Gov. Walker’s Economic Opportunity Zones approved

The U.S. Secretary has approved the 120 Economic Opportunity Zone designations Governor proposed for Wisconsin, including 3 in Eau Claire.

The zones cover more than 40 counties in rural, urban and tribal areas, and present an opportunity for private, tax-free investment into areas of economic need, befefiting residents living in the zones and private investors.

The potential Eau Claire Opportunity Zones would be in the central downtown business district, an area encompassing the Randall Park neighborhood and a portion of Menomomie Street, and the North Riverfront neighborhood along the east side of the Chippewa River, plus an area along Madison and Birch Streets. Other regional zones that made the list include one in Chippewa Falls, one in Menomonie, 2 in Rice Lake, one in River Falls and one in Ladysmith.

Man sentenced for trying to have sex with underage girls

A man is facing prison time for trying to meet what he thought were underage girls for sex.

39-year old Jeramiha Sackman pleaded no contest yesterday after he responded to a Craigslist ad posted by an undercover Eau Claire Police detective that offered sex with 8 and 11-year old girls in exchange for money. He was later arrested and has been sentenced to 5 years in prison and 10 years of extended supervision.


More winter weather on the way

More wintry weather is expected in western Wisconsin.

Snow and possibly a wintry mix is forecast for tomorrow in some locations and a Winter Storm Watch is in effect through Wednesday night. Total accumulations of three to five inches are possible with some areas reaching up to 7 inches of snow. Icy conditions are also expected throughout the area.

Spring snow storms are impacting road construction projects in Eau Claire. More than 10 inches of snow and temperatures in the low 20s over the weekend are delaying the construction season, which typically begins this month. Major construction projects were put on hold yesterday, but officials say delays won’t be long. Projects west of Eau Claire have also been met with delays.

Heating moratorium ends this weekend

The arrival of spring marks the end of the heating season. It’s also time for customers who may have fallen behind on their bills to make arrangements to ensure their service is not interrupted. If you need financial assistance, there are a variety of programs that can help customers in need.

The moratorium, which started on November 1st expires this weekend, on April 15. Income eligible households may also qualify for energy efficiency and conservation programs. For more information, customers can contact Xcel Energy.

Man hurt in crash this week

A man was taken to the hospital after a crash in western Wisconsin earlier this week.

It happened on Highway 10 near Highway Double-Q early Monday morning. Authorities say a minivan driven by 26-year old Nelson Varea of Minnesota struck a guardrail when he lost control of the vehicle. The van then crossed the center line, entered the ditch and struck a tree. Nelson had 3 passengers in his vehicle, which included a 25-year old man who was taken to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries. The crash remains under investigation.

Area teacher charged with having online sexual relationship with teen

A Glenwood City teacher, coach and city council member has been charged for allegedly having an online sexual relationship with a Missouri teen.

45-year old Peter Gaustad has been charged with 5 felonies, including child sexual exploitation, exposing a child to harmful material, and causing a child 13-18-years old to view sex activity using a computer to facilitate a child sex crime. Authorities say Gaustad was arrested last Thursday.

According to the criminal complaint, a 15-year old Missouri girl told authorities in March that she began communicating with Gaustad around November 1st on an app called Whisper. The girl told her mother she had sent several nude photos to a 45-year old teacher in Glenwood City. She also said Gaustad sent her several nude photos, some of him masturbating. The girl told police the relationship began on Whisper when Gaustad responded to a post she wrote about wanting to date teachers. The interaction moved to Snapchat in January or February. Gaustad told police he thought he was engaged in an online sexual relationship with a teen girl who was about 17.

Paul Ryan retiring at the end of the year

Governor Walker and political analysts are reacting to the news that Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan will not be running for re-election.

Ryan announced Wednesday his intention to retire from politics when his term expires at year’s end. Walker says he respects Ryan’s decision, but that the southeast representative will be missed. Political analyst John Frank says the loss for Wisconsin and the House of Representatives is huge. Frank says the seat that has been held by a Republican for around the last 20 years could go either way in the November election.

Man arrested for 5th drunk driving offense

A Holcombe man has been arrested for his 5th drunk driving offense in Chippewa Falls.

36-year old Ryan Birkenholz was arrested on Saturday and appeared in court on Monday. He is being held on a $1,000 bond and will return to court on May 15th. If he’s released, Birkenholz must take daily preliminary breath tests at a nearby police station.

No police report about the incident is available. Birkenholz was also cited for failure to obey an officer and unreasonable speed.

Man convicted of breaking into multiple businesses

A former Menomonie resident has been convicted of breaking into multiple businesses in Lake Hallie and the Towns of Wheaton and Eagle Point in 2014.

40-year old Ryan Hobbick pleaded guilty to burglary. However, a judge found him not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect, and had Hobbick committed to a state facility for an undetermined amount of time. Hobbick is currently being held at the Oshkosh Correctional Institution.

According to the criminal complaint, Chippewa County deputies investigated a series of break-ins at construction-related businesses in Lake Hallie and the Towns of Wheaton and Eagle Point between July and November 2014. Numerous tools were taken in each theft. Officers later learned that Hobbick pawned some of the tools at Pawn America in Eau Claire in October 2014, and that other items, including wire, copper and aluminum, were sold for scrap.

Man charged for threatening to blow up sheriff’s deputies

A Chippewa Falls man is accused of threatening to blow up Eau Claire Sheriff’s deputies’ homes.

39-year old Christopher Sewilo has been charged with 2 felony counts of threatening a law enforcement officer and misdemeanor counts of obstructing an officer, possession of drugs and paraphernalia. He is being prosecuted as a repeat offender.

According to the criminal complaint, 2 deputies were called to the 3600 block of London Road Thursday evening to check on a man in a Jeep causing a disturbance. The caller reported the man had been parked at an abandoned residence since about noon and was revving the engine. The caller said he contacted the man as asked if he needed help, and the man’s eyes rolled into the back of his head.

When deputies arrived on scene, they found the man, later identified as Sewilo, trying to leave the scene. They found 2 syringes and a meth pipe on Sewilo, and a Mason jar with a moderate amount of what appeared to be marijuana and several court documents with Sewilo’s name on it in the Jeep. When Sewilo was arrested, he became combative and threatened to blow up both deputies. He also threatened hospital staff, and threatened to find 2 deputies and their homes and blow them up with a Molotov cocktail.