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April 22: News from around the Driftless Area

‘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 Sheriff John Spears would like to inform the public that inmate visitation will be open again on May 3rd. You must call and schedule a time for both weekday and weekend visits. In order to schedule a time, please call the jail at 608-638-5780 ext. 3. We encourage that you still be mindful of COVID-19 and take the necessary precautions to reduce the spread…   Friends of Vernon County Parks & Forests will continue their ‘Spring Ephermerals’ hiking series at Esofea County Park on Saturday, April 24, at 4 p.m. Join the Friends of Vernon County Parks and Forests as they search for spring ephemerals. The hike will meet at the shelter at Esofea Park and go on a guided, gentle one-to-three mile hike around the property. Participants will meet back at the shelter for a bonfire… The Vernon County Board Law Enforcement Committee met on Thursday, April 8 for a 40-minute session that concentrated on lack of law enforcement officers, low pay, and the increased criminal and drug activity in the county. There are currently two full time deputy positions open, and eight candidates are testing for the job out of 29 applicants. Vernon  County is currently operating with 0.08 percent officers per 1,000 residents, while the national average is 2.2 percent… The April 29 meeting of the Vernon County Board of Supervisors was the first time all 29 supervisors had the chance to meet in the same room, in-person, since the beginning of the pandemic a year ago. Nineteen supervisors attended the meeting in-person. Monique Hassman reported to the board about the Vernon County Flood Mitigation Alliance. She said the next meeting of the Alliance was planned for April 14. Grant Specialist Diane McGinnis told the board that her work to find housing for flood victims had resulted grant applications to provide 46 housing rental units in the Kickapoo Valley. The board went on to discuss reducing the size of the Board of Supervisors from 29 down to 19 or 21. Supervisor Shawn Redington led the discussion, and Chairman Justin Running said that there was some interest. According to an article in the Episcope, “supervisors at the meeting appeared lukewarm about the idea,” stating that it would just mean more work for committees with fewer board members. 

LA FARGE – Mark Digman from Delta-3 Engineering was present at a public hearing in LaFarge on April 7 to present the report about the village’s upcoming Main Street reconstruction project to about 25 residents. Digman said that Gerke Construction would start work on the project by the end of April or early May, with an October 15 deadline for completion. He said that there would be no sewer interruption, but that water might be shut off at times. He said that there could be short outages for underground gas lines and telecommunications equipment, but that owners would be notified in advance. No parking will be allowed on Main Street, but both lanes of traffic will remain open… Stephanie Barr was chosen by Town of Stark voters to fill the Supervisor 2 spot on the town board. Barr ran against incumbent Robert Strait, and won by 36 votes to Strait’s 30 votes… Ken Hammond competed against Jody Wirts for the Town of Webster Supervisor 2 position, and Hammond came out ahead by a slim margin of 61 votes to Wirts’ 57 votes… The election in the Town of Clinton had contested races for both town chairman and both supervisor positions. Challenger Cory Leis won over incumbent John LaDue. Pandora Flores and Wally Hemmersbach competed for the Supervisor 1 position, with Hemmersbach winning by one vote. Jordan Bendel competed against Pam Clark for the Supervisor 2 position, with Bendel taking the seat with 94 votes to Clark’s 61 votes.

ONTARIO – At their April 8 meeting, the Wilton Wood Turtle Committee voted to suspend the 2021 Wood Turtle Days event with the possibility of reviving it in future years. The reason for the suspension was the continuing lack of workers needed to sustain the festival and maintain the quality that organizers and the community have come to expect. The committee decided to sponsor the ‘Turtle Trot’ on Saturday, July 31, as a fundraiser to continue their support of projects and activities in the Village of Wilton and the Norwalk-Ontario-Wilton School District… At the most recent meeting of the Ontario Village Board, it appeared that the road to recovery from the August 2018 flood will continue to be a bumpy ride. On the good news side, the USDA will offer a combination of grants and loans to supply water and sewer to the 34-acre Taylor property, purchased by the village for housing and light commercial development. USDA will provide the village with $253,000 in grants and a $258,000 loan for water development, and $258,000 in grants and $156,000 in loans for sewer development. In addition, the village received $25,000 to cover the cost of having Vierbicher Engineering search for the grants. On the downside, a grant application to Community Development Block Grant by Dale Klemme of Community Development Alternatives in Prairie du Chien to build a seven-unit apartment building was denied as “too excessive in cost…” Wilton deputy clerk/treasurer Lori Brueggen, a 25-year village employee, will no longer be employed by the municipality, the board decided after a closed session meeting. Brueggen had been amid a training period for Leigha Barton, hired as part-time deputy clerk/treasurer, and in January the two had swapped roles. Brueggen was to have continued part-time for three years. She will receive severance pay, and will assist the village with its Public Service Commission water-rate case and a TIF audit… At its most recent meeting, the Norwalk Village Board moved another step closer to getting a new sewer plant. After a sparsely attended public hearing, the board voted unanimously to apply for a Community Development Block Grant.

PRAIRIE DU CHIEN – The transition of the Prairie du Chien Correctional Institute from medium to minimum security will be completed in three phases, according to Department of Corrections Director of Communications John Beard. At the end of phase one, the facility will officially be classified as minimum security. This phase is expected to be completed by May or June.  The facility will go forward with the same number of staff, with some adjustments in duties. In phase two, work will include updates to emergency operations plans, facility procedures, staff training, and development of a work release program. Phase three will include contacts with employers interested in the work release program, implementation of work release for a maximum of 25 participants, and work to monitor and expand the program when appropriate… Wisconsin Department of Transportation is seeking input on proposed improvements to Highway 27 between Northwest Avenue in the town of Seneca and County C in Utica Township. The project is currently scheduled for construction in 2024, and will resurface nine miles of highway, reshape and restore the gravel shoulders, repair deteriorating culverts, replace curb ramps, and upgrade/replace guardrail. Comments are welcome through April 26, and materials on the project can be viewed at

RICHLAND CENTER – Royal Bank recently announced a $10,000 donation to the A.D. German Warehouse project in Richland Center. Michael Starks, a branch manager and loan officer at the banks’s Richland Center location proudly presented a check to A.D. German Warehouse board members Derek Kalish, Jane Kintz and Barb Marshall, during a recent visit to the building… In the April election Richland School District voters rejected a proposed $19.7 million bond referendum. This has left the school board pondering what their next steps will be to address leaky roofs, ADA and building code issues, and a reconfiguration of  the district’s facilities to reduce the number of buildings from five to three…The Richland Center Performing Arts Council and the Auditorium Renovation Project are grateful to the classes from Richland Center High School and the many generous donors who are helping to add an elevator to the Richland Center Auditorium.