Friday, January 31, 2014

Rental Regulation in LaCrosse, by Crystal Oravis

Finding an apartment or house to rent requires thorough inspections to ensure the quality of the residence before signing a lease.  It is a tenant’s right to thoroughly inspect a residence before renting. The city of La Crosse’s Building and Inspections Department provides a booklet with information that all tenants should know regarding health codes, lease-specific agreements, breaking leases, security deposits and more.
State code requires landlords to comply with city inspection and licensing. When renting in LaCrosse, a tenant should ask to see the certificate for proof that the residence is up to code.
Once signing a lease, a tenant has 7 days from the first rental date to inspect the residence, reporting back to the landlord with any defects so that it will not be unfairly taken from the deposit once vacating. A landlord is also required to supply a tenant with a furnished copy of a written lease or agreement, which should always be kept for records.
When viewing an apartment, make sure that the landlord is showing the actual residence interested in and not a “show” unit. Some landlords use this tactic when they claim to have multiple units that are of same size and layout.
Check for electrical, plumbing and other safety hazards. Turn on all light switches to be sure that they work, as well as outlets. If outlets or sockets do not work, there could be dangerous defects in the electrical system that could cause fires. Often overlooked when viewing a residence is plumbing. Turn on the faucets of the sinks and bathtub/showers to check for working hot water and leaks.
Always remember to look up. Check for signs of mold and water stains or cracks in the walls and ceilings. These may indicate a leaking roof, defective rain gutters, or defective plumbing on an upper level, all of which could possibly result in collapse of the walls or ceilings.
For safety, check the deadbolts and locks on the apartment doors and exterior doors. Also, check that there are smoke detectors throughout the entire building. Open all cabinets and closets, checking for roaches, ants, rats, mice, and animal droppings.
While renting, landlords are required to make repairs that are necessary to comply with local housing codes to keep the premises safe. If a landlord does not do so, a tenant is able to file a report to the local building or health inspector.
Landlords have the right to inspect, repair, and show the residence at reasonable times. Unless in the case of an emergency, a landlord must give a 12 hour notice before entering an apartment or house, unless the tenant allows entry on a shorter notice.
If a tenant chooses to “break” a lease by moving out early, the tenant may be obligated to pay rent for the remainder of the term of the lease unless a new tenant to take over the lease is found. In the state of Wisconsin, tenants are allowed to sub-lease out to other people, or a landlord must make a reasonable effort to find a substitute tenant. A landlord may not confiscate personal belongings, turn off utilities, lock the tenant out, or use force to remove them. If moving out early, the tenant must notify the landlord in writing after vacating the premises in order to start the “21 day clock” for the return of the security deposit.
For any deductions made from the deposit, the landlord must provide the tenant with a written statement itemizing the amounts withheld.
If a problem occurs between a tenant and landlord, there are services available for tenants. Information and assistance is available from various local groups and agencies, including housing code officials, landlord and tenant associations, and the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, and Trade and Consumer Protection.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Make Your Own Natural Cleaners, by Shelby Jacobson

Natural cleaners can be inexpensive and easy to make.

Justin McKnight, a graduate in geography, says some organic cleaners can be cost prohibitive, so “Making your own at home is extremely cheap.” By law, organic cleaners must be 95%-100% organic to be certified while natural cleaners can include pesticides and herbicides.

A few simple solutions are available at home. For an all-purpose cleaner, use vinegar, water, essential oils, laundry detergent from Doctor Bronner’s bar soap, and Borax. To make floor cleaners use vinegar, water, and floor cleaner from Doctor Bronner’s. To whiten surfaces simply use vinegar and baking soda.

The above ingredients can be found at almost any grocery or department store. Some include Woodman’s, the Food Co-op, Festival, and Target.

McKnight says these simple solutions are better to have around children. Children do not breathe in harsh chemicals when natural cleaners are used.

As a geography major McKnight studied the effects of large scale agriculture on the streams and rivers from his hometown. His studies have made him more aware of the environment and his surroundings. This led to his change in cleaners as well as his diet for both him and his family.

For additional information on natural cleaners visit:

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Who Can Donate Blood? by Hannah Moseson

                College campuses provide a large pool of potential blood donors, but many students are unaware of restrictions to prevent them from donating.
Students generally understand that they need to be healthy in order to donate blood, but are often surprised to be turned away despite having good health.  Healthy students  often prevented from giving blood include petite women, gay males, vegetarians, veterans  serving in Iraq, students recently traveled abroad, and students  recently received tattoos or piercings.  For people in these categories, being healthy is not a guarantee for blood donation eligibility.
Students must weigh at least 110 pounds in order to donate blood, regardless of their health.  Blood volume is partially determined by body weight.  Lighter students generally have lower blood volumes and may not be able to tolerate the loss of a pint of blood,  the amount needed to make a full donation.  This restriction is put in place for the safety of prospective donors.
Men who have had sex with other men automatically receive a lifetime ban from donating blood.  Potential donators must participate in a confidential interview about their sexual history;  gay men answering honestly  will be indefinitely deferred from donating.  This is a Food and Drug Administration policy that blood donation banks such as the Red Cross are required to follow.  There has been controversy over the rationality and scientific-basis behind this policy, but it is enforced to protect blood recipients from potential harm. 
Vegetarian students are often unable to donate blood due to the lack of sufficient iron levels.  Vegetarians are often thought to have healthier diets than other students, but meat is a main source of iron that vegetarians do not receive.  Before donating, iron levels are checked in a blood sample.   Many vegetarians are unaware of an iron deficiency before having a blood sample taken.  To avoid anemia, vegetarians can eat iron-rich foods such as spinach, tofu, broccoli, and beans, or take iron-supplements. 
Veterans from Iraq within the last 12 months are prevented from giving blood.  This restriction is in place to prevent the spread of Leishmanaisis, a parasitic infection transmitted through the bite of infected sand flies.  The infection can be transmitted from a donor to a patient through transfusion.  Anyone with Leishmanaisis in the past is permanently ineligible to donate blood. 
Students traveled or lived in countries where malaria is found often are deferred from giving blood.  Malaria is a blood infection caused by a parasite  transmitted through blood transfusion.  It is possible to have a new infection of malaria without having symptoms, so students must wait a full year to donate after visiting any country with malaria. 
It is also possible to feel well but have a very mild case of malaria, especially for those  in areas where malaria is found for extended periods of time.  Students  in a country where malaria is found must wait at least three years to give blood after returning to the United States.  Students who have recently participated in study-abroad programs in South America, Africa, and Asia are often barred from donating blood as these continents contain many places with a high malaria risk. 

                Students who have recently received piercings or tattoos may also be prevented from donating.  Students unsure of the sterility of their piercings should wait a year before donating blood.  Students who have received tattoos in states that do not regulate tattoo facilities must also wait a year before donating.  Wisconsin does regulate its tattoo facilities.  

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Road Plowing Science

Cleaning roads in winter is determined by weather conditions, so the Wisconsin DOT uses its own weather information stations to inform plow operators. 
Salt is primarily used to make plowing easier, but its effectiveness declines below 15 degrees.  In low temperatures, common salt may be mixed with sand, calcium chloride or magnesium chloride to enhance effectiveness and provide additional traction. Highway crews sometimes do "anti-icing" – spraying bridge decks, curves, hills and other known trouble spots with a salt solution - to prevent snow or ice from bonding to the pavement.
Most counties pre-wet salt just before applying it to roadways. Pre-wetted salt adheres better to pavement, starts the melting process faster, and can save money by reducing overall salt usage about 25-percent compared to dry salt. Pre-wetting using a salt brine or similar liquid can also help salt work better at lower temperatures.
During sub-zero temperatures common this winter, the only practical snow removal technique is plowing.
"Plowing is still the work-horse when it comes to removing snow and ice from Wisconsin highways," says WisDOT Winter Maintenance Engineer Mike Sproul. "Salt accelerates melting, but most importantly, salt keeps snow and ice workable so it can be removed by plowing."  County highway departments do most of the work, under contract to WisDOT.
60 weather information stations along the state highway system continually gather and transmit information on air and pavement temperatures, relative humidity, wind speed and direction, depth of precipitation on the roadway, and even salt concentrations. The comprehensive data helps highway departments know how and when to treat specific highways.
Many county snowplows are equipped with Automatic Vehicle Locators. The AVL systems use global positioning technology and help county highway superintendents locate plows and determine the de-icing materials to apply.

All motorists can check road conditions using the 511 Travel Information System, a colored-coded map of current driving conditions everywhere in the state.  Sproul reminds drivers that state law requires staying 200 foot behind a working snowplow.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Minimum Pay Raise Possible? by Ellen Barrett

Some Wisconsin legislators are promoting raising the minimum wage. This would mean more money in student’s pockets for part time jobs and an overall increase in spending throughout communities.
Whitney Puent, UW-La Crosse junior, agrees that, “$7.25 is not enough. Look at those who do not have financial support from their parents. Some of my friends live off food stamps. If I didn’t have outside help, I wouldn’t be able to survive. Combine electricity, food, and other utilities, and there’s no money left over before I can even pay my rent. I’m a full time student who works over 20 hours a week. It’s ridiculous.”
Senator Nikiya Harris writes in a press release, “In 2012, over 190,000 workers in the city of Milwaukee worked ‘poverty-wage jobs.’” Many of these workers she describes were 20 year olds. This covers a large demographic of college-aged students. Harris and some colleagues believe that the minimum wage today of $7.25 is no longer enough to cover basic living expenses.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Holiday Return Basics, by Crystal Oravis

Many stores have more lenient return policies during the holiday season than during the rest of the year. It is still the responsibility of the consumer to understand each store’s specific rules before buying a gift.
           Each business is responsible for setting its own return guidelines. Wisconsin law regulates whether the return guidelines are represented accurately. If the store’s policy is not posted, ask a salesperson or manager about the policy before making a purchase .Leave on price tags and UPC codes while wrapping gifts, as well as the original packaging for an easier return experience.
There are many tips to help make the holiday season of returns easier. Know the different store policies before making a purchase. Keep the receipts from purchases, or get gift receipts intended for gift recipients.
Pay attention to the time frame allowed by each store or retailer for returns, including when the countdown for the last day of returns begins (starting with the date of the original purchase or date given as a gift).
Many stores charge a restocking fee for electronic items, and the fee may increase if the package is opened.