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TOWN OF DELAVAN—A Whitewater man died when his car crashed into a tree on County Highway P, north of County Highway M in the town of Delavan Thursday morning, according to a news release from the Walworth County Sheriff’s Office.

Brian G. Blucher, 26, of Whitewater, was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident at 7 a.m. Thursday by the Walworth County Medical Examiner’s Office, according to the release.

WALWORTH COUNTY SUNDAY -- A library is more than a collection of books; it’s a place to read, to access the internet, to borrow music and movies and a place for children to grow socially and intellectually. It’s a place outside of home and work where you choose to spend your time. So, when a library outgrows its space, you’d think everyone would be for its expansion, right?

 Yes. Sort of. But not at the expense of our past, said a collection of concerned Whitewater citizens. That’s not to say they don’t recognize the need for a library expansion.

WHITEWATER -- Rock-Walworth Comprehensive Family Services Inc. will celebrate the 52nd birthday of its signature program, Head Start, in holding one of nearly 1,400 Community Reading Day events planned across the country on Thursday, May 18.

The Stateline area gathering will be at Head Start’s Whitewater location, Lakeview Elementary School, W8363 R&W Townline Road.

WALWORTH COUNTY SUNDAY -- Green energy doesn’t always need a force of nature as great as the wind or the sun to set things in motion.

Sometimes it only takes the power of two feet.

WALWORTH COUNTY SUNDAY -- The stub end of a section of U.S. Highway 12 freeway just north of Elkhorn dies abruptly in gravel, the remnant of a construction project that would have extended U.S. 12 to a point about one-half mile east of County Highway O near Whitewater.

The plan officially was mapped by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation back in 1967.

But it remained in the planning stages for decades, and now that empty section of freeway, barricaded from traffic, is a road going nowhere.

TOWN OF WHITEWATER—Two men were hospitalized—one in critical condition—after  a car collided with a semi-tractor on U.S. Highway 12 in the town of Whitewater Wednesday morning, according to a release from the Walworth County Sheriff’s Office.

Ryan Gellings, 21, of Whitewater was taken to an area trauma center in critical condition. Marc Tracy, 43, of Carpentersville, Illinois, was transported to an area trauma center with moderate injuries.  

At 10:10 a.m. Wednesday, Walworth County Sheriff’s deputies, City of Whitewater police, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater police and Whitewater Fire and Rescue units received reports of a semi versus car head-on crash at the Highway 12 bypass, just east of the S. Wisconsin Street overpass in the town of Whitewater.

Emergency responders found a green 1997 BMW with extensive front end damage on the eastbound shoulder of the highway. A 2012 Volvo semi-tractor with an attached tanker trailer was in the southbound ditch. Debris was scattered across the road.

A preliminary investigation revealed that Gellings was driving the BMW eastbound on Highway 12 when his car crossed the center line.  The semi, driven by Tracy, was westbound on Highway 12 and swerved to the right to avoid the collision. Both vehicles collided head on in the westbound lane.

The drivers were the only occupants of each of their vehicles.

Highway 12 was closed for about 6 hours in the Whitewater area for investigation and cleanup, according to the release.

 The crash remains under investigation by the Walworth County Sheriff’s Office Crash Investigation Team and the Wisconsin State Patrol.

Agencies who responded to this scene include Walworth County Sheriff’s Office, City of Whitewater Police Department, University of Wisconsin Whitewater Police Department, Whitewater Fire and Rescue, Wisconsin DOT, Wisconsin State Patrol, Walworth County Department of Public Works.

WHITEWATER -- Sarell Martin was working in Madison on Wednesday night, Nov. 9, 2016, when his fiancee called with bad news.

A fire had started at the University Gardens Apartments, where Martin's financee lives with his 3-year-old twins.

The UW-Whitewater public relations student rushed back to Whitewater and was "bombarded" by flashing lights when he arrived at the apartment building. Crews from 28 fire departments were working to extinguish the fire.

Martin searched frantically for his family and found them sitting in an ambulance with blankets given to them by UW-W students.

His fiancee's apartment was considered an "unaffected area," he said, but power and utilities had been shut off for the whole complex. Residents were not allowed to return.

Martin said he was "livid." Where was his family supposed to stay?

A little before 9 p.m., Martin called a trusted professor he knew lived in the area. He just wanted some blankets for his family.

Jim Disrude, a communications lecturer at UW-W and Martin's academic adviser, called Martin back. He said he had worked out a deal to get Martin and his family a hotel room at the Super 8.

"In the midst of such a tragic moment," Martin said, "the amount of beauty and care on display, it was captivating."

"Sarell is such a wonderful person," Disrude said. "It put some things at ease for him. I was trying to imagine what it would be like to be in his position last night, and it made this decision pretty easy."

The fire displaced more than 200 residents of the University Gardens Apartments, said Barbara Behling, the state American Red Cross spokeswoman. The building has more than 100 units.

The apartment building was still closed Thursday. However, the Whitewater Police Department issued a statement Thursday evening that the building had been released to Cardinal Capital Management, which will determine which apartments will remain closed and which will be reopened.

Whitewater fire Capt. Joe Uselding said the fire directly affected about eight apartments, and those would be closed "for the foreseeable future."

At 6:31 p.m. Wednesday, the fire department responded to 370 N. Tratt St. for a report of smoke coming from an apartment, according to a news release. Crews reported a fire in one of the common hallways that had spread through a doorway to the exterior of the building.

Uselding said the fire blocked a stairwell, forcing some residents to jump out of second-story windows. Still, he said there were no major injuries to residents or firefighters. He said one person suffered smoke inhalation.

Uselding said fire crews were on the scene for about four hours Wednesday.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation by the State Fire Marshal's office, according to the release.

The Wisconsin Chapter of the National Fire Sprinkler Association issued a statement expressing concern about the apartment's lack of sprinklers.

Uselding said the apartment building was not required to have sprinklers, but buildings constructed after 2011 are. If the apartments are rebuilt, they will have to have sprinklers, he said.

Two other UW-W students displaced by the fire have found housing at Fox Meadows Apartments, Jeff Angileri, assistant university spokesman, said in an email. University Gardens Apartments are community apartments, not UW-W housing.

Behling said 19 people stayed with the Red Cross on Wednesday night at the Starin Park Community Building, 504 W. Starin Road.

"Last night, we were providing food, comfort, medications, a shoulder to lean on," Behling said.

She said the Red Cross will help people find more permanent housing.

The Red Cross, schools, churches and other charities are creating a multi-agency resource center to help displaced families, according to a Red Cross news release. The center will provide food, clothing, computer kiosks, phone-charging stations and help with paperwork.

It will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday in the Whitewater Middle School cafeteria, 401 S. Elizabeth St.

The Wisconsin Arson Insurance Council is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to people who might have been responsible for the fire. Call Whitewater police Detective Derrick Schleis at 262-473-0555, ext. 4, or Walworth County CrimeStoppers at 262-723-2677.


-- Visit, call 1-800-REDCROSS/733-2767 or text "REDCROSS" to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

-- Contributions also can be sent to the local Red Cross chapter at 2600 W. Wisconsin Ave., Milwaukee WI 53233 or to the Whitewater Unified School District Family Emergency Fund at the school district's central office, 419 S. Elizabeth St., Whitewater.

-- The Congregational United Church of Christ, 133 S. Franklin St., Whitewater, is collecting clothes to give to the displaced families, said Barbara Behling, the state American Red Cross spokeswoman.

-- Food donations may be given to the Whitewater Food Pantry.


Residents of the building can call University Gardens Apartments at 262-472-7087 to find out whether they can return to their apartments.

Friday, 28 October 2016 09:21

Local teens star in high school productions

WALWORTH COUNTY SUNDAY -- The plays taking center stage on Walworth County high schools next month showcase some wonderful theater, with several presenting familiar stories given a new twist.

Big Foot High School

Audience members will see a familiar fairy tale turned on its head with “The Cinderella Complex” at the newly remodeled auditorium at Big Foot High School, said director Rachel Wenndt.  

WALWORTH COUNTY SUNDAY -- Dave Saalsa remembers walking his dogs one evening across the wooded lawns of Whitewater’s Hillside Cemetery when the animals suddenly stopped and stood stock-still. He glanced up to see what the dogs were watching so intently, but nothing looked amiss. Then he spotted it.

“Right across from a crypt, I saw this full-bodied apparition of a woman. She was floating up the hill,” Saalsa said.

Friday, 16 September 2016 12:45

Whitewater's Jay Craggs is a music maker

WALWORTH COUNTY SUNDAY -- Guitarist Jay Craggs has shared the stage, opened for or recorded with musicians as varied as Wynton Marsalis, Buddy Rich and Kansas. He’s also a self-described technology geek and has done sound engineering and studio work for dozens of performers, including Rush, Prince and David Bowie.

He still has a recording studio in the basement of his Whitewater home, but these days, he’s the facilities coordinator at the James R. Connor University Center at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, the school where he earned a degree in music education, and teaches an occasional class in audio recording for the communications department. He also plays with Cold Sweat and the Brew City Horns, an eight-piece band performing around Milwaukee, Chicago, Green Bay and Madison.

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