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June 25: 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 Legal Affairs Committee of the Vernon County Board of Supervisors heard of pending lawsuits at their June 11 meeting. Vernon County corporate counsel Nikki Swayne was at the meeting, and told of how the county had not yet received payment from the City of Viroqua for the sale of some farmland for the construction of the city’s new industrial park. The city annexed the property. Also not resolved is a damage claim by a farm renter against both the county and the city because part of his corn crop was destroyed during the installation of water and sewer lines to the industrial park… Doug Avoles from the Land Information office had sent an e-mail to the Zoning Department concerning the purchase of a LiDAR system, suggesting that all departments could share the cost. LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) is used to measure distances between objects, and can be used by drones or airplanes for 3-D mapping of the ground surface. One estimated cost is $3,000 per department. This would be another tool used for GIS (Geographical Information Systems) in Avoles department.

LA FARGE –Dale Klemme of Community Development Alternatives provided information to the LaFarge Village Board about 2018 flood buyouts at their June 8 meeting. Eight properties are in the proposal, and all are the highest priority. Klemme continues to work on the village’s behalf to obtain the needed FEMA and state funds. The village would be responsible for a 12.5 percent match… LaFarge Utility manager Wayne Haugrud reported to the village board that the Silver Street lift station pump had been repaired and placed back into service. A new pump that has been ordered, Haugrud reported, is still a month out, as are repairs on an older one that could be used in an emergency… LaFarge Schools and the Kickapoo Valley Reserve have been awarded a $700,000 Charter School Implementation Grant. The grant will allow for the planning and opening of the Kickapoo Valley Forest School in September of 2021… The Town of Clinton finally heard some good news regarding FEMA payments for flood damage. The town received a check in May for $69,581.21 for disaster aids for 2016. Clerk Sandy stated that it appears that another $120,000 check will be coming for damages that occurred in 2018.

ONTARIO – Though hundreds of tourists have swamped the boat landings in Ontario most weekends, visitors to the Elroy-Sparta State Trail will find a quieter venue. To the frustration of area businesses looking for revenue from trail users, this will be another bleak year, two years after the flood of 2018. Worse yet, it is the only trail that remains closed after that year of severe rainfall. But, there is some good news. The 400 Trail was fully opened this week, offering bikers an uninterrupted pedal between Elroy and Reedsburg… Though the Norwalk-Ontario-Wilton School District will start up its summer recreation program on July 1, the onus of transportation will fall on the parents. The NOW Board of Education agreed that due to the proximity of the children, busing could be risky amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic… The Wilton American Legion ventured out into the world on Father’s Day Sunday with the return of its annual Father’s Day Chicken-Q. Patrons were urged to take carry out even though the bar and dining room were open. The Legion’s sources of revenue had dried up due to the pandemic, with the cancellation of the group’s monthly fish fries and hall rentals.

PRAIRIE DU CHIEN –The Prairie du Chien Common Council voted 5:3 at the June 16 meeting to deny Todd Yeomans and the Prairie Dog Blues Society the chance to host the annual blues festival in the city-owned St. Feriole Island park on July 24-25.  This event is not unique to the scene of mass gatherings cancellations everywhere. It does, however, stand out as one with organizers willing to balk the trend and create difficult conversations about how small communities are weathering the COVID-19 pandemic… When the American Legion Department of Wisconsin moved May 9 to cancel its baseball programming for the 2020 season, that left a group of disheartened young men from the Prairie du Chien area with the urge to just play ball. The Grasshoppers, as they’re known, faced a quiet summer in 2020. But the coaches, players, families and fans weren’t about to give up on having some sort of season. After all, the Grasshoppers went to the state tournament last year. Coaches Nate Cejka and Bjorn Thompson decided to start up an independent team sponsored by Steve Jones and The Blackhawk… Weekly Thursday night Concerts in the Park are expected to start in Lawler Park, on St. Feriole Island, in July. Following the discussion and vote about the Prairie Dog Blues Festival, the Common Council voted unanimously to allow the free programs to continue, with some precautions. Organizers will require concert attendees to wear masks when they arrive and when they leave, use their own chairs for seating, ask children to remain with their families and not wander, and maintain six-foot social distancing guidelines between families.

RICHLAND CENTER – Fair Coordinator Carla Doudna and the Richland County Fair Committee have released the following statement. “Due to the evolving COVID-19 pandemic and the continued uncertainty for social gatherings, as well as the financial implications, all the risks were considered for all our exhibitors, their families, our volunteers and, most importantly, the public, but with great sadness the very difficult decision was made to cancel the 2020 Richland County Fair scheduled for September 9-13… Much relief and excitement followed the announcement this past weekend that the Richland Center movie theaters have been purchased. After more than half a year on the real estate market, previous owners Bill and Lisa Muth are handing over the keys to new owners Tony and Holly Johnson, and Brent Montry. Tony is a UW-Madison employee, Holly owns Dance Elite, and Brent owns Tri-State Basement Repair. A stage is being built at Starlite 14 Drive-In for the Dance Elite recitals and for other potential entertainment this summer… The Richland Center City Council enacted an ordinance to prohibit underage possession of vaping products at its recent meeting. The ordinance prohibits a person under 18 from purchasing, attempting to purchase or possessing any vapor product. A vapor product is defined as “a noncombustible product that produces vapor or aerosol for inhalation from the application of a heating element, regardless whether the liquid or other substance contains nicotine.” Violators will be subject to a forfeiture of $40 plus costs for a first violation and as much as $150 for a second or more violation… Avoca Sesquicentennial event organizers state, “It is with much regret that, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Avoca Sesquicentennial Celebration, originally scheduled for September 19-20, 2020, has been postponed for one year, until September 18-19, 2021…” While Richland Center did not host the Wisconsin State High School Finals Rodeo in 2020, Wisconsin will still

have a team competing in the National High School Finals Rodeo in Oklahoma in July. Not only was the state finals cancelled by the COVID-19 pandemic, so were the spring regional rodeos. As a result, the Wisconsin team at the nationals will be comprised of the top four contestants in each event as determined from last fall’s rodeo action.

BOSCOBEL – The Boscobel Common Council held a joint meeting with the Park Commission on June 15 at the Blaine Gym to encourage social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic. After a lengthy discussion, both bodies approved opening the city swimming pool as soon as possible. The Commission had previously canceled swim team, swim lessons and all summer rec programs for the summer, but couldn’t reach a decision on the pool until Monday night… The Hidden Valleys Amateur Radio Club (HVARC) members are FCC licensed amateur radio operators (hams) from the tri-state area. Over 35,000 U.S. hams will participate in their annual Field Day on Saturday, June 27, and Sunday, June 28. Field Day is an emergency preparedness exercise held annually. Hams assemble radio stations away from their homes using alternative power sources such as batteries, portable generators, or solar energy for 24 hours. They will be making as many contacts in the U.S. and foreign countries as possible.