace the terminal building.
Planning Commission Interim Chairperson Sue Thurn said the town has implemented a shortterm rental ordinance, looked at the completion of the campground at the Cable Recreation Park and has participated in the Chequamegon Bay housing group to assess how to continue offering affordable housing.
Thurn said Connect Communities volunteers created a business directory and walking map, an online calendar, conducted a needs survey of local businesses, created several spaces downtown with Aldo Leopold theme benches painted by volunteer artists; and provided free seminars on business planning, operating and marketing through social media. The downtown also has flower pots and bike sculptures.
A major project was raising $6,000 to cover the expenses of painting the historical mural on the exterior wall of Rondeau's Shopping Center, Thurn said.
She said the annual $12,000 AIS grant from the DNR is used for boat landing monitors at the three lakes; they inspect boats and educate boaters about aquatic invasive spaces. The town provides a 25% match through volunteer time. Shoreowners inspected shorelines to remove yellow iris and purple loosestrife.
Roads and Property Foreman Jason Swanson reported that all town roads in Cable are open to ATVs.
Kathy Zuelsdorf thanked the town board for approving the Cable Bike Park and thanked donors who raised more than $10,000 for the facility, which includes a pump track and skills course. Scott King and a friend built the skills park and trails in the forest, including loops for beginning, intermediate and advanced cyclists.
Zuelsdorf said they need to raise $7,000 to construct a hard-surface pump track. The facility "will be a big asset to the town," she said.
Town meeting attendees acted on several resolutions:
• Voted 37-0 to authorize the Great Divide Ambulance Service to purchase the Runamuck Rides property across from Triple G on Hwy. 63 for $250,000. The resolution also needs approval from electors and town boards in Namakagon, Drummond and Grand View.
• Voted 37-0, with seven abstentions, to raise the salary of the elected treasurer to $10,000, effective after the April 2021 election. The treasurer now earns $9,000.
• Voted 29-0, with 11 abstaining, to set the salary of the elected clerk at $18,000, to take effect after the April 2021 election. The clerk now earns $16,000 per year.
• Voted 32-0, with eight abstentions, to set the following town salaries: $7,000 for the town chairperson and $6,000 for each town supervisor. Current salaries are $6,891 for the chairperson and $5,511 for each supervisor. The new salaries will take effect after the April 2021 election.
• Rejected a resolution that would pay elected officials $20 per hour to perform nonofficial (town employee) duties. They now get $18 per hour. The vote was three 'Aye,' 18 'Nay' and 19 abstaining.
• Postponed until the Aug. 19 regular board meeting a proposal to include a referendum at the Nov. 3 election that would, if approved by the voters, authorize the town board to appoint the town clerk and town treasurer positions for three-year terms.
"We're having a hard time finding someone qualified to fill these positions," Rondeau said. "It's not like 30 years ago when anybody could do it. A lot of computer skills are needed and (there are) a lot of reports they have to do."
Rondeau said the towns of Namakagon and Barnes now appoint their clerks and treasurers. Former Town of Cable clerk and current Town of Namakagon appointed Clerk Kelly Rauch said, "It's extremely beneficial to go to a job and get paid for it. It's a paper pushing job and it takes a lot of time."
The board also on Aug. 19 will discuss whether to have a five-member town board.
Sybil Brakken said 15 months ago the electors of Cable by majority vote approved a resolution to create a five-member town board to provide greater representation for the townspeople. But "the town board has done absolutely nothing to honor that motion."
If the ordinance is adopted by the end of 2020, a five-member board could take effect after the April 2021 election, when two additional supervisors would be elected, she said.
Brakken asked that the board on Aug. 19 approve the ordinance. "Our town is changing and growing, and with that growth has come a great variety of interests," she said. "We need better representation for all the various groups. Five members will spread the work out to make easier for the board."
Six area towns have five-member boards and four of them have lesser populations than Cable, she added.
Rondeau said the board will vote on this topic at its Aug. 19 meeting.
Chairman Rondeau presented certificates of appreciation to various individuals for their dedication and service to Cable: Karl Kastrosky, Shelly Wilson, Kay Rowe, Heather Ludzack, Laura Bjork, Rob Puls, Kathy Zuelsdorf, Ned Zuelsdorf, Lori Popelka, Kevin McKinney, Tammy Rasmussen, Sue Thurn, Scott McKinney, Amy Byrd and Deanne Allen.
Many who are familiar with Sawyer County census data are aware that a high percentage of Sawyer Country households — 17% —have incomes that identify them as being in poverty, according to federal guidelines.
Now a study released recently by United Way of Wisconsin using 2018 data has identified another group in Wisconsin, and in Sawyer County, that is struggling but is not considered poor by federal standards. This group is called the Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed group, or ALICE households.
Released Monday, July 27,
the United Way study reveals that well before the state and county were experiencing the economic impact of COVID-19, 11% of Wisconsin households were living in poverty and 23% were categorized as ALICE. These households are defined as "people earning incomes above the federal poverty level who still struggle to afford basic needs like child care, housing and food," or households earning more than the federal poverty level but less than state's basic cost of living.
For Sawyer County and its 7,634 households, the study identifies 26%, or 2,011 households, as ALICE households and 17%, or 1,266 households, in poverty.
Adding the ALICE households, 26%, to poverty households, 17%, amounts to 43% in the county who are struggling financially or "below the ALICE threshold."
Sawyer County's 43% rate is one of the highest in the state, along with Adams County at 43%, Ashland County at 44%, Iron County at 43%, and Milwaukee and Vilas counties at 44%.
The ALICE study is published every two years. The recent report uses data collected in 2018 and "focuses on the financial struggle of ALICE families statewide since 2010."
The new study reveals an improvement statewide from 2016 when 38% of households were reported struggling, or below the ALICE threshold, to 34%, or 2.4 million households in 2018.
However, the study also notes that any improvements made or "momentum built" between 2016 to 2018 has probably been negated due to "the unprecedented financial challenges causes by the COVID-19 pandemic."
The study shows that the poverty level in Sawyer County from 2010 to 2016 had been slowly declining but then took a slight increase from 15% in 2016 to 17% in 2018.
The ALICE trend for the county took a sharp rise from 2014 to 2016 but slightly decreased from 31% in 2016 to 26% in 2018.
By demographics, those 65 and over, collectively, have a high number of ALICE households, 934, but fewer in poverty, 236.
The category "families with children" has the highest poverty rate, over 20% or 514 households, but fewer households in ALICE, 238.
The study also identifies "Household Survival Budget" or the "bare minimum cost to live and work in the modern economy" including "housing, child care, food, transportation, health care, technology (a smartphone plan) and taxes" but not savings for emergencies or future goals, such as college or retirement.
For a single adult in Sawyer County the household survival budget is $20,892 or an hourly wage of $10.45, but for two adults with two in childcare, it increases to $65,844 or an hourly wage of $32.92.
The study shows that 20% of Sawyer County workers are paid by salary, 20% are full-time hourly, 10% are parttime hourly and 3% are part-time salary, with others either unemployed, not in the labor force or retired.
United Way President Charlene Mouille said the income of hourly workers is less predictable and helps keeps their overall income lower with typically fewer benefits.
The study also looks at the county by municipalities:
The Town of Bass Lake has 1,002 households with 40% under the ALICE threshold. The Town of Couderay has 207 households with 60% under the threshold. The City of Hayward has 1,171 households with 62% under the threshold.
In Sawyer County, the Village of Radisson has the highest percentage under the ALICE threshold, 78% of its 163 households. The Town of Lenroot has the lowest ALICE threshold, 26% for 477 households.
At 30% are the towns of Edgewater, Round Lake and Spider Lake.
Mouille said the study is meant to help decision makers realize the extent of the economic struggle in their communities and help change the perception about those struggling.
"By challenging commonly held beliefs around poverty and economic hardship, we can begin to understand the factors holding so many Wisconsinites back and what we need to do as communities to build a better future," Mouille said in a press release.
She added the report is meant to give more data to local decision makers to help them discern what could be done to help households move above the ALICE threshold. She said some communities have identified affordable childcare as important and others in rural areas have addressed transportation and housing.
Another key indicator that is not in the study, Mouille said, is access to the Internet. She noted that 74% of Sawyer County households pay for an internet service, but she also admitted there is no breakdown on how many of those households receive high speed broadband service. Faster aInternet speeds increase the likelihood that one is able to work or study from home.
The full ALICE report, including a breakdown for each county, is available online at www.unitedwaywi.org/ALICE.