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January 21: 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 Vernon County Health Department offered its first COVID-19 mass vaccination clinic last week for front line health care workers. They were able to administer the first dose of the vaccine to 150 people. More information about upcoming clinics and vaccine eligibility will be released in coming weeks… The Friends of Vernon County Parks and Forests hosts ‘Snowcially distanced’ guided winter walks exploring various Vernon County parks! The next walk will take place at the Upper Duck Egg Park starting at 3 p.m., on Saturday, Feb. 6. The winter walks and bonfire series are for family and friends of all ages. Walkers are to meet in the parks’ 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… McIntosh Memorial Library in Viroqua plans opportunities for patrons to celebrate Scandinavian heritage through classes and programs in winter 2021. Beginning Monday, Jan. 18, weekly language classes will be offered; Fika Fridays, an informal conversational group will meet online to chat about all things Scandinavian and wintry, will meet on the second and fourth Friday of each month; and Hygge Klub will be offered on the second and fourth Monday of each month at 5 p.m. – another informal chat club. For more information, visit the library’s page on Facebook… The Viroqua VFW delivered Christmas gifts to 39 veterans in nursing homes. Gifts were dropped off at Sannes Skogdalen, Maplewood Terrace Assisted Living, Vernon Manor, Bethel Home, Fairhaven, Creamery Creek Assisted Living, and Norseland Nursing Home on January 5… Viroqua Community Theater is offering auditions for the virtual play it will produce on the Zoom platform. ‘The Edge of Noir’ is set in the 40s, and cast members include classic roles such as the reporter, the detective, the songbird, and the bad guy. Those interested in auditioning should e-mail, or visit the group’s Facebook page… The Vernon County Highway Safety Committee heard that highway accidents declined dramatically in the county in 2020 at their most recent meeting.

LA FARGE – Friends of the Kickapoo Valley Reserve have raised $400,000 of their $600,000 goal for the upgrade of exhibits at the Reserve since January of 2020. KVR Director Marcy West says that the new exhibits planned will dive deeper into specific topics such as the history of Indigenous People and the Reserve’s history with the Ho-Chunk, previous landowners and the history of the LaFarge lake and dam project, and dark skies and astronomy… The Viroqua Food Co-op’s December 2020 ‘Give Where You Live’ Recipient was Kickapoo Valley Reserve. By means of Co-op members rounding up their purchases at the register, the Co-op collected $3,061.31 for KVR. Word was recently received word that the donation was matched by Prairie Springs: Paul Fleckenstein Trust, making the total $6,122.62 for KVR… The LaFarge School Board will have no contested races in the spring election. Board member Dr. Shawn Sedgwick will not seek another term, incumbent Curt Parr will seek another term, and Ashley Schlicht will run for the vacant seat… 

ONTARIO – An Ontario man who was screaming profanities while his pants were down around his ankles was arrested by Vernon County Sherriff’s Deputies Monday before last. Zachary Jensen, 36, was arrested for indecent exposure, criminal damage to property (a squad car was damaged in the incident), resisting arrest, and disorderly conduct. Police apprehended Jensen on Main Street of Ontario, near the Bank of Ontario. The Norwalk and Cashton police departments assisted at the scene, and the Ontario Ambulance Service transported him for medical treatment… To mitigate COVID-19 risks, new ionization filtration systems have been installed in Norwalk-Ontario-Wilton School District buildings. The filtration system cost the district $71,618, and can be paid for with GEERS funds (Governors Emergency Education Relief) which is part of the CARES Act funds allocated to the district. The bipolar ionization system will filter air throughout a building to kill bacteria, viruses, mold and other airborne pathogens… It appears the Norwalk Creamery was spared from extinction after its owners Scott Rogers and Christina Dodge mounted a spirited defense of the building at the most recent meeting of the village board. During their defense, the couple reviewed a number of improvements they had made to the building, including new roofing, replacing broken windows, repairing sofit, etc… The Ontario Village Board moved another step closer to razing the Ontario Community Hall at their most recent meeting. Clerk Terri Taylor told the board that the village had received $37,000 from FEMA to tear down the structure, and once the project in completed, the state will offer an additional $6,200 toward the cost. Bids secured for the project in 2020 ranged from $16,000 to $88,000.

PRAIRIE DU CHIEN – The City of Prairie du Chien Parks and Recreation Department is pursuing the goal of installing a dog park along the Highway 18 Bypass in 2021. Fundraising has been ongoing since the spring of 2020, and currently donations are up to $12,125 due in part to recent contributions from area businesses. The fundraising goal is $30,000, and the timeline is to complete the dog park in the spring/summer of 2021… Personally building something to guarantee quality is a strategy exemplified in the new goal posts that stand out on the Wauzeka-Steuben Schools’ football field. As their community’s cohesive reputation has come to be known, Wauzeka area residents once again spawned a collaborative effort to envision, collect materials, construct and erect the latest posts installed on the 50-year-old field. During the summer of 2019, all the material was delivered to the school, where a group of students finished welding in the shop. In addition to Hooker, these students were Wyatt Boudreau, Vern Atkinson, Ryan Fralick and Joe Mezera. Since it was just before fall football, there was no window of time to install the goal posts before the season got underway. As a result, the plan was to place them prior to the 2020-2021 football season. Though the season was postponed until spring of 2021 due to COVID-19, the posts were erected on October 14… The Crawford County Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC) has done quite well in the face of the COVID pandemic regarding its nutrition program. In fact, a whopping 59 percent more meals were delivered from October of 2019 through September of 2020, than from October of 2018 through September of 2019. According to statistics provided by Crawford County ADRC Director Roby Fuller, there were 15,743 home delivered meals from October of 2018 to September of 2019 and 25,088 for the same span in 2019-2020. Fuller said there was an increase in funding in 2020 for the nutrition program due to federal COVID relief money. In addition, more county residents were eligible for home-delivered meals because the rules were changed to allow anyone 60 and over to qualify. Previously, only homebound people over 60 qualified. In addition, carry-outs were allowed.

RICHLAND CENTER – Richland Center Police Chief Billy Jones reports that two female parties were arrested on related drug charges on January 7. Katherine J. Franks, Madison, was arrested and tentatively charged with possession of methamphetamine, possession of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia, retail theft, and felony bail jumping. Tami J. Juisto, McFarland, is tentatively charged with possession of methamphetamine, possession of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia, resisting or obstructing, retail theft, and felony bail jumping… Units and firefighters from several neighboring communities joined friends and family recently to honor the late Dan Wilson, former chief of the Lone Rock Fire Department… The Dayton  Ridge Runners recently held a ‘Run Over COVID’ ride, with all proceeds to be donated to the Richland Center Fire Department. As a result of the event, $2,012 was donated.