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December 17: News from around the Driftless Area
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‘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 –McIntosh Memorial Library of Viroqua will be hosting the third annual adult winter reading program in 2021. Adults are encouraged to stop by the library lobby beginning Monday, Jan. 4 to pick up a participation bookmark. Through Friday, Feb. 26 participants are asked to read or listen to three books and to record that information onto the bookmark. The completed bookmark should be returned to the library in exchange for a winter related prize. Everyone returning a completed bookmark will be eligible to win the grand prize. The grand prize drawing will be held Monday, March 1. The program is supported by the Friends of the McIntosh Memorial Library. For more information about this program, contact the library at 608-637-7151, like the ‘Viroqua library’ Facebook page or visit…  Santa will visit the children in Coon Valley on Saturday, Dec. 19 at 10 a.m. Due to the coronavirus and the need for social distancing, Santa will have a drive-thru visit with the children at the Coon Valley Legion Hall, 105 Park Street. The youngsters will receive a treat bag sponsored by the Coon Valley American Legion, the Coon Valley Lions Club, and the Coon Valley Conservation Club…At their December meeting, the Vernon County Buildings and Facilities Committee discussed furnishings for the office of the new county administrator, when hired. Building supervisor Phil Hewitt announced at the beginning of the discussion that he had found everything that was needed in going through surplus equipment except a desk chair. The committee approved purchase of a chair… Vernon County was chosen to receive $9,893 to supplement Emergency Food and Shelter programs in the area. The award was granted by the FEMA Wisconsin State Set Aside Committee. The board was charged to distribute funds appropriated by Congress to help expand the capacity of food and shelter programs in high-need areas around the country.

LA FARGE – The LaFarge Flood Recovery Committee met on November 30. Also attending the meeting were representatives from Vierbicher planners and one person from the Mississippi River Regional Planning Commission.  At their last meeting, the group had compiled a list of possible flood mitigation infrastructure options. The main flood protection plan being seriously considered is a system of levees and road elevations that could withstand a 100- or 500-year flood. The vision is for the levee to be on the west side of the village, starting from the north, and basically following the old railroad right-of-way for part of it, crossing Highway 82, go west on S. Mill Street, swing east south of the village shop, and then continue to Highway 131. The plans also include measures to prevent Bear Creek from flooding. Committee members are leaning toward the 500-year levee, which would raise Highway 82 from the Kickapoo River east to Mills Street. The bridge would also be expanded to increase water capacity. This would protect businesses on the west side of the village, and also allow Highway 82 to be open from Hillsboro to Viroqua. This would constitute the only crossing of the Kickapoo River for east and west bound traffic staying on a state or federal highway during a large flooding event. The 500-year levee has a probable cost of $2,900,000, and appears to be the preferred option… The Kickapoo Area Food Pantry will continue to offer curbside pickup, in accordance with Wisconsin coronavirus recommendations. At this time, the pantry is serving anyone who has suffered hardship as a result of the pandemic. Pick up will take place at the Viola Municipal Building, 106 W. Wisconsin St. Hours are from 9 to 11 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 19 and from 4 to 6 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 21. Please remain in your vehicle and a volunteer will load for you. For more information, call 608-627-1910 or 608-629-5663. 

ONTARIO – Repairs are underway on sections of the Elroy-Sparta State Trail that were severely damaged in August 2018 flooding… A viral Facebook post alleges that the Royall School Board will not renew Superintendent Mark Gruen’s contract in January, but board president Raye Walz told ‘The County Line’ on Tuesday that the board had made no decision on the matter.

SPARTA –The man police arrested after a standoff in rural Norwalk last week is in the Monroe County Jail on a $5,000 cash bond after being charged with eight felonies in Monroe County Circuit Court Friday. Authorities arrested Kenneth M. Sizemore, 39, on domestic abuse charges in a camper inside of a shed in rural Norwalk, where he was living. According to the criminal complaint, the victim in the case, who has children with Sizemore, told investigators that at 2:30 a.m.  Wednesday she went to Sizemore's camper to drop off one of her young children so she could take the other to the hospital to be seen for an ear infection. She told police Sizemore seemed coherent and sober when she talked to him on the phone but when she arrived at the camper he appeared to be under the influence of illegal drugs. She said Sizemore’s behavior became more erratic and he became violent, hitting an strangling her and gouging her eyes. Investigators noted that the victim had visible injuries consistent with her story. She also told investigators that Sizemore repeatedly threatened to kill her and brandished a pistol, putting it to her head in plain sight of her children. After 40 minutes, Sizemore allowed the victim and the children to leave and the victim returned to her residence in Ontario and reported the incident to authorities, according to he complaint. After police took Sizemore into custody, they searched the camper and found a Rugger .22 caliber pistol and drug paraphernalia.

PRAIRIE DU CHIEN – During a special meeting Thursday night, the Prairie du Chien School Board unanimously voted to have all district schools remain 100 percent virtual learning until Christmas break, which begins Dec. 23. The board will have its regular meeting on Dec. 14, when it will decide if school will stay virtual following Christmas break and for how long. Two dates that were mentioned were having the schools remain all virtual until Jan. 4 or Jan. 11, depending on COVID conditions in the district. “We would all love to get back to face-to-face,” said District Administrator Andy Banasik, who noted that as of December 3, there were 19 staff, including 10 teachers, who were under quarantine. Banasik said some staff are uncomfortable with getting back to face-to-face at this time. Also, there is a feeling of, “Is this the tip of the iceberg?” He noted that health officials, including Crawford County Nurse Cindy Riniker, are concerned that the situation could worsen during and after Christmas break because of families getting together. Riniker is recommending that the district remain all virtual for 14 days following Christmas break… The number of COVID-19 related deaths in Clayton County more than doubled over the past week, rising from five to 11, according to data from the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH). All other area counties reported additional COVID-19 fatalities as well, including 10 in Dubuque County, two each in Allamakee and Fayette counties and one each in Delaware and Winneshiek counties… MFL MarMac’s second grade teachers have partnered with Clayton County’s ISU Extension and Outreach Office to offer hands-on, educational activities for students on the district’s Wednesday virtual learning days. “Over the summer, I was doing lesson to go bags,” said Peggy Schilling, who handles school-based and summer youth development programming for Clayton County Extension. “I was looking at MFL MarMac’s school schedule and saw they were not going on Wednesdays. I’ve worked with [teacher] Katie Kregel, who checks out our STEM Lit-Go kits every year, and asked if there were some little activities they wanted to try…” The Allamakee County Conservation Board would like to thank Mark Peterson and River N Ridge Outdoors in Lansing for providing minnows to care for the educational animals at the Driftless Area Education and Visitors Center!  River N Ridge Outdoors is a full-service sport shop providing live bait and tackle for all your fishing needs, as well as hunting equipment to harvest your next trophy.