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2020: Year in Review Part One
Crawford County Independent & Kickapoo Scout
Year in Review 2020

DRIFTLESS – 2020 was quite a year – one most will likely never forget, no matter how much they may want to.

JANUARY:Local rock-and-roll legend, Vilas Craig, returned with a few old friends to play at a New Year’s Eve celebration at the Kickapoo Creekside in Readstown…

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VILAS CRAIG, local rock-n-roll legend returned with a few old friends on New Years Eve 2020, to play at Kickapoo Creekside. Judging from the large, enthusiastic crowd, a good time was had by all.

Small, rural villages in Crawford County are struggling with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) requirements to reduce phosphorous levels in effluent from their wastewater treatment plants. The requirements mean that the aging plants are looking to bring the phosphorous levels in effluent to the 1.0 mg/L level… The Seneca Indians outmatched the Trojan girls basketball team at North Crawford Monday night. With the added firepower of Seneca’s senior duo Makenna Greene and Savanna Wallin the final score was 59-17…

IT WAS A PACKED HOUSE at the December 2019 Crawford County Board of Supervisors meeting, when the county board voted to enact a one year CAFO Moratorium.

The Crawford County Board of Supervisors passed a one-year CAFO moratorium for permitting of livestock facilities with greater than 1,000-animal units and the Town Board of Marietta voted to rescind their CAFO Moratorium. The county moratorium was passed at the Tuesday, Dec. 17 meeting of the county board. The Marietta Township moratorium, originally enacted in August of 2019, was rescinded by the board at their meeting on Monday, Dec. 23…

DEPUTY CODY MULLIKIN was sworn in before offering testimony in the preliminary hearing of Lee J. Kennedy, who was charged with first-degree attempted homicide in the shooting of Jason Melvin. Kennedy faced charges for allegedly shooting Melvin in the back of the head as he and his passenger drove away from a rural Eastman property.

Despite a spirited-effort by defense attorney Stephen Eisenberg during a two-hour preliminary hearing, defendant Lee Kennedy was bound over for trial on the charge of attempted first-degree murder in the shooting of Jason Melvin on October 25, 2019… Members of the Speaker’s Water Quality Task Force (WQTF) gathered in the State Capitol to announce the recommendations they were making to help protect Wisconsin’s water. Overall, what is proposed is a package of initiatives that come with a $10 million price tag. The initiatives span the gamut from assistance to farmers to implement conservation practices to mapping, testing and educating around Wisconsin’s groundwater assets to full funding for county conservation staffing…  A lawsuit filed against corporate farms now has more than 300 people or roughly 200 households signed on. The lawsuit blames the Central Sands Dairy, Wysocki Produce Farm and their insurance company of knowingly causing high nitrate levels in the groundwater in Wood and Juneau counties… Tristen Starkey placed first in the Seneca School District’s spelling bee, Seaver Rewey placed second, and third place honors went to Jackson Konichek… A display featuring photos and personal stories of 32 Holocaust survivors is entitled ‘Multiply by Six Million: Stories and Portraits from Holocaust Survivors.’ The display can be seen outside the Lenz Conference Center at Southwest Wisconsin Technical College in Fennimore… The North Crawford boys basketball team beat Kickapoo in overtime 68-66 on a buzzer beater by Daymian Mack… Jane and David Stevens have been named ‘Organic Farmers of the Year.’They will be recognized at the MOSES Organic Farming Conference… The Merry Weathers kicked off the Love the Land event in Gays Mills sponsored by Crawford Stewardship Project. Later in the evening Tugg entertained the crowd with dance music… North Crawford Spelling Bee top three finishers included Carter Wilson (first), Aiden Unseth (second) and Miles Kandler (alternate)… The Common Council of the City of Appleton passed a 5G Resolution #16-R-19 by a vote of 11-3 entitled ‘Small Cell Wireless Equipment.’  The Resolution, the City of Appleton acknowledges constituent concerns about 5G, the new untested wireless technology…

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SWEDE KNUTSON was headed into the frigid water of the dunk tank at Ferryville Ag Days held at the Wooden Nickel Saloon last January.

Swede Knutson, Ferryville farmer and business owner, takes his turn in the dunk tank at Ferryville Ag Days last Saturday. Knutson was holding a rubber ducky in his hand prior to taking the plunge. The event raised $5,690 for local first responders… It’s a long way to 500 victories, but Seneca basketball coach Dave Boland arrived at that pinnacle of achievement on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020 with a 64-12 win over the visiting Weston Silver Eagles. This was just one of many achievements in Boland’s 30-year career of coaching Seneca basketball.

FEBRUARY:The Gays Mills Village Board heard a proposal to have a meeting with the Soldiers Grove Village Board to discuss the possibility of constructing a joint sewer plant. Both villages have aging plants facing a variety of challenges in the near future… Crawford County Sanitation and Zoning Technician Jake Shedivy reported that approximately 800 of the total estimated 3,600 POWTS in our county remain non-compliant, despite the daunting initiative launched in 2018 to ensure that Private Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems (POWTS) or septic systems in the county are compliant with code. However, a key factor in the progress the county has made has been thanks to the availability of grant funds through the Wisconsin Fund. This fund helps homeowners repair or replace failing septic systems. If the legislature does nothing, this program is scheduled to sunset next year… Governor Tony Evers recently announced his appointment of Marcy West of La Farge, Wisconsin to serve on the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board… Anna Landmark is part of the steering committee for Opportunity Wisconsin, an advocacy group hoping to highlight farmers’ stories, as well as the stories of workers who’ve faced layoffs or are working multiple jobs to stay afloat. Landmark joined the group after seeing the way the dairy crisis hit farmers across the state and in southwestern Wisconsin in particular… Although the novel corona virus spreading in China is gathering a lot of attention and there is one case reported in Wisconsin, the news affecting most people locally remains the spread of Influenza Type A and B… 

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SOLAR MEATS head butcher Duane Johannes held a ribeye steak in their newly renovated retail storefront.

With the opening of the retail store at Solar Meats in Soldiers Grove, eating local just got a little bit easier. The fresh, bright, clean retail space in the front of Solar Meats makes a person instantly feel that you can purchase meat grown by your neighbors that is safe, and delicious… Crawford County Land Conservation Department has announced the final composition of the CAFO Study Group called for in the one-year CAFO moratorium passed by the Crawford County Board at their December 2019 meeting. The first meeting of the Study Group will take place on Wednesday, Feb. 19, at 10 a.m., in the Crawford County Administration Building in Prairie du Chien… Most ladies enjoy a night out, and the women of agriculture are no exception. For this reason, Westby Cooperative Creamery was excited to host the Vernon County Ag Women’s Network. The event featured ag trivia, prizes and a tray of delicious Westby Creamery snacks… The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will invest $56 million this year to help agricultural producers improve water quality in more than 300 high-priority watersheds across the country. USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is continuing two of its successful landscape-level water quality efforts, the Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative (MRBI) and National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI)…

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ADULT PROM, held in February of 2020, was a grant event indeed. The prom court included Eric Heisz, Prom Queen Harriet Heisz, and Prom King Bill Compton. The Friends of the Gays Mills Swimming Pool held the event as a fundraiser, and they raised $3,000.

$3,000 was raised at the Adult Prom Fundraiser hosted by the Friends of the Gays Mills Swimming Pool. Harriet Heisz was crowned Prom Queen and Prom King was Bill Compton… The Kickapoo Reserve Management Board (KRMB) is proud to introduce two new board members. Tina Brown of Black River Falls has been appointed to represent the Ho-Chunk Nation Cultural interests and Julie Hoel of Ontario has been appointed as the Education Representative by Governor Tony Evers… Lisa Stenner speaks at the book launch party for Driftless Writing Center’s new anthology, ‘Contours.’ The party was attended by a standing room only crowd at the Rooted Spoon. Described as a ‘literary landscape celebration,’ the book fulfills a “long-held dream of showcasing our area’s writers and artists in book form.”… The Driftless Area Water Study (DAWS) to test well water in Crawford, Richland and Vernon counties will conduct their first round of testing on Monday, May 4. The tests will be aggregated from test collection points in each of the three counties, and then delivered to the UW-Stevens Point Center for Watershed Science and Education Lab on Tuesday, May 5…

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NATIONAL FFA WEEK was kicked off in style at North Crawford on Friday, Feb. 21. Agricultural Education teacher Mackenzie Knut-son and the FFA Club held games for middle school and high school students in the school gym. The highlight of the event was when high school chemistry teacher Luke Zitzner kissed a pig held by Savanna Wallin.

North Crawford’s agricultural education program is off to a great start. Ag teacher Mackenzie Knutson was hired for the 2019-2020 school year as the first ag teacher at the district in many years. National FFA week was kicked off in style at North Crawford when Knutson and the FFA Club held games for middle school and high school students in the school gym. A highlight of the event was when high school chemistry teacher Luke Zitzner kissed a pig held by Savanna Wallin… The Crawford County CAFO Study Group held its first meeting at the Crawford County Administration Building in Prairie du Chien on Wednesday, Feb. 19. The seven members of the study group gathered to discuss the scope of their activities, and what speakers might be invited to future meetings to educate the group.… An exciting announcement at the North Crawford School Board meeting is that the cafeteria is ‘going green.ts Munson said they are committed to phasing out all plastic utensils, straws, and paper plates – reducing waste while saving money.

MARCH:In December of 2019, a new strain of human coronavirus emerged, COVID-19. Illnesses associated with this virus were first reported in Wuhan, China and are now circulating worldwide. As of March 2, 2020, there are no active cases of COVID-19 in Wisconsin… Crawford County U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) announced that Dennis Rooney of Steuben was elected to represent local Administrative Area 2… A local donor has approached the Village of Gays Mills with an offer to purchase and install fire pits with grills at the village campsites near the dam, as well as near the shelters in the parks. The installation would include 13 smaller fire pit units for the campsites and three larger units for the parks, installation of cement bases, and steel fire rings and grates. All costs will be covered by the donor… The Soldiers Grove Village Board took several steps to remedy the problems with their sanitary sewer system at their last meeting. The village is currently operating their plant under a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) variance to meet phosphorous discharge levels that will expire in four years. The neighboring village, Gays Mills, has a five-year variance application currently pending approval by the state. The board decided to continue forward with discussions with Gays Mills about the possibility of a joint sewer plant project, while also moving ahead with needed repairs to the current system. As was pointed out, the repairs will be necessary whether the village ultimately undertakes a joint plant with Gays Mills or choose to go it alone… Don’t be surprised this week if you receive a mailing from either the Crawford or Richland County Land Conservation Departments (depending on which county you live in) inviting you to participate in their 2020 well-testing program. Participants will be able to access the well test free of charge, with results being returned directly and confidentially to the well owner. Crawford and Richland counties are using a random selection process from among owners of known septic systems in the county… 

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WINNERS in the Crawford County 4-H Speaking and Demonstration Contest include, front from left, Violet Mitchell and Tara Lenzendorf; and back from left, Marie Achenbach, Rita Achenbach, Jacob Payne, and Tanner Kilburg.

Winners in the Crawford County 4-H Speaking and Demonstration Contest include Violet Mitchell and Tara Lenzendorf, Marie Achenbach, Rita Achenbach, Jacob Payne and Tanner Kilburg... Congratulations to middle school wrestlers on their first conference tournament. Jaren Grimsled third place at 76 pounds, Thomas Sprosty third at 100 pounds, and Sawyer Swiggum fourth…

KEVIN AND CAROLYN PARR of Harmony Hill Farms were recognized as ‘Vernon County Conservation Farmers of the Year’ at the Vernon County Conservation Awards Banquet.

Kevin and Carolyn Parr of Harmony Hills Farm in rural Viroqua have been named Wisconsin Conservation Farmers of the Year by the Wisconsin Land+Water Association… The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin directed water, electric, and natural gas utilities to cease disconnecting residential service for nonpayment until the state public health emergency has been lifted… The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is conducting an immediate response to the capture of 51 invasive carp on the Mississippi River. The invasive carp were caught by two commercial fishing operators near La Crosse and Trempealeau during routine spring netting recently. In response to this discovery, the MDNR is working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Wisconsin DNR and commercial fishing operators to conduct large-scale netting, studies of the captured carp and increased monitoring…

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NORTH CRAWFORD Foodservice pivoted to delivering food to students at home at a moment’s notice. Staff and volunteers loaded six vans with 750 meals for 375 students, who would receive lunch and a breakfast for the next day. Volunteers included JoEllen Young, Jackie Petit, Wayne Goplin and Gary Schmitt.

In response to the need for students to receive meals during the Covid-19 outbreak, North Crawford food service staff and volunteers loaded six vans with 750 meals for 375 students. Students will receive a lunch, and a breakfast for the next day… The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction honored Seneca School District’s Alex Osterkamp by selecting him as an Educator of Promise. Osterkamp is the Seneca Middle School Principal and Director of Special Education. The DPI also honored the Seneca Middle School as being a School of Recognition. Seneca teacher Diane Yager and the Seneca Youth Leadership Council were honored for producing a highly successful 30th Annual Wellness Day at the school… Like staff and volunteers from so many school districts, volunteers were out and about last week delivering lunches to Wauzeka-Steuben School District students. Most of the local schools converted their cafes to meal delivery to ensure that all students had access to healthy food during the school shutdown.

APRIL:Jackie Fortney-Getter is among the many individuals that are sewing cloth masks for use by health care workers. The masks do not replace the N95 masks with filters, and used alone are not enough to protect from exposure to COVID-19, but can help to extend the life of the ones that can. Fortney-Getter is part of a group called ‘Sewers of Southwest Wisconsin.’ The group was started only last weekend, and in that short amount of time grew to 102 members who have made and distributed over 300 cloth masks…

ROGER TORKELSON of the Vernon County Sheriff’s Department has graciously volunteered to pick up fabric and take it to the sewers, in addition to many other local volunteer drivers. The effort to produce cloth masks for health care workers in Vernon, Crawford and Richland counties has been spearheaded by the group ‘Sewers of South-west Wisconsin.’

A solid bronze statue of an American Bald Eagle was added to the Veteran’s Memorial on Highway 27 in Seneca last Friday. On hand for the installation were, from left, Bill Stute, Bobby Ostrander, Torey Kramer, Cliff Tollefson and Larry Kelley… 

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A SOLID BRONZE statue of an American Bald Eagle was added to the Veteran’s Memorial on Highway 27 in Seneca in February of 2020. On hand for the installation were, from left, Bill Stute, Bobby Ostrander, Torey Kramer, Cliff Tollefson and Larry Kelley.

Due to the COVID-19 Safer at Home order, the Wisconsin DNR is taking proactive measures by suspending all Department of Natural Resources burning permits until further notice to protect the health and safety of Wisconsinites…

CAROLYN IHDE was an-nounced as the new UW-Extension Ag Educator for Crawford and Richland counties. Ihde brought her background in ag education in Iowa with her to her new job responsibilities.

Carolyn Ihde will be the new UW-Extension Ag Educator for Crawford and Richland counties. Ihde will bring her background in ag education in Iowa with her to her new job responsibilities, and expects to start on May 18… On Wednesday April 1, it was reported that dairy producers were dumping milk. The reasons that producers were being asked to dump their milk included a COVID 19-related plunge in demand for dairy products, shrink in export markets during the global pandemic and upheavals in the processing community… Seneca agriculture teacher Kally Koch reports that one of her assignments for her students through the online education was to select a Supervise Agricultural Experience (SAE), create three learning outcomes, and complete 10 hours of education toward those goals… Travis and Krista Klinkner of Genoa were awarded the Young Farmer Achievement honor by the Wisconsin Farm Bureau in 2019. Klinkner works as an ‘agricultural educator’ with the Vernon County Farm Bureau, and has a degree in agriculture education, Klinkner continues to use their passion for teaching in his field… The latest Crawford  County COVID-19 update had some good news to report. As of Tuesday, April 14, the county’s three positive cases for COVID-19 infection have recovered… North Crawford School District joined other schools across the state on Friday night in honoring their student athletes who likely will not compete in spring sports due to the COVID-19 pandemic suspension of WIAA spring sports. Last Friday night, the school district lit their field up for 20 minutes to honor our 2020 spring student athletes, especially their seniors. They’ll be there every Friday night at 8 p.m… Construction is expected to begin April 20 on Highway 35 between Genoa and Stoddard. The $14.2 million project will resurface Highway 35, replace four bridge structures, and reconstruct the highway within the village limits of Stoddard… 

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REUNITED IN EASTMAN, the Bells from left, Craig, Julie and Tyler, were joined by their friend and neighbor Brian Sipos. Craig Bell was hospitalized for two weeks in and ICU room after he tested positive for the COVID-19 virus on March 31.

Rural mail carrier Craig Bell was Crawford County’s first COVID-19 patient and his ordeal with the corona virus seems to speak directly to our current crisis. The 59-year-old Eastman resident’s COVID-19 journey began with the last day he delivered mail. Bell returned home after work on Friday, March 20 feeling like he was getting a cold. Craig ended up in the hospital, where he was put into an induced coma and on a ventilator. After he recovered enough to return home, his neighbor Brian Sipos drove him home from the hospital. About a quarter mile from Craig’s house in Eastman, Craig noticed there were fire engines with their lights on and lots of vehicles parked in front of the house. “What’s going on?” Craig asked Brian. “You better learn how to wave,” Brian told Craig. “They want to welcome you home.” Craig said there were tears streaming down his face. He got out of the truck and there were all kinds of people there and everybody was cheering. “What a wonderful feeling” Craig said, “there’s nothing like living in a small town.”… Chuck Bolstad, Chairperson of the Southwest Wisconsin Technical College Board of Directors, has been elected secretary/treasurer for the Wisconsin Technical Colleges District Boards Association. The one-year term begins this summer and is scheduled to end in one year, pending re-election…

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THIS PHOTO records for posterity one of the im-pacts of the ‘sheltering at home’ period in April 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. There’s probably quite a few of us older folks scratching our heads and trying to remember the last time we saw $0.99 gas.

One of the impacts of this period of sheltering at home during the COVID-19 pandemic is on gasoline prices, which are at $0.99 per gallon… Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ fire crews were reported to be on the scene of an approximately more than 200-acre wildfire in Juneau County on the Necedah Wildlife Refuge on Saturday, April 18. Evacuations took place along 17th Street and Highway 80 because structures were in the fire’s path. Four-to-five structures were threatened but not impacted… A new U.S. Supreme Court ruling puts groundwater science at the center of decisions about how to regulate water pollution. In a closely watched case with extensive implications, the court ruled six to three that the federal Clean Water Act applies to pollution of underground water that flows into nearby lakes, streams, and bays, as long as it is similar to pouring pollutants directly into these water bodies. The decision came after a sewage treatment plant in Hawaii claimed that the landmark environmental law covered only ‘point sources’ of pollution, such as an effluent pipe that dumps polluted water in a stream, lake, or bay, and not polluted groundwater that seeps into water bodies.