MENOMINEE—A former-Menominee County Sheriff’s Deputy was arraigned in the 95-A District Court of Menominee on Friday, following his recent arrest on an 11-count felony complaint.
Brian William Helfert, 57, Menominee, was charged Child Sexually Abusive Activity, four counts of Criminal Sexual Conduct—First Degree, three counts of Criminal Sexual Conduct—Third Degree, Assault with Intent to Commit Penetration, Gross Indecency Between Males and filed a Sexually Delinquent Person Notice.
An investigation by the Menominee Police Department (MPD) led to the arrest of the defendant.
Menominee County Prosecuting Attorney Jeffrey T. Rogg will be personally handling the case and is not seeking the appointment of a special prosecutor pursuant to MCL 49.160. “A request for the appointment of a special prosecutor must rely on more than a mere claim that someone might question whether a prosecutor should be disqualified. I am confident that I possess the impartiality, ability, expertise and other resources necessary to fairly prosecute the case through to its conclusion, including any interlocutory or post-conviction appeals,” said Rogg.
The charges arise from a number of incidents alleged to have occurred between April 2013 and December 2019. The facts filed with the Court in support of the felony complaint allege a six-year history of sexual assault and abuse of the victim at the hands of Helfert. The victim reported to police that he felt compelled to come forward at this time when he learned of Helfert’s plea and sentencing in another case in the 41st Circuit Court in 2020.
Helfert is currently serving a six-month jail sentence after previously pleading guilty to attempted accosting of a teenager for immoral purposes.
After Helfert’s sentencing in December 2020, Rogg invited other potential victims to come forward, saying that “every allegation against Mr. Helfert will be fully investigated by the MPD and can still be prosecuted by me.”
Helfert has retained attorney Trenton M. Stupak, of Escanaba, to represent him. District Court Judge Robert J. Jamo scheduled a Probable Cause Conference in the case for May 14, 2021, at 8 a.m.; the Preliminary Examination is scheduled for May 21 at 8:30 a.m. Bond was established by Judge Jamo in the amount of $250,000.00, cash or surety.
The charges are allegations and all criminal defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
GREEN BAY, Wis.—Tribal leaders in northeastern Wisconsin were in shock Sunday hours after a gunman opened fire at their casino complex, killing two people and wounding another in what witnesses described as a hailstorm of bullets.
Brown County Sheriff’s Lt. Kevin Pawlak said the shooting at the Oneida Casino in Green Bay on Saturday night didn’t appear to be a random attack.
“He was targeting a specific victim who was not there, but he decided to still shoot some of the victim’s friends or co-workers, it appears,” Pawlak said at a news conference early Sunday. Police responding to the scene shot the gunman to death.
Oneida Chairman Tehassi Hill told WLUK-TV on Sunday that he was in “disbelief” and called the shooting “scary.” He said the tribe prohibits firearms on its properties but that “(mass shootings are) kind of a regular thing in this country.”
Authorities have not released the identities of the gunman or his victims. The wounded person was being treated at a Milwaukee hospital, Pawlak said.
The attack happened around 7:30 p.m. in the restaurant at the casino complex operated by the Oneida Nation, whose reservation is located on the western side of Green Bay about 4 miles from Lambeau Field, home of the Green Bay Packers. The complex includes a casino, conference center, hotel and restaurant.
Jawad Yatim, a witness, said he saw at least two people shot.
“I know for sure two, because it happened right next to us, literally right next to us,” Yatim said. “But he was shooting pretty aggressively in the building, so I wouldn’t doubt him hitting other people. We got the hell out of there. Thank God we’re OK, but obviously we wish the best for everybody who’s been shot.”
Pawlak, the sheriff’s department lieutenant, wasn’t sure if the shooter was a former restaurant employee but said “it appears there’s some relationship that had to do with employment.”
“Whether or not they all worked there, we’re still working on,” he said.
Gambler Max Westphal said he was standing outside after being evacuated from the building for what he thought was a minor issue.
“All of a sudden we hear a massive flurry of gunshots—20 to 30 gunshots for sure,” Westphal told WBAY-TV. “We took off running towards the highway. ... There had to have been 50 cop cars that came by on the highway. It was honestly insane.”
Pawlak said authorities called for a “tactical alert” after receiving the report of an active shooter. That “brings every agency from around the area to the casino, to the Radisson,” he said of the large law enforcement presence.
Hill, the tribal chairman, told WLUK-TV that he feels security is tight in the casino but that the tribe may have to consider tougher protocols for the complex depending on investigators’ findings.
Packers head coach Matt LaFleur tweeted condolences Sunday to everyone affected by the shooting.
“We have the smallest and closest community in professional sports,” LaFleur said. “It’s unfortunate anytime events like this occur & sad when it hits so close to home.”
Gov. Tony Evers issued a statement late Saturday saying he was “devastated” to hear about the shooting.
“Our hearts, thoughts, and support go out to the Oneida Nation, the Ashwaubenon and Green Bay communities, and all those affected by this tragedy.”
Evers, a Democrat, called a special legislative session on gun control in the fall of 2019. He proposed a so-called “red flag” law that would have allowed judges to take guns away from peopled deemed to be a danger, and a bill requiring a background check for almost all gun purchases. Republicans who control the Legislature refused to consider either measure.
Sen. Rob Cowles, a Republican who represents the Green Bay area, issued a statement saying the community has suffered a “traumatic event.”
“My heart goes out to those impacted by the shooting, to the Oneida Nation and to all of Northeast Wisconsin as we continue coping with this senseless violence,” he said. “Those victims and families of those killed and injured will remain in my thoughts and prayers.”
The Oneida is one of 11 tribes that operate casinos in Wisconsin under agreements with the state called compacts. Essentially, the tribes pledge a percentage of their gaming revenue to the state in exchange for the exclusive right to offer casino gambling.
Tribal gaming in Wisconsin generated nearly $1.3 billion in gross revenue in the 2018-2019 fiscal year but suffered deep losses in 2020 due to COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns.
EagleHerald staff writer
MARINETTE—Aside from the potential of serious adverse human health consequences and the slow legislative policymaking regarding issues of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), another big challenge looming on the front of those toxic forever chemicals concerns the extreme costs associated with remediation of contaminated sites. Clean up and remediation of those sites requires the proper monitoring of water and wastewater, safe disposal of PFAS-contaminated soils and other substances ... and money.
In Marinette, that includes finding a cost-effective solution to properly dispose of the treated biosolids that accumulate every time a resident flushes the toilet, lets the soapy dishwater spiral down the drain or carries out any number of household activities involving home plumbing (see PFAS SOURCES).
But thanks to the research and effort of the city’s Water and Waste Water Department, a refined technology out of China promises to convey tremendous cost savings in biosolids disposal for Marinette.
“We feel that we will likely have some of the newest technology to manage it for the long term,” Mayor Steve Genisot told the EagleHerald.
Sometime in mid-to-late June, Marinette Water and Wastewater Operations Manager Warren Howard expects to implement operations of an advanced drying technology system at the city’s wastewater treatment plant (WWTP). Designed by China-based Guangzhou Shincci Energy Equipment Co., Ltd. (Shinnci), the new biosolids dryer promises an estimated cost savings of about $600,000 per year associated with the transport of Marinette’s biosolids off-site to a licensed disposal facility located in the State of Oregon.
Moreover, Tyco Fire Products LP (Tyco) and its parent company Johnson Controls Inc. (JCI) reimbursed the city to help pay for the new system.
“As a leading employer in the region and a company committed to environmental stewardship, Tyco donated $1.3 m to help the city purchase equipment to treat their biosolids while we hope DNR will work to identify the sources that still contribute PFAS,” read a statement submitted to the EagleHerald from officials representing Tyco.
Since 2017 JCI/Tyco have remained engaged with various state and local officials in ongoing site investigations and remediation efforts to address PFAS contamination caused by activities related to fire suppression testing operations at a Tyco facility in Marinette. Tyco also is also a defendant in a recent $17.5 million lawsuit settlement in U.S. District Court with many Town of Peshtigo (TOP) residents, stemming PFAS contamination of many private drinking water wells in TOP, resulting from Tyco operations.
“At the end of the day this technology is something that … is pretty slick and it looks like it is going to work for us,” Howard said. “It is an interesting technology … and Tyco paid for a majority of it.”
PFAS SPURS THE NEED
To understand why the city is acquiring this new technology, one must understand the source and the costs of PFAS contamination up to this point in time.
Starting in the 1970s, Tyco began testing firefighting foams at its Fire Technology Center (FTC) in Marinette. PFAS served as a primary constituent in those foams. Under permit, they legally discharged runoff from their testing facility into the city’s wastewater system during those years, contaminating the city’s biosolids.
Prior to the revelations of PFAS contamination, for years the city spread about 1 million gallons annually of biosolids onto outlying county farm fields as fertilizer. But after learning of the contamination in 2017, Marinette officials ceased landspreading operations. By then, PFAS from those land-spread biosolids had already leached into the soil and private drinking water wells of several Marinette County households located near those fields.
Despite the lack of state regulatory standards on PFAS levels in biosolid landspreading operations, officials with the city and the WWTP agreed in the interest of safety, another solution to biosolids disposal was needed.
“The likelihood of ever putting it on fields in the near future is pretty remote and probably not the right thing to do,” said Mayor Steve Genisot. “The first steps we took were to remove and properly dispose of the (initially contaminated biosolids).”
For two years following the city’s stoppage of land spreading operation, its biosolids continued to accumulate in WWTP holding tanks while officials determined how to address the issue. In 2019 JCI and Tyco agreed to provide financial assistance to the city, paying approximately $3 million to cover the shipment and proper disposal of millions of gallons of stored sludge to a licensed facility in Oregon. Since that time the city, Tyco and JCI have maintained ongoing discussions regarding proper steps to achieve what is right and what protects area residents in the long term from further PFAS exposure.
“We’ve had lots of discussion and negotiation with JCI and their attorneys,” Genisot said. “(JCI/Tyco) know it’s their issue, as we (the city) realize it is not going to be their issue forever. Once we deal with it and address it, we can’t continue to charge them for (our biosolids disposal) for the next 20 years … but I think they needed to (assist financially) to resolve the issue that we knew was there. We’ve been upfront and honest with them. … they came to the table and they paid for the first time at their cost of (approx.) $3 million; and they’ve come to the table a second time for $1.3 million (for new drying equipment).”
SHINCCI SOAKS UP THE COSTS
The new biosolids dryer technology comes in the form of an SB9600 low-temperature high-efficiency sludge dryer. (see How the dryer works)
The dryer operates through an integrated and closed-loop system of dewatering and convection drying, all contained within a room-sized machine.
Once operational, the new dryer will transform Marinette’s raw biosolids from a murky fluid sludge consisting primarily of water into an approximately one-ton mixture per day of a substance with the appearance and texture of soil and only consisting of 10% or less water content. That makes it significantly lighter in weight than the old method which produced a watery biosolid solution consisting of a slurry that contained about 98% water. The cost savings results in large part to the efficiency of the drying technology in removing excess water weight which attributes to the cost burden of transporting the waste to Oregon. Without the dryer technology, the tonnage generated by that water would skyrocket, as would the cost.
According to Howard, hauling sludge to Oregon runs at about $400/ton. He estimates the city will generate approximately 25 tons of processed and dried biosolids per month with the new system. That necessitates a budget of $120,000 per year to address biosolids.
“We (the city) are not going to haul it out to Oregon again for $3 or $4 million,” Warren pointed out, alluding to the amount JCI/Tyco paid the first time in 2019. “But we can haul it out to Oregon for $120,000. That is manageable, that is something our budget can absorb.”
THE RIGHT THING TO DO
When used as a land application for agricultural purposes, biosolids must adhere to certain limits on various pollutants such as lead and arsenic that pose human or environmental risks. In 1993, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) implemented regulations for land application of biosolids in regards to many of those pollutants. PFAS is not yet included.
Until such limits or regulatory standards for PFAS land application exist, Genisot feels the dryer is the right way to go. Additionally, he pointed out the new dryer prepares Marinette for a future when those regulations do emerge.
“I think we will be ahead of a lot of the municipalities that will have to deal with (similar PFAS issues),” he said. “By decreasing (water content and thus significant weight) you are going to save trucking cost … it definitely will be better for the future … This will be the best course to keep the volume low and be able to manage it and get rid of it properly and financially.”
Warren agreed, explaining that until more science on PFAS emerges and other solutions can be implemented, transporting Marinette’s biosolids to Oregon represents that the best recourse, for now.
“And the public wouldn’t want us to spread it on fields right now,” Warren said. “Since Tyco has stopped sending (foam discharge) to us, our (PFAS biosolid) numbers have gone down quite a bit. We think (the new dryer) is the best way to go … we want to be responsible moving forward. Even if it is just a little bit (of PFAS), I don’t want to spread it on the fields … I want my legacy to be that we tried to do the right thing.”