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February 18: News from around the Driftless Area
News from Around the Area_Winter

‘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 NRCS and engineering teams working on the Watershed Study of Coon Creek and West Fork Kickapoo watersheds to help LaCrosse, Monroe and Vernon counties determine what to do with the five flood control dams that breached in the 2018 flood event are continuing to move forward.  At this time, the engineering team is refining the very complicated water modeling for both watersheds. The engineering team presented preliminary alternatives to representatives from the three counties on January 19. With feedback from that discussion, the team has gone back and is further developing alternatives emphasizing upland treatments. The project has taken extra time to ensure that the alternative development is done well and a very comprehensive analysis is done. At this time, dates for scoping meetings have not been set. The next steps are for the county representatives to review further developed alternatives with input from the economist to give the county representatives context around the economic benefits as well as the capital costs of the dams… The Friends of Vernon County Parks and Forests hosts “Snowcially distanced” guided winter walks exploring various Vernon County parks! The winter walks and bonfire series are for family and friends of all ages. Walkers are to meet in the park parking lots. All walks will have a volunteer guide and will be approximately 45 minutes to one hour long, with a bonfire to immediately follow. This weeks walk will take place on Saturday, Feb. 20, at Sidie Hollow (meet at Main Shelter), at 3 p.m… The Vernon County Board of Supervisors tabled indefinitely a Second Amendment Preservation resolution regarding guns at their February meeting. This item was the ‘hot button’ issue on the board’s agenda, and mirrored other such resolutions that had made their way onto the agendas of many other local county boards in the last year as well. Monroe County approved such a resolution, while Crawford County turned it down. Vernon County constituents were divided on the issue, and both sides contacted their elected representatives on the county board to share their views. When the resolution came up for action, supervisor Shawn Redington made a motion to ‘table it indefinitely,’ meaning it would not go any further, and the board approved the motion 16-11 on a roll call vote.

LA FARGE – It has  been over 60 years since most of the small, country schools in the area began to disband and send their students to the larger town education centers, like LaFarge. One of the last hold outs was the Rockton School. The one-thriving hamlet overlooking the Kickapoo River had its very own schoolhouse, built in 1869. In 1961, the small district became attached to the LaFarge Area Schools, and closed its doors for good in 1964. The first schoolhouse was built in Rockton by Van S. Bennett, and replaced the original area school built at Weister. Apparently, the first teacher at the Weister location was a young lady who taught for one day, and then ran away, never to be seen again. The structure built in Rockton was a one-room frame building, with the land leased to the district by Fred Selbach for 99 years or as long as the property was used for educational purposes. The structure was replaced by a larger schoolhouse in 1884, built by Salma Rogers, George Heisel and Matt Chase. The building was built with two stories, and separate boys and girls stairways… The offices of the Episcope newspaper in LaFarge recently experienced some noisy and busy times. Work on the newspaper’s building included a new concrete wall and floor in the basement, and  new restroom facilities which eliminated a water leakage problem… The Kickapoo Area Food Pantry will continue to offer curbside food pick up at their distribution planned in Viola on Saturday, Feb. 20, from 9-11 a.m., and Monday, Feb. 22, from 4-6 p.m.

ONTARIO – A proposed Dollar General in Wilton came closer to reality recently when Jim Lundberg of Point of Beginning, Stevens Point engineering firm, showed design plans to the village board. Lundberg’s presentation showed a certified survey map, along with plans for demolition of the former Schwarz home on Highway 131. The plans call for a 130-by-70 foot building along the west side of Water Street, with 30 parking stalls. If all is approved, construction will begin in the spring… Kendall’s police marshal, Brandon Arenz, resigned effective January 31 after six years in the village’s part-time position. The village is currently interviewing candidates for his replacement… The Ontario Village Board considered six bids to raze the building at their most recent meeting. The structure, one of the last remaining in the state with a lamella roof, was heavily damaged in the 2018 flood. Minocqua Grading, with a bid at $19,000, was awarded the contract… It appears Norwalk area residents living in the shadow of the dam at Norwalk Lake will soon feel somewhat safer in the event of a flood. At the most recent meeting of the village board, Bob Micheel of the Monroe County Climate Change Task Force reviewed plans to upgrade the warning system that is currently in place. The system is now 29-years-old, and newer technology will supply emergency management with more data about the condition of the dam under adverse weather conditions. The current system monitors water levels in the lake, and should an emergency occur, that information is relayed to Sparta. The proposed system will include a pressure gauge in the creek, three weather stations, a retention gauge at the dam itself, and the ability to send out a nearly real-time alert. Micheel estimated for the board that such a system would cost $17,000, with the hope being that a grant would pay part of the cost. After a short debate, the village board agreed unanimously to contribute $2,000 to help pay for the system.

PRAIRIE DU CHIEN – Many hearty, hard water anglers braved the frigid temperatures on Saturday, with quite a bit fewer on Sunday, to partake in the 71st Annual Prairie du Chien Ice Fisheree. Fishing registrations for the fisheree were held on Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 6 and 7. Headquarters was at the Crooked Oar Bar and Marina north of Prairie du Chien. Those attending had a good time and several prizes were awarded… The PDC Blackhawk wrestling team is advancing seven individuals to the state tournament. Richland Center was the host of a WIAA Division 2 Sectional on Saturday, Feb. 6. This sectional was represented by wrestlers from 25 teams from four regionals. The quest this year was two fold. One, for an individual, finish as the champion or runner up at your weight class and you qualify for the state tournament this weekend. Two, as a team, score more points than 24 other teams and you qualify for team state the following weekend. PDC was represented by 10 individuals, all of whom advanced from last Saturday’s regional tournament.

RICHLAND CENTER – Bethlehem Lutheran Church has purchased the former Rockbridge Elementary School to serve as their first full-time facility and ministry center. The Richland School District placed the property up for bid at the end of 2020, and the church’s bid was accepted recently by the school board… Richland Center has just added another person who lived to be 100 years old to their list. Gladys Hendricks was the eldest of seven children, and graduated from Richland Center High School in 1938… When area residents watched the Super Bowl recently, they may have been unaware of a local connection to Richland County. During the singing of the national anthem by Jazmine Sullivan, accompanying her on guitar was country music singer-songwriter Eric Church. During his performance, Church wore a custom-made pendant created by Jayme Walsh of J. Jay Walsh Jewelers, located in downtown Richland Center.