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February 6: 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 –McIntosh Memorial Library in Viroqua will be hosting a two-part beginning beekeeping class. The classes will be held on Saturday, Feb. 29 and Saturday, March 7 from 9:15 a.m. to noon. Jim Krause will be teaching the classes using materials from the University of Minnesota short course, ‘Raising Bees in Northern Climates.’ To register for the class, stop by or contact the library at 637-7151… Three years after major flooding impacted western Wisconsin, life at DeSoto Middle and High School has returned to normal. School officials on received a check for $125,000 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency last week — the final reimbursement for nearly $600,000 in reconstruction and flood mitigation projects at the school… Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn will perform at the Historic Temple Theatre on Februarry 9 at 7 p.m. Fleck is a 15-time Grammy Award winner who has taken the instrument across multiple genres, and Washburn a singer-songwriter and clawhammer banjo player who re-radicalized it by combining it with Far East culture and sounds… Driftless United is forming its first ever high school girls soccer team. Come and join the committed female athletes for a new opportunity for girls of all playing abilities in the Driftless region. This is a safe space to learn, grow and develop together. Driftless United is open to all players from the surrounding area high schools, private schools, and home-schoolers. Practices will be held Monday-Friday after school at the Vernon County Fairgrounds. The team will play a schedule of home and away games with other area high schools. Plan to attend an informational meeting on February 5 at 7:30 p.m. at Viroqua High School. Meet the coaches, players and ask questions. You can register now at; scholarships and payment plans are available.

LA FARGE –HSR Architects recently presented a plan for renovation of the LaFarge High School with estimated costs of between $14-16 million. The Base Plan came in at a cost of $5-6 million, and includes conversion of the entire building complex to one heating system, suggesting hot water heat instead of steam. It also includes electrical and plumbing updates, an update of all building systems, and energy efficiency improvements. The second plan, called the ‘Educational Programmatic Improvements Options,’ would cost $4 million. The options include addition of 8,000 square feet, relocation of the music and tech ed rooms, relocating the kitchen and lunch serving areas, and relocation of the locker rooms. The third plan was the ‘Middle School Relocation Plan.’ This plan calls for turning the current Middle School building into things such as a daycare center, charter school, media hub, community space or storage… No doubt an area bank was happy recently due to the Town of Webster. The town made a loan payment of $100,000 as partial payment on money borrowed to pay for flood damaged road repairs. The town had originally required the loan for road repairs, expecting FEMA to make reimbursements in a short period of time. Four years later, the town still awaits most of the FEMA payments, and interest costs were rising… As snow and ice have taken over the LaFarge area, so has the collection of wrecked vehicles increased at Ron Driscoll’s Towing Service’s temporary vehicle storage location. Ron said some he towed recently have made a complete somersault in their attempts to enjoy the beautiful Kickapoo Valley roadscapes.

PRAIRIE DU CHIEN –With this year’s amount of $52,591, the Eagles Aerie 1502 and the community of Prairie du Chien surpassed $1 million in fundraising from 45 years of Eagles Heart Cancer Telethons. The funds have made an enormous impact over the years on heart disease and cancer research across the region… The average person living in the Driftless Area is disconnected with the kind of landscape gem in which they reside.  The film, directed by Jonas Stenstrom of Sweden, and produced by Rob Nelson. George Howe, and Tim Jacobson, was presented to a captivated audience of about 40 adults at the Prairie du Chien Memorial Library on January 24. Howe said the creators and the non-profit Sustainable Driftless are developing packets for schools that include the film, discussion points, exercises, field trip suggestions, etc… He says they’re also in the process of creating a short video about the places in ‘Decoding the Driftless’ for viewers who wish to experience the film’s destinations first-hand… During its Wednesday, Jan. 22 meeting, the Crawford County Finance Committee approved $8,000 for the Land Conservation Department to conduct well testing in the county this spring and fall. County Conservationist Dave Troester said the $8,000 will be paired with some other funds the department has that should cover the costs of the testing.

RICHLAND CENTER – Cazenovia Area Fire Department Chief Darrell Slama reports that, on Jan. 22, at approximately 3:18 a.m., the Cazenovia Fire Department was dispatched to a probable structure fire in the area of Highway 80 and County I. Slama states that, at first, the exact location was not reported, however the entire sky appeared to be lit up. En route, the location was determined to be a house fire at 26402 Ravine Lane in the Town of Henrietta. The Yuba Fire Department was also dispatched. On arrival, what was left of the structure was fully engulfed in flames. The roof and walls had already collapsed. Firefighters were on the scene for four hours, and it was discovered that the male resident died in the fire… In the newspaper business, when pages are being laid out and a space remains to be filled, it is referred to as a hole. Readers of the Richland Observer’s Jan. 30 issue will notice that all spaces in the issue were filled, but absent is the popular ‘Looking Back’ column that has been compiled by longtime employee Lon Arbegust. Editor Dawn Kiefer writes, “We are devastated to report that Lon passed away last Saturday after having suffered a heart attack the week before. He’d been sent home after having been at UW Hospital with a good prognosis. I had spoken with him by telephone the prior Friday, and he sounded optimistic about returning to work in early February. He even managed to make a joke about doing anything to get out of work. But the idea of him shirking work was no joke. Lon was involved in so many projects, both with his paying jobs and in volunteer roles, that it defied belief. His absence will leave an enormous hole, not only with regards to empty spaces to fill in the Observer pages or with the many groups he worked with, but also in the collective hearts of the community…” 

MUSCODA – Thirty years ago, the lead front page story in the Jan. 25, 1990 issue of ‘The Muscoda Progressive’ started: ‘Vince Limmex, Chairman of the Lower Wisconsin State Riverway Board, has announced that Mark Cupp of Fitchburg, formerly of Richland Center, has been hired as Executive Director.’ In 1990, Cupp was chosen from a field of 43 applicants for the newly-created position. According to Limmex, the field was narrowed to “four highly qualified candidates.” When Governor Tommy Thompson appointed Cupp to the position, he told the 29-year-old the position was not to be viewed as a short-term adventure, and he expected the applicant to stay at the task for at least three years. Now, Cupp and the former Governor both think forming the Riverway was a ‘moment in time’ accomplishment that could not have been done earlier or now, considering the current political divides. At this point, Cupp continues to be the first and only holder of the Executive Director position. Now, after three decades, perhaps many people do not realize the Riverway has “not always been here.” However, in the beginning there were strong opinions by people favoring protecting and preserving the river and adjoining lands. Other folks were strongly against the law, fearing that increased regulations would decrease the value of their property and result in over regulation by the state.