February 27, 2017
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More than 50 speakers addressed an empty chair -- intended for Rep. Paul Ryan -- at a town hall event hosted by Forward Kenosha at United Auto Workers Local 72 headquarters on Sunday. ( KENOSHA NEWS PHOTO BY SEAN KRAJACIC )

Kenosha town hall goes on without Ryan

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Sunday’s town hall-style meeting organized by a local progressive group lacked a key component — U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan.

Instead, facing the audience at the packed union hall was an enormous brown leather executive’s chair that sat empty.

Ryan, R-Wis., the speaker of the House of Representatives whose district includes Kenosha County, turned down the invitation from Forward Kenosha to attend the forum at United Auto Workers Local 72 headquarters.


Mila Perez, 2, tries a slice of pizza as her mom, Kaitlyn Dyer, looks on during the Pizza Bake-Off at the Parkway Chateau on Sunday. ( KENOSHA NEWS PHOTO BY SEAN KRAJACIC )

Tasty slices help community at Kenosha Pizza Bake-off

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For the love of the slice and the betterment of the community, hundreds of Kenosha County residents cast their votes in the 16th annual Great Pizza Bake-of on Sunday.

Ten restaurants served up traditional and specialty pizza pies at the Parkway Chateau, hoping for the chance to be voted the best.

A fundraiser hosted by the Kenosha Area Noon Optimists Club, the contest helps fund youth-centered projects because all 10 restaurants donate the food.

Alex Berce has moved his business, Good Value Pharmacy Larsen-Mayer to the corner of Washington Road and 39th Avenue. ( KENOSHA NEWS PHOTO BY SEAN KRAJACIC )

Longtime northside pharmacy moves to enlarged location

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As of Monday, a local pharmacy with a century of serving the health needs of Kenosha will have a new home on the north side.

Moving from its longtime home in the 3500 block of 30th Avenue, Good Value Pharmacy Larsen-Mayer has opened in a spacious new location at 3825 39th Ave.

“He wanted to move it, but keep the Larsen-Mayer name since the name had been in town for about 100 years,” said Alex Berce, who will manage the pharmacy for his family’s three-store chain.

Caiden Young, 3, holds up keys to the new home he and his mom, Keisha Varnado, and his brother, Jayln Young, 6, will occupy, thanks to Habitat for Humanity. The home was dedicated on Sunday. At left is the boy's grandfather, the Rev. Steven Varnado. ( KENOSHA NEWS PHOTO BY SEAN KRAJACIC )

Two new Habitat for Humanity homes dedicated in Kenosha

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Two women on Sunday received the keys to new homes they helped build with more than 170 volunteers over the last eight months.

Rebecca Freund and Lakeisha Varnado will be neighbors when they move into their new Habitat for Humanity homes Tuesday in the 4700 block of 39th Avenue.

The homes are the sixth and seventh homes Habitat has helped build in Kenosha since being established locally in 2012.

Sgt. Eric Klinkhammer places journalist Jeff Zampanti into his squad car. Zampanti got a personal walk-through of the arrest process as an investigation into a Curious Kenosha question. ( SEAN KRAJACIC )

Curious Kenosha: What is it like when someone gets arrested?

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Slowly place your hands behind your back.

These words, if coming from local law enforcement, typically follow a one-way trip to the Kenosha County Jail. Whether it’s your first time or 100th time being arrested, wearing handcuffs in the back of a squad car can be frightening and horribly uncomfortable.

An anonymous Curious Kenosha visitor asks “With so many crime shows on TV, what is it actually like when someone gets arrested? What is jail like in K-town? How many arrested daily?”

Kevin Vellekoop, 6, eats chili with his grandfather Laurens Vellekoop during the Veterans Chili Cook-off at the American Legion, 504 58th St., Saturday afternoon. ( KENOSHA NEWS PHOTO BY BILL SIEL )

Chili cook-off warms the hearts — and stomachs — at Kenosha American Legion

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What’s more comforting than a bowl of chili on a cold winter day? Ten bowls of chili.

And people could sample all 10 at Saturday afternoon’s fourth annual Veterans Chili Cook-off at American Legion Post 21, 504 58th St.

Sponsored by the Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7308, the event also included raffles and music.

Cecile Richards, CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, speaks during a patient roundtable and press conference Saturday morning in Kenosha. Left of her are Lori Hawkins, Sophia Schaut, Gina Walkington, Katie Kordsmeier and Tanya Atkinson. ( KENOSHA NEWS PHOTO BY BILL SIEL )

‘Ground zero’: National Planned Parenthood officials hold event in Kenosha

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For some women, Planned Parenthood has been a life saver. For others, it has allowed them to become mothers.

“The story is different for every woman,” said Lori Hawkins, 48, from Bristol.

Her story, and those of others, were shared on Saturday at a patient roundtable and press briefing at Planned Parenthood’s Kenosha clinic and office.

Josh and Andrea Harris play with their son Joshua, 4, who has the rare WAGR Syndrome which affects the kidneys and eyes and results in developmental delays. ( KENOSHA NEWS PHOTO BY BILL SIEL )

Kenosha boy’s rare disease leads to proclamation

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Mayor John Antaramian has proclaimed Monday as Rare Disease Day in Kenosha in honor of a local boy facing a serious disease.

Joshua Harris was 6 weeks old when his family received his diagnosis of WAGR syndrome, a rare genetic condition. The prevalence of WAGR syndrome ranges from 1 in 500,000 to 1 million, according to the National Institutes of Health.

According to the International WAGR Association, WAGR is an acronym for the most common features of the disorder:

Salem Consolidated Grade School Math Teacher Amy Baumhardt helps Fourth Grader Lukas Mox with a subtraction exercise during math class. At right is Chris Olson. The school is asking residents to increase the state-imposed revenue limit in a referendum April 4. ( KEVIN POIRIER )

Salem referendum still needed despite budget hike for schools

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SALEM — Governor Scott Walker’s recent 2017-19 state budget proposal, while promising for rural schools, does not eliminate the need for Salem Grade School to ask residents for additional revenue by way of referendum April 4 administrator Dave Milz said.

“The need for a referendum will not be eliminated due to the negative impact of revenue limits over many, many years,” Milz said. “We still need to build back the fund balance.”

The state-imposed Revenue Cap Funding Formula has decreased revenue to Salem School by $580.23 per pupil since the 2011-12 school year, he said. The district, like most in the area, has had to dip into its reserves to meet basic educational needs.

Sheriff's deputy Terry Tifft and his dog, Riggs, are the only K-9 unit in the department at this time. ( SEAN KRAJACIC )

City, council hope to fetch new K-9s

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The K-9 programs for the Kenosha Police Department and Kenosha County Sheriff’s Department are getting a boost from local tavern leagues.

Both the police department and the sheriff’s department lost dogs in their K-9 programs in 2016.

In November, K-9 Klaus, who partnered with Deputy John Lanctot, was euthanized after he became ill and veterinarians learned he was suffering from internal bleeding and had masses on his spleen and liver. Klaus was one of two dogs in the sheriff’s department program.

ADAPT members demonstrate in front of the Kenosha office of U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan. ( KENOSHA NEWS PHOTO BY DANIEL GAITAN )

Activists for the disabled descend on Ryan office

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Members of a disability-rights group protested outside U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan’s Kenosha office Friday afternoon.

Roughly two dozen activists with ADAPT — mostly from Milwaukee and Chicago — expressed their concerns regarding repeal of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and changes to Medicare.

“I would go another 1,000 miles for this,” said Scott Nance, of Chicago.

A view of the 458-acre parcel the Village of Pleasant Prairie will purchase from Abbott. ( Village of Pleasant Prairie )

Village eyes $37.5M land deal

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Pleasant Prairie intends to spend $37.5 million to purchase 458 acres of land on the northwest corner of Interstate 94 and Highway 165, across the street from the Uline headquarters.

The land is owned by Abbott, through a subsidiary. The village plans to turn it into a new corporate park, Prairie Highlands, with a focus on manufacturing, office and commercial uses.

Village Administrator Michael Pollocoff said in a prepared statement that the village, along with Kenosha County and the Kenosha Area Business Alliance, have worked to improve quality of life in the region by creating job opportunities.

Patty Brown searches inside a portable toilet during a count of homeless people in Kenosha County in this photo from 2014. A similar count was taken in January and the results were released Thursday. ( KENOSHA NEWS FILE PHOTO BY BILL SIEL )

Counting the county’s homeless

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A recent overnight count of homeless in Kenosha County found 184 people total on the streets, in shelters and transitional housing or rapid re-housing programs.

The count was part of the nationwide Point in Time campaign to count every homeless person and bring them needed resources.

Lisa Haen, with Kenosha Human Development Services Inc, said 17 volunteers canvassed the county from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m. one night last month.

Sidney Cooks puts on a McDonald's All American Hometown Heroes jersey and hat during an assembly at St. Joseph Catholic Academy Thursday morning. ( BILL SIEL )

McDonald’s honors Cooks

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Sidney Cooks finally put on the uniform she’s always dreamt of wearing.

The St. Joseph Catholic Academy senior was presented with an honorary McDonald’s All-American jersey by the organization’s Hometown Heroes crew during an early-morning assembly Thursday at the St. Joseph Auditorium, 2401 69th St.

Cooks was one of 24 girls nationwide chosen for the 40th annual McDonald’s All-American Game, which will take place on March 29 at the United Center in Chicago. It will be televised live on ESPN2.

The Gateway Mortgage building at 1202 60th St. in Kenosha would be purchased by the countyas part of its proposed 2016-17 budget. The site would then become an expqanded adult mental health emergency crisis facility. ( Brian Passino )

City commits to mental health center

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The city of Kenosha is partnering with the county to help transform a vacant building near downtown into an upgraded mental health care facility.

The City Council approved $1.5 million for renovations to the Gateway Mortgage building, 1202 60th St., including $1 million for rehabilitation work Wednesday night. The structure — in Tax Incremental Financing District 4, which surrounds the downtown — was purchased last year by the county for $500,000.

The building will replace the current Kenosha Adult Response Emergency Center, 510 60th St., an 11-bed facility that officials said is inadequate to serve the county’s growing needs. The newly renovated facility will have 18 beds when it opens in 2018.

Tabitha M. Ruiz cries during a court appearance Tuesday. She faces charges of child neglect and intentionally abandoning animals. At right is her attorney Toni Young. ( KENOSHA NEWS PHOTO BY KEVIN POIRIER )

Plea deal likely for mom who kept kids, dogs in house filled with garbage

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A woman is expected to take a plea deal for allegedly keeping her five children living in squalor and then abandoning three dogs inside their uninhabitable house.

Tabitha Ruiz, 34, was charged in December with five counts of child neglect, three counts of intentionally abandoning an animal, and charges of intentionally providing improper animal sanitation and failing to provide food to an animal.

In court Thursday, attorneys indicated that Ruiz planned to enter a guilty plea to the five counts of child neglect, with the state agreeing to drop the other charges. However, the prosecutor asked for the plea hearing to be rescheduled to allow more time for the victims in the case — Ruiz’s children — to reply to victim notification packet sent by the state.

City to refinance debt, fund infrastructure projects

The Kenosha City Council overwhelmingly approved a multi-million dollar resolution to refinance some city debt and fund infrastructure improvements Wednesday night.

The resolution from Mayor John Antaramian refinances some $5.3 million in debt at a lower interest rate. Antaramian said about $100,000 will be saved.

“In this case, the timeframe for refinancing comes up and we get a lower interest rate than what we had before,” Antaramian said. “Every year we review our bonds. We want to reduce our costs.”

Jack Thomsen, owner of Transcendental Golf, is shown with his dog bookie at his buisness in this file photo from October. During a court hearing Wednesday, a judge ordered that the dog be euthanized for its attacks on its owner and two boys. ( KENOSHA NEWS FILE PHOTO BY KEVIN POIRIER )

Kenosha court orders dog to be euthanized

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A Kenosha County Circuit Court judge has ruled that a dog that injured his owner on multiple occasions must be put down.

After a hearing on Wednesday, Judge Chad Kerkman granted the order in favor of a petition filed by the village of Pleasant Prairie that Bookie, a 7-year-old mastiff, be humanely euthanized.

“I feel so bad that I couldn’t have done better,” said Bookie’s owner, Jack Thomsen, after Wednesday’s hearing.

Voters cast their ballots in Salem Lakes Tuesday. ( KENOSHA NEWS PHOTO BY BILL SIEL )

Didn’t vote Tuesday? You’re not alone

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The extremely low voter turnout for this week’s spring primary did not surprise Kenosha County Clerk Mary Schuch-Krebs.

County electors cast 7,018 votes Tuesday in the three-way, non-partisan primary race and only statewide contest — for state school superintendent, which featured incumbent Tony Evers running against challengers, Lowell Holtz and John Humphries.

That’s just a hair more than 9 percent of the 77,010 Kenosha County votes cast Nov. 8 in the hotly contested presidential election.

Carthage College nursing students, from left, Mary Clare Barto, Emma Dresen, Kendall Santin and Laura Siecinski tend to a robotic infant after a dedication ceremony for the school's nursing program Wednesday afternoon. ( KENOSHA NEWS PHOTO BY BILL SIEL )

Carthage unveils high-tech learning lab for nursing students

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They talk, have a pulse, can groan from pain and can even present medical symptoms that mimic ailments nursing students would encounter in a real-life clinical environment.

The lifelike mannequin simulators are part of Carthage College’s new $1.4 million learning laboratory for its nursing program, which was unveiled Wednesday during a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The 3,000-square-foot laboratory was converted from a campus bookstore and was designed to provide students with the simulation of a myriad of ailments and medical conditions to prepare them for real-patient scenarios.

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