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Columbia County takes lead in seeking housing grant funds

Columbia County is applying to extend the county’s Community Southern Housing Region Development Block Grant fund, which assists low- to moderate-income families with housing needs.

The county, along with nine others in southern Wisconsin received $1 million in federal funds in 2018, to assist families with necessary home repairs. The counties used about $870,000 for housing projects, the other $130,000 is used for administration fees to pay MSA, the consulting firm that handles the funds and projects on behalf of the counties.

Columbia County serves as the applicant and point-of-contact for the funds, which are then distributed throughout the 10 counties in the region, said Kari Justmann, housing director for MSA.

The county will submit another CDBG application in December. The amount of money given to the region will be determined by the state and the counties will be awarded funds in the spring.

The program funded by CDBG provides those who are eligible with money for home repairs, rehabilitation, home buying assistance for down payments and closing costs, and demolition. The funds can cover emergency needs, such as housing repairs or demolition due to natural disasters like tornadoes or flooding.

“We look for things to be decent, safe and sanitary,” said Justmann. “Anything that fails the inspection is then eligible through the program.”

Common repairs for the program include roofing, siding, windows, plumbing and electrical. The program also inspects for and removes lead paint and asbestos.

To be eligible for the program, residents must be at 80 percent or lower of the county’s median income and have eligible equity in the home. If homeowners and their homes are eligible for the program they are given a zero percent interest loan, which is funded by the CDBG money, which homeowners will pay back with the sale of their home.

Landlords can also be eligible for the program, if tenants are income eligible. Landlords are also required to make monthly payments on their loans.

Columbia County has used about $300,000 of the current awarded funds, and Justmann says applications are still being accepted.

Columbia County’s Revolving Loan and Housing Committee met Thursday to discuss housing needs and proposed plans for use of grant funds. The hearing was open to all residents and representatives from the 10 counties in the region, which include Columbia, Sauk and Dodge counties.

Representative from the city of Whitewater in Walworth County and the city of Lake Mills in Jefferson County attended the hearing to learn more about the program.

Columbia County Board Chairman Vern Gove offered support for the interested counties. “If I can understand the program and Kari (can), then you guys can get the program,” he said.

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Poynette woman accused of delivering heroin in fatal overdose

A 36-year-old Poynette woman has been charged with three felonies in a fatal heroin overdose that occurred in March in the village of Pardeeville.

According to the criminal complaint filed Tuesday, Abidaughn A. Henn faces up to 40 years in prison for the first-degree reckless homicide of a 34-year-old Pardeeville woman, and up to 25 years in prison, combined, for two counts of distributing heroin weighing 3 grams or less.

The Columbia County Sheriff’s Office on March 12 responded to a report of a deceased woman found by her husband inside a locked bathroom at a residence in the village of Pardeeville. The complaint states that inside the bathroom with the woman law enforcement found her cell phone and a pack of cigarettes, which contained a partial green straw and 0.7 grams of a substance that later tested positive for heroin, acetyl fentanyl and fentanyl.

The autopsy report finds she died of “an acute acetyl fentanyl, 4-ANPP, fentanyl, heroin, ethanol and diphenhydramine intoxication with resultant respirations and loss of consciousness, hypoxic brain injury, coma and subsequent death,” according to the complaint.

In May, investigators reviewed the Pardeeville woman’s cell phone records from March 7-12 and found several text messages had been exchanged between her and a phone number later identified as Henn’s. According to the complaint, the exchanges included the woman asking Henn if something had been acquired yet and detailed meeting arrangements and meet locations. The woman asked Henn if she had weighed it yet because “it looks light” and also asked Henn if it’s the same stuff as last time, to which Henn confirmed that it was.

Investigators believe the drug transaction occurred at the Pardeeville woman’s workplace in the town of Pacific. A text message between the woman and Henn on March 10 indicates a transaction amount of $320. No other suspects or apparent drug deliveries were identified in the analysis of the phone records.

The Columbia County Sheriff’s Office contacted Henn on Oct. 30, when she confirmed her phone number was used in the text messages. Henn allegedly told investigators the Pardeeville woman was married to a law enforcement officer and that she pressured Henn until she finally “gave in and did something for her.”

Investigators asked Henn how much heroin the woman could get for $320 and Henn stated, “She bought 2 grams that day” and further admitted to selling grams for $160 each. Henn said she would “help out” the woman about two to three times per month.

Henn has a pretrial conference scheduled for Dec. 11 in Columbia County Circuit Court.