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April 16: 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 –Viroqua Chamber Main Street Executive Director Nora Roughen-Schmidt has announced the indefinite postponement of the Viroqua Farmers Market for the 2020 season. She reports that staff has been working long hours trying to find locations, solutions and the ability to comply with safety standards in the age of COVID-19. “We have attempted location changes, format changes (drive through or CSA market) and continue to run into challenges,” Roughen-Schmidt said. “As we do not have a clear sense of when we can open, we are refunding seasonal vendor fees, or returning checks that have not yet been cashed. It is our hope that we can open up this year. Perhaps in July, but until then, we wait on restrictions to be lifted or a major donor to finance a CSA for the Viroqua Farmers Market.” Roughen-Schmidt said that if the market is able to start later in the season, vendors will either pay a smaller seasonal fee or $15/per day to vend, whatever is determined to be more reasonable… On Tuesday, April 7, voters in Viroqua re-elected incumbent mayor Karen Mischel, and aldermen Tanja Birke and Gregory Splinter to serve two more years on the Viroqua Common Council… The organization, ‘History Alive Project,’ has, as part of its mission statement, to educate the area of its past. Recently, the project published a story on the history of the 1909 Easter fire at the Coon Prairie Church. It was said that the massive bell on Coon Prairie Church, melted. And when the fires were finally out that Easter Sunday night, April 9, 1909, only the brick shell of the beloved church remained. Lightning had struck the towering steeple around 9 p.m. that fateful evening. The building had only been dedicated in 1884, 25 years prior to the fire. A few chairs and a small organ were rescued from the ruins... On Tuesday, April 7, local heroes from the City of Viroqua Police Department, Vernon County Sheriff's Department, and the Viroqua Fire Department, came together on parade with their lights and sirens echoing throughout the campus adding excitement, joy, and smiles to the residents and staff of Vernon Manor… Due to COVID-19 Vernon County Corporation Counsel Nikki Swayne has determined that yard sales/rummage sales are considered non-essential and, therefore, are not permitted in Vernon County. Viroqua's City-Wide Rummage Sales scheduled for April 24-26 have been postponed.

LA FARGE –At a meeting held by teleconference on March 19 of the Kickapoo Valley Reserve Board, education director Jonel Kiesau reported that several planned summer classes have been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes a volunteer training class, a couple of naturalist classes, plus at least six other classes with full enrollment may be evaluated at a later time if the country is not back to normal in time for them to be held… Another LaFarge house has now been removed. The Mary Rose home on S. Mill Street was removed early in April as part of a Vernon County buy out of flood damaged properties. The 2018 flood severely damaged the home, and the owner passed away a few days prior to the house being demolished… Kye Borrison is the grandson of Ray Borrison, a LaFarge High School graduate of 1954. He is a senior this year at the high school in Mediapolis, Missouri, and was second team all-state as a lineman for the school’s football team. Borrison will attend Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph, and will play for the school’s team as an offensive lineman. The school is a NCAA Division II college, and was 9-3 last year. The team went on to play in the Agent Barry Live Bowl… Vernon County municipalities took special efforts to allow their citizens to vote in the April 7 election. With fears sweeping the countryside about catching the COVID-19 virus, many residents did not want to venture out to the polls on election day. Instead, the popularity of absentee voting suddenly increased. Residents either had their ballot mailed to them, or used a curbside voting option offered by some municipalities. In Vernon County’s Town of Stark, clerk Holly Franks set up a mobile location in the LaFarge Schools parking lot on two separate days. She received polling assistance from two school students, which is allowed by law if the students are over the age of 16. 

ONTARIO – Accused of stealing more than $20,000 worth of jewelry and several firearms, two people face charges stemming from a Jan. 3 burglary in the Town of Glendale. Randy Harmel, 39, Kendall, was referred to the Monroe County District Attorney’s office for burglary, theft, theft of a firearm, possession of stolen property and felon in possession of a firearm. Jessica Hawes, 37, Camp Douglas, was referred for party to a crime, theft, theft of a firearm and possession of stolen property. The victims were not at their Hutton Avenue home when the items were stolen, according to the police report. It appeared the burglar had forced open the front basement door, which had been locked but not deadbolted. The victims provided pictures of the stolen jewelry. Police later determined that Harmel had sold two items of jewelry to Forever Yours Jewelry in Sun Prairie on Jan. 9, and Hawes had sold five items to Pawn America in Madison on the same day. Hawes also sold jewelry to CWCC Pawn Shop in Marshfield, Wisc., on Jan. 6. The pawned jewelry matched the photos of the jewelry provided by the victims… The Wilton community blood drive on Saturday, April 4, drew 67 people to donate 75 units of blood. This was the drive’s best tunrnout since shortly after the September 11, 2001 attacks… During this time of need, many be looking to community resources and information that can help. Scenic Bluffs Community Health Centers has three Patient Access Coordinators, known as their ‘Help Team,’ that can assist individuals with community resources. The help team is available to all individuals regardless if they are a patient of the Health Center or not. Services the help team can assist with include information on FoodShare, housing, energy assistance, insurance and local community resource agencies. The help team can be reached at 608-654-5100, ext. 232.

PRAIRIE DU CHIEN –As the COVID-19 pandemic intensified over the last few weeks, U.S. health care facilities and workers put out an urgent plea: they were in need of personal protective equipment or PPE. These items include gowns, eye wear, gloves and masks. Many businesses, as well as private citizens stepped up to donate supplies. One group that has made an extraordinary contribution is local sewers. Armed with sewing machines, fabric, thread and elastic, they’ve used patterns, tutorials and a bit of ingenuity to turn out thousands of handmade masks and even gowns. The items were donated to medical professionals, first responders, and other frontline workers across the country. One of these sewers is rural McGregor resident Roberta Haas. She began making masks when one of her daughter’s friends who works at a hospital in Madison was concerned that staff would run out. Meaghan Schneider of Marquette, Iowa, and Fran Passmore of Monona, Iowa, learned about the PPE shortage online. Together they, and other sewers across the region have supplied hundreds of handmade masks… On April 7, Prairie du Chien poll workers conducted a drive-through election at Hoffman Hall for city voters, in an effort to minimize the spread of the COVID-19 virus among election officials and the public. Voters in vehicles (and some of foot) were directed through the parking lot to one of two lanes, each with three wards assigned to each. Underneath tents set up to protect workers from the elements, officials assisted voters with registering if necessary, all through a crack in the driver’s side window. Pens and clipboards were sanitized between each use, and hand sanitizer was offered to voters prior to casting their ballot. The city also issued about 840 absentee ballots, which is about 75 percent higher than a usual election.