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January 16: 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 –The 97th annual Snowflake Ski Jump Tournament is set for Jan. 31 and Feb. 1, and organizers have distributed the general admittance buttons to outlets throughout the Coulee Region. The general admittance button is available for $15 in advance of the event or for $20 at the gate. The general admission buttons are also being sold online. The 2020 Veterans Button provides free admittance to all active duty and guard/reserve members and their families. It also provides free admittance to retired military members and those who have served at any time in the military. It is issued at the gate only at no charge. Details about what documents must be shown to get the free button are forthcoming… Genoa National Fish Hatchery and the Coulee Region Audubon Society are hosting a bird count at the hatchery. We will meet at 9:00 AM at the Great River Road Interpretive Center and will talk briefly about the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) and other bird-related citizen science opportunities before we take a hike around the hatchery grounds to count the birds at that location. During the winter, the hatchery often hosts a few hardy over-wintering shorebirds including Killdeer and Wilson's Snipe. There are often Bald Eagles, Belted Kingfishers, and other species of birds there as well. This is intended to be a family event for bird enthusiasts of all ages and it is free and open to the public. We expect the event to last up to an hour including the brief introduction, hike, and the recording of our results… Viroqua Food Co-op’s December 2019 Give Where You Live Recipient was the Kickapoo Valley Reserve! They collected $2,545.55 for KVR with their patron’s help, rounding up purchases throughout the month and donating change at the checkouts! This is the largest donation check they have ever collected for a local area nonprofit. The Kickapoo Valley Reserve is an 8,600-acre tract of public land located between the villages of La Farge and Ontario in southwestern Wisconsin. Its history, resources, administration, and recreational diversity make it unique – a place like no other… The Fortney Hotel, which was built on Viroqua’s Main Street in 1889, has new owners. Ridgeland Restorations LLC acquired the building Jan. 2. Ridgeland Restorations LLC is a partnership made up of Larry, Sue, Brian and Amy Wrobel, all of Stoddard. Brian Wrobel said he and his wife, Amy, and his parents, Larry and Sue, toured the Queen Anne-style building more than two years ago and began brainstorming future possibilities for the building. He said they are still working on the plans, which could include commercial space and possibly some offices. Wrobel said they also are looking into the possibility of hotel space. Wrobel said residents currently living in the building were notified on Jan. 2 that they will have to vacate the building by April 1.

LA FARGE –Construction work has started on a Bug Tussel cell tower in the Town of Webster, near the top of a hill on Avalanche Road. The work includes tree clearing, site preparation and electrical installation… Vernon County food pantries in Cashton, Hillsboro, Viroqua, Westby and the LaFarge Medical Clinic recently benefitted from the generosity of the Vernon County area. The Vernon County Agricultural Society/Vernon County Fair, along with donated milk from the dairy cow exhibitors at the Vernon County Fair and the Wisconsin Jersey Association State Show, both held in Viroqua at the Vernon County Fairgrounds. K&K Cheese and Pasture Pride Cheese of Cashton joined together to produce, manufacture and donate 420 pounds of aged cheddar cheese. The cheese was donated to the food pantries, and to the Amish Produce Auction. Cheese was sold at the auction and the proceeds donated to the Center for Special Children – a program provided by Vernon Memorial Healthcare at the LaFarge Medical Clinic… 

ONTARIO – The departure of Steve Peterson as Monroe County Economic Coordinator evidently will not affect his work in attracting an industrial hemp processing facility to Kendall. After leaving his position, Peterson will continue to work with the Village of Kendall on attracting a hemp processing plant, a multi-million-dollar product that could provide several hundred jobs. Peterson said he sees opportunities in hemp to supplement farm income, as tobacco did years ago. Although area farmers are working with the crop, the development cycle lacks any central buying and processing. The Kendall project could supply that missing link in the production chain… The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin awarded the Scenic Bluffs Community Health Centers more than $18,000 to expand community access to telecommunications equipment. The award provided funding toward the purchase of two Microsoft Surface Hubs for community use in Scenic Bluff’s conference rooms. The addition of the Surface Hubs improves community access to online educational programs, services and group communications with partner organizations or public resources.

PRAIRIE DU CHIEN –Over 30 citizens, business owners and city administration gathered for a presentation by Vandewalle & Associates regarding the nine-acre Blackhawk Junction property that Crawford County took title of due to tax delinquency, and the Prairie du Chien Redevelopment Authority then purchased on December 31. Those attending spent time in small groups considering and debating specific business, residential and public possibilities… The ADRC of Eagle County-Prairie du Chien office is looking for someone interested in being a member of its Nutrition Advisory Council. To express interest in becoming an advisory council member, call ADRC at 608-326-0235… As the Prairie du Chien Historical Society begins the new year, it does so with great sadness. John Mundt, who was active in the Society for about 15 years, died unexpectedly on Dec. 11. To honor John and his contributions to the community, the board of the Prairie du Chien Historical Society has established the John Mundt Memorial Fund. Donations can be made to the society in John’s name. The fund will be used to acquire valuable items for the museum collection that John would have liked. Anything acquired will become part of the exhibits, and will be seen by all in the Fort Crawford Museum.

RICHLAND CENTER –There are 21 seats on the Richland County Board of Supervisors up for election. Eight incumbents are not seeking re-election, including County Board chair Jeanetta Kirkpatrick. In four districts no one has filed to fill the vacancy. Only one race is being contested. In District 5, Richard D. McKee is facing a challenge from Jim Wenzler… The Weston Silver Eagle Fisheree will be held on Saturday, Jan. 25, at White Mound County Park. Registration starts at 8 a.m., with fishing until 3 p.m. There is no entry fee. Prizes will be awarded by category, including special kid categories. The biggest fish will win the fisher a $100 prize. There will be hourly door prizes with a 50/50 raffle and other raffle tickets available on the grounds. The drawing will be held at the boat landing at 3 p.m. The event is co-sponsored with the Weston Classes of 2020 and 2022… 

BOSCOBEL – Members of the Boscobel Fire Department were called to the old Mt. Zion school building at the intersection of Highway 61 and County S on New Year’s Eve at 11:20 p.m. “We ended up spending six hours on the scene,” Fire Chief Todd Fischer said. “The main issue was that years of remodeling and repair made the roof system almost impossible to breach with hand tools. We had it extinguished and what appeared to be steam venting in a couple of places.” However, at about 7:20 a.m. on New Year’s Day, owners Robert and Carol Silvers called 911 to report that the fire had rekindled, and firefighters spend four more hours stripping off the metal roof panels and extinguishing hot spots. The cause has been identified as electrical, with an extension cord that was energizing a heat tape at the well pump house overheating, melting, and burning through, starting the fire in the southwest corner of the building.