Power was restored Downtown with parts of the Isthmus still experiencing outages after an explosion and fire Friday morning shut off electricity for tens of thousands of homes and businesses on the hottest day of the year, according to Madison Gas & Electric.
After initially restoring power to all locations, the system experienced an increase in outages because of mechanical issues resulting from returning the system to normal, MGE spokesman Steve Schultz said.
"The restoration process resulted in a fluctuation in the number of customers out of power at a given time," Schultz said. "We're still on a path toward full restoration, and crews continue to work as quickly as is safely possible."
City, county and utility officials thanked the community for working together to address what could have been a hazardous situation. There were no injuries caused by the early morning explosion, and no reports of injuries caused by the excessive heat, Dane County Executive Joe Parisi said.
"This is what emergency preparedness is all about," Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway said at a 4 p.m. press conference.
The American Red Cross of Wisconsin planned to open a cooling shelter at the Alliant Center at 5 p.m. with dinner and a couple hundred cots available to those in the area affected by the extreme heat and power outage, spokesman Justin Kern said.
MGE and American Transmission Co. officials said they had not identified the cause of the explosion as of 4 p.m. They had ruled out the heat as a potential cause because the temperature was below a typical 80 degrees when the explosion occurred.
"We're looking at mechanical issues," said ATC vice president Paul Roehr. "With any piece of equipment they're subject to failure."
Gov. Tony Evers earlier declared a state of emergency in Madison following the massive explosion at a power company substation near Downtown and a subsequent fire at a separate substation near the UW-Madison campus.
"We are grateful that no one has been injured as a result of the explosion and fires this morning," Evers said in the declaration. "I want to thank emergency personnel who responded quickly to contain the situation."
Evers authorized the activation of the Wisconsin National Guard to assist local authorities, if needed.
Schultz said when the fire happened this morning, the substation where the fire took place was taken out of service so firefighters could put out the fire.
"We were able to systematically bring it (the affected substation) back to power," Schultz said.
By 1:30 p.m., about 6,000 customers were still without power, according to the MGE website. By 2:30 p.m. the number was down to about 3,500.
MGE President and CEO Jeffrey Keebler said at the news conference that it wasn't known what came first during the main incident, the fire or the explosion.
"We had to turn off the equipment at the substation to fight the fire," Keebler said. "We are doing a damage assessment now."
Madison Fire Chief Steve Davis said it took about 15 to 20 minutes to get the substation de-energized, then 5 to 10 minutes to put the fire out with the foam.
Keebler said the fire at the second location was in a substation owned by ATC, but it was unclear if the first fire caused the second fire.
"We are using other power routing options to get power to Downtown," Keebler said.
Evers said the State Capitol has closed, and all non-essential government employees working Downtown should go home for the day.
"Please avoid the Downtown area," Evers said.
Madison Fire Department officials said both fires are under investigation, but neither were believed to have been intentionally set.
Fire units were called at 7:50 a.m. for reports of a massive fire at the MGE substation at 722 E. Main St., with a full structure fire response sent.
"Firefighters immediately began an aggressive fire attack that kept the fire contained to the immediate area," said MFD public information officer Cynthia Schuster.
Crews used a foam concentrate during the fire attack, due to the unique nature of the fire, and the Truax Fire Department at the airport also was called to the scene to provide mutual aid and additional foam.
"The fire at the substation was knocked down at 8:50 a.m., with no injuries reported," Schuster said.
The second substation fire also was extinguished, with no injuries because of that fire.
The Department of Health Services closed, with staff and the public asked to leave the buildings at 1 West Wilson St., 1400 E. Washington Ave. and 600 Williamson St.
East Washington Avenue was reopened to traffic at 9:30 a.m., but it would take awhile for the massive backups on adjoining streets to get taken care of.
The fire was put out around 9 a.m., MGE officials said.
Kaya Freiman, corporate communications manager at MGE, said the substation contained equipment from both MGE and the American Transmission Co., a consortium that runs high voltage lines all across the state.
Anne Spaltholz of ATC said a 69kV-138kV transformer failed.
The power outage came on a day when temperatures climbed into the 90s and the heat index tipped 106 degrees.
The campus remained open, with minimal effect from the two substation fires.
"Summer term classes and campus activities are still being held," the Office of the Chancellor reported.
At UW Hospital, some elective surgeries were postponed, even though the power didn't go out, to prepare for a possible increase in volume in the emergency room or operating rooms, spokeswoman Lisa Brunette said. UW Health’s Union Corners clinic on Winnebago Street was closed shortly after the power outage and remained closed as of shortly before noon, Brunette said.
UnityPoint Health-Meriter’s West Washington Clinic is closed due to the power outage, spokeswoman Leah Huibregtse said. “While we have activated our incident command center to monitor the situation, our hospital continues normal operations,” she said.
Capitol Lakes Bayside Care on West Main Street, ARC Community Services on Dayton Street and ARC House on North Paterson Street were impacted by the power outage, said Hannah Mohelnitzky, spokeswoman for the City of Madison Engineering Department.
City officials “are checking on their status” and “working with other sensitive populations,” Mohelnitzky said.
Metro Transit said its main offices on East Washington Avenue are without power, but the call center was able to reopen as of 11 a.m.
A second fire broke out at a substation on North Park Street, near the Kohl Center. UW-Madison police evacuated everyone from the Ogg Residence Hall, 835 W. Dayton St., a short distance from the fire at the Park Street substation just south of the hall.
Police shut down roads in a two-block radius around both areas, police spokesman Joel DeSpain.
Traffic lights were out all over Downtown and the Isthmus, with police directing traffic.
Freiman said there was no estimated time of restoration of power for the area.
"Crews are working as quickly as possible to safely restore service," she said. "We have no reason to believe the cause of the fire is due to excessive usage from today's high temperatures."
Public Health Madison and Dane County said all businesses, including restaurants, tattoo parlors, etc. that don't have emergency backup power sources need to stay closed until power is restored.
Dane County Executive Joe Parisi said the power outage at the City-County Building has prompted the building to close for the day, and the Courthouse also was closed for the day.
"The 911 Center has been moved to a backup location," Parisi said. "The central command for the police department is now at the Midtown District."
DeSpain said police services are up and running but the main operations are being conducted from a district station and not from the Downtown central district.
The power outage is affecting operations at The Beacon day shelter on East Washington Avenue.
Program director John Adams said he was at the facility at opening time at 8 a.m. when he saw the fire at the MGE substation and walked down to investigate.
"I wanted to see how close the fire was, for the safety of our folks," Adams said.
The fire was accompanied by what Adams called a "minor explosion," then the power went out at The Beacon and everywhere else in the area about 10 minutes later.
The Beacon has been extremely busy serving the homeless this week because of the extreme heat, with an average of 240 people using the day shelter.
Adams said staff at the facility are checking with cooling centers around Madison to see where people could be bused, just in case power doesn't come back for awhile.
"We're trying to figure this out and take people to a cool place," Adams said.
The people using The Beacon have been taken to the Madison Central Library which is a cooling center, just as all Madison library branches are being used as cooling centers.
Zane Geyer, a construction worker working on the seventh floor of the Gebhardt Building on East Washington Avenue saw the first explosion, which he called "huge".
"Flames went about 150 feet into the air," Geyer said. "The fire kept getting bigger, and the transformers' oil inside probably fueled it."
Geyer said there were three or four explosions after the first one, as transformers literally blew.
"More stuff (at the substation) just kept getting on fire," he said. "Our whole building shook."
Cindy Stohbusch, 53, said she was at BP station on East Washington Avenue when she head the explosion.
"I heard a huge noise, what I thought was thunder, and it stopped me dead in my tracks," Stohbusch said.
A friend of hers rode a bike down to the scene, and was near the substation when a second transformer blew.
"The transformer explosion blew him back," Stohbusch said.
Edgewood High School was evaluating its options, including possible legal action, a day after Madison’s Zoning Board of Appeals decided the school’s athletic teams can no longer do something they have been doing for more than 90 years: Play games on the school’s athletic field.
School President Michael Elliott said Edgewood officials are “incredibly disappointed” after the board voted 4-0 late Thursday to affirm that the school’s master plan allows for only physical-education classes and practices — but not games or matches against other schools — at the school’s Goodman Athletic Complex.
“We intend to further explore all of our options,” Elliott said Friday, including “multiple options for legal pathways.”
The board’s decisions can be appealed in Dane County Circuit Court.
Last spring, the city’s zoning department issued Edgewood notices of two ordinance violations for hosting games, including a girl’s soccer game. The notices came after zoning administrator Matt Tucker said the school’s master plan prohibits the school from hosting competitions on the field.
Elliott said the school has been continually holding football, soccer, ultimate Frisbee and other competitions on the field since 1927. But during Thursday’s five-hour board meeting, which drew some 170 people, neighbors complained that the number of games played on the field has increased tenfold since the field was upgraded in 2015.
The games have also drawn increased scrutiny after the school in 2017 proposed further upgrades to the facility — including increased seating, lights, a sound system and permanent bathrooms — that would have allowed the school’s varsity football team to play there.
Residents of the surrounding Dudgeon-Monroe neighborhood organized against the changes, arguing they would create traffic, noise and environmental problems. School officials subsequently scaled back plans and haven’t made any further improvements.
Thursday’s decision hinged on wording in the school’s 2014 master plan that describes the intended use of the field as being for athletic practices and gym classes — without mentioning competitions.
Tucker said that within the plan, the school is required to explain the intended use of any space. Any uses that are not covered need additional approval from the city’s Plan Commission. Since competitions are not specified in the plan, Tucker said, the school needs to go through this approval process.
But Edgewood attorney Matt Lee and two other attorneys arguing on Edgewood’s behalf said there are other areas of the master plan that explain the space was meant for competitions.
Lee said simply labeling the space an “athletic field” makes it clear that its intended use includes athletic competitions. Lee also said the space is zoned as a recreational area, which means it should be able to be used for games.
In UW-Madison’s master plan, Lee said, the Natatorium and Goodman Softball Complex are both zoned recreational. He said the facilities host swim meets and competitive softball games, respectively.
Lee also noted that “classes and practices” was not meant to be an exhaustive list of all activities on the field.
Board members disagreed.
“This isn’t a case of whether or not we support Edgewood,” said board member Angela Jenkins. “It’s really about the code, the zoning code itself, the interpretation of that.”
Elliott said the school could “walk away” from the master plan now or when it expires in four years, or defy the city and continue to play games on the field.
Ald. Tag Evers, whose 13th District includes the school, suggested the school intentionally left out one of the most “obvious” uses of the field — games and matches against other schools — to make the master plan easier to pass in a neighborhood that has become frustrated by noise from the field.
Edgewood supporters said the city was preventing high schoolers from playing games on their home field because of a technicality. Six people spoke in opposition to Edgewood’s request, while 12 spoke in favor.
Lee said it was “troubling and unfair” that Tucker “issued a notice of violation deeming it illegal to play a girl’s soccer game on a soccer field.”
State Journal reporter Chris Rickert contributed to this report.
Tony Evers is not a natural politician, thankfully. The veteran educator does not play the game the way that political careerists do. Rather, he eschews personal clashes and backroom maneuvers in favor of a strikingly open and genial pursuit of the common good that is rooted in Wisconsin’s progressive tradition.
So far, this approach has proven to be enormously successful.
In 2018, Evers entered a crowded field of Democratic contenders in the race for the party’s gubernatorial nomination and was immediately dismissed as too mild, too nice, too old-school to prevail. He won 42 percent of last summer’s primary vote, leading the next closest candidate in the 10-candidate field by 26 points.
Evers then took on Republican Gov. Scott Walker. The incumbent had the name recognition, the money and a low-road strategy that combined personal attacks on Evers with divisive anti-immigrant rhetoric borrowed from President Donald Trump. Yet, Evers prevailed, defeating Walker and leading a sweep that saw Democrats win every statewide contest.
Republicans retained control of the state Legislature, thanks to extreme gerrymandering and the infusions of out-of-state campaign money that had sustained Walker. Predictably, they sought to thwart the will of the people. They used a “lame-duck” session power grab to undermine the new governor’s position. Then, they proposed to obstruct and undermine Evers’ "people’s budget."
But Evers outwitted them. He campaigned hard for his budget plan, clearly defining it for Wisconsinites who liked what he was saying about expanding access to health care, spending more on schools, fixing roads and renewing the promise of progressive taxation — by cutting taxes for working families while making corporations and the wealthy pay their fair share. And he made it clear that he was prepared to veto bad budget provisions.
The Republicans buckled. They agreed to so much of what Evers asked for that they faced a revolt by conservatives who said they were giving in to the governor. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald eventually delivered a budget. And it was insufficiently progressive. But Evers then used 78 vetoes of to dramatically improve the document.
The governor moved an additional $87 million into education for an overall increase of almost $600 million for K-12 schools. He restored funding for child welfare programs while thwarting ill-thought GOP schemes on prison building and expanding county jails. He steered money to charging stations for electric vehicles, as part of a plan to reduce auto emissions, while rejecting a GOP plan to spend $2.5 million to study toll roads.
Did Evers get the full "people’s budget?" No. But on Wednesday, Evers signed a budget that, he noted, includes substantial “investments in special education, the largest general school aid increase in a decade, increased revenue to fix our roads, and critical investments in broadband expansion, Wisconsin shares, child welfare, rural hospitals, and transit, among other important priorities.”
Fitzgerald and Vos were grumbling. But Evers was smiling. And rightly so. The governor had, once again, outwitted his rivals.
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A Middleton assisted living facility evicted an 87-year-old resident last month because she went on Medicaid, even though the facility said it would keep her once she was in the program if she first paid out of pocket for six months, which she did, according to her caretaker.
Jenny Pols’ involuntary discharge from Heritage Senior Living is part of what appears to be an increase in assisted living dismissals stemming from low Medicaid reimbursement rates, an elder law attorney said. Facilities verbally pledge to keep residents after they go on Medicaid, but rarely put those promises in writing.
“I’ve definitely seen this happen a lot more in the last few years,” said Julie Short, an elder law attorney in Madison who is not involved in Pols’ case. “They admit the person and then it turns out the facility has decided it doesn’t want to take the Medicaid rate.”
Pols, who received an involuntary discharge notice from Heritage June 25, moved last week to Willow Pointe, an assisted living facility in Verona. The move was disruptive, said Margo Redmond, Pols’ caretaker, who said Heritage told Pols and Redmond in November that Pols could stay even after going on Medicaid if she first paid privately for six months.
Redmond called the facility’s actions “fraudulent inducement.”
“I should have walked, but I had already heard from many people in the aging field that these facilities never put anything like that in writing,” she said.
The June 25 notice to Pols from Bobbi Stoltz, executive director of Heritage, said: “We are not required by law to continue residency for any individual once they convert to the Family Care Program and the lower monthly reimbursement rate. Therefore, we are issuing this 30-day Notice of Discharge.”
Amanda Runnoe, Heritage’s vice president of clinical and quality operations, told the Wisconsin State Journal in a statement that “there was discussion as to our commitment and efforts to retain current residents if and when they must transition to Medicaid reimbursement ... but it was made very clear that we do not and can never make such a guarantee or promise.”
Runnoe said it would be “unfair to all parties” to make such a commitment “as no one can predict the level of care needed for a resident as time progresses, nor the related future reimbursement rates for such care and services.”
Pols went on Family Care, a state Medicaid program, in early June, after depleting her savings by paying nearly $30,000 to Heritage from December to June, Redmond said.
Heritage on June 25 refunded about $6,000, apparently for Pols’ advance payment for June, Redmond said.
The Wisconsin Board on Aging and Long Term Care said in 2016 it was experiencing an increase in calls about assisted living admission agreements and unexpected notices to leave.
Problems often arise after changes in a resident’s status — such as changes in mental ability or medical needs — the agency said in an advisory at the time.
“When giving tours to potential residents or their families, assisted living owners or managers often give verbal assurances that the setting ‘will work with the family’ should these occasions arise, but this willingness can change depending on the situation as well as on the staff managing the home at the time,” the agency said.
“Such verbal agreements often do not detail the resident’s or tenant’s financial liability, or other conditions that could make it necessary for the resident or tenant to leave the assisted living community,” the agency said. “There may be little that can be done to try to enforce a verbal agreement, should conditions change.”
Kim Marheine, the agency’s ombudsman services manager, said last week that such complaints have lessened since 2016, perhaps because consumers are paying more attention to written agreements.
“In the vast majority of complaints on this topic, the consumer either didn’t read what they were obligating themselves to or didn’t get in writing what they thought they were promised verbally,” Marheine said.
Most assisted living facilities in Wisconsin accept some residents on Medicaid, but facilities sometimes limit the number of such residents to remain financially viable, said John Sauer, president and CEO of LeadingAge Wisconsin, which represents assisted living facilities and nursing homes. Heritage is not a member of the association.
Facilities typically say residents should have enough money to pay privately for at least two years, Sauer said.
When managed care companies that administer Family Care offer assisted living facilities rates that are too low, the facilities’ only recourse is to discharge the residents, Sauer said. Written commitments to keep residents once they go on Medicaid would allow the managed care companies to continually lower rates, he said.
An increase in Medicaid funding for long-term care in the two-year budget approved by the Republican-controlled Legislature last month and signed by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers last week could improve the situation, Sauer said.
“It will lessen the pressure providers have in meeting their expenses under Family Care,” he said.
Appeals sometimes successful
Pols, born in the Netherlands, worked in the United States as a nurses’ aide at a nursing home run by Redmond’s mother and became a family friend.
Pols was living in a Madison apartment two years ago when she was hospitalized for a urinary infection that left her frail and with temporary dementia, Redmond said.
She moved to an independent living facility before transferring late last year to Heritage.
Heritage’s executive director at the time said Pols could stay once on Medicaid if she first paid privately for six months, Redmond said. When Redmond asked him to put that in writing, he said he couldn’t but shook hands in agreement, she said.
He was replaced in April by Stoltz, who in May said Pols could not stay once she was on Medicaid, Redmond said.
Pols said moving was difficult.
“You have a place and people you know around you, and then you have to leave,” she said.
Short, the attorney, said even when facilities ask residents to pay for two years before they’ll keep them on Medicaid, they sometimes ask residents to leave once they get on Medicaid.
“If they don’t like the rate, they will start the involuntary discharge,” Short said.
Appeals of the discharges are sometimes successful, she said. Another strategy, she said, is to wait: Before discharging a resident, a facility must make sure the resident has another place to go. If it’s hard to find another facility that will accept Medicaid, the first facility might take Medicaid payments instead of not getting paid at all.
With assisted living becoming more widely used, consumers need to fight for their rights, Redmond said.
“If enough of us say we’re walking unless we have something in writing, this will stop,” she said.
University of Wisconsin men’s basketball assistant coach Howard Moore has been moved to a long-term care and rehabilitation facility and won’t coach this season, his family announced in a statement Monday afternoon.
The statement also said Moore, who was involved in a crash in Michigan in May that claimed the lives of his wife Jennifer and 9-year-old daughter Jaidyn, “experienced a medical issue at his Madison-area home” on June 25 “that required ambulatory transportation to a local hospital. During the transportation to the hospital, Howard underwent cardiac arrest and has been receiving care by the doctors, nurses and staff at the hospital.”
Moore sustained third-degree burns in the May 25 crash near Ann Arbor. The driver of the wrong-way vehicle that collided with the Moore family’s SUV, 23-year-old Samantha Winchester, died at the scene. Jerrell Moore, the 13-year-old son of Howard and Jennifer, also was involved in the crash but escaped with minor injuries.
After spending two weeks at the University of Michigan Hospital, Moore returned home to continue his recovery. In June, shortly after UW began summer practices, UW coach Greg Gard said Moore’s goal was to return to his coaching job “in due time.”
The following week, Moore suffered the setback at his home.
A UW official said Monday that Gard is working on addressing the coaching situation for the 2019-20 season.
Gard essentially had used two people to fill Moore’s spot during the offseason: Kyle Blackbourn, the assistant director of basketball operations, went on the road recruiting; Alando Tucker, the program’s all-time leading scorer who now works in the athletic department, was doing on-court coaching during the eight-week session of summer practices.
Moore is in his second stint as a UW assistant coach. He was rehired in December 2015 after Bo Ryan, whom Moore worked for from 2005 to ‘09, retired and was replaced by Gard.
Moore played for the Badgers in the 1990s and graduated from UW in 1995.
Also in the statement released by UW was a message from Moore’s family: “The Moore Family greatly appreciates the outpouring of love and support from the greater Madison and Chicago communities, the Badgers and Big Ten families and all whose lives Howard and his family have touched. Please continue to keep Howard and his son, Jerrell, in your prayers.”
Two fires that sent large black clouds of smoke into the sky over downtown Madison Friday morning caused thousands to lose power and led to major traffic delays throughout the isthmus.
At about 7:40 a.m., a fire broke out Madison Gas & Electric’s main power center on the near east side. The fire occurred at a facility containing equipment belonging to MGE and American Transmission Company.
The Madison Fire Department responded to 722 E. Main St. with seven engines and ladder companies, which is 28 firefighters, two ambulances with another four responders and also called in the Truax Fire Department from the Dane County Airport.
Subsequently, a second fire broke out at an MGE substation on North Park Street near the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s East Campus Mall. An evacuation order for Ogg Residence Hall, 835 W, Dayton St., was lifted after the fire was extinguished at about 9 a.m.
No injuries were reported.
Madison police closed streets within a two-block radius of both fires, causing major traffic jams and delays for commuters making their way across the isthmus.
MFD spokeswoman Cynthia Schuster said at 9 a.m. that all fires were out and MFD was shutting down the scene.
As of 10 a.m., about 11,600 homes were without power as an excessive heat warning was expected to send the temperature above 95 degrees. Public Health Madison & Dane County shut down licensed establishments, including restaurants, swimming pools and retail food stores.
BREAKING: For those in need of a place to stay cool downtown, the Kohl Center is now open as a public cooling center.
“We have no estimated time of restoration but will issue updates as we do our damage assessment and get more information,” the statement said. “Crews are working as quickly as possible to safely restore service. We have no reason to believe the cause of the fire is due to excessive usage from today's high temperatures.”
Police closed off several blocks of East Washington Avenue during rush hour while crews doused the fire stabilized the scene. Side streets, meanwhile, were clogged as police directed traffic through intersections with non-functioning traffic lights.
The City-County building, which includes the MPD’s Central District, at 210 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd, is also without power.
“We’ve lost a lot of our ability to function at City Hall,” MPD spokesman Joel DeSpain said. “It’s pretty much dark.”
DeSpain said some MPD operations have been moved to an outlying district.
'Like a giant, humongous ball of orange flame'
Jonlyn Anderson saw the explosion from her workplace at Artisan Dental on the third floor of the Constellation Building, right across the street.
“It sounded like a thunder crash initially, and then our power flickered and it kind of rumbled the building,” she said.
She and her coworkers ran to the large windows fronting East Washington Avenue in time to watch the transformer explode.
“It was like something you’d see in the movies,” she said. “It was like a giant, humongous ball of orange flame. It was massive, way up in the sky.”
Without hesitation, she said, people in the building began to evacuate.
“It was so scary,” she said. “The first thing that we did was just look at each other and ran out of the building.”
Her coworker, Emily Berggren, said once outside, some became concerned with the BP gas station across the street, adjacent to the property on which the transformer exploded, and decided to leave.
“I was a little nervous to stay in the area,” she said, “so we just went home.”
State government shut down
Wisconsin state government effectively shut down for the morning, with Gov. Tony Evers announcing over Twitter the closure of state offices.
"We are asking non-essential state employees headquartered downtown to go home for the day and asking folks to please avoid the downtown area," he wrote.
Meanwhile, the Capitol building remains closed until further notice, according to a sign affixed to one of the entrances.
Department of Administration Assistant Deputy Secretary Tia Torhorst said the "situation still being assessed at (the) state level" when asked which office buildings would be closed and for how long.
Businesses closed, restaurants worried about food storage
Lindsey Lee owns Ground Zero Coffee at 744 Williamson St. and Cargo Coffee East at 750 E. Washington Ave. Both locations were closed with no power Friday morning.
He saw the smoke billowing from his home on Williamson Street, and his employees at Cargo felt the impact of the nearby explosion, he said.
It’s “hard to say in 90 degree weather” when the power outage will become a major problem for refrigeration, he said. He immediately told his employees not to open the refrigerator, and when they can open it again, they will check the temperature of the food.
Friday is “the worst day that things can go wrong,” Lee said, because “we can’t order products to replace spoiled products.”
Jonny Hunter, owner of Underground Butcher at 811 Williamson Street, estimated that the butcher shop's refrigeration units could keep food cold for four to six hours, but the business has never experienced a power outage that lasted that long.
Hunter said his main concern is the “incapacity to run production” to prepare for two big events (a wedding and a fundraiser) this weekend. He sent about 30 employees home, in part because having too many people in the store will raise the temperature. As of about 10:35, the catering business had no power at any of its facilities.
On a lighter note, he said he was able to charge his phone with his electric bike.
Downtown workers, residents cope
When he learned of the two fires, Victory Smith headed to the Madison Social Justice Center at 1202 Williamson Street where he held a homemade sign to alert drivers to the news. Traffic was backed up for blocks on the east side street at 9 a.m.
Smith's sign read: "MGE blew up, Capitol and campus, no AC, no internet, no refrigeration."
“I would want to know, so I did what I would want," he said. "That’s who I am.”
He said drivers asked him for information and thanked him for the updates. He figured some may have been listening to music and were unaware of outages that interfered with their routines.
“I wouldn’t want to drive miles and miles to have to turn around and go back again," he said.
Rick Roseneck, an employee of internet retailer Shopbop at 1301 East Washington Ave., said he was sent home from workwhen the facility lost power. The power was also out at his apartment building a few blocks away and he didn't have much confidence in the elevator. He planned to take the stairs to his 14th floor apartment.
“It’s gonna be a good workout," he said.
Kevin Rose wasn’t able to check many items off his to-do list Friday morning. He went to QTI staffing agency at 1010 E. Washington Ave. to do some job searching on the computers and found “they had no power, no nothing.” Then he headed to Festival Foods grocery store, 810 E. Washington Ave., to grab some tomatoes, but the store was closed.
UW campus takes precautions
UW-Madison temporarily evacuated several campus buildings, including Ogg Residence Hall, Newell Smith Hall, LaBahn Arena and the Nicholas Recreation Center, according to spokeswoman Meredith McGlone. There were also some temporary road closures on Park and Dayton Streets.
The university posted an update stating that “as of 10:30 a.m., UW-Madison is open, campus operations remain normal and campus power has been minimally affected.”
“Campus at this point is largely unaffected, but of course we’re aware of the broader Madison community issues with power outages,” McGlone said, adding administrators will continue to monitor the situation closely.
The Kohl Center will be open as a public cooling center from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday. According to the UW-Madison Twitter account, summer term classes and campus activities will proceed as scheduled.
McGlone said the UW-Madison Police Department lake rescue station is the only campus building she is aware of currently affected by power outages, thereby suspending lake activities.
When Tony Chambers accepted a job at Edgewood College in 2015, he saw the chance to make a difference. Being the first African American senior administrator at the school put him in a unique position to further its stated commitment to diversity and inclusion.
“I believed in the values they have,” said the 63-year-old veteran administrator. “I believed that I could do something different.”
So he agreed to start work the following January, then announced his retirement from the University of Toronto, where he remained for the rest of the year to fulfill retirement benefit requirements.
The first inkling that he’d made a mistake came before he even started.
About four months before moving to Madison, Chambers attended a meeting of Edgewood student leaders where he was introduced as the new vice president of student development and dean of students.
“What should we call you?” asked one student.
He heard a chuckle from where three white female students were seated in the audience.
“I heard them say ‘blackie,’ and ‘darkie,’” he said. “I just froze and said, ‘I don’t think that’s appropriate.’”
Just as troubling as that incident, he said, was the university’s response.
The students were dismissed from their role as orientation guides, but still maintained leadership responsibilities, according to Chambers.
Although their behavior violated the school’s code of conduct, the students were never referred to the school’s judicial process. Nor, said Chambers, did they make amends.
“An apology would have been really nice,” Chambers said. “Never happened. And it was never requested of these students to provide that. That was my initial contact with the culture.”
When he officially started work the following January, he tried to keep a positive attitude, but he said microagressions and demeaning remarks from co-workers wore him down.
“It got progressively worse,” he said. “On many occasions my colleagues, mostly the vice presidents, said and did things to me that I would say bordered on — not bordered, they really were — racist attacks. They were biased.”
By the time he left after nearly 20 months at the college, Chambers was on medication and in therapy. He was so shaken that his heart raced and he broke into sweats months later when he passed the school while riding the bus from his home to his current job on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus.
Now, he says, he’s over it. But what he sees as the gulf between Edgewood’s stated values and the school’s ability to uphold them still sticks in his craw.
“I think somebody needs to know about that,” he said. “And if they won’t admit it, then somebody’s got to help them understand that. And if it’s my story, fine. If it’s not my story, fine.”
Chambers isn't the only one who feels that Edgewood falls short in creating a welcoming environment for people of color and with dealing with racial incidents. One former staffer, who left in 2016, called the school “one of the most toxic environments I’ve experienced in my life.”
Former African American students described racial incidents they say were improperly handled by college officials, prompting at least two students to transfer to UW-Madison.
But the school isn’t alone. Chambers’ story and those of others who have worked and studied at Edgewood highlight a vexing dilemma for institutions of higher learning: a growing emphasis on diversity and inclusion brings with it an escalation of racial tensions.
And the election of President Donald Trump in 2016 made matters worse.
“Many campuses are, unfortunately, finding themselves in a situation where this is an issue,” said Tia Brown McNair, vice president for diversity, equity and student success at the Association of American Colleges and Universities. “Racial bias and racism on their campuses and racial incidents are happening at a higher rate.”
Sherri Charleston, UW-Madison’s assistant vice provost for diversity, equity and educational achievement, said the university saw an “alarming and disturbing” increase in racial incidents in 2016, including the infamous incident at a UW football game during which a man with a Donald Trump mask led another man posing as Barack Obama around the stands with a noose.
According to Edgewood College President Scott Flanagan, the political environment in 2016, the year Chambers began his stint at the school, “absolutely contributed to what was a really difficult year.”
He admits that some racial incidents at Edgewood could have been handled better. In the past couple of years, he said, the college has sharpened its policies and procedures.
“We’ve made clear that (the incidents are) not acceptable,” he said. “When we’ve been able to find the people who were responsible, we’ve held them accountable.”
Whether Edgewood is worse than other institutions of higher learning in dealing with racial tensions is an open question. Campuses across the country have in recent years reported an uptick in racist acts like racial slurs written in dorms and public places, a proliferation of white supremacist literature and hate crimes.
Charleston said UW officials have been dealing with the increase in racial incidents by improving the university’s information-gathering process and its public response, which could help deal with another potential round of racial strife as the 2020 election approaches.
“We’re ready, but we hope we don’t have to act,” she said.
Unlike small, private colleges like Edgewood, UW-Madison enjoys a vast array of state-supported programs that provide services and a sense of place for minority, low-income and first-generation students, as well as a program that works with first-year students to promote an inclusive environment.
“We have the resources to do it,” Charleston said. “And we’re very fortunate to have faculty who bring in funding and grants. We have the resources to be able to generate additional revenue in addition to the state support we get. We don’t take that lightly. We see it as part of our mission to make good on that promise to keep the door open to anyone who’s qualified to get admitted.”
Edgewood has similarly revamped policies to better respond to incidents of racial bias.
Two years ago, Flanagan initiated a new framework to further the school’s mission and address changing demographics. The plan named inclusion among three strategic pillars, along with student learning and community impact.
It’s an uphill battle, he said, with entrenched attitudes not only at the college, but in local workplaces, institutions and in the general culture of Madison, where racial disparities rank among the nation’s worst. In that context, the school is dealing with vast changes in demographics and trying to adapt “in real time.”
“You’ve got an increasingly diverse student body,” he said. “You’ve got faculty and staff who have different levels of experience and expertise.”
The school has worked to develop cultural competency among faculty, and students, he said.
“We are taking this work seriously,” he said. “I’m sure we’re not doing it perfectly, but we are committed.”
On a relatively small campus of 2,160, when incidents happen, students hear about them.
Last year, after two posters of Martin Luther King Jr. were defaced, about 100 students walked out to highlight what they felt was an inadequate response from the administration and a pervading culture of bias on campus.
“Some of us are so tired of repeating what we experience on this racially divided, male-dominant, sexist and let’s not forget homophobic, predominantly white campus,” student Demond Hill told college officials who attended the event. “When someone asks me if Edgewood College cares about diversity and inclusion, I’m just going to have to tell them the truth. We don’t.”
Flanagan called testimony from the students “devastating.”
Edgewood has long grappled with issues of diversity and inclusion.
A decade ago, a survey found that faculty of color felt “marginalized and excluded.”
The Higher Learning Commission, which accredits the college, criticized Edgewood in a 2008 report for a dearth of people of color in administrative positions and on the Board of Trustees. There were few non-white teachers, and they rarely stayed for long.
“While the policies of Edgewood seek to be open and inclusive, a higher rate of turnover among new faculty of minority backgrounds is cause for concern,” the report said.
In 2009 the school implemented a three-year plan to improve racial and ethnic diversity on campus, citing as motivations social justice, improvements in the quality of student learning and boosting enrollment. That effort paid off.
Flanagan said that when he arrived at Edgewood in 1998, there were only nine students classified as ALANA (African, Latinx, Asian or Native American). In 2017 about 3 percent, or 70 students, were African American, according to federal data, and ALANA students made up about 16% of the student body.
But those students often feel alienated in a culture many feel serves the white majority.
A 2016 student climate survey found that 59% of ALANA students, of which black students made up about a fifth, felt that Edgewood fosters an environment that embraces diversity and inclusion, as opposed to 72% of all students surveyed.
Twenty-six percent of ALANA students felt they’ve been discriminated against, while 13% of students overall felt that way.
In a survey of faculty and staff that same year, only 44% of ALANA employees felt that racially diverse populations were welcomed at Edgewood, as opposed to 74% of all faculty and staff.
Surveys at UW-Madison also show a troubling tendency for students of color to feel unwelcome.
In 2016, a UW-Madison student survey showed that only half of students of color felt like they belong on the campus, compared with 69% overall.
The survey didn’t break out the responses of black students, but it noted that among students of color, black students, who make up about an eighth of the cohort, “were least likely to report a positive climate.”
While short on data, Flanagan said that’s likely true at Edgewood as well.
“Low sample sizes make it difficult to draw conclusions, but it wouldn’t surprise me if African American students felt like they had a different experience,” he said.
“That is what we see in Madison,” he said. “That’s what we hear at UW. It’s not an uncommon experience.”
Edgewood has a website dedicated to diversity and inclusion. College officials say the emphasis aligns with the college’s teaching and social justice mission. And in an era of declining enrollment, the need to compete for a diverse student body is a financial reality.
On the site, the college vows to “acknowledge and confront inequalities and injustices, including those that negatively impact teaching and learning and those that exist at the institution level.”
Several former staff and students say the college’s actions don’t match the rhetoric.
The African American staffer who left at the beginning of 2016 said her white co-workers were clueless about how to deal with racial issues.
She said she was once approached by a faculty member who wanted to discuss the N-word, which he uttered repeatedly during the conversation.
On another occasion, she said, she attended a diversity and inclusion meeting with students, staff and college leadership where speakers tread lightly when it came to the word “bitch,” saying “the B-word” instead, but when the N-word rolled around, “They got to the N-word and used it.”
“Not one administrator, president, dean, even the dean of inclusion and diversity, they didn’t say a thing,” she said.
Former students interviewed for this story focused their complaints on the administration’s handling of racist acts.
A black student who was at the student leadership meeting where students used racially offensive language toward Chambers lodged a complaint against the students, but didn’t pursue it. According to a document from the college’s attorney and supplied to the Cap Times by Chambers, that led to the decision not to refer the students to Edgewood’s judicial process.
In a letter to college officials, the student’s mother said at least one of the students who made the comments had caused her daughter “some angst” in the past.
She expressed frustration at the decision to allow the students to continue in leadership roles.
“What messages are these young ladies sending to students?” she wrote. “Do they represent the ‘learning, belief, and actions’ motto that Edgewood prides itself in?”
The student who made the complaint didn’t return messages seeking comment, but Chambers said she transferred to UW-Madison the following semester.
Janai Buege-McClain, a black student and resident assistant who graduated in 2018, called Edgewood’s environment “not welcoming at all” for black students.
She described one incident in which a poster announcing a rally in honor of Tony Robinson, a biracial teen who was fatally shot by a white Madison police officer in 2015, was defaced and posted outside her room.
During the investigation, she was questioned by two white university officials, one of whom asked her “how I would feel if I was a white person and this was put outside my door.”
That official, who is no longer with the college, didn’t return a message seeking comment.
“It was me in this room with these two white males and them both thinking that it’s OK to ask a person who was just part of a bias incident these sorts of questions,” she said.
Eventually, officials tracked down the person who defaced the poster, a student on Buege-McClain’s floor.
Discussion about possible sanctions included moving the student out of the building or off campus, but officials thought that was too harsh, she said.
“They ended up just mandating her to move one floor below, and that was just kind of it,” she said.
In a letter to the college’s Board of Trustees, Buege-McClain, a member of the board’s Student Life Committee, said her experiences at Edgewood “have been filled with uncomfortableness, ignorance, and racism.”
“Minority students that are involved are used as pawns for photoshoots and panels to show the community and prospective students that we are a college that celebrates diversity, but that isn’t the reality,” she wrote. “We don’t celebrate diversity. We don’t engage in meaningful conversation about how minorities function on a predominantly white campus. We aren’t attempting to make any strides towards changing our college climate.”
She concluded: “From the outside, everything about this institution seemed appealing. Now that I am on the inside, I can honestly say that I will never recommend this institution to another person of color.”
Brianna Taylor, also a resident assistant, transferred to UW-Madison after two years, in part because of the racial tensions. She said she got little support from campus security in the wake of racial tensions after the Robinson shooting.
“We started to see students cross out signs that said ‘Black Lives Matter’ and rip them down off the bulletin boards,” she said.
When asked if racial problems were less of a problem at UW-Madison, she said, “I feel like I was better equipped to handle them given that I already had that exposure at Edgewood.”
It was about two weeks after the 2016 election when an incident happened that Chambers said “started pushing me toward the door.”
Someone posted a sticky note reading “Suck it up, pussies” on the door of the Center for Diversity & Inclusion, where students of color often met for study and activities. A black student who found the note filed a complaint to the diversity and inclusion director and a committee made up of security officials and college administrators determined that it constituted a hate crime under the federal Clery Act, which requires colleges and universities to report crime and security incidents to the U.S. Department of Education. Chambers was not a member of the committee.
The hate crime designation obligated the college to report the incident to the Madison Police Department, which investigated the incident but took no action.
Chambers became the public face of the incident when he prepared a statement to send to faculty, staff and students. In the missive, Chambers called the posting of the note a “targeted act of intimidation and cowardice” that “violated every value that this institution considers to be at its core.”
Chambers was mocked by local conservative commentators who portrayed police involvement as runaway political correctness and Chambers’ letter as overblown.
Chambers blames talk radio host Vicki McKenna’s on-air discussions for fueling a backlash.
“As a result of her and whoever else, I started getting these threatening calls,” he said. “I was getting them and some of the folks on the committee were getting these calls and emails constantly for about a month. It had gotten so bad, they were calling my house, threatening my wife and kids.”
Chambers said he asked Flanagan to issue a statement showing that the college backed his response, and that it supported the committee’s decision to call the incident a hate crime.
“He told me he wasn’t going to do it,” Chambers said. “He was not going to make a statement and if we just waited it would go away. Well it didn’t go away.”
The college’s attorney, responding to a complaint Chambers later filed with the state Department of Workforce Development, wrote that Flanagan “simply thought it was a bad idea to issue an out-of-context statement — which might undermine Chambers — and instead thought a more comprehensive communication was a better approach.”
Twelve days after Chambers’ statement, Flanagan incorporated a statement of support in a newsletter that was circulated among the campus community. Chambers called it “a two-liner hidden in the whole thing. Well, that didn’t do it.”
He said he continued to get harassing calls.
“It just spun out of control,” he said. “The Washington Post did something on it, and the Toronto newspaper did something with it.”
Notes from a debriefing of the incident by college officials indicate that others similarly felt that the administration fell short in its support for the staff involved. The notes were taken by Chambers at a meeting of the Incident Review Committee, which reviewed and approved them, he said.
The committee, the notes say, “expressed significant disappointment with the lack of public institutional support for the work of the (incident response) committee on behalf of the College, particularly when the College and particular members of the College came under attack in the media.”
Chambers eventually filed a complaint, later dismissed, with the Department of Workforce Development alleging racial harassment and retaliation. Among the incidents he cited was a heated argument with a fellow vice president during which he said the man hovered over his desk and complained about Chambers’ “shit-eating grin.”
But he said that racism was built into the culture and surfaced in regular interactions.
Melissa Mael was Chambers’ executive assistant at Edgewood and served in the same position for Chambers’ white predecessor. She noticed a stark difference in the way the two executives were treated by co-workers.
“That was one of the reasons I left Edgewood,” she said. “I watched this happen and it totally changed my view of the place. I had worked there for eight years and I was just really disappointed.”
Mael, who is white, said there were few incidents that could be attributed to outright racial bias, but there was a pattern of disrespect that consistently played out.
“If you took it one by one, it didn’t look like different treatment,” she said. “But when you looked at the entire picture, he was definitely treated differently.”
Mael didn’t attribute Chambers’ treatment solely to his race. Rather, it was a combination of his race and his tendency to speak up.
“I think the reason Tony was probably singled out more was because he wasn’t afraid” to speak up when he saw instances of racial bias.
“If he was in a meeting he’d be like, ‘Whoa, let’s hold on a minute. That sounds a little bit like there’s some bias there,’” she said. “And there was very much a feeling like, ‘Don’t rock the boat.’”
Some say that Edgewood merely reflects racial biases that exist within the larger community. Madison and surrounding communities, despite liberal politics, have yet to come to terms with racial disparities, elitism and outright racism.
That’s the case at UW-Madison as well, said Charleston.
“There’s no way that things that happen in Madison don’t affect the campus in some way,” she said, “and that racial tensions don’t affect the campus in some way.”
Chambers agreed that it’s not just Edgewood.
“I never saw this in Toronto,” he said. “I can say that with clarity. In all the places I’ve lived, and I’ve lived in a lot of places, even in the south, I’ve never experienced it the way I’ve experienced it here. It happens at the university, it happens in the community, it happens in my neighborhood with my neighbors.”
But his experience at Edgewood, he said, was profoundly disturbing.
He spent thousands of dollars on legal representation, filing complaints with the school and with the state, all of which were dismissed.
He considered taking legal action against the school, but found that door had closed. The legal bar for winning bias complaints is considerably higher for people who have resigned than for people who remain on the job, according to civil rights attorney Michael Fox, whom Chambers consulted.
Chambers said he’s “at a point now where I’m not upset about it,” but he harbors regret.
“I left a tenured professor job,” he said, “a lifetime gig, making damn near twice as much money, to come to a job where I was the first and the only senior African American administrator at a small school, because I believed in what they were about — at least in writing.”
Ian’s Pizza opened to the public Wednesday in the renovated Garver Feed Mill, but had to close after a hectic lunch when it ran out of dough and other key ingredients.
Owner Nick Martin said the dough takes two days to make, and because of the breakdown of his prep oven, he can’t exactly say when the Garver location on Madison’s East Side will reopen.
“We’re really humbled by the response,” Martin said shortly after the restaurant stopped serving around 2 p.m.
“Hundreds and hundreds” of customers came through Wednesday after the restaurant opened just before 11 a.m.
“It was so wildly successful and there was wildly more enthusiasm than we expected on day one. It broke us,” Martin said, noting that a front-page Sunday story in the Wisconsin State Journal helped spread the word.
Martin said he’s meeting with managers to regroup so the restaurant can provide its customers with a good experience. “We just want to make sure that people are coming in and getting exactly what they’re paying for and what they come to expect from Ian’s Pizza.”
Ian’s has two other Madison locations, at 100 State St. and 319 N. Frances St.
Ian’s was the first retail business to open in the 60,000-square-foot Garver, and therefore the first look inside the renovated mill for most people.
The restaurant had a private event Tuesday night that went well and drew a lot of people, but also helped to deplete its supplies on hand, Martin said.
A new prep oven went down Tuesday night, and even though the business has three big pizza ovens, the prep oven is a critical part of the operation.
Martin predicts Ian’s at Garver will open back up in a few days. “Unfortunately, we’re going to disappoint a few folks that wanted to come in later this week.”
The 113-year-old Garver Feed Mill is behind Olbrich Botanical Gardens at 3241 Garver Green.
Ian’s is one of 11 independently owned, local businesses that are part of the project. Many of the businesses specialize in food production, health and wellness, and hospitality.
After nearly two decades of neglect and decay, a relic of Madison’s blue-collar past has been reborn as a hub for local food and wellness businesses that reflect the new vibe of the city’s East Side.
With restoration of the 113-year-old Garver Feed Mill nearing completion, Ian’s Pizza plans to start serving food this week in the onetime sugar factory behind Olbrich Botanical Gardens at 3241 Garver Green.
Ian’s will be the second of 11 contracted tenants — and the first retail business — to open in the 60,000-square-foot space, where workers continued to add finishing touches last week as passersby peered through the windows.
Inside, exposed steel trusses soar nearly 40 feet above a 13,500-square-foot atrium lit by 29 historic windows and flanked by a new mezzanine that runs nearly the length of a football field.
Part of a $19.8 million project — including more than $10 million in public funding — that could eventually include an adjacent hotel, Garver Feed Mill will be home to an event center run by the Chicago-based developer Baum Revision and Underground Kitchen founder Jonny Hunter.
With an outdoor patio, Garver can accommodate more than 800 guests, though Hunter expects most events will have only about 100.
Hunter plans to start catering events in September from an off-site kitchen and eventually plans to add a kitchen and bar to the space, which he shares with Ian’s.
“We wanted to create a platform for local food businesses,” said Bryant Moroder, project manager for Baum. “It evolved to include wellness. We’re still focused on businesses that are authentic in what they do.”
In addition to the restoration — which according to Baum’s proposal is estimated to cost about $15.5 million — Baum’s proposal includes about 50 small, free-standing hotel rooms on five acres to the northeast.
Moroder said the “microlodges” are still part of the plan, but he declined to offer a timeline. Baum has until March 5 to close on the second phase.
For its tenants, Garver offers an opportunity to start, relocate or grow businesses in a symbiotic environment.
After eight years with Ian’s Pizza, Adam Nagy had risen to general manager and was looking to open his own shop in Milwaukee when Calliope Ice Cream co-owner Staci Fritz told him about Garver.
Fritz, who also works for Ian’s, had been looking to open a retail site for her business, but knew she couldn’t afford to do it on her own. So they decided to share a space.
Megan Grace had just expanded her Perennial Yoga studio in Fitchburg when one of her clients mentioned she was opening an Ayurvedic spa in “a really cool building” on the East Side.
Grace wandered down, and after one look decided she needed to be part of it.
“I was really attracted to being on this side of town,” she said. “This is Yogaville.”
She plans to open her second studio later this summer, along with a second location for her vegan restaurant, Surya Cafe.
For Sitka Salmon Shares, which sells sustainably-caught Alaskan salmon direct to consumers, Garver offered a space for offices as well as a distribution center to serve its Wisconsin and Minnesota customers, more than 1,000 of whom live in Madison.
Co-founder Nicholass Mink said the re-purposed building and community of local food producers made it a perfect fit.
“Those are close to our heart,” he said.
Moroder said the goal was to create a “world-class destination” that honors Madison’s history of agriculture and manufacturing while embracing the city’s burgeoning appetites for wellness and sustainability.
“These businesses are trying to create the industries of the future,” he said.
Completed in 1906, the Garver building began life as a factory and headquarters for the United States Sugar Co., which used it to refine beets into sugar.
The 200,000-square-foot factory cost about $600,000 and was the largest factory ever built in Madison at that point, according to David Mollenhoff’s book “Madison: A History of the Formative Years.” With its Romanesque arches and four-story tower, it was known as the “sugar castle.”
According to Mollenhoff, the plant was profitable operating just four months a year because of tariffs on Caribbean sugar. Ads offered farmers $5 a ton for beets, plus the opportunity for off-season employment.
The plant operated around the clock between October and January, with up to 250 workers churning out 50 tons of sugar per day. But after World War I, a combination of circumstances forced the company into bankruptcy, and the plant closed its doors in 1924.
James Garver purchased the site in 1929 and established the Garver Feed and Supply Co., one of four feed mills operating in the city at that time. He removed the upper two stories, turning it into a “state of the art” mill to produce feed in an era when farmers were replacing traditional practices with modern technology.
“His master’s degree in animal husbandry and his subsequent career experience gave him the knowledge needed to formulate the research-based products his clientele demanded,” according to a 1994 landmark application.
At its peak, the company supplied feed across a 40-county region of Wisconsin and northern Illinois.
“We probably had 300 boxcars in there a year,” said Don Hocking, who started work at the mill from the time he left the Navy in 1958 until it closed in 1997.
Don Frank worked there for about 28 years, starting as a teenager. His father worked there, and so did two of his brothers.
“So many things happened at that business over the years there,” said Frank, who went on to work for a feed industry insurer in Iowa. “It’s so hard to summarize it.”
The Olbrich Botanical Society purchased the building and grounds for $700,000 shortly before the mill closed and turned it over to the city with the idea that it be used to expand the adjacent Olbrich gardens.
Meanwhile the building, given city landmark status in 1994, was used for storage. In 2001, four kids accidentally set fire to it, causing about $200,000 in damage.
Former Mayor Dave Cieslewicz began pushing for reuse of the site in 2003, but deed restrictions tied to state funds used to purchase it hindered development, and over time the mill fell into disrepair.
City voters in 2009 endorsed a nonprofit’s idea to turn it into an “arts incubator,” but the developer pulled out two years later.
A year later, the city investigated the building’s condition. It wasn’t good.
“Time has taken its toll,” the report found. “Roofing systems have failed, structural systems are compromised, masonry is deteriorated, fenestration is obliterated or absent, and vandals frequent the building. The building stands essentially vacant and without meaningful purpose.”
Cieslewicz said when he left office in 2011 he feared the building was done for.
Sold for a dollar
In April 2015, the city selected Baum over three other companies that proposed a range of reuses at costs ranging from $19.8 million to $39.8 million.
After nearly three years of negotiation and delays, the city sold the building to Baum for $1 and contributed $3.4 million to the project, which received another $6.75 million in state and federal tax dollars.
In addition to the subsidies, the city spent $3.1 million on replacement parkland in order to clear the deed restrictions.
Those costs don’t include the hours of staff time.
“Agencies across the city spent an enormous amount of time,” said Dan Rolfs, a community development project manager who’s spent more than 13 years overseeing the Garver project. “Everybody but the zoo committee helped out with this.”
Former Ald. David Ahrens, the sole council member to vote against the deal, said he objected to the public funding as well as the loss of green space.
“I think what they’re doing there is great,” Ahrens said. “Did we have to pay millions of dollars for that to happen? Did we have to clear all that ... land?”
Ald. Marsha Rummel, who represents the neighborhood around the mill, said the investment was worthwhile, noting that some of the funds put toward the restoration would have had to be spent on demolition.
“It’s part of our history,” she said. “I think that we owe it to ourselves to honor our history.”
Critics note the city is partly to blame for creating the problem.
“The city was not following the standards … that they apply to private (owners),” said John Martens, a Madison architect and preservationist. “They let the building fall apart when small amounts of upkeep would have prevented damage.”
Honoring the past
The building was in rough shape when Baum took it over, with trees growing in an open courtyard created years earlier when the mill hoppers were ripped out and sold for scrap.
Year of cascading waterfalls had “decimated the brick,” Moroder said.
He said Baum tried to preserve whatever parts of the building it could. Crumbling walls were rebuilt with some 70,000 bricks salvaged from the former French Battery factory, which was built the same year as the sugar plant.
Baum plans to incorporate art and artifacts — like a set of rusty feed scales — to help connect visitors to the past. A bike rack on the patio is constructed of old train rails.
There are nods to the more recent past as well.
Situated at the other end of the atrium, Ian’s third Madison location features a free-standing kitchen surrounded by a bar and tables.
Two artists (Teel and C3PO) of Madison’s Momentum Art Tech painted the duct work, visible from the mezzanine, in an homage to the building’s most recent incarnation, when it was a destination for graffiti artists.
“Garver was … the main hub in Madison over the years,” said Momentum owner James Gubbins. “That’s what we wanted to capture.”
Moroder said the project has been successful because the city laid out clear and consistent goals while allowing Baum freedom to be creative.
“This project represents the best of what can happen when a community and developer work toward a public-private partnership,” Moroder said.
‘Who we are’
Despite the removal of its top two stories and the years of neglect and decay, the building retained enough architectural integrity to make it a rare remnant of the city’s agricultural and manufacturing past, said Charlie Quagliana, a preservation architect who consulted on the city report.
“There isn’t a tremendous amount left,” Quagliana said. “We don’t have the heritage and old buildings like Milwaukee.”
But Garver is not just the best remaining example of a pre-World War II feed mill, said Martens, who began studying it during the 1990s when he was restoring the former Madison Candy Company building: It’s part of the story of Madison.
The sugar beet factory was part of a wave of manufacturing businesses that sprang up around the turn of the 20th century along Madison’s rail corridor.
“That brought in an influx of immigrants,” Martens said. “The immigrants brought their traditions.”
Modest homes sprung up in the neighborhoods around the factories, while the owners built grand houses along the lake fronts.
“It gives you a whole sense of who we are, where we came from and maybe even where we’re going,” Martens said. “All from an old brick building.”
“I was really attracted to being on this side of town. This is Yogaville.” Megan Grace, of Perennial Yoga
The Wisconsin Department of Corrections has erased any record of the man who kidnapped Jayme Closs and killed her parents from its inmate locator database.
Jake Patterson, 22, was moved to an out-of-state facility on July 15. DOC officials declined to reveal where out of concern for his safety. The agency has declined to elaborate.
Patterson’s name has been removed from the DOC’s online inmate locator, the Green Bay Press-Gazette reported Wednesday. DOC spokeswoman Molly Vidal said the agency decides on a case-by-case basis whether someone is included in the locator.
Patterson also doesn’t appear on the state sex offender registry despite being ordered to register as part of his sentence.
Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council President Bill Lueders called the effort to conceal Patterson’s whereabouts “outrageous.”
Ritchie German Jr., 33, shot his mother, brother and 8-year-old nephew at their home in Lafayette, likely on or before Saturday morning, Chippewa County Sheriff Jim Kowalczyk said at a news conference. On Sunday night, he drove about 10 miles to the Lake Hallie home of 24-year-old Laile Vang, blasted his way inside with a shotgun, and shot and wounded her parents before killing her. He then killed himself in the home, where several others were hiding, the sheriff said.
German left his car running outside the Vangs’ home and had items in it — including handcuffs and a loaded handgun clip — that led investigators to believe he could have been planning to imitate last October’s deadly home invasion and abduction of Jayme from her family’s home just 40 miles away, the sheriff said. In both cases, the attackers used guns to blast their way into the homes.
However, Kowalczyk said investigators may never know why German carried out the attacks.
“What was the motive? Why did this happen? I don’t have the answer,” he said, asking anyone who had been in contact with German in the last week to call the sheriff’s office.
A couple of days before the attack, German sent unsolicited sexual texts to Laile Vang, but she apparently didn’t know him and replied “Who is this? I don’t know you,” authorities said. Kowalczyk said there is no evidence that the two had ever met.
Chief Deputy Chad Holum said authorities are going through about 10 cellphones and are working to find out how German got Vang’s phone number, but they suspect he may have gotten it off the internet.
Vang’s parents, 51-year-old Teng Vang and 39-year-old Mai Chang Vang, suffered defensive wounds and each had to have an arm amputated, authorities said. They remained hospitalized Tuesday but are expected to survive. None of the other four people, including three children, who managed to hide in the home during the attack, were hurt.
German was a loner who was often unemployed and who occasionally lived at the Lafayette home where he gunned down his 66-year-old mother, Bridget German, his 32-year-old brother, Douglas German, and his brother’s 8-year-old son, Calvin Harris, Kowalczyk said. All three were shot once in the head with a handgun.
Ritchie German called the grocery store where his mother worked on Saturday morning and said she was sick and in the hospital, Kowalczyk said. And a neighborhood boy who played with Calvin Harris knocked on the door and asked if Calvin was home, but German told the boy that Calvin was shopping with his grandmother.
Ritchie German Sr., who was divorced from Bridget German, said he was shocked to learn of the killings and that his son Ritchie had struggled with mental illness. He said his son lived with him from 2005 to 2014 and worked for just one year during that time, at a Menards warehouse. He said his son stayed in his bedroom most of that time.
German Jr. was convicted of disorderly conduct in 2006 and sentenced to a year of probation after the sheriff said he pointed a gun in the direction of his brothers. But Kowalczyk said, “We don’t have a lot of history with him.”
A Reedsburg woman has sued a UW-Madison doctor, accusing him of medical negligence in treating her epilepsy and of sexual exploitation, including kissing her and calling her “hot” and “baby doll” in texts and Facebook messages.
UW Health took unspecified “corrective action” against Dr. Rama Maganti, a neurologist, after putting him on administrative leave while investigating the allegations, spokeswoman Lisa Brunette said.
UW Health reported its findings to the state, Brunette said. The state Department of Safety and Professional Services in 2017 gave Maganti an administrative warning, which doesn’t go on his public record, following a complaint in November 2016, Beth Cramton, the department’s records custodian, said Tuesday.
The suit was filed last month in Dane County Circuit Court by Heather Mitchell, 35, of Reedsburg. According to the suit, Mitchell reduced the dose of her anti-seizure medication, as instructed by Maganti, in the fall of 2016. Soon after, she had a grand mal seizure, which required her to have surgeries and continues to make her unable to work, the suit claims.
Another doctor later told Mitchell, who had been seizure-free for a year following a previous surgery, to resume the higher dose of her medication.
Maganti, who treated Mitchell for epilepsy from 2014 to 2016, was negligent in reducing the dose and failing to tell Mitchell about the risks involved, the suit claims.
In addition, he “exhibited repeated inappropriate and unprofessional sexual and romantic behavior toward her,” the suit says.
“We want to hold the doctor accountable for taking advantage of a vulnerable patient,” said Danielle Schroder, a Madison attorney representing Mitchell.
According to the suit:
Maganti frequently hugged Mitchell, kissed her on the cheek and forehead, blew kisses at her and suggested she leave her husband. He suggested prescribing alcohol to trigger seizures for monitoring and to “loosen her up.”
In September 2016, he messaged her on Facebook and said he wanted to go to a Badgers game with her, asked for a ride in her car, requested her cellphone number and called her “baby doll” and his “main woman.”
He texted her and asked for a photo. After she sent one, he said she looked “hot,” called her “hot Heather” and said they should hang out.
In October 2016, Mitchell reported Maganti’s behavior to UW Health. The organization said she should see a mental health counselor and offered to pay. But when she tried to schedule appointments, no financial assistance was provided.
Brunette declined to respond to questions about the counseling or what corrective action UW took against Maganti, who didn’t respond to a request for comment.
According to a UW website, he remains a professor of neurology, director of clinical neurophysiology and fellowship director of UW’s comprehensive epilepsy program and EEG lab.
CHIPPEWA FALLS — A shooter killed three family members at a home in a small Wisconsin town, then went to a residence in a nearby community and opened fire on more people, sheriff's officials said Monday.
The shootings some 9 miles apart in northwestern Wisconsin left a total of five people dead, including the suspect, and two others wounded, authorities said.
Authorities found the shooter and another person dead while responding to a 911 call in Lake Hallie about 10:30 p.m. Sunday, Sheriff James Kowalczyk told WQOW-TV. Authorities said the dead were a man and a woman, but Kowalczyk didn't say which one was the shooter or how authorities were able to determine who the shooter was.
Two other adults at the home in Lake Hallie were rushed to the hospital with gunshot wounds. There was no immediate word on their conditions.
Authorities looking to notify the shooter's relatives then went to a home in the town of Lafayette around 2:30 a.m. Monday and discovered three more bodies, Kowalczyk said.
"We went to the door, received no answer, attempted to make a call, again no answer. We finally forced our way in and found three other victims of a homicide," Kowalczyk said.
The dead there were a man, a woman and a boy.
The names of the victims and the shooter have not been released. However, Ritchie German Sr. of North Prairie, Wisconsin, told the Star Tribune of Minneapolis-St. Paul that adult sons Ritchie German Jr. and Douglas German were among the dead, along with Douglas' 8-year-old son, Calvin German. The elder German says authorities have told him they suspect Ritchie Jr. was the killer.
Kowalczyk told WQOW that authorities were still trying to determine a motive. The sheriff didn't immediately return a phone message left by The Associated Press.
Hannah Larson, who lived in the same four-unit complex in Lafayette, told the Star Tribune an 8-year-old boy lived there along with his father and grandmother. Larson said the 8-year-old had sometimes played with her 7-year-old brother.
Lafayette Chairman Dave Staber said the shooting in his town has rocked the normally quiet, community of 6,000.
"We're seldom in the news, which is just the way we like it. My heart goes out to the residents affected by this," Staber said.
Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway is increasing police efforts, making modest physical changes to the space and taking other steps to address negative and criminal behavior plaguing the intersection of State Street and Capitol Square.
“It’s gotten to be a party-like atmosphere,” Rhodes-Conway said, adding that the scene attracts people and a criminal element. “The party’s over. Illegal behavior will not be tolerated.”
The moves are being generally applauded, but observers say more must be done.
“This is a good next step,” said Jason Ilstrup, president of Downtown Madison Inc. “To know the leaders of the city are taking issues seriously and taking tangible steps is great. But we have a long way to go.”
Ald. Paul Skidmore, 9th District — whose private security firm, Skidmore Property Services, has contracts with many business and property owners, large and small, in the State Street area and grown to 29 employees — was critical.
“Baby steps,” he said. “It will have an impact. But it will not be a significant impact. It will not be enough.”
Downtown Ald. Mike Verveer, 4th District, said, “It’s a real issue, a real concern. I enthusiastically support everything the mayor is doing. Of course, it’s not enough. There’s always more to do.”
Mary Bottari, the mayor’s chief of staff, said, “It’s a work in progress. We’re going to try some things. We’re going to keep meeting.”
The bustling pedestrian intersection, one of the most traveled in the state, can be filled with upbeat activity. But other times, groups of people hang out for hours, some drink in public, aggressively panhandle, fight, urinate and defecate in nearby doorways and alleys, deal and use drugs — especially crack cocaine and heroin — and engage in prostitution.
On July 7, three men were arrested after punching and kicking a 51-year-old man, then firing a round from a handgun on the 100 block of State Street, Madison police said. The three men — ages 19, 24 and 29 — began harassing the older man around 7:20 p.m., then started battering the man, and the 29-year-old shot the handgun.
Tuesday afternoon, a 21-year-old woman who had been cited for trespassing in the 100 block of State Street walked away and physically assaulted an innocent bystander, a 42-year-old woman, Police Chief Mike Koval said in his blog. The 21-year-old was tentatively charged with battery, disorderly conduct, misdemeanor bail jumping and felony bail jumping.
“There isn’t one problem,” Rhodes-Conway said of the space. “We’re seeing a myriad of issues converging in a geography.”
‘Sense of urgency’
Although chronically homeless people have long frequented the area, the more troubling behavior comes from others who congregate where State Street meets North Carroll and West Mifflin streets, drink and use drugs and prey on the homeless, officials say.
As initial steps, Rhodes-Conway is endorsing some initiatives to target continuing negative and criminal behavior, and others to aid the homeless and address impacts of that population, which has migrated toward nearby Central Library and has been storing belongings on the sidewalk and in bike racks along the 200 block of West Mifflin Street.
“We have a police presence already. Things are going to be stepped up in coming weeks,” the mayor said, vowing a mix of education and enforcement.
The police currently have a neighborhood officer and neighborhood resource officer in the area and will increase activity in two main ways — special operations and foot patrols — Central District Capt. Jason Freedman said.
In 2017, police conducted nine special operations, and did another 15 operations last year, Freedman said. Police have already done 11 operations this year and will likely do around 20 total, planning for two a week, he said. Under special operations, teams of three to six officers do surveillance and target education, arrests and citations.
The district also will add two-officer foot patrols — designed to increase visibility, educate and address crime if they see it — in the evenings several times a week, Freedman said.
“I appreciate the mayor’s sense of urgency on this,” Freedman said. “It’s important to do some things quickly. (But) I don’t think it will be enough. I don’t think anyone involved in this would suggest it is. We need to have stronger mechanisms to connect people to services and also hold people accountable. We shouldn’t have to arrest somebody 15 times for the same thing there.”
Rhodes-Conway is supporting modest environmental changes to the space, such as temporary removal of several benches, adding fencing around a larger planter near Ian’s Pizza, 100 State St., lighting changes, and limiting the electricity from outlets used by people to charge cell phones or power other devices.
“The spaces allow for a larger number of people to congregate,” the mayor said. “We want to encourage people to be in the space, but not to be there for hours and hours.”
A party atmosphere and negative behavior are not unique to the top of State Street, she said, noting that the city has issues at bar time on the 600 block of University Avenue and the annual Mifflin Street block party. “We’re trying to do things to break up the parties,” she said.
“When we don’t have positive activities in the area, it just exacerbates the problem,” she said.
The mayor also is encouraging well-intended groups who provide food and goods to the homeless at the top of State Street to work with The Beacon homeless day resource center and other nonprofits and do distributions at other locations.
Much more to do
The city, Rhodes-Conway stressed, will continue to focus on helping the homeless through the creation of housing, outreach and other means. But it will also take new measures to improve quality of life on the upper State Street area, including adding more portable toilets in discreet locations and extending the mall concourse services to include Central Library so city employees can do cleaning and tag belongings left there with warnings that they must be removed or they will be taken away and stored for pick up at another location.
The mayor is also supporting the efforts of the volunteer homeless outreach group Friends of State Street Family to locate small clusters of lockers for temporary storage in the area.
Together, “the steps will make a difference,” Illstrup said, adding that the mayor’s office has been “great partners and have really tried to work with us.”
But there’s much more to do, observers said, including more police presence, increased attention on mental health, substance abuse and root causes of problems, and significant physical changes to the area.
“This is a very serious concern,” Rhodes-Conway said. “It’s a hard one to solve. It’s something we have to keep working at.”
“We have a police presence already. Things are going to be stepped up in coming weeks.” Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway