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November 21: News from around the Driftless Area
News From Around the Arrea

‘News from Around the Driftless Area’ is a compilation showcasing the excellent work and interesting tidbits from the community journalists sprinkled throughout our area.

VIROQUA– It’s not too late to make an entry for the Twinklefest parade. To enter contact the Viroqua Chamber Main Street office by calling 608-637-2575 or e-mailing Nora Roughen Schmidt at The parade will begin at 7 p.m. on Nov. 29… Members of the community gathered in the Viroqua High School gymnasium for the annual Veterans Day program. The guest speaker was Gary Gilbertson. Gilbertson had just finished his broadcast school training in the Twin Cities in September 1965 and begun work at the WVRQ radio station, when he received a draft board notice notifying him that he was being called to serve in the U.S. Army. Gilbertson served for three years in military radio broadcasting… The sixth annual Holiday Shopping Expo and Craft Fair will be held in Viroqua High School Commons on Saturday, Nov. 23 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The public is invited to pulled pork sandwiches for lunch, and to shop at booths from local crafters, makers and artists… Viroqua High School brought ‘Monty Python’s Spamalot’ School Edition to the stage recently. The musical is described as “lovingly ripped off” from the film, ‘Monthy Python and the Holy Grail.’ The young actors told the story of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table as they embark on their quest for the Holy Grail… Youth Initiative High School will proudly present Shakespeare’s classic comedy, ‘Much Ado About Nothing,’ on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 22 and 23. The cast features 20 students from all grades at the school and is full of music, dancing, laughter, and much ado about nothing. The evening showings will start at 7 p.m., and there is also a matinee on Saturday, Nov. 23, at 2 p.m… Those who want to ‘help keep the community warm,’ can participate in the Gundersen Health System annual ‘Wrapping the Community in Warmth’ blanket drive. Between Nov. 18 and Dec. 13, drop off your new blankets, either store bought or handmade, at Gundersen Family Medicine Viroqua Clinic on the second floor of the building at 407 S. Main Street. Blankets will be donated to local organizations for distribution.

LA FARGE– The Vernon County Board considered a somewhat controversial resolution for a county-wide advisory referendum at their last meeting. The proposed referendum ignited the ire of the citizen requesting it, and did divide the board members when each individual voice vote was taken. The proposed referendum had been proposed by citizen Alicia Leinberger. What she wanted on the ballot in April was to conduct a county-wide advisory referendum on legislature direction to accept federal Medicaid tax dollars and expand health services to Wisconsin residents.’ Whether or not the state should accept federal Medicaid money has been a contentious issue between the two political parties for the past several years. Vernon County Clerk Ron Hoff stated that it would cost the county a few thousand dollars extra to advertise and have the proposed referendum on the ballot. Several board members voiced either approval or opposition. Some felt that it was not worthwhile because the results would only be advisory. Others expressed that most citizens were not adequately educated to cast a vote on the long-simmering issue… It was reported by Episcope Weather Reporter Matt Gabrielson on ‘Matt’s Weather Page,’ that winter has barely begun, but forecasters are already sounding the alarm about the potential for major flooding across the river basins of the northern U.S. next spring. 2019 has been one of the wettest years on record, soils are much wetter than normal and soon to be frozen, and many rivers (including the Mississippi) are at near-record streamflows for this time of year. Combine these existing conditions with a weather pattern that looks to favor above normal precipitation this winter and you get what forecasters are saying could be a “difficult spring flood season.”

ONTARIO– One of Ontario’s business owners has become fed up with FEMA as mitigation for flooded properties from the August 2018 flood remains in limbo. Tony Kelbel, who has the dubious distinction of having lost the most properties (the Kickapoo Paddle Inn and others) to the flood, asked the village board for an update on the process at the board’s last meeting. “If nothing is done by spring, I am going to rebuild,” he told the board. Clerk Terri Taylor suggested Kelbel talk to Ontario’s recently-hired flood zone administrator, James Twoomey. “I’m not talking to anybody,” countered Kelbel. “I have bills to pay and a family to support!” As explained to the reporter at the County Line newspaper, “It’s true that there is a 50 percent rule, but there’s also a 365 rule. If a building stands empty for over a year after a certified flooding event, then its renovation is treated as a new construction which is not permitted [in the floodplain]…” Ontario remains without a police officer, as Police Chief Dave Rynes was place on administrative leave last month and part-time officer Grover Wooten was taken off the calendar after the two men allegedly lied to Monroe County officers about a minor traffic accident. Both Wooten and Rynes face potential charges of obstructing an officer, with an additional charge of misconduct in office for Rynes. Both the Vernon and Monroe County district attorneys have indicated that they would “no longer accept cases from either officer.”

PRAIRIE DU CHIEN– During its budget hearing Tuesday morning, the Crawford County Board of Supervisors approved of a budget which will have a total tax levy of $8,964,950. Last year’s levy was $8,263,948. The tax rate for county purposes will be $7.48, which is up from the $7.11 of last year. As part of the adopted budget for 2020, the county board voted 16-0 to approve the borrowing of $500,000. The Crawford County Highway Department is reducing its budget by $500,000 to help balance the budget, and the borrowed money will go to the highway department to cover this expense. Rogers explained that after assembling the initial department budget requests, the budget was $1,066,000 higher than the levy limit imposed by the state. To balance the 2020 budget, the general fund will be spent down by $300,000 and the Human Services Department will give back $250,000 to the budget. Rogers said the county is in a bind because the state increased the county’s levy limit by only $98,603 because it is based on a formula involving net new construction in the county, which was only .73 percent… As an annual public service, the Prairie Rod and Gun Club will open its Mill Coulee Shooting Range to the general public for a pre-deer season sight-in of their firearms free of charge. The club has been offering this event since the late 1980s. Despite damage from the September flash flooding, the range is open. The rifle range, located on Mill Coulee Road five miles north of Prairie du Chien, will be open to the public from noon to 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, Nov. 20-22.

RICHLAND CENTER– A recent Saturday was a great day at the Richland County Ash Creek Community Forest. Members of the Land Conservation Committee and employees unveiled a new sign at the entrance off of Highway 80 which is a map of the property and the trails that are within the property. The trails are color coded, with solid lines indicating multi-use (hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding) and the dashed lines indicating hiking and mountain biking… Despite the challenges Richland County farm families have faced this year, time was taken recently to pause and reflect on the positive accomplishments and contributions of the agricultural community over the last year. Kelly and Rachel Fruit Farm, along with Kelly’s parents Norm and Sandy Fruit of rural Viola were honored with the ‘Outstanding Young Farmer’ award at the 60thannual award ceremony. Kelly’s grandparents, Garland and Laura Fruit, were honored at the ceremony that took place in 1966. The first award was given in 1977, when Mary Turgasen, Evelyn Kepler and Alma Manning were surprised with the award.