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April 2: 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 –Vernon County Clerk Ron Hoff reminds voters that all county polling sites will be open on Election Day, April 7, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. as usual. "There have been numerous questions about the April 7 Election Day process. While absentee voting has been very popular as well as in-person voting with your municipal clerks," Hoff said in a press release Monday. Hoff said in-person voting with residents' municipal clerks can be done until 5 p.m. on Friday, April 3, but call the clerk ahead of time for their schedule. "The Vernon County municipal clerks have had a stressful time with all the extra voting procedures due to the coronavirus outbreak in our country," Hoff said. "Please thank your clerk for a job well done when you have an opportunity. Also many polling places are short of poll workers due to health and age reasons, if you would be willing to work Election Day or even half a day, contact your municipal clerk and volunteer. Many sanitary procedures will be in place at the polling locations…" Two years of unusually wet weather have convinced “Farmer Danika” and Nate Wehling that they made the right decision when they opened Wehling Farms and Country Store in August 2016 in a former garage on their farm at S764 Jore Road about 5 miles northwest of Westby. In fact, the effects of that weather on area crop production, and the decline in prices for organic milk as larger producers entered that industry, prompted the Wehlings to sell their 70 dairy cows last fall and get out of the organic dairy business. The Wehlings, who had operated their organic dairy farm since 2005, had sold their milk to the Westby Cooperative Creamery. The Wehlings’ store sells beef, chicken, pork, eggs, honey, maple syrup, homemade soap, and many other items, produced by area farmers including the Wehlings. Many of the products are organic. The store also sells such things as candy, CBD products and crafts, many of which are made by relatives. Danika makes some of the soaps, and takes photos that she uses for some of the greeting cards and apparel sold in the store, which also offers farm tours.

LA FARGE –Home schooling started week before last for LaFarge School District students during the coronavirus shutdown of all schools. LaFarge students had two days to pick up their instructional material and Chromebooks at the small gymnasium. The LaFarge School District staff had sorted all the items each student needed to use while being taught at home. The teachers will continue to work online with students using the internet… Following several years of flash flooding and too many near misses, the Kickapoo Reserve Management Board made the decision last year to relocate several campsites that were located in the Kickapoo River floodplain. Five campsites will still be accessible from the river, but will be placed a short distance away on higher ground. These include campsite M south of Rockton near Jug Creek; campsites S and W west of Highway 131 between bridges nine and ten; campsite X east of 131 and north of Rockton; and campsite V on Winchell Valley Road near bridge eight. Camping on the riverbank or in a flood zone is not allowed, and carries a fine of $150… Signs on the door of the Stark Town Hall stated that everyone entering had to wash their hands on March 18. Supervisor Robbie Strait arrived a few minutes late, and attempted to take his seat, six feet away from chairman Keith Ashley-Wright. Despite his plea that he had been wearing gloves, he had to unseat himself and head to the sink for the soap and hot water.

ONTARIO – It doesn’t seem to be the ideal time to change school superintendents, but nevertheless, the Norwalk-Wilton-Ontario School Board continues its quest to replace Superintendent Kelly Burhop. Burhop has set his retirement for the end of June. According to board president Kurt Radke, the district reviewed the applications of 17 candidates for the job, and after a virtual meeting recently, narrowed it down to seven… Kim DeWitt of Ontario is one of those people we have heard so much about on the news lately. She is “on the front lines” as a respiratory therapist with the Mayo Clinic Health System. “When I come home, I throw all my clothes in the washer, take a shower and wash my hair.” She also no longer sees her grandchildren. DeWitt divides her time between Sparta and LaCrosse. Sparta has no ICU beds, while LaCrosse has 17. According to DeWitt, one therapist can tend to about five ventilators at once. All need to be watched to ensure they are delivering the right levels of oxygen. DeWitt said Mayo is currently short six therapists and is scrambling to add to the staff. She wasn’t certain how well stocked Mayo was for supplies, but said she calculated that each day, it takes 118 masks to provide lab and other services to ICU patients. Although COVID-19 patients are not flooding the system yet, DeWitt said this has been a very busy year with flu, respiratory infections and pneumonia.

PRAIRIE DU CHIEN –James Bowman, Execu-tive Director of Driftless Development, INC, has accepted a career opportunity employment offer from Alliant Energy to become their Senior Community & Economic Development Manager. Bowman will be based in the Des Moines Corporate Office working with new business attractions, business expansions and communities served by Alliant Energy. He will also help with new and existing strategic initiatives to help achieve company goals. Alliant Energy has agreed to allow Bowman to continue to work with the Drift-less Development INC Board of Directors, com-munity leaders and area businesses during the transition period. Alliant Energy fully supports Driftless De-elopement INC and desires a smooth transition. During Bowman’s tenure with Driftless Development INC, he oversaw the merger of The Crawford County Economic Development Corporation (CCEDC) and the Prairie du Chien Economic Development Corporation (PdCEDC) into a single organization serving the entire Crawford County and surrounding area… Anyone driving north of Prairie du Chien on County K in recent months has noticed the logging of silver maples in an area to the west of the road. The logging began this past winter…

RICHLAND CENTER –Newly hired Richland County Administrator Clinton Langreck was aware that he would have an array of duties to become accustomed to when beginning his position. But he couldn’t have predicted the trial by fire that it has been. He started work on March 9, only a couple of days before Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers declared a ‘State of Emergency.’ In fact, one of Langreck’s first official duties was declaring a state of emergency in Richland County. Regarding the COVID-19 response, Langreck is helping facilitate communication, issuing policy and directives in compliance, and providing administrative support to elected officials in complying with guidance from the Richland County Public Health Officer… The Richland Area Retired Educators Association (RAREA) has announced the cancellation of its April 16, 2020 membership meeting. President Paul Murphy stated, “While our first meeting of the 2020 year has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the work of the organization will continue behind the scenes through e-mails and direct USPS mail contact with our members.

BOSCOBEL – In one of their last meetings of the current two-year session, the Grant County Board of Supervisors will have before them a resolution brought to them by a citizen group looking to send a message to curtail any new gun laws, including buy-back programs, universal background checks and ‘red flag’ laws which temporarily take away weapons from individuals who are thought to be a possible danger to themselves or others. Kevan Norin and Dave Hottenstein of Grant County Second Amendment Sanctuary spoke to the county law enforcement committee recently to discuss their group, and their push to try what they see as infringing on the rights of citizens under the U.S. Constitution. Since it formed almost a month ago, the group’s Facebook page has grown to more than 500 members, and they have held several packed meetings.