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Local
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Dodge County reaction mixed on mask mandate

Reaction to the statewide mask mandate ordered by Gov. Tony Evers in Dodge County was mixed.

Health officials lauded the move, while businesses and Dodge County Sheriff Dale Schmidt were wary of the impacts.

Marshfield Clinic Health System said in a statement issued Thursday that it “strongly supports mandated use of masks such as cloth masks and surgical face masks in social and community settings to control the spread of COVID-19, as well as social distancing through reduced crowd sizes.”

The statement continued, “These are proven steps to decrease exposure. It’s the responsibility of all to make responsible choices that not only protect us, but help keep our friends and neighbors safe who are at higher risk of COVID-19, as well as keep our schools and businesses open and functioning.”

A couple of local businesses said they have made an effort to keep everyone safe, but worried there would be further restrictions that could jeopardize their livelihoods.

Kevin Winter, the owner of Mr. Madisons, 1108 Madison St., worries that requiring masks will affect his business and feels that restaurants and bars have already been through enough.

“I feel like it should be the customer’s choice,” Winter said. “I feel after all they are the ones who are choosing to visit the entertainment establishments. I just don’t feel how Evers or the state government can dictate how people run their independently-owned businesses.”

Brenda Kuhl, owner of Mane Stage Salon said, “I know I would like to do whatever it takes to keep clients and stylist safe, but I also know us small businesses cannot sustain another shutdown.”

YMCA of Dodge County said it will follow the mask mandate and staff has been wearing masks since reopening in May. Those who exercise at the YMCA will need to wear masks unless exempt under the state order. Pools will remain open and lifeguards are not required to wear masks.

Dodge County Sheriff Dale Schmidt said on-duty staff will be directed to comply with the mask mandate and will be asked to voluntarily comply with the mandate while off duty.

“Voluntary compliance by the public is of course the avenue we have asked of our citizens in all matters during the pandemic and that has not changed,” Schmidt said.

He said that Gov. Evers guidance is that people should do nothing if they see someone without a mask as some people have conditions or circumstances that would make wearing a cloth face-covering difficult or dangerous. Schmidt said people should not contact the Sheriff’s Office about people not wearing a mask as they will not be investigated due to a lack of resources.


High-school
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PREP SPORTS
PREP SPORTS: Badger Conference cancelling league games, won't crown conference champs this fall

The Badger Conference is cancelling fall conference competitions and won’t crown any conference champions this fall due to concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic.

The decision was announced in a statement that was sent to parents and coaches at some league schools and forwarded to the Wisconsin State Journal on Thursday.

The decision comes one day after the Madison Metropolitan School District’s athletic directors announced they won’t offer fall sports or sport-specific virtual or in-person coaching during the fall seasons.

The Badger Conference has 16 member schools, including Portage, Baraboo, Reedsburg, Sauk Prairie and Beaver Dam. Those 16 schools span seven different counties. Because many of those counties have different health guidelines when it comes to dealing with the pandemic, putting together a conference schedule became too challenging.

“Since all member schools are not able to participate fully in conference contests during the current fall season dates as scheduled, Badger Conference competitions will not be held and conference champions will not be named,” the statement reads. “The WIAA has said that schools which are unable to start fall sports in 2020, may have an opportunity in the spring to conduct their fall seasons.”

The Badger Conference announcement did not close the door on fall sports happening, as it gives its member schools the option to schedule and play non-conference events.

“All schools will be supported in their local decisions and may have the option to schedule non-conference competitions in fall sports, so long as they follow the guidance of the WIAA and local public health officials,” the statement reads.

It was not immediately clear if area schools would still pursue the option of playing non-conference sports this fall. In a text message on Thursday afternoon, Portage athletic director Ed Carlson said he couldn’t comment until the conference officially released the statement on Friday.

Monona Grove athletic and activities director Jeff Schreiner, president of the Badger Conference athletic directors, on Wednesday and Stoughton athletic director Mel Dow earlier Thursday said superintendents were working through the conference’s position.

The WIAA Board of Control announced a week ago that it will hold a fall sports season, but that the start to the season will be delayed amid concerns about the pandemic.

The Board of Control approved a plan for the 2020-21 school year to start seasons for girls golf, girls tennis, girls swimming and diving and boys and girls cross country on Aug. 17 (for practice) and 11-player and eight-player football, boys soccer and girls and boys volleyball on Sept. 7.

According to the WIAA, earliest dates for first competitions now will be Aug. 20 for girls golf; Aug. 21 for girls tennis; Aug. 25 for boys and girls cross country and for girls swimming and diving; Sept. 15 for boys soccer and girls and boys volleyball; and Sept. 23 for football (though most football games likely will be scheduled for Friday, Sept. 25).

Originally, football equipment was to be handed out Aug. 3 and the first practice Aug. 4.

The WIAA’s next Board of Control meeting is Aug. 14.

All of the practices permitted by the WIAA Board of Control last week begin after that Aug. 14 meeting, so it’s conceivable there could be changes to schedules, pending further COVID-19 developments.


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Dodge County Judge Steven Bauer ready for simpler life on farm

JUNEAU — Dodge County Circuit Court Judge Steven Bauer presided over court Tuesday when a woman failed to appear for her arraignment.

“She’s on the phone,” Bauer told the attorney’s in the court room. The Milwaukee woman told Bauer over the phone that she lived in Milwaukee and did not drive. She it was simply too hard to get to Dodge County at 8:30 a.m.

Bauer told the woman over the phone the appearance was not optional and he was going to issue a warrant for her arrest.

“I am going to stay that warrant until your next court date,” Bauer told the woman.

The simple solution was nothing new to the sensible approach Bauer has had in his years on the bench.

“Judge Bauer is one of the most intelligent people I’ve known and provides a spirited debate on any subject,” Dodge County Clerk of Courts Lynn Hron said. “Dodge County will miss his common sense approach to justice.”

Friday is Bauer’s last day as a Dodge County Circuit Court Judge and in retirement he will return to life on a farm.

“I am ready to leave,” Bauer said. “After you do enough of this, you see enough ugly stuff and you know it is time to leave and let someone else deal with it.”

Bauer said he will miss the people he has worked with in the court system.

“I understand that is the downside, because the people here are very good,” Bauer said.

But Bauer said he has looked forward to more time at his horse farm.

“I’ll have (time for) some simple farming, reading, guitar playing, bicycling,” Bauer said.

Travel isn’t currently advisable but Bauer said he doesn’t mind because he likes to spend time at home.

Bauer has a master’s degree in agricultural economics. He was employed at the county UW Extension as an agricultural agent for several years before going to law school. He did criminal defense and bankruptcy cases before becoming the Dodge County District Attorney in 2002 and then being appointed as a judge in 2008.

“No matter my role, I tried to do every case as good as I could,” Bauer said.

Bauer said there were highs and lows in each position. He recalled being a defense attorney for a prison inmate who was acquitted of strangling his cell mate and also recalled being the prosecutor when a man accused in a drunken driving crash in Dodge County was found not guilty by reason of insanity.

As a judge, Bauer said a case out of Sauk County was his most memorable. Bauer granted a new trial for a man who had sat in prison for a 1989 first-degree murder conviction. Terry G. Vollbrecht, who was then 52, pleaded no contest to an amended charge of second-degree murder with a dangerous weapon in the 1987 death of 18-year-old Angela F. Hackl.

Bauer sentenced him to the maximum 25 years in prison. However, because Vollbrecht already had served 22 years in prison, he had reached his mandatory release date under the law, and was paroled immediately.

Bauer said one thing that has stood out to him over the years was all the good law enforcement and social workers.

“A lot of them have been a pleasure to work with,” Bauer said. “I also would like to thank the many good people of Dodge County who never saw the inside of a courtroom for a criminal matter.”