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March 4: 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 Friends of Vernon County Parks & Forests recently concluded their successful series of ‘Winter Hikes and Bonfires’ with a hike at Sidie Hollow County Park. Expect an announcement soon about a spring series of ‘Spring Ephemerals Hikes,’ to begin in April… The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development today awarded more than $2.7 billion in funding to nearly 2,900 public housing authorities (PHAs). This includes $273,937 to the Viroqua Housing Authority, and $70,170 to the Prairie du Chien Housing Authority… Students in grades 7 to 12 at Viroqua Area Schools who have been part of the hybrid learning model since the school year began will resume in-person learning five days a week, Monday, March 1. Students who are taking all-virtual classes will continue with that learning model until the end of the school year. District Administrator Tom Burkhalter said the District Leadership Team has been in constant contact with the Vernon County Health Department and the Vernon Memorial Healthcare Medical Advisory Team throughout the coronavirus pandemic. Burkhalter said both entities felt comfortable with the return date of March 1 because there haven’t been active staff/student confirmed positive COVID-19 cases for a few weeks and there have been lower case numbers in the community. Burkhalter said the hybrid model is difficult for both students and staff because they are living in both worlds. The hybrid model for grades 7-12 was an A/B cohort schedule with two days a week of in-person learning and three days virtual learning… During the month of March, VIVA Gallery will feature the paintings of Rick Ross, who lives in Mt. Horeb and creates stunning work with oil paint and cold wax. The member artists featured in March are Nicholas and Kindred WazeeGale, who work with natural materials to create home goods and wearable accessories. Nature is Rick’s subject matter, either more literally interpreted in landscapes, or more abstractly represented in the textures and depth found by combining oil and cold wax mediums. The work of Nicholas and Kindred WazeeGale is a reflection of their relationship with the natural world. Nicholas makes traditional Scandinavian birch bark boxes and axe-hewn hand-carved wooden spoons and bowls… At the Feb. 11 meeting of the Vernon County Board Legal Affairs Committee, Supervisor Garrick Olerud got some action going, stating that he was disappointed with the county board’s action on a Second Amendment resolution. The resolution, championed by Supervisor Roger Call (head of the Vernon County Republican Party), would have declared Vernon County to be a Second Amendment preservation county. Ultimately, the board approved a motion by Shawn Redington to table action on the resolution with 15 yes votes, and 11 no votes. Olerud was upset that a two-thirds majority vote had not been required, and that no discussion of the resolution was allowed. Despite having been placed on the board’s agenda by the Law Enforcement Committee, it came out that the committee had approved it without taking a vote. County Board chairman Justin Running said that a resolution does not require approval by a committee to be placed on the county board’s agenda, and that just because a resolution is submitted does not mean that the county board is required to take it up.

LA FARGE – Coming off a two-week quarantine period, the LaFarge boy’s basketball team opened play in the WIAA playoffs with an 81-65 win over Wonewoc Center. The Wildcats were led in scoring by Bryce Franks, who contributed 33 points. Next, the team travelled to Elroy to play the number one seed Royall. The Royall Panthers captured the WIAA regional semi-final with a 66-40 win. LaFarge seniors Hunter Fowell, Talen Steinmetz, Bryce Franks and Jay Miller played their last game for LaFarge, and the Wildcats finished the season with a 3-12 record… As the COVID-19 pandemic appears to be winding down, the Kickapoo Valley Reserve is making plans for opening back up. At their meeting on February 18, the KVR Board decided to reopen their Visitors Center on April 1 or 2. By that time, the building will have been shut down for a year. Staff will return to working in the building after working from home for the duration of the shut down. KVR Executive Director Marcy West told the board that pandemic guidelines such as mask-wearing and social distancing will still be required. She said that the State Department of Health Services guidelines allow for indoor gatherings of up to 10 people, and outdoor gatherings of 50 people. The KVR is seeing the statewide trend of popularity of outdoor recreation continue, having sold 556 annual passes in 2021 compared to 420 at the same time in 2020… KVR Education Director Jonel Kiesau told the KVR Board at their Feb. 18 meeting that 26 families had already signed up for the 24 spots available in the Kickapoo Valley Forest School. She said that a lottery system would be used to determine which families would be admitted in the first year as even more applications for the spots were anticipated. 

ONTARIO – At their Monday, Feb. 22 meeting, the Royall School Board discussed the topic of livestreaming board of education meetings. Although a decision about continuing to livestream the meetings was deferred to the March meeting, Superintendent Mark Gruen acknowledged that the district owns the equipment that would make livestreaming possible. He said the district had purchased the eight-channel mixer that was needed for other uses in the district. Board member Doug Waterman questioned whether interest in school board meetings was widespread enough to justify the effort of livestreaming. Parent Ryan McKittrick replied that “if you get one person, it’s worth it…” UW-Madison’s Center for East Asian Studies has awarded the Kendall Public Library a grant of $860 as part of its new ‘East Asia in Wisconsin Libraries’ program. The funding was made available through the National Resource Center for the study of East Asia to encourage Wisconsin libraries to add to their collections with East Asian related materials.

PRAIRIE DU CHIEN – After more than 25 years in the telecommunications industry, Lonnie Beisker is retiring from his position as a Broadband Specialist with Mediacom Communications. Despite his work title, the McGregor resident started his career before broadband technology was available to residential homes. Working in northeast Iowa, and more recently in Prairie du Chien, Beisker has been at the frontline as technology shifted from DVD-by-mail, to dial-up internet, to the streaming of HD video delivered over a fiber-rich broadband network. In recent years, Beisker has been connecting Gigabit speed internet service to homes and businesses in communities in Clayton and Allamakee Counties in Iowa, and across the river in Crawford County in Wisconsin… The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development today awarded more than $2.7 billion in funding to nearly 2,900 public housing authorities (PHAs). This includes $70,170 to the Prairie du Chien Housing Authority.

RICHLAND CENTER – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development today awarded more than $2.7 billion in funding to nearly 2,900 public housing authorities (PHAs). This includes $104,828 to the Richland Center Housing Authority…Those who witness snowmobiles in action, but don’t take part in the activity, might think that only fun is involved. Members of snowmobile clubs perform a large amount of voluntary community service and no taxpayer funds are used for the sport. The Richland County Snowmobile Alliance formed during the 1970s, and is comprised of five separate snowmobile clubs within the county. The club raises funds through $30 snowmobile registration fees, which are required by law since 2016. Additional funds are raised through raffles and cookouts. The club currently maintains 141 miles of trails in the county, and recreational snowmobiling contributes to the county’s economy significantly.