You are the owner of this page.
A1 A1
Local
top story
Home sales down in Chippewa County, statewide from from last year while market remains tight

Wisconsin’s house sales numbers reportedly fell last month compared to the year prior, despite high housing demand.

The Wisconsin Realtor’s Association reported 5,235 existing home sales this March statewide, down 14% from last March’s 6,094 sales.

Chippewa County saw a much less significant decrease, from 46 last March to 41 this March.

So far the realtor’s association has reported 114 home sales in the county in 2019, with the median price so far being $155,000.

Holly Bowe, realtor and managing broker at Coldwell Banker Brenizer Realtors in Chippewa Falls, said that while the weather may have been a factor in a slowdown in home sales from February to March this year, weather can always have an effect on the number of homes coming onto the market.

Bowe noted that more likely the small number of homes on the market contributed to the drop in sales.

“There’s definitely people out there looking to buy homes,” Bowe said.

In addition to the number of homes for sale compared to last year at the same time decreasing, the limited supply and continued demand pushed median home prices up 6.3% over last year in March to $185,000.

In their analysis of the housing numbers for their first quarter report, the WRA said indicators show the tight housing market and economic factors are what likely pushed down home sales, more so than the weather.

Jean Stefaniak, WRA chairman, said in their quarterly report that low unemployment and a job growth are likely contributing to higher demand and lower numbers of homes staying on the market.

“The economy is in good shape, and that puts a lot of pressure on a housing market with limited supply,” Stefaniak said.

The WRA noted in its report that though they expect the market to stay tight, it’s more exacerbated in cities, and around the state the rural, less populated counties are maintaining a more balanced market.

As spring continues and moves towards summer the demand for housing will continue and price increases are also expected to continue.

The WRA noted that there are mitigating factors like slight reduction in mortgage rates and moderate growth in family income which are helping people find some deals.

Bowe said that as the weather gets nicer, she expected to see more houses listed and advised that buyers try to be patient and work with their realtor to get up to date information about what is available.

She said the competition has continued to keep everyone on their toes looking for newly available homes.

“Agents and buyers are getting very creative,” Bowe said.


Local
Industrial hemp to be grown on test field in Chippewa Falls

Industrial hemp will be grown in Chippewa Falls this year as part of a statewide project with the UW-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and the Division of Extension.

Jerry Clark, Chippewa County UW-Extension agriculture agent, said he’s excited to take part in the project, where three to five varieties of industrial hemp will be grown on a parcel on county-owned farmland in the northeast corner of the city. It will probably be one or two acres total.

“Any time you can be part of a new crop, we’re going to try it,” Clark said. “We’re excited to see how this crop grows.”

The Chippewa County site is among four trial field sites across the state. Another trial site is on a private field in Buffalo County.

“Much of the research will be done at the Arlington research station, which is about 15 miles north of Madison,” he said.

Clark said he anticipates the hemp will be planted in late May.

“It’s an annual crop, so it should be ready for harvest in late August or September,” Clark said. “We’ll be doing some basic agronomy measurements. We’ll take data on yield and on some of the treatments, and if there are any diseases.”

Last year, the Legislature approved a measure that made it legal to grow industrial hemp, and about 200 Wisconsin farmers tried growing it. While it was legal to grow it, Clark isn’t aware of any local farmer who attempted it.

“We used to grow it here,” Clark said. “We’re optimistic we should be able to grow it without much trouble.”

Among the work the researchers will do is to determine the best soil and conditions for the plant.

“It doesn’t like to sit in water,” Clark said. “It likes lighter, sandier soils, but it should grow in heavier soils.”

Rodrigo Werle, a UW-Madison assistant professor and agriculture extension specialist, said there are three potential markets for industrial hemp: oil, grains and fiber.

“It’s really exciting times,” Werle said. “There is a lot of interest in this potential miracle crop. Everything is happening really quickly.”

Werle said the studies done on the four test fields will evaluate if hemp can become a regular rotation crop on farms across the state.

“There hasn’t been any research in Wisconsin since the 1960s,” Werle said. “So, it’s really exciting, but we’re telling people to be patient. This research is expensive.”

The state law requires that any industrial hemp must remain below 0.3 percent of THC level, and Werle said that is one of the challenges, making sure whatever is grown doesn’t contain too much THC potency.

Clark stressed that a 0.3 percent THC level is far below what is seen in marijuana.

“These varieties, while in the same species, it is a different family than marijuana,” Clark said.

Clark said there isn’t a market for the grain at this time, and in all likelihood, the plant will be tilled under at the end of the summer.

Buffalo County agricultural agent Carl Duley said the test field there also will be just 1 to 2 acres. While the field in Chippewa Falls will focus on hemp varieties that should create quality oil byproducts, the hemp planted in Buffalo County will be targeted for quality fibers and grains, Duley said. Duley said he’s excited to be part of the new project, but he’s frustrated right now as they have run into problems obtaining the seeds.

Wisconsin was once a leading producer of industrial hemp, primarily for rope production, until it was prohibited in 1938, a news release states. The Legislature reclassified industrial hemp from a narcotic to a commodity crop in December, making it legal to grow at both the state and federal level.


Crime-and-courts
top story
Chippewa Falls man charged after break-in, damage at woman's residence

A Chippewa Falls man has been charged after he reportedly entered his ex-girlfriend’s house April 23 and did extensive damage in her home. He previously was convicted of domestic battery involving the woman.

Victor W. Diaz, 43, 16½ Pine St., was charged in Chippewa County Court with burglary to a building, criminal damage to property, resisting an officer and disorderly conduct-domestic abuse.

According to the criminal complaint, the woman called police and said Diaz was intoxicated her residence and entered it without her permission. He “caused an extensive amount of damage within the residence, including damage to multiple walls, doors, a television, dishes and other personal property.” The damage was estimated at more than $3,000.

During a verbal argument, Diaz threatened to kill her. They used to live together as adults. He was combative toward police when they arrived. He also was violating terms of his probation by being at her home.

Online court records show that Diaz was convicted of criminal damage to property, disorderly conduct, bail jumping, and battery-domestic abuse in 2018. The woman suffered an injury to her face when Diaz shoved her to the ground in April 2018 while he was intoxicated, according to that criminal complaint. Diaz also was charged with possessing meth in that case, but that was later dismissed. He was placed on probation for three years and ordered to take domestic abuse counseling.