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Bomb threat cancels classes at Franklin High School

March 30, 2012 8:04 a.m. | Classes were canceled at Franklin High School on Friday after a bomb threat was discovered scrawled on a bathroom stall Thursday night, according to Franklin police.

Police were called to the school just before 11 p.m. Thursday after the graffiti was discovered.

School officials decided to cancel classes early Friday morning as police conducted a search of the school.

Superintendent Steve Patz said that once the search is complete, teachers will return at 12:30 to prepare for next week. It has not yet been determined if the missed day of school will have to be made up.

Semifinalists emerge in Battle of the Burbs bracket contest

March 29, 2012 2:20 p.m. | Four communities have advanced to the penultimate round of MyCommunityNOW's Battle of the Burbs bracket contest.

Top-seeded Wauwatosa handily defeated Franklin, 64-36, to earn a semifinal match up with No. 4 seed Waukesha. Waukesha earned its spot with a 52-48 victory over No. 2 Mequon-Thiensville.

Brookfield, a No. 1 seed, posted a 56-44 victory over Muskego and will face New Berlin in the semifinals. Second-seeded New Berlin advanced with a 63-37 rout of Shorewood.

Semifinal voting in the NCAA-style tournament continues for a week and pits suburbs against each other in a single-elimination showdown to determine the best community in the area.

Three lucky voters will win Visa gift cards and the winning community will receive a special proclamation from MyCommunityNOW and NOW Newspapers.

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Longtime Conejito's server opens LaLa's Place in Cudahy

March 29, 2012 8:29 a.m. | Perhaps longtime customers of the Mexican restaurant Conejito’s Place on the near south side have wondered whatever happened to server Alicia “LaLa” Guerra, who worked there for more than 25 years.

She opened her own restaurant, that’s what.

LaLa’s Place opened about a month ago at 3470 E. Layton Ave., Cudahy. That’s the former La Salsa space.

Guerra is again waiting on customers and calling them "honey." She’s made some cosmetic changes to the 20-table restaurant and is planning more of them.

The menu offers everything from breakfast plates — such as huevos con chorizo ($5.75) — to lunches and dinners, such as bistec a la tampiquena ($10.50), a large plate of skirt steak with onions, green peppers, cheese and onion enchilada, rice, beans and tortillas.

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Greendale senior housing complex sells for $38 million

March 29, 2012 7:00 a.m. | The 229-unit Harbour Village senior housing complex, in Greendale, has been sold for $38 million, just four years after the seller bought the property for $28.6 million.

Harbour Village, 5700 Mockingbird Lane, was sold to HCRI Wisconsin Properties LLC, according to documents filed with the Milwaukee County register of deeds. That group is an affiliate of Toledo, Ohio-based Health Care REIT Inc.

The property was sold by a group formed by Chicago-based Senior Lifestyle Corp., which bought Harbour Village in 2008.

Harbour Village includes 118 independent-living apartments; 59 assisted-living apartments, and 52 living units for memory care patients, a Senior Lifestyle spokeswoman said.  

Parking tough to find at Mitchell International

March 28, 2012 5:58 p.m. | Flying out of Mitchell International Airport any time soon? Better leave the car at home and get a ride.

With the large number of families getting out of town for spring break as well as business travelers flying out of Mitchell, parking lots are mostly filled up.

As of 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, the daily, surface and Super Saver parking lots were at 96% or 97% capacity.

"The big thing we run into this time of year, unlike the holidays when there's an uptick in leisure travel and a downtick in business travel, both leisure and business travel is busy," Mitchell spokesman Ryan McAdams said. "It puts a strain on parking."

With Easter late this year - April 8 - many school districts and colleges scheduled spring break during March so it's likely the airport will be busy for several weeks. Plus, business travelers usually park at the airport for a couple of days while leisure travelers are gone for a week or more taking up parking spaces for a longer period of time, McAdams said.

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'Ferris Bueller' hijinks don't sit well at local high school

March 28, 2012 10:59 a.m. | Some South Milwaukee students who took advantage of early release last week to visit a neighboring high school ended up with a lecture from local police.

According to the Oak Creek police report:

The students rolled out in their Audi Quattro onto the Oak Creek High School grounds, 340 E. Puetz Road, and mooned the entire cafeteria shortly after 1 p.m. March 22.

The South Milwaukee students apparently had a bullhorn and were cruising around shouting "Ferris Bueller's Day Off."

The students were lectured by police and released.

Panel backs Oak Creek's purchase of 30 acres of lakefront land

March 28, 2012 10:39 a.m. | The Oak Creek Plan Commission last night recommended that the Common Council purchase 30 acres of lakefront land from Wispark LLC.

The council is expected to take up the acquisition April 2.

The panel unanimously agreed to recommend that the property, 9006 S. 5th Ave., be purchased from We Energies' real estate development arm for use as a public park. A purchase price was not disclosed.

That is in keeping with the city's lakefront development plan, which the commission adopted in January and which commits land for public use. Land to the west of the parcel is owned by Wispark and would ideally be home to a corporate owner, said Doug Seymour, director of community development.

"This is a strategic acquisition more than anything else," said Alderman Daniel Bukiewicz, a commission member. "This really plays into the master plan down there."

Noodles & Company continues area expansion

March 27, 2012 11:33 a.m. |  Quick-service pasta restaurant Noodles & Company has opened its latest Milwaukee-area outlet, this one in Oak Creek.

The shop at 8909 S. Howell Ave. opened Monday. It's the 15th metropolitan Milwaukee location for the chain, which entered the market in 2000 with a shop in Fox Point.

Noodles & Company is based in Broomfield, Colo. The firm and its franchisees operate more than 260 restaurants across the country.

MATC Oak Creek campus to reopen after power failure

March 21, 2012 2:35 p.m. | A power failure forced the Milwaukee Area Technical College to close its Oak Creek campus Wednesday, but the officials plan to reopen the location at 4 p.m.

A nearby car crash caused the power failure, according to an MATC spokeswoman. The power failure affected about 2,000 We Energies customers near Mitchell International Airport, according to the We Energies Twitter account. Most of the customers have been restored.

Former church secretary gets 3 years for embezzling

March 20, 2012 11:40 a.m. | The former secretary for an Oak Creek church was sentenced Tuesday to three years in prison and ordered to pay $400,000 in restitution for embezzling church funds.

Darlene A Vodvarka, 57, apologized for embezzling the money from St. Matthew Catholic Church in Oak Creek, but gave little explanation when asked by Judge David Hansher why she did it.

"I don't gamble, I don't have new cars, I don't take trips," said Vodvarka, of Oak Creek. She said she donated an unspecified amount to a charity, but agreed when Hansher asked if she spent the money on herself and her family. "That's what I must have done," she said. Vodvarka called her thefts "almost like an addiction to me."

The judge called her action a character flaw motivated by greed and said the money she took could have paid the salaries of seven or eight teachers. He said he didn't believe that she gave some of the stolen money to charity. A significant prison term was necessary as punishment and to deter others, Hansher said.

Vodvarka was initially accused of stealing $217,000 through "scrip" gift cards merchants had donated to St. Matthew's to raise money for its school. In the course of a related civil lawsuit by the church, she was also found to have stolen another $183,000 in cash from the church. Vodvarka handled some financial affairs for the church.

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Oak Creek runs into white-hot King

March 18, 2012 8:57 a.m. | The Oak Creek girls basketball team surrendered 42 shots from the charity stripe Saturday night, but they certainly didn’t give anything away for free against Milwaukee King.

In a bruising and physical sectional final, the Generals topped the Knights, 74-65, at Whitefish Bay. The teams went toe to toe in a game that featured eight lead changes and four ties before King could find sufficient breathing room, something the Generals could not do in the regular season against Oak Creek.

Supplementing its perfect 12-0 record in the City Conference, King improved to 20-6 overall and will play Middleton next weekend in the Division 1 state semifinal. Oak Creek finished the year as sectional runner-up with a record of 19-7 overall, splitting a pair of games with King.

“I thought the seniors responded really well to the pressure of the game and the pressure of the entire season,” King head coach Craig Machut said. “They’ve had one goal in mind all year and one goal to accomplish.

“We’ve played a very difficult schedule to prepare us for games like tonight.”

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Bennett's huge game rattles Sabers

March 16, 2012 4:20 a.m. | In two games this season, both decided by just four points, the Muskego and Franklin girls basketball teams were pretty evenly-matched.

The Sabers won both times, but when the teams clashed again on Thursday night in a WIAA Division 1 sectional semifinal contest, the Warriors prevailed, 60-47, largely because of one big difference.

That’s ‘big’ in the literal sense, because the deciding factor was 6 foot-3 inch junior post Renee Bennett, who exploded for a game-high 28 points.

Bennett, who is four inches taller than anyone on the Franklin roster, averages just 6.2 points per game and had scored just eight points total in the two contests against the Sabers this season. She had also managed just six points in Muskego’s two previous tournament victories.

On Thursday night, though, she was dominant, taking lob passes, making strong inside moves and either scoring (11 field goals) or drawing fouls (six free throws in 10 attempts).

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Oak Creek shocks top-ranked Case in OT

March 15, 2012 11:11 p.m. | For Oak Creek coach Steve Hluchnik, 1-0 sounds a whole lot better than 1-7.

After his Knights lost seven straight games to Racine Case, the Knights finally got one, and it could not have come at a better time as Oak Creek edged the Eagles 41-39 in overtime in a WIAA Division 1 sectional semifinal Thursday night. The Knights face Milwaukee King on Saturday night in the sectional final at Whitefish Bay.

“The eighth’s time the charm,” said Hluchnik. “You know, maybe it was the seven times in a row and maybe they took us lightly, but all I know is we had our best three days of practice in a row this week.”

The Knights (19-6) held a comfortable six-point lead at 35-29 with 2 minutes and 15 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. A free throw by Adella Randle El followed by a 3-pointer from Jameeka Bouie on back-to-back possessions gave new life to Case. The Eagles tied the game with a chance to take the lead when Asia Mosley forced a turnover in the backcourt and made a layup. She missed the free-throw attempt with 1:23 remaining, leaving the score tied.

“That fourth quarter was chaotic,” said Knights guard Morgan Kokta. “We tried to make them earn everything.”

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Police locate missing 81-year-old Franklin man

March 15, 2012 7:46 a.m. | An 81-year-old Franklin man reported missing by his family was located Thursday afternoon, Franklin police said.

Eugene T. Comiskey was found shortly before 6 p.m. in a field area in the 8300 block of W. Loomis Road, according to a news release from the Franklin Police Department.

Comiskey was taken to Froedtert Hospital in Wauwatosa for medical attention, however his condition was not available Thursday evening, according to the release.

Relatives reported him missing about 7 p.m., Wednesday after he had gone for a walk near his home, police said.

Arrests made in Greendale High bomb scare

March 13, 2012 8:54 p.m. | After a joint investigation between the Greendale Police Department and the Greendale School District, several students were taken into custody today for a recent bomb threat at Greendale High School.

The investigation is ongoing, according to Greendale Police Chief Robert Malasuk.

The students will face the school district's usual and customary discipline process, up to and including expulsion. The students will not be allowed to return to Greendale High School until the situation is resolved.

Police and bomb-sniffing dogs searched Greendale High School on Tuesday morning for a bomb but found none, said Malasuk.

Police were called after a note written on the wall of a girl's bathroom was discovered at 1:15 p.m. Monday indicating that a bomb was going to go off Wednesday, Thursday or Friday.

Bomb threat leads to precautions at Greendale High School

March 13, 2012 3:16 p.m. | Police and bomb-sniffing dogs searched Greendale High School early Tuesday morning for a bomb but found none, said Greendale Police Chief Robert Malasuk.

However, Malasuk said the threat of a bomb remains under investigation. "There was nothing at the school at that time," he said. "The investigation is continuing."

Police were called after a note written on the wall of a girl's bathroom was discovered at 1:15 p.m. Monday indicating that a bomb was going to go off Wednesday, Thursday or Friday.

"It was vague enough to leave questions," he said. "We have to take it seriously."

The search was conducted early in the morning, before students arrive for classes or any activities. Malasuk said additional security measures were put in place, but he could not disclose what those measures were in the event the threat is real.

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Southridge Macy's grand opening set for Wednesday

March 12, 2012 11:26 a.m. | Macy's will celebrate the grand opening of its Southridge Mall store Wednesday with a gift card giveaway, fashion presentations, recipe tips and activities for children.

Store Manager Jennifer Duffy, Greendale Village President John R. Hermes and others will conduct a ribbon cutting at 8:45 a.m. at the store, 5300 S. 76th St., Greendale.

A Macy's gift card giveway follows immediately. The first 500 customers through the South entrance will receive a $10 Macy's gift card and three people will receive a $500 Macy's gift card, the company said. Gift cards will be limited to one per customer while supplies last. Recipients must be at least 18 years old, and the gift cards are valid only on Wednesday, March 14.

From 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Macy's will have live DJ entertainment, hourly register-to-wins, cosmetics giveaways makeovers and special gifts with qualifying purchases, the company said.

A spring fashion show is set for 5:30 p.m., and at 6:30 p.m., Macy's Culinary Council chef Tim Scott will demonstrate recipes and offer tips for the kitchen.

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Oak Creek grounds Rockets

March 10, 2012 11:26 p.m. | In a game that had been highly defensive throughout the first half, the Oak Creek girls basketball team stormed away with a 42-28 victory over the visiting Rockets from South Milwaukee in Saturday's regional final.

Abby Styczynski’s three-point shooting helped to ignite the Knights in the fourth quarter. While driving to the basket, she scored on a layup and drew a foul. She sunk the subsequent free throw for her second three-point play of the night. After the Rockets failed to score on their next possession, she nailed a three-point basket to put her team up, 30-24.

“I just play to win,” she said. “You have to just keep shooting. I’ve been off for the past couple of games and they finally just started going in.”

The Rockets didn’t go away, however, quickly scoring a three-pointer of their own when senior guard Mal Wesley received a pass just inside the three-point arc and took a step back before firing a shot that pulled the score back to 32-27.

With precious little time remaining, the Rockets sent the Knights to the free-throw line numerous times in an effort to regain possession and create some momentum, but the Knights were able to keep the Rockets off the scoreboard and finished enough of their free-throws to put the game beyond doubt.

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Gradinjan overcomes injury to deliver game winner

March 09, 2012 10:40 p.m. | Cudahy’s Taylor Gradinjan might have been the happiest injured athlete of all time on Friday night.

The 5-foot-10 senior’s game-winning drive to the basket with 2.9 seconds left gave the Packers a 48-46 victory over visiting Waterford in a WIAA girls regional semifinal matchup. Most impressive, however, was that Gradinjan left the game in the first half with a hyperextended elbow – the same elbow she dislocated last summer.

“We wanted the ball in Taylor’s hands, even when she’s banged up a little bit” Cudahy head coach Adam Stranc said. “She’s a player that makes big time plays. Last year she missed it a game-winner. This year, she wanted the opportunity and she made it.”

For Gradinjan, it was an opportunity at redemption for which she had been waiting.

“Last year, I had a three-point shot at the end with a chance to win the game, and I sort of missed it a little bit,” she said, referring to a playoff loss to Wisconsin Lutheran. “So I was determined to not let that happen again. I wasn’t thinking about that when I had the ball, though. I had it, and I knew I was going to make it.”

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St. Alphonsus renovation cost climbs past $1 million

March 08, 2012 4:16 p.m. | The cost of renovations after a Christmas Eve blaze at one of the largest Catholic churches in the Milwaukee area has spiraled above $1 million, and delays have dashed the hopes that worshippers could christen their new space by Easter.

Father Alan Jurkus, pastor at the sprawling St. Alphonsus Church in Greendale, had hoped the project would wrap up by April but said late last week that it has been pushed back to at least June.

"Our hope was, with the Resurrection, to come back from the fire," Jurkus said, alluding to the coming Easter holiday.

"Now we're hoping for Pentecost when we'll be sent out with the fire of the Holy Spirit."

The 1,100-seat nave was gutted after a small but intense fire erupted in the sanctuary, causing extensive smoke damage to the church and 17 classrooms of the adjacent school.

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Oak Creek apartments sell for $7.6 million

March 05, 2012 7:00 a.m. | The 160-unit College Court Apartments, 6485 S. 20th St., Oak Creek, have been sold for $7.6 million, according to documents filed with the Milwaukee County Register of Deeds.

Klement Sausage Co. sold the property to Hills of Wales LLC, an investment group that lists Theodore J. Balistreri, of Pewaukee, as its registered agent. The sale's brokers were Scott Revolinksi, Ben Adank and Patti Stevens, all of RFP Commercial Inc.

Burlington soldiers on past Franklin

March 03, 2012 11:13 p.m. | The Franklin boys basketball team came to Burlington hoping for an upset in the Division 1 regional finall, but the Demons, energized by two three-point baskets from Carson Biedrzycki on either side of halftime, came out with a 56-48 victory.

The Demons had taken a 27-22 lead shortly before halftime when Franklin’s Danny Kingstad scored a layup to cut Burlington’s lead to just three. It looked as though the half would expire before Burlington could get a last second shot off, but the ball went out of bounds off of a Saber player with 0.9 seconds left. Burlington inbounded the ball to Biedrzycki, who got his shot off just as the buzzer sounded. The ball hit nothing but net, giving the Demons a 30-24 halftime lead.

“The (three-pointer) going into halftime was huge,” said Burlington coach Steve Berezowitz. “Not only did it extend it to a two possession game but it also gave us a six point lead. It gives you a little wiggle room, and with a team like this, you need that."

“It gave us some momentum going into halftime," added Biedrzycki. "Coming out, I wanted to keep us strong in the second half.”

That is exactly what he did. Shortly after the restart, he once again found himself with the ball just beyond the three point arc. He took the shot and nailed it to give his team a nine-point lead and keep the momentum in Burlington’s favor.

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DNR proposes violations against We Energies in coal ash bluff collapse

March 01, 2012 6:20 p.m. | The lack of a liner in a pond on a We Energies construction site was a “significant factor” in the collapse of a bluff next to the Oak Creek power plant that sent a mixture of coal ash and dirt into Lake Michigan on Halloween, state regulators have found.

The state Department of Natural Resources issued a notice of violation to the Milwaukee utility on Thursday saying the agency believes the company violated solid waste regulations when it built a pond in and above a pond built atop a coal ash landfill on the power plant site.

“We have reason to believe that the failure to install a liner in the storm water pond was a significant factor in the bluff collapse,” the DNR said.

The notice of violation indicates We Energies could face fines of up to $5,000 per day.

We Energies spokesman Barry McNulty said the utility is disputing the finding concerning the liner, saying it didn’t think a liner was required in this case.

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Police find live pipe bomb in Franklin residence

March 01, 2012 3:52 p.m. | The Milwaukee County sheriff's bomb squad was called to a residence in Franklin early Thursday after a report that a live pipe bomb was found in a closet.

The Franklin Police Department called the squad at 2 a.m., according to a news release by the sheriff's office. When the bomb squad responded, it determined the 6- to 8-inch pipe bomb was a live, electronic explosive device that contained explosive powder, the release said. Technicians removed the device from the residence and detonated it with multiple explosive charges at a remote location.

The Franklin Police Department is still investigating.

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