TOWN OF GENEVA -- A utility company finished clearing trees along a power line route in Geneva Township before town officials had a chance to stop them in court.
Instead, the town issued citations to American Transmission Company for violating ordinance No. 58. The ordinance says a building permit from the town's building inspector is required before removing any trees or brush and prohibits "clear-cutting" trees.
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The town filed the suit Oct. 28, 2016, and was going to ask a Walworth County judge to issue a temporary restraining order Nov. 21, 2016, but that hearing was cancelled, according to town attorney Richard Torhorst.
ATC maintains it was never "clear-cutting" the trees, according to an affidavit from Joe Benzschawel, an ATC Vegetation Management Specialist. An ATC Spokeswoman, Jackie Olson, previously said in an email to The Gazette that ATC told local officials "on several occasions" the company believes the local ordinance does not apply to public utilities.
"ATC will not be able to achieve clearances necessary to assure safety and reliability if stopped from performing tree trimming and removals on the X-55 transmission line," Benzschawel wrote. "The close proximity of trees to the X-55 line puts the public, including landowners and non-certified tree workers, at risk of electrocution should they touch such a tree."
Part of ATC's X-55 line, the power line in question, runs north along County Highway H from County NN, then along Palmer Road to Wisconsin Highway 67. The X-55 line is also located in Elkhorn and the town of Delavan.
Walworth County Judge Daniel Johnson ruled Oct. 13 that ATC could trim or remove trees near the Fellow Mortals Wildlife Hospital. The ruling came in a case filed in June by Fellow Mortals, owned by Yvonne and Steven Blane, in an attempt to block the tree cutting, saying the removal would harm injured animals.
The citations against ATC will be held before a municipal court judgement, Torhorst said.
Because ATC filed a request for substitution of judge with the town of Geneva Municipal Court, the date the citations will be reviewed is not yet known, Torhorst said.
ELKHORN—A man pleaded not guilty to charges he stole a car, ran naked near the UW-Whitewater campus and attempted to sexually assault a woman who gave him clothes, all while high on acid.
Chidiebele P. Ozodi, 20, of South Milwaukee, pleaded not guilty to felonies attempted second-degree sexual assault and operating a vehicle without owner consent and misdemeanor disorderly conduct, according to the criminal complaint filed in Walworth County Court.
On Oct. 4, Whitewater police responded to a report of a car hitting a tree on Starin Road. The driver, later identified as Ozodi, left on foot and began punching parked cars while naked, according to the complaint.
Ozodi forced himself on top of a woman who gave him shorts and a T-shirt and told her he was going to rape her before the woman and a nearby man were able to get him off, according to the complaint.
Ozodi told police he had taken two tablets of acid.
Ozodi is next due in court at 2:30 p.m. Feb. 1 for a final pretrial hearing.
ELKHORN—A man charged with beating his roommate with a baseball bat after an argument at a Darien strip club rejected a plea agreement Tuesday and is expected to go to trial next week.
Gabino Dominguez Gonzalez, 42, of the village of Walworth, rejected a plea agreement that would have had him pleading guilty to attempted murder. He still faces that charge and another for aggravated battery in Walworth County Court.
Dominguez Gonzalez and his then-22-year-old roommate went to the strip club Dec. 26, according to the criminal complaint. The two fought in the parking lot and then returned to their home.
The fight continued at their home, where the roommate punched Dominguez Gonzalez before Dominguez Gonzalez grabbed a baseball bat and hit the roommate three of four times, according to the complaint.
The roommate was taken to Mercy Hospital and Trauma Center in Janesville, where doctors told police he had facial and skull fractures, a brain bleed and detached retina, according to the complaint.
Dominguez Gonzalez's trial is set for Monday through Friday, but Judge Phil Koss has another jury trial scheduled for the same time, meaning one of the cases could be rescheduled.
ELKHORN—An Amerigas employee is charged with crediting customer accounts and modifying refund checks so they were in her name, racking up $28,337.53 from 42 transactions at the Whitewater business.
Jessica A. Klingaman, 36, of 1016 N. Sumac Drive, Janesville, is charged in Walworth County Court with 42 counts of identity theft and one count of theft of over $10,000 by false representation, according to the criminal complaint.
On April 21, two supervisors at the Whitewater propane store reported Klingaman to the police, according to the complaint.
Another employee told the supervisors Klingaman entered refunds or discounts into a customer's account, which created a customer credit balance, according to the complaint. A check would then be generated in the balance amount, but Klingaman would change the customer's name and address to her own.
Klingaman told police she randomly selected accounts and issued fraudulent checks in either her name or her maiden name, Dorsey, according to the complaint. She had access to Whitewater and McFarland Amerigas accounts.
Klingaman told police she issued the checks to herself when she needed money for bills, according to the complaint.
The first transaction was on or about Sept. 29, 2014, and the most recent was April 11, 2016, according to the complaint. Klingaman was a part-time employee in December 2013 and a full-time employee in April 2014.
Klingaman is due in court for a preliminary hearing at 2 p.m. Monday, Dec. 12, 2016.
A former police officer accused in Walworth County of dumping suitcases containing the bodies of two women he killed began court proceedings in Minnesota this month for one of the homicides.
Steven M. Zelich, 55, of West Allis was sentenced March 30, 2016 in Kenosha County to 35 years in prison for first-degree reckless homicide and hiding the corpse of Jenny Gamez, 19, of Oregon.
ELKHORN -- American Transmission Company faces another lawsuit aimed at preventing the company from cutting trees in Geneva Township
An emergency motion for a temporary restraining order will be heard in Walworth County Court at 3 p.m. Monday, Nov. 21, 2016.
In October, Fellow Mortals Wildlife Hospital, owned by Yvonne and Steven Blane, filed suit to stop the utility from clear cutting a row of trees that protects the property.
ATC owns a utility easement for a power line at Fellow Mortals. ATC attorneys argued the company needed to trim or remove multiple trees to increase safety and service reliability.
However, Walworth County Judge Daniel Johnson ruled Oct. 13, 2016, that ATC could trim or remove trees near the Fellow Mortals Wildlife Hospital.
Since then, crews have been clearing trees along along the powerline route on Palmer Road. Property owners have expressed concern to the town board about the extent of the trimming.
The township lawsuit asks that ATC stop “cutting, trimming, removing or otherwise destroying any vegetation” along the ATC power line in the town of Geneva, according to the lawsuit filed Nov. 11. The main area in question is for an ATC line that runs from the intersection of County NN and Highway 12 to Palmer Road at Highway 67.
Town of Geneva Police Chief Steven Hurley wrote in an affidavit filed with the town's lawsuit that the town has issued citations to ATC for violating a town ordinance regulating tree removal. ATC refuses to comply, according to his affidavit.
The ordinance, No. 58, says a building permit from the town of Geneva building inspector is required before removing any trees or brush and prohibits clear-cutting trees with some exceptions, which still must be submitted to the building inspector.
Jackie Olson, an ATC spokeswoman, said in an email to The Gazette that ATC told local officials “on several occasions” the company believes the local ordinance does not apply to public utilities.
A letter from an ATC attorney to the town reads: “The (recent) court ruling (affirms) that ATC has the right to trim and remove trees within the area covered by ATC's easement."
In the same letter, the attorney wrote ATC “will not be 'clear cutting' properties, but rather trimming some trees and removing incompatible ones within our easement strip to keep our lines safe and reliable.”
ATC did not end up needing to remove vegetation from the entire easement width on the Blanes' property, so some vegetation will remain intact, according to the letter.
Olson said they would have no further comment because the lawsuit is still pending. Richard Torhorst, the attorney representing the town of Geneva, could not be reached for comment.
ELKHORN -- A $215,000 grant will help Walworth County Treatment Court reach participants sooner and address a wider range of needs for participants, coordinator Katie Behl said.
Using the state grant money, Walworth County can employ a full-time pretrial services coordinator, Behl said.
Instead of waiting three months after arrest, referrals could be swifter, and Behl will know earlier whom her program can target, she said.
Read the full story at Gazettextra.com HERE.
ELKHORN -- The presidential election might be making headlines, but Walworth County voters who head to the polls for the primary will focus on offices closer to home.
Polls will be open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 16, for primary voting. Voters must present a voter ID. For more information about voter ID, go online to bringitwisconsin.gov.
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