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March 26: 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 –Beth Johnson, Registered Nurse and Director, Vernon County Health Department said, “This virus is something we’ve never seen before and information is continuing to develop, so what we focus on collectively as community health officials is preparation…” Out of concern for the health and safety for the community and based on the governor’s orders and the CDC guidelines, the Coon Valley Business Association is taking the following actions: The CVBA meeting on April 6; members will begin communicating as a group in an online forma; Bingo scheduled for April 9 is canceled; Troutfest will not be held on May 9. The Troutfest Committee will announce a new festival date in the coming weeks… Dennis Brault, Vernon County Board chairman, has issued an emergency declaration for the county. This has resulted in the opening of the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) located in the Erlandson Office Building. The Vernon County offices are officially closed to visitors but are being staffed. If you need specific information/services, calls that office for assistance. For additional information regarding COVID-19, the following number are available: 637-5292 Public information; 637-5293 Human Services; 637-5251 Health Department; 637-5215 Health Department; 637-5289 Health Department; 637-5217 Health Department. The Department of Health Services Division of Public Health is lead agency. Emergency Operations Center and Emergency Management are support agencies. The EOC will have minimal staff from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m… Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Mayor Karen Mischel, City of Viroqua, has declared a public health emergency. Although there are no confirmed cases in Vernon County as of March 16, this declaration will provide the Mayor and City departments the ability to use all resources and funds necessary to respond to and contain the outbreak. It will also allow emergency spending for necessary equipment, medicines, and other needed supplies. “The City has and will continue to take a serious and assertive approach to help control and mitigate the spread of this virus,” Mischel said. “In the past weeks, all City departments have reacted quickly and decisively to ensure all essential City services are safeguarded against a potential negative impact and continue to operate through the coming days, weeks and months. This declaration, based on a strong recommendation by Vernon County Emergency Management, will provide the additional capacity necessary to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic as the situation evolves.” At this time, the City urges all residents, businesses, community partners, and visitors to treat the COVID-19 outbreak as a serious matter to be met with a calm and responsible approach based on information from reliable and authoritative sources. Each member of our community should stay informed of and then implement all best practices as outlined by the CDC, Wisconsin Department of Health Services, and Vernon County. To support mitigation efforts, the City has (1) restricted public access to municipal buildings, (2) banned public gatherings of more than 10 persons, and (3) prohibited the use of all park play structures—including Eckhart Enchantment Playground. Other park spaces will remain open for public use. As the spring election approaches, the City Clerk is working steadfastly with other local municipalities and the State Board of Elections to implement the recommended changes and accommodations as they become available. More information regarding elections will be made available to the public as a solution is defined. The proclamation also suspends Common Council rules that prohibit Council members from participating in open meetings remotely via phone or internet. The City is currently working to plan and implement accommodations to allow open participation in government to take place despite the need for social distancing. For additional information, contact City Administrator Nate Torres, at 608-637-7154, ext. 18, or

LA FARGE –The LaFarge village board at their March 9 meeting approved a resident’s request to increase their egg laying flock from two up to five chickens. The request came from Robert and Kristina Ralph, who reside on North Maple Street. The two cited the fact that they consume more than two eggs per day. The village ordinance only allows two fowls per residence, but approved variances are permitted. No cocky roosters allowed, regardless of age. No neighbors were opposed… The village of LaFarge will be part of a 100-mile bicycling event on May 31. The event starts in West Salem, and works its way south, ultimately taking in part of the Kickapoo Reserve, then LaFarge, Viola, Liberty, and then back north. It advertises a large number of hill climbs and downhill speed adventures… Utility manger Haugrud reported on the wastewater phosphorous discharge penalties for the year. The LaFarge plant exceeded its allowable limit and subsequently paid a penalty of $627.66 to Monroe County and  $1,379.79 to Vernon County. That amount is to be used by the counties to help curtail phosphorous in the Kickapoo River, mainly with better watershed soil management. Eventually, the state’s wastewater facilities will need to be expensively upgraded to get below a certain DNR standard… The LaFarge village president Cheryl Purvis called a special emergency meeting of the board trustees on Saturday, Mary 14, to update the board on the latest plans for a COVID-19 response. Purvis stated that plans are in place for critical day-to-day operations such as the wastewater plant and village wells. She stated that police chief Johnathon Brown would be the main emergency director for the village, working with Vernon County Emergency Management and the sheriff’s department. 

ONTARIO – On Saturday, a milk truck similar to the one he had driven for 42 years bore the ashes of Edwin Bredlow of rural Norwalk to his final resting place in Hilltop Rest Cemetery in Ontario. With Edwin went the last of the Bredlow line, and iconic group of sturdy German farmers who roamed the countryside in the early part of the 20thcentury. They wheeled their giant steam engines from farm to farm, harvesting the crops, and in winter they moved across the area with steam engine sawmills, cutting lumber. The machinery was so heavy that at least on one occasion, it fell through a bridge on the Kickapoo…. As it continues instruction during the coronavirus pandemic and its attendant school shut down, the Norwalk-Wilton-Ontario School District will stagger its teaching staff every day starting this, week. Superintendent Kelly Burhop told the board at their meeting on Monday, March 19. In other words, each teacher will work every other day, when he or she will monitor student instruction and develop new lessons, plus spend a portion of the day on grade-level collaboration and collaborative group work… In her column, ‘Backtalk,’ in the County Line newspaper in Onrario, emeritus edior and mother of the current editor, Karen Parker wrote, “It’s hard to believe that only one week ago, I was perched on the hard metal chairs in the Ontario Village Hall, listening to the cross talk amonth those waiting for the board meeting to start. With the exception of one individual who noted that the “coronavirus was very infectious,” you might have thought you had dropped into the Ontario chapter of the Flat Earth Society. It’s little wonder, I suppose, that people are confused with the mixed messaging coming from Washington. Well, by now, we hope, you know that this is not just a new seasonal flu. Repeat NOT THE FLU! This is a viral disease in a similar category as HIV-aids and Ebola. While those tend to be transmitted by bad sanitation, dirty needles, bodily fluids, etc… COVID-19 is passed between individuals by the respiratory system. No one reading this newspaper lived through the 1918 Spanish Flu. Someone who did would tell you it was a great equalizer. It didn’t matter if you were rich or poor, if you were religious or not, conservative or liberal – it mowed down everyone efficiently and cruelly.”