Since We Last Met August 2011

June 21

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers awarded Roen Salvage of Sturgeon Bay the $2.1 million contract to dredge 108,000 cubic yards of silt, sand and organic material from Green Bay Harbor. The project began in late June and is expected to be completed in August. The dredging will ensure cargo ships will be able to transport full loads of bulk commodities such as coal, limestone, cement and lumber, among other cargo.

June 22

The Fond du Lac City Council approved a purchase option agreement with J. F. Ahern Co. for 50 acres of land in its Fox Ridge Business Park. Ahern could exercise the option to purchase the land if it decided to expand its manufacturing operations in the future.

June 22

The Federal Reserve Board decided to maintain its target range for the federal funds rate at 0 to 1/4 percent, noting the economic recovery is continuing at a moderate pace, though more slowly than expected. In making its decision, the committee noted labor market indicators have been weaker than anticipated, but that inflation has picked up in recent months, reflecting higher prices for some commodities and imported goods.

June 23

The state’s Unemployment Insurance Advisory Council urged Wisconsin lawmakers allow jobless people to collect another three months of federal unemployment benefits, enabling the state to qualify for about $90 million allocated through the 2009 federal stimulus bill. If approved, the extension would translate to $363 per week for an unemployed individual.

June 27

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation began work on a $15.5 million project to convert the final 4.6 miles of U.S. Highway 45 in Winnebago County between Oshkosh and U.S. Highway 10 to a freeway. The project includes constructing frontage roads along the highway and replacing three at-grade intersections with bridges crossing over U.S. 45 and connecting local roads. The intersections at Breezewood Road and Grandview Road were closed in early July. The project is expected to be finished in fall 2012.

June 27

The state Government Accountability Board discarded 26 signatures from the senate recall candidacy petition filed by Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette), leaving him shy of the necessary signatures to appear on the ballot in the recall race against Sen. Dave Hansen in the 30th Senate District. The result of the ruling eliminated the need for a Republican primary against Republican challenger David VanderLeest.

June 27

The Village of Howard Board of Trustees approved $1.6 million in tax incremental financing for Menard’s to construct a 162,340-sq. ft. store on 18 acres of land near Woodman’s Food Market and U.S. Highway 41. The development will also include a separate 42,352-sq. ft. lumber warehouse. Menard’s officials expect to begin construction later this year.

June 27

The Kaukauna Area School District Board of Education approved changes to its employee handbook that helped reverse the district’s fortune from a projected $400,000 budget deficit for the 2011-12  operating budget to an operating surplus of $1.5 million. The changes require staff to pay 12.6 percent of their health insurance, contribute 5.8 percent of their wages to the state’s pension system, cut sick days from 10 to five, and eliminates teacher pay for emergency school closings. District administrators said the changes would allow all but five of the staff members laid off in May to return to the classroom, and should result in lower class sizes for the coming school year. A portion of the surplus will institute $300,000 in merit pay to staff for the coming school year.

June 28

Nashco Hospitality Group, which owns City Center Hotel in downtown Oshkosh, paid past due property taxes of nearly $43,900 just days before it would have lost its liquor, restaurant and hotel licenses, which would have effectively shut down the hotel, restaurant and bar. The delinquent tax bill included past-due hotel room taxes from February and April.

July 1

The state Public Service Commission approved an 11 percent rate increase for the Village of Hobart water utility which will raise its rates from $3.90 to $4.35 for every 1,000 gallons of water. The rates have been among the lowest in Brown County for the past decade. The increase brings Hobart’s rate closer to the average rate among municipal water utilities in the county.

July 5

Small engine manufacturer Briggs & Stratton of Milwaukee committed $80,000 to reinstate and help continue the Engine Research and Development Technician associate’s degree program at Moraine Park Technical College in Fond du Lac. The program had been suspended in May as a victim of Moraine Park’s budget shortfall. Mercury Marine in Fond du Lac also pledged to provide scholarship funds to boost enrollment in the program, as well as additional funds to help market the program. Students in the program have experienced nearly a 100 percent employment placement upon graduation.

July 5

A preliminary report released by the Governor’s Waste, Fraud and Abuse Commission identified $266 million in annual savings in Wisconsin if the state would crack down on fraud in public assistance programs, adjust overtime policies and implement efficiency ideas developed by various state agencies. The commission found $177 million per year of fraud in assistance programs such as FoodShare and Medicaid. The seven-member commission is continuing its work and will release its final report in January 2012.

July 5

Gov. Walker signed a new state law prohibiting lawsuits against trucking companies for negligence or misconduct on the part of suppliers.

July 7

The federal Department of Veterans Affairs selected Summit Smith Healthcare Facilities, a division of C.D. Smith Construction Inc. of Fond du Lac, as the development team for a proposed 161,525-sq. ft. veteran’s health care clinic at 2800 University Ave. on Green Bay’s east side. The decision paves the way to begin construction of the estimated $60 million facility later this year. The new clinic is expected to open by early 2013.

July 7

Frontier Airlines announced it will cease service to Outagamie County Regional Airport near Appleton in September, citing rising fuel costs. Frontier had merged with Midwest Airlines in 2010, which had served ATW Airport since its inception. The decision does not affect Frontier service to Austin Straubel International Airport near Green Bay, where it recently added more flights. Frontier accounted for about 6 percent of Outagamie County Airport’s annual passenger boardings.

July 8

The U.S. Department of Labor reported 18,000 new jobs were created nationally in June, leaving the unemployment rate relatively unchanged at 9.2 percent. Employment in most major private-sector industries changed little during the month, while government employment continued to trend down.

July 11

The J. J. Keller Foundation provided a $50,000 grant to the Oshkosh Area Community Pantry for operating funds. The donation marked a milestone of the Keller Family, having donated more than $30 million to community initiatives during the course of their giving history.

July 12

Voters in the Omro School District approved a $1 million maintenance referendum which will cover roof replacement and repair projects at the district’s elementary and middle schools, as well as various smaller building and equipment upgrades for the high school. The cost of the referendum to taxpayers will be roughly 9 cents for every $1,000 of equalized property value. Voters in Omro rejected two previous referendums earlier this year and in 2010 for a more expensive list of projects.

July 13

Green Bay Metro Transit Director Tom Wittig unveiled a plan to overhaul bus service on the west side of the metro area to save the system money on fuel and decrease travel times for many of the system’s riders. The proposal would abandon the system’s longstanding single-hub structure and provide three routes that would circulate on the west side from Bay Park Square in Ashwaubenon without returning to the downtown hub. Green Bay Metro officials hope to implement the new route structure in September.

July 13

U.S. District Judge William Griesbach of Green Bay ruled that paper company Appleton Inc. is no longer liable for any further costs associated with the multi-billion dollar Fox River clean up, denying a request from state and federal environmental regulators that the company continue a third year of dredging through the 2011 season. Appleton Inc. will have paid about $300 million of the cleanup costs as of the end of 2011, according to company officials. The total cost of the nearly decade-long project is estimated near $1 billion. Funding for future cleanup remains tied up in the courts. The cleanup project involves removing and treating harmful PCB sediment from the discharge of chemicals into the Fox River by carbonless copy paper producers from the 1950s to the 1970s.

July 13

The Oshkosh Area School District Board of Education reviewed a proposed 2011-12 budget of about $112 million, a 6 percent decrease in spending from this past year. If eventually approved, the budget would set a tax rate of $8.85 for every $1,000 of equalized property value, up nearly 3 percent from the $8.63 mil rate assessed to taxpayers for the 2010-11 fiscal year. One-year labor agreements approved by the district’s teaching staff and other unions included pay freezes and increased contributions toward health insurance premiums and pensions, which decreased expenses by nearly $5.2 million.

July 14

The University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents increased tuition for the coming school year by 5.5 percent – the maximum allowed under state law – which increases the average in-state undergraduate tuition at a four-year UW school by $381 to $6,543 each year, up $381 from last year. In the area, students at UW-Green Bay will see a $311 increase in tuition, while students at UW-Oshkosh will pay $315 more for an annual tuition cost of $6,090. Annual tuition at UW-Fox Valley in Menasha will increase $235 to $4,503 starting with the coming fall semester. While tuition at the UW System’s 13 four-year campuses increased by 5.5 percent each of the past four years, tuition rates have remained frozen for each of the system’s two-year campuses – such as UW-Fox Valley – until this year.

July 14

Oshkosh Corp. received an order for an additional 400 MRAP All-Terrain Vehicles from the U.S. Army valued at more than $207 million. The order is part of a larger multi-billion dollar contract in which Oshkosh has received orders to deliver more than 8,700 M-ATVs. Delivery of the heavy-duty military vehicles is expected to be complete by November.

July 14

Hyatt Hotels Corp. announced an agreement to purchase the 241-room Hotel Sierra in downtown Green Bay from Kansas-based LodgeWorks L.P. and convert it into a full-service Hyatt hotel. The deal for the property, which is adjacent to the KI Convention Center, is expected to be complete by October. About 150 people were employed at the property at the time of the announcement.

July 15

Affinity Medical Group announced plans to build a two-story, 30,000-sq. ft. medical clinic on 1.5 acres of the former Glatfelter paper mill site in downtown Neenah. The $9 million clinic would replace Affinity’s existing clinic at 411 Lincoln St. in Neenah and will house 11 physicians and advance practice providers and 55 support staff. Construction is expected to begin later in 2011.

July 15

State transportation officials reopened all ramps on the Scheuring Road interchange with U.S. Highway 41 in De Pere, which had been closed since late February to rebuild the entire interchange and replace the overpass. The bridge remains under construction through mid-September as part of the $14.7 million project.

July 19

Sen. Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay) easily survived a recall election against Republican challenger David VanderLeest in collecting 66 percent of the vote. Hansen is one of three Democratic senators from the state facing a recall because they fled Wisconsin for three weeks in late February and early March along with another 11 Democratic colleagues to prevent a vote on the state’s budget repair bill for 2011.

July 20

Ripon College President Rev. David C. Joyce announced he will leave the school following the fall 2011 semester to pursue a similar position at Brevard College in North Carolina. Joyce has served as the 12th president of the institution for the past nine years. Gerald Seaman, vice president and dean of faculty at Ripon College, will take over as the interim president.

Clarifications

Wells Fargo is an additional financial institution participating in the Brown County Microloan Program. This was omitted from information originally provided to New North B2B for the feature article in our July 2011 edition.