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Fire takes two lives

TOWN OF MINONG– Two children, Phoebe and Thacher DenHartog, died in a house fire in the town of Minong early on Saturday morning, Feb.20.

A caller reported the fire at 4:47 a.m. at W6901 Semrad Dr. and said two people were still in the house and unable to get out. Two people had been able to escape the burning home.

The house was fully engulfed as law enforcement and the Minong Area Fire Department arrived, and the Wascott and Gordon fire departments were called out for mutual aid.

The cause of the fire is being investigated locally, said Minong Fire Chief Jay Barrett.

Thacher, 13, was a seventhgrade student at Northwood School, and Phoebe, 10, was a fifth-grader at Webster School.

"The Northwood School District and communities are profoundly saddened by the recent tragedy," said Superintendent Scot Kelly. "Our hearts go out to the family and friends of all those impacted with our most sincere condolences."

The district activated its crisis response team, which includes contacting area resources to support students and staff.

"The outpouring of support from counselors from neighboring school districts (Solon Springs, Spooner, Ashland, and others), mental health professionals (Anchor Bay and NorthLakes), and local clergy (Calvary Lutheran and The River Church) has been amazing," Kelly said. "Additional area resources have also reached out to offer their assistance to both the school and the family.

"We appreciate the well wishes as the family, community, students, school staff and local EMS [emergency medical services] personnel go through the grieving process.

"Together we are Northwood Strong!" Kelly said.

At Webster School, the school's administrative and crisis team noted to parents the loss to the school community.

"This loss is sure to raise

many emotions, concerns, and questions for our entire school, especially our students," the team said.

"Our school has a Crisis Intervention Team made up of professionals trained to help with the needs of students, parents, and school personnel at difficult times such as this. At our school, in each of our three buildings, we have counselors available for any student who may need or want help or any type of assistance surrounding this loss," the team said.

GoFundMe, more

A GoFundMe page has been set up at https://bit. ly/3dCAC0E. It says simply, "Tragically we lost two family members in a house fire. Without any insurance any support you could offer to help my cousin and family would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for your support and prayers."

The organizers are hoping to raise at least $25,000 for the family. Later on Monday the amount was raised to $50,000.

"The original goal was to cover the cost of burial," said organizer Joshua DenHartog, "however due to the generosity of everyone and the need for shelter for the remaining family members we have decided to up the goal to $50,000. This will help cover rent, household items, and time missed at work. We can't believe how supportive the community has been in this time of need and no words will express our gratitude."

A Meal Train has been set up at mealtrain.com/vee0o8, and the meals can be taken to Buckhorn Bar and Grill in Gordon.

Buckhorn also is accepting donations for a future raffle and silent auction.

Link Ford &RV in Minong is taking donations for the family. Clothes sizes are men's 36x32 pants, women's 8-10, and large and extra large men's and women's shirts.

Large items such as furniture are not being accepted yet.


Questions answered in listening session

SPOONER – Congressman Tom Tiffany got a hint of what is on people's mind locally during a listening session held at the Spooner Civic Center on Wednesday, Feb. 17. Thirty to 40 people attended the earlymorning session.

The topics people brought up ranged from Second Amendment rights and gun control to local issues like infrastructure and floodplain insurance to global issues such as energy independence.

Middle East

Patricia Solveson, who has been to Israel many times and has painted murals in Jerusalem, brought forth the first topic, asking Tiffany to initiate a resolution reassuring allies in Israel "that we stand with them, despite what's happening right now in the White House."

"There weren't a lot of great stories in 2020," Tiffany replied, "but one of the great stories in 2020 was peace breaking out in the Middle East. I believe there were four peace agreements signed by the Israeli government with Arab countries who had sworn to wipe them off the map previously."

Tiffany said the United States must do "everything possible" to make sure Iran does not get nuclear weapons. He called Iran a destabilizing force in the Middle East.

"We've really seen success over the last number of years of ending what some refer to as the forever wars, and really did a good job of no longer requiring our young men and women to leave their limbs and sometimes their lives over in the Middle East," he said. He hopes that the Biden Administration continues on the path of steady disengagement.


An audience member said it bothers him that close to 100 Fortune 500 corporations pay zero taxes.

"Are you gonna do something to make America great by getting the tax money from them so we could support our people?" he asked.

He suggested rewarding companies that keep their home offices and centers in America.

Tiffany said more and more industries are getting tax carve-outs, and tax reform must broaden who pays taxes to ensure everyone who should pay taxes actually does.

"The problem here is that we have so bastardized the tax

code, that you sometimes create incentives for companies and for individuals to do the thing that's not in the interest of America," Tiffany said. "And that's why you have to uncomplicate and unwind the tax code."

Virtually every lobbyist in Washington, D.C., is there to lobby on the tax code, he said.

Rent abatement

An audience member asked what can be done for landlords whose income has dropped off due to renters not paying their rent through the pandemic.

"The way in which we get people back to being able to pay their rent is we need to end the lockdowns," Tiffany said. "And we need people to be able to get back to work, we need to make sure we're protective of those that are susceptible."


Sheldon Johnson, executive director at Northwest Regional Planning Commission, asked what is being done about infrastructure and financing packages. He noted how critical transportation is to the local area as well as the state.

Tiffany took the infrastructure question in a different direction initially, touching on another important aspect: broadband access.

"I think that's the greatest opportunity for driving economic development for us here in Northern Wisconsin. And it's one of my top priorities," he said.

He equated broadband expansion with opportunity, both to draw people who want to move out of the cities and as a way to reverse "brain drain" by keeping young people in the area.

Broadband will become even more important as people choose to work or go to school remotely, as his daughter did. She finished her college work while touring around the world, from Albania and Norway to Hawaii, South America, and the Caymen Islands. Now she works for Kimberly Clark and has not been in the office since she was hired.

Shifting back to transportation, Tiffany said the Trump Administration had talked about an infrastructure package, but that did not come to fruition. Tiffany does not support a proposal to raise the gas tax by 25 cents.

He said some reforms had been made to the National Environmental Protection Act, an act he described as "quite unwieldly" and one that stretches permitting processes to 10 or 20 years.

"We really need to sweep some of those regulations out of the way, in order to use our tax dollars more efficiently," he said. With the strings attached to federal dollars, forgoing them on road projects and sticking with local and state money can yield 25% more road built, he said.

Canadian National Railroad is divesting some of its tracks, and Tiffany said that will translate to short-line operators, competitive rates, and better service in the Northwoods. That could attract businesses such as suppliers who already want to build a propane plant in northern Wisconsin.

Another transportation realm is shipping, and Tiffany said Superior is one of the most important ports in North America. He is working with Rep. Pete Stauber from northern Minnesota to advance a bill that could help bring ship repair facilities to the Twin Ports.

Tiffany does not support President Biden stopping the Keystone XL pipeline. The reasons he cited included two of the seven largest pipeline companies are in Wisconsin, Wisconsinites "just do the work that allows people to be able to live in the rest of America and build things," people will lose jobs, and it jeopardizes energy independence that the country enjoys.

The Canadian government and a number of indigenous tribes in Canada are extremely unhappy with Biden's withdrawing the permit and breaking the negotiated contract to build the pipeline, Tiffany said.

Not being dependent on oil from the Middle East is good for economic development, job security, and national security, Tiffany said.

"Next to Indiana, per capita, we have the most industrial manufacturing of any state in the United States. We build stuff here in Wisconsin," he added.


Dan Riplinger told Tiffany that base load generation needs to be included with renewables as part of energy packages. Base load generation is the electrical generation that is available around the clock, even when, for instance, wind or the sun are absent.

Tiffany said he supports the Nemadji Trail Energy Center, a proposed 525to 550-megawatt natural gas generator in Superior.

"It replaces some of the coal burning facilities that are being mothballed," he said.

He also supports rebuilding the Husky refinery in Superior and he supports nuclear power, which he said is the best way with existing technology to reduce greenhouse gases.

"Whether it's, you know, it's coal, nuclear, water, wind or solar, let's do all of them. But we need to make sure that they're competitive," he said. Energy must be affordable.


Phil Markgren said the shortage of ammunition should be looked into. He said he has difficulty getting ammunition for his store, Yellow River Trading Company in Spooner, and he suggested that may be due to "government intervention."

Another audience member said HR127, introduced by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, is a treasonous bill.

Tiffany explained the HR127 as basically a gun control bill that requires registering all guns in the United States, requires a psychological evaluation before owning a gun, and can prevent gun ownership in certain "red flag" cases such as having PTSD.

Tiffany said the bill denies Second Amendment rights and he opposes it.

"I will be surprised if it gets through Congress, even with Democrats holding a majority in both the House and the Senate," Tiffany said.

"President Biden has said, including back in the campaign, that it is a priority for him to advance some gun control measures," Tiffany said. "And we will see what happens there. I'm hoping he will not use executive actions like on some of the other issues he's done. To do this, I believe he should go through Congress to accomplish that, if that's what he wants done."

A lot of people believe the law is unconstitutional, the congressman said.

Tiffany said he does not believe the federal government is buying up ammunition. Instead, he suspects it is because every time anyone talks about gun control, people go buy more guns and the demand outstrips supply.

"All you got to do is go down your local gun shop, and they'll tell you, this is what's happening," Tiffany said. "People are buying everything they have on shelves."


Additional comments from the listening session will be in the online article at spooneradvocate.com.

How low did they go? Waaaay, waaaay low

WASHBURN COUNTY – If the spring primary election last week was a limbo contest, the answer to "How low can you go?" would have to be "Verrrry low."

The only contest on most ballots across the state was winnowing the state school superintendent seven-candidate field down to two, so legions of voters stayed home. In Washburn County, 845 out of an estimated 12,359 eligible votes went to the polls, for a turnout rate of only 6.84%.

For comparison, 80.45% voted in the election in November, which included the presidential race.

In February 2017 when the state superintendent again was the only race, 836 people voted, even fewer in this election.

Spring primaries with more contests on the ballot draw a better showing, said Washburn County Clerk Lolita Olson.

For example, 1,079 voted in 2013, 1,371 in 2018, and 2,922 in 2020.

Statewide, the turnout for last week's election was a little better than the county's – 7.2% – but still a mere 10th of the 72% turnout in November's election.

Washburn County voters were in synch with the trend across the state with superintendent candidates in selecting Deborah Kerr and Jill Underly as their top choices. The two will face off in the April 6 general election.

Here is how the county voters cast their ballots:

• Steve Krull – 46.

• Jill Underly – 250.

• Deborah Kerr – 219.

• Sheila Briggs – 136.

• Joe Fenrick – 69.

• Troy Gunderson – 65.

• Shandowlyon Hendricks-

• Steve Krull – 46.

• Jill Underly – 250.

• Deborah Kerr – 219.

• Sheila Briggs – 136.

• Joe Fenrick – 69.

• Troy Gunderson – 65.

• Shandowlyon Hendricks-Williams – 50.


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