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December 3: 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 –The Viroqua City Council unanimously passed a resolution on Tuesday, November 24, in support of local and state-wide efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and protect the lives of community members… The Bethel Butikk Mission Committee will distribute toys through Operation Christmas. Operation Christmas, which is based out of Bethel Butikk in Westby. Operation Christmas helps families in need who live in Vernon, southern Monroe and northern Crawford County. Distribution runs Dec. 1-18 and will be available for eligible families Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Individuals who are at the state established poverty level for Vernon County are eligible for Operation Christmas. The distribution schedule is dictated by the first letter of one’s last name. The 2020 schedule is as follows: Dec. 1 O-P-Q; Dec. 2 R-S-T; Dec. 4 U-V-W-X-Y-Z; Dec. 8 A-B; Dec. 9 C-D; Dec. 11 E-F-G; Dec. 15 H-I; Dec. 16 J-L-K; and Dec. 18 M-N… A groundbreaking ceremony was held Friday, Nov. 20 to mark the creation of two full-size high school soccer fields in Viroqua. Dr. Mark Andrew’s home at 575 PrairieWind Way and 40 acres was sold to PrairieWind in July. Developer Sonya Newenhouse, with the help of 17 Vernon County families, secured the parcel to create rental units and a park that will be anchored by soccer fields. Cecil Wright, who is on the board of Drifltess United, the local soccer club, spotted the land for sale and inspired Driftless United to invest. The organization has been searching for land for a few years to build more fields as the soccer program is growing rapidly, especially after they launched a girls program… Westby Utilities, the community’s locally owned, not-for-profit electric utility, is celebrating 105 years. Westby Utilities is a member-owner of WPPI Energy, a not-for-profit wholesale energy provider and joint action agency. The utility’s milestone anniversary received recognition at an awards ceremony during the WPPI Energy Annual Meeting on Sept. 17. The utility was founded by the citizens of Westby. It has remained a public power utility since that time and utility employees continue to be guided by the principles of local ownership and control, keeping revenue in the community, providing first-rate customer service, and making a positive impact in the community through volunteer and outreach efforts.

LA FARGE – Beginning January 1, 2021, if a citizen plans to build, remodel, or alter buildings in the Vernon County Town of Webster, they will need to obtain a site permit. In the ordinance it says, “The purpose of this ordinance is for the town to have information regarding the type, size, and location of all buildings and structures constructed or remodeled after the effective date of this ordinance.” A permit will cost $50, and failure to obtain a permit will result in a $500 penalty which, if unpaid, can be added to the citizen’s property tax bill… LaFarge Lions Club will sell holiday treat baskets and Christmas cactuses to raise funds for the charitable causes the club supports. The fundraiser replaces other events cancelled due to COVID-19. The holiday baskets will include apples, oranges, grapefruit, nuts, candy, honey and a festive ornament. The cactuses will cost $20. Delivery within the Village of LaFarge is free… LaFarge Area Parners Association will hold a ‘Lights of Love’ ceremony on December 5, at 5 p.m., near the tree on the United Methodist Church lot. The ceremony is to honor and remember the loss of a loved one… Stories are floating around that Kraemer’s have sold all of their rock quarries ‘lock, stock and barrel’ to Mathy Construction. A LaFarge area resident who has worked at a Kraemer quarry for 10 years was told their job was “done” at the end of 2020. Kraemer’s and Gerke Construction of Tomah have basically been the two bidders for the past several years for area towns purchasing road gravel.

ONTARIO – Praise for Mark Gruen, who was recently named the Wisconsin Association of School Administrators’ ‘Superintendent of the Year,’ made up a segment of the most recent Royall School District board meeting… A ‘Letter to Santa Drive Through’ will take the place of the Wilton Public Library’s annual open house this holiday season. On Saturday, Dec. 12, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., families can drive to the Wilton Community Center for kids to drop a letter to Santa in the North Pole Mailbox. Santa’s helpers will be on hand to pass out holiday treat bags… The Wilton Area/Brookwood FFA will hold a blood drive at the Wilton Community Center on December 5. All blood donations are now tested for COVID-19 antibodies, and donations support an ARC Scholarship Program for graduating seniors.

PRAIRIE DU CHIEN – Jenny Pritchett, chief clinical officer at Crossing Rivers Health, stated, “The surge in COVID patients is affecting our health system locally, right here in Prairie du Chien. We understand that the holidays are about spending time with family, but it is up to each and every one of us to protect our families and residents of our communities. “We urge residents to show your concern for your family, friends, health care workers, and your community by not gathering with others outside of your household and finding alternative ways to celebrate the holidays this year…”“Across the country, so many small businesses are not surviving,” said Monica Tiffany, who owns McGregor Mercantile with husband Paul. While it’s always been important to shop local, its especially important now, during the pandemic and during the holiday season, she stressed.“Now, it will help all of us survive this year and thrive into the coming years.” According to the research firm Civic Economics, an estimated 68 cents of every dollar spent in a local business stays in the community, supporting business owners and employees who are friends and neighbors. They’re often the first to donate to benefits or sponsor little league teams. That’s something Katie Ruff, the owner of By the Spoonful in McGregor, said you likely won’t see from big box stores or online retailers. “Is Jeff Bezos going to donate?” she asked, mentioning the founder and CEO of Amazon.

RICHLAND CENTER – Richland County Emergency Management Director Darin Gudgeon reported that two of three free testing events held in the county week before last ran out of test kits. “It is likely that this trend will continue and we will not be able to test everyone who needs a test over the next few weeks,” Gudgeon said. “Due to the delay in test results for people tested on November 16, our department is once again emphasizing that individuals waiting for a test result should quarantine at home, and individuals who get a negative result but had close contact with someone who tested positive should complete a full 14-day quarantine at home…” The Rotary Club of Richland Center recently presented a $500 check to the Richland County United Givers in support of their 2020 campaign. Their goal is to raise $23,000 in support of 21 nonprofit community organizations… A drive through Christmas event is planned for Friday, Dec. 4, 6-8 p.m., and Saturday, Dec. 5, 2-4 p.m., in the Richland Center Community Center parking lot. ‘A Tailgate Christmas’ will feature pre-packaged popcorn from River Creek Popcorn of Rock Springs, a reading of Luke 2, a live nativity scene with Christmas carols, and a take-home craft kit for children… At their November meeting, the Richland County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution requesting that the State Senate convene in extraordinary session to address 13 water bills passed by the Assembly. The supervisors maintained that a clean, plentiful supply of rural drinking water, free of pollutants, is not only essential for the health and well-being of people, but also benefits Wisconsin’s tourism industry and enhances rural economic development.