Politics, explosions, floods and Bucky Badger brought cheers, jeers, tears and wear to Dane County residents in 2018.
Evers wins Governor showdown
Democrat Tony Evers beat out three-term incumbent Republican Gov. Scott Walker by a slim margin in November’s election.
Walker told the media after Evers’ win that he has “reformed himself out of a job” with an agenda that cut union power, lowered taxes, and paved the way for big corporations to settle in Wisconsin.
Evers, the Superintendent of Public Instruction of Wisconsin schools since 2009, had little time to celebrate his victory before the Republican-led Legislature started looking at ways to limit the powers of the governor-elect before he takes office.
Walker signed the lame duck legislation into law Dec. 14 without any vetos. At the signing he reassured, with the help of a diagram, that Evers would have the same powers that he had as governor.
Under the new law, the governor would have less power to create rules that enact laws and the attorney general would need legislative committee approval for Wisconsin to pull out of federal lawsuits. Republicans crafted the legislation so Wisconsin couldn’t be removed from the lawsuit to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
Evers said by Walker chose to ignore and override the will of the people of Wisconsin by signing the bills into law.
“Wisconsin residents expect more for their government than what has happened in our state over the last past weeks,” Evers wrote on Twitter after Walker’s signing.
Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) wrote in a statement that Walker’s actions acknowledged the importance of the legislature as a co-equal branch of government.
Evers and Lt. Governor-elect Mandela Barnes are getting set for a Jan. 7 inauguration.
Flood damage and cleanup in Dane County was estimated at $154 million as Dane County officials declared the county in a state of emergency this summer.
Lake Mendota, Monona, Waubesa and Kegonsa were either over or at 100-year record high levels after the summer floods.
In September, the county estimated residential damages at $78.2 million, with residents reporting only 2 percent were covered by insurance. Dane County Emergency Management released estimates of $37.1 million in business damage, and $39 million for county and local government damage and clean up from the Aug. 17-Sept. 3 flooding.
FEMA has not yet released information on numbers of claims and reimbursements to Dane County flood victims.
Dane County Emergency Management Assistant Director David Janda said recovery still continues as 2018 ends.
“This is still ongoing as we shift from immediate to ongoing recovery efforts,” Janda said. “There are still people dealing with this and we just are helping them get back to normal.”
Dane County took emergency efforts after the heavy rains to lower lake levels and removed 31 dump trucks of sediment and debris from the lakes to increase flow downstream.
More than $3 million was set in the 2019 Dane County budget to improve water flow so it can move quickly through the Yahara chain of lakes during and after heavy rainfalls.
Sun Prairie Explosion
People from around the state offered a helping hand to the Sun Prairie community after a July 10 natural gas explosion killed 34-year-old firefighter Cory Barr, left people homeless, and destroyed businesses.
Moral and monetary support flooded in after the blast.
Not only did public safety personnel respond to the explosion that night, but they also stepped in on the coming days so SPFD crews could rest.
Fire, EMS, and Police from across the region paid their respects to Barr at a procession and funeral.
The American Red Cross, The Salvation Army, and volunteers from surrounding communities aide residents who lost their homes and belongings in the explosion.
Donations came pouring in from individuals and businesses through a News-3 TV telethon, kids lemonade stand sales, and other fundraisers.
More than $509,000 from the Sun Prairie Disaster Relief Fund was distributed to 55 applicants who asked for help, including residents, business owners, and first responders.
GoFundMe pages to help Abby Barr, Cory’s widow, and their three daughters, has received more than $211,528 in donations.
Businesses, from near and far also pitched in to raise money.
Potosi Brewery created Sun Prairie Strong pilsner beer, with proceeds going to disaster relief coffers.
Customers created a traffic snarl on Sun Prairie’s Main Street, eager to get their butter burgers at Culver’s explosion recovery fundraiser.
City of Sun Prairie Mayor Paul Esser said the reopening of Sun Prairie’s Main Street/Highway 19 four months after the July blast was proof that the city is recovering from the disaster.
“It shows that we aren’t allowing the horrific events of the evening of July 10 to define this community,” Esser said. “We are celebrating the resiliency of our community…it says we were able to pull together and look out for each other.”
Sun Prairie Police Chief Pat Anhalt announced this month four companies miscommunicated about the location of gas lines, which led to the July 10 explosion, but there would be no criminal charges.
Abby Barr and two injured firefighters have filed separate lawsuits against VC Tech, USIC Locating Services Inc., Bear Communications and WE Energies for wrongful death and/or construction negligence. A state regulatory agency is investigating VC Tech to see if it violated state laws that govern the utility locating process excavators need to follow before they start digging.
Fur a good cause
Many see Bucky and think they know what he’s all about. But this summer 85 Wisconsin artists brought out sides of Bucky’s personality never seen before to help raise money for cancer research.
The public art project “Bucky on Parade” highlighted six-foot-tall Bucky Badger statues placed in spots across Dane County from May until September.
Sculptures were auctioned off at the end of the parade and raised $1 million that went to Garding Against Cancer, the Madison Area Sports Commission, and other local charities.
Artists from DeForest, Windsor, Lodi, and Monona immortalized their own Bucky creations for the parade.
The Bucky sculptures are now on public display throughout the region or have been bought up by private collectors.
But have no fear if you didn’t see all the Bucky’s this summer because they are all highlighted in a new hardcover book published by KCI Sports.