THU AM News: Fiveable dropping paywall for test prep materials; DSPS touting shorter wait times for plumbing project reviews

— A Milwaukee-based AP test prep and social learning company called Fiveable is making its online content free to students for the first time. 

Company leaders announced Wednesday the site’s paywall is being lifted in hopes of reaching more students. They’ve set a goal of 100,000 student users this spring. 

“Community generated content belongs to the community,” Fiveable founder Amanda DoAmaral told “That’s a revolutionary idea and it goes against the norms.” 

Before the paywall lift, students had to pay a monthly or yearly subscription to access all of Fiveable’s content. 

DoAmaral explained that in the early days of the business, memberships were popular. But after closing on a recent $615,000 round led by Northwestern Mutual’s Cream City Ventures, the company conducted user research to understand what it was missing. 

The research found students wanted access to replays of the live streaming, which DoAmaral says was more valuable than trying to build out a monthly program. 

“My entire journey in Fiveable has always been about doing what’s best for students,” she said. “But this is very much more aligned with our mission that if we continue to do what’s best for students, that will always be also what’s best for Fiveable.”

Without the revenue from subscriptions, Fiveable plans to monetize by branding content, partner with colleges, build relationships with students and teachers to get more people on their platform, and come out with targeted streaming passes.  

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— The Department of Safety and Professional Services is touting shorter wait times for plumbing plans in the agency’s review process. 

This comes amid an overhaul of the agency’s review policies that began after contractors and developers raised concerns about the growing delays. In recent years, the number of plans being reviewed by the agency has fallen while the time each review takes has increased. 

According to a release, complete plumbing plans in the queue will now be reviewed “within four or five weeks from the time of initial contact.” The agency notes that customers last year were waiting “months rather than weeks” to get their plans scheduled and reviewed.

“We expected improvement once we implemented our plan, and I am pleased to see such significant gains in such a short amount of time,” said Secretary Dawn Crim. “We worked closely with our staff and industry partners to identify the biggest barriers to faster plan review, and we were deliberate about the changes we implemented. Clearly, they are working.”

The agency has instituted several changes in the past month or so. That includes requiring plans to be complete when submitted for review, no longer allowing duplicate bookings, and shifting the responsibility for readiness evaluations from plan reviewers to other agency staff. 

As part of this process, the agency cleared more than 1,000 hours from the schedule for plumbing plan review by removing cancelled projects, projects booked for multiple time slots, and incomplete plans. 

Meanwhile, industry representatives are clamoring for legislative solutions to this ongoing problem before Wisconsin’s 2020 building season kicks into gear. Lawmakers have introduced legislation aimed at improving the plan review backlog but DSPS has declined to support it. Crim said the bill would benefit from greater input from building councils. 

See the release: 

See more on the GOP legislation: 

See an earlier story on the issue: 

— Democratic lawmakers sought unsuccessfully to get the Senate to sign off on extending bar hours to 4 a.m. for the party’s national convention in Milwaukee this summer.

An Assembly committee signed off on the proposal last week. But Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, indicated yesterday that momentum for the proposal was fading in his caucus.

Dems then tried to amend legislation dealing with opportunity zones to add provisions from the Assembly bill with the Legislature on the verge of adjourning for the session.

State Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, pitched the idea as an economic opportunity for bars and restaurants as well as a boost to the state’s ability to showcase a successful convention. Ohio and Pennsylvania passed similar legislation for the 2016 conventions in Cleveland and Philadelphia.

“We have thousands of Democrats coming into the state of Wisconsin, opening up their pocketbooks,” Erpenbach said. “It’s going to be Wisconsin’s opportunity to shine. We want to make sure that delegates and their guests and everybody is happy. We like it when people come to Wisconsin and spend money.”

See more at 

— WEC Energy Group plans to increase its ownership share in three wind farms as part of its five-year plan to invest in new energy infrastructure. 

“The plan calls for deploying $1.8 billion in high-quality projects that will serve strong, vibrant companies for years to come,” said Gale Klappa, executive chairman for WEC. 

WEC Energy Group has agreed to boost its ownership from 80 to 90 percent of the Blooming Grove Wind Farm, Thunderhead Wind Energy Center and the Upstream Wind Energy Center. The move will come with a $118 million price tag, a release shows. 

The Blooming Grove and Thunderhead projects are being developed by Invenergy and are expected to come online by the end of the year. The Upstream project began operating at the start of 2019 and was also developed by Chicago-based Invenergy. 

According to the release, all three of the wind farms have long-term offtake contracts with affiliates of multinational corporations. 

From its headquarters in Milwaukee, WEC Energy Group serves around 4.5 million customers in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan and Illinois. Its in-state subsidiaries include We Energies and Wisconsin Public Service. 

See the release: 

— We Energies’ Solar Now program is now contributing enough energy to the grid to power 1,000 homes, according to a recent release. 

Businesses, nonprofits, government entities and schools partner with the utility company on these projects by providing space for solar panel arrays. We Energies leases the areas being used for the panels, which include otherwise unused land and roof space. 

New solar energy projects have been built in partnership with the School District of New Berlin, Washington County, Northland Pines School, University Lake School and the School District of Random Lake. A Pewaukee-based solar installation company called SunVest Solar is the general contractor for the program. 

See the release: 

— Assembly lawmakers have passed a largely bipartisan group of bills from the Speaker’s Task Force on Water Quality.

But task force members from both parties agreed the roughly $10 million package was the beginning, and not the end, of the Assembly’s work on water quality.

Rep. Katrina Shankland, a Dem from Stevens Point who served as the panel’s vice chair, urged her colleagues to pressure their “favorite senator” to pass the package before the session ends.

“If this is the last thing we do on water quality in the Legislature, we have failed,” Shankland said, repeating the phrase several times for emphasis.

Rep. Scott Krug, R-Nekoosa, mentioned that he already asked Sen. Patrick Testin, R-Stevens Point, to take up the bills.

Rep. Todd Novak, a Dodgeville Republican who chaired the panel, echoed Shankland’s comments, saying water quality was not a partisan issue but instead “a Wisconsin issue.”

“This is a start; this is not the end,” Novak said. “I would love to do more but we just didn’t get there.”

See more at 

— An associate researcher with UW-Milwaukee’s Center for Urban Population Health is working to study and prevent gun violence by enhancing public discussion on the issue. 

Kaija Zusevics has spent the last five years at the center, which is a joint effort between UWM, the UW School of Public Health and Aurora Health Care. Her work leverages big data and other hard evidence to drive community and patient engagement on complex issues. 

She’s been working with a team of academics to build an online toolkit that aims to guide conversations about gun issues. This website includes videos and music as well as discussion templates and other tools and data, meant to foster “non-polarizing” talks on the subject. 

The site also has more than 50 curated personal interviews with individuals affected by gun violence, and a team of faculty and community partners continues to gather these stories from Milwaukee residents. 

“Gun violence in its many forms is so prevalent, but people are so afraid to talk about it, even with family,” Zusevics said in a recent UWM newsletter. “Most people don’t know that suicide is the leading cause of death from gun violence.” 

See more on the gun violence project: 


# Later bar hours for Democratic National Convention in doubt

# Milwaukee DNC foodservice contract likely goes to existing Fiserv Forum vendor: Labor sources

# Enbridge fields questions in Ashland about proposed oil pipeline reroute

# Quad invested in wages and it paid off with ‘one of the best quarters in the past decade’



– See drawings of the three new signs coming to Miller Park


– Rettler re-elected president of FarmFirst Dairy Co-op board


– Fiveable drops paywall, adjusts strategy to increase users

– State ag teachers Earn Kohl Fellowship awards


– Assembly approves $10M plan to clean up Wisconsin water


– The Union House restaurant headed for growth under new ownership

– Fine dining restaurant The Union House purchased by Jim Lindenberg


– Third child dies of flu complications in Wisconsin


– Power line developers barred from intervening in federal case against regulators


– Rockwell Automation makes two more acquisitions

– Hero open to partnership with Harley-Davidson in India, and teaser image of future electric hog revealed

– Appleton papermaker selling point-of-sale paper business to Domtar


– Milwaukee area startups double up on prizes during latest ‘Project Pitch It’ episode


– Assembly passes bill supporting clean water, economic development


– Giannis, Bucks capturing large audiences this season on regional sports network


– Bear Down Logistics closing in Sussex, cutting 95 jobs


– WEC Energy Group investing $118 million to increase stake in three wind farms


– gener8tor Managing Director Ben Stanley: Five Charismatic Nerds


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