‘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 City of Viroqua has approved work to begin on the Viroqua Bath House. In October of 2019, an inspection report identified that the overall structural integrity of the roof system was in poor condition. Recognizing that the roof is past saving, the city has elected to remove the roof structure, the interior facades, and any remaining fixtures. As part of the adopted 2020-2024 Capital Improvement Plan, the cost of future renovation will be financed primarily through grant programs and private contributions. The cleanup portion of the project will cost approximately $18,225… Since the new county highway shop was built in Viroqua, the debate has raged about what to do with the old building. The building is currently used to store county equipment. At the Buildings and Facilities Committee meeting on March 4, the committee’s agenda included a ‘possible building property sales’ agenda item. Some felt that the building’s appraisal is too low given the quality of its construction. Others expressed that if torn down, the land would be worth more. There was discussion about other possible storage locations for Sheriff’s Department equipment. County Highway Commissioner Phil Hewitt expressed that he would like to quit “giving away free rent to other departments and paying for the utilities,” and would like other departments to help foot the bill. Committee member Shawn Redington favors demolition of the building, and moved to take bids on the building with a 10 percent down policy attached to the bid… At their March 3 meeting, the Vernon County Emergency Management Committee discussed chain of command in the event of a disaster. County Board rules state that the board chairman is tasked with making a disaster declaration, backed up by state statutes. But with the trend of counties hiring administrators, some have chosen to place that person in charge of making disaster declarations. Board chairman Justin Running expressed agreement that this would be the right direction to move in now that County Administrator Cari Redington is in place. He made the point that the administrator is a full-time employee and is always around, whereas he could potentially be out of the area in the event of a disaster. A resolution to make this change is expected to be placed on the Vernon County Board of Supervisors meeting agenda.
LA FARGE – Week before last, GoMacro in Viola announced the layoff of 27 employees in response to a downturn in demand and increase in their costs of production due to COVID-19. Impacted are primarily production jobs. The company expects sales to rebound as the grip of the pandemic weakens in coming months, and hopes to begin to rehire for some of the lost jobs in June or July if sales begin to increase… The LaFarge VFW Post 9075 decided to plan a bigger event than is usually held on Memorial Day for 2021. This is because the event was confined to a firing squad ceremony in 2020 due to the pandemic… Vernon County Sheriff John Spears reported that Raymond Miller, 37, Cashton, died in a logging accident on March 3. Miller was felling a 60-foot red oak tree when it became caught in another tree on descent. The bottom of the tree kicked out toward him and he was unable to escape. Ontario EMS and Gundersen Air Emergency personnel engaged in life saving measures, but were unsuccessful. Miller was pronounced dead at the scene by the Vernon County Coroner’s Office… South Bear Creek School District No. 1 was sometimes known as ‘The Muller School.’ Muller was the family name of many of the students for about three generations. The school mainly served students from the Richland County Town of Forest. The land was originally purchased by Adam and Sarah Barnett in 1872. The district bought more land from the Potts family in 1915. When the school closed in May of 1944, the building was purchased by Julius LaFlash. He tore it down and hauled the lumber to Weister Creek, west of LaFarge. There, he used it to build his family home. This structure is the current LaFlash residence… Ashley Schlicht was sworn in as the newest member of the LaFarge School Board on March 3, replacing Dr. Shawn Sedgwick.
ONTARIO – Ontario’s infrastructure improvement project is projected to begin moving ahead after the village board chose engineering firm Vierbicher and Associates to administer the village’s million-dollar grant. Grant funds will be used to develop the 37-acre Taylor property, which will be used as an out-of-the-floodplain site for commercial development. Utilities and roads will be developed… After a year long COVID-19 closure, the Wilton Community Center will again open to the public starting on May 1. The reopening will encompass both the community center gymnasium and the adjoining complex, which includes the village hall, library and businesses that rent space in the building… It’s likely that backyard chickens and other poultry will soon be welcome in the Village of Kendall. Would-be farmers will be required to seek permission from the village board on a case-by-case basis. As part of the proposed change to the village’s ordinance governing poultry and fowl, the board decided to add a stipulation that aspects of the property where a proposed operation would be located, such as size, would determine the number of birds a resident could keep.
PRAIRIE DU CHIEN – A 57-year-old Prairie du Chien man has been charged in Crawford County Circuit Court with one count of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence (fourth offense) and one count of operating with a prohibited alcohol concentration (fourth offense). Chris O’Connell faces up to six years in prison and a $10,000 fine for each count if convicted. According to the criminal complaint, a Prairie du Chien police officer saw a truck drive off the roadway, onto the shoulder, and then return to the proper lane on County K in the city of Prairie du Chien… Donations are being accepted to help make the Prairie du Chien Dog Park a reality between March 15 and April 15. Residents can stop at the new ‘Joe 2 Go’ coffee shop to purchase a puppy cup. Joe 2 Go will match all proceeds going toward the ‘Pawsitive Dog Park,’ which is expected to open in June… The Prairie du Chien Shamrock Shuffle 5K returned for its 8th annual appearance to celebrate St. Patrick's Day with a heart healthy activity. This year’s Shuffle proceeds supported the City's Dog Park construction funds - over 100 participated and donated. The Shuffle raised $645, which puts the Dog Park's total funds raised over $20,000. Curtis Pulda of Wauzeka finished first in the men's category. The first woman to finish was Lindsey Fisk of Monona. In the ‘Under 18’ category, Max Anthony and Charlotte Koether, of Giard, Iowa, came in first for male and female. The first dog to cross the finish line was Freckles, aka Pickles, led by Karen Brewer.RICHLAND CENTER – Richland Center's VFW Post 2267 Auxiliary President Bessie Varvitsiotes says the group has been saving funds proceeds of the sale of kitchen items to potentially start a new kitchen. However, they have come to the conclusion that they will not, and so decided to disburse $500 to each of nine area organizations… The devastating destruction from the emerald ash borer was made apparent recently when a tree cutting company started to bring down the ash trees that encircled the Richland County Courthouse… The Richland Center Fire Department was dispatched on Thursday, March 4, to a fire at a single-story light commercial building along Highway 14 East. Upon arrival, fire crews determined that the entire west side of the building was engulfed in flames. After the fire was extinguished, it was determined that the building had sustained heavy smoke, fire and water damage.