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May 7: 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 Vernon County Board of Supervisors has a new chairperson. At their first meeting since the April 7 election, the board’s first order of business was the election of a county board chairperson. Dennis Brault has held the position since 2016, and was nominated this year by David Eggen. Justin Running nominated himself. The final vote was 20-9 in favor of Running. After the vote was completed, Brault left the room and returned 10 minutes later. At that time, he announced he was resigning from the county board. Running, a two-year veteran of the board, represents District 15, which is a part of the City of Viroqua. Kevin Larson was once more chosen as the vice chair of the board… The 2020 Riverfest in La Crosse has been canceled, but organizers announced Thursday they hope to work with the city of La Crosse and Skyrockers to put on its annual Fourth of July fireworks. The board held off on making a decision as long as possible, but after reviewing Gov. Tony Evers’ Badger Bounce Back Plan, it was clear that the state would not be far enough along for the event to go forward, according to the statement…

LA FARGE –  Ron Johnson, 73, the antithesis of the U.S. senator from Oshkosh with the same name, is retiring from his position as chairman of the Kickapoo Reserve Management Board. He has been the only chairman since the board’s inception and is part of the history of this Vernon County sanctuary along Highway 131 between La Farge and Ontario. Johnson has spent his career as a gold- and silversmith and now is focused more on silver with projects ranging from jewelry to pictures made with layers of silver.

ONTARIO – When Vernon County was included in the federal disaster declaration, many were hopeful that funds would be available to help in recovery from the 2018 flood event. And, indeed, money was dispensed though the Community Development Block Grant program administered by the state. In addition, Wisconsin received a special appropriation of an additional $15,355,000. Oddly enough, 80 percent of the money must be used in the most distressed county. Below is a breakdown of how the original disaster funds were appropriated, with only Dane County identified as most distressed, though Vernon County reported more damages.

Amounts received by counties are as follows: Adams, $362,400;                  Crawford, $1,103,700; Dane, $11,451,90;               Dodge, $289,600; Iron,                $70,500; Juneau,           $1,748,800; La Crosse,      $1,359,200; Marquette,    $972,100; Monroe,         $3,353, 200; Richland,      $308,100; Sauk,             $1,487,200; Vernon,        $12,317,500… Karri Jo Asselin, 44, of Wilton was sentenced on April 28 in Monroe County Circuit Court to four years of probation for manufacturing/deliver schedule I, II narcotics/party to a crime.   Wilton Police Chief Jeremy Likely reported that the department had investigated the matter in 2017 after receiving a complaint that Asselin was selling narcotic prescription medications from her Wilton residence…  The Norwalk-Ontario-Wilton Board of Education has offered its superintendent position to Travis Anderson, a longtime staff member in the school district… As Covid-19 cases emerge in nursing homes throughout the nation, some may wonder how local facilities are doing, especially those who have a loved one in an extended care facility. Linda Nederlo, public information officer for Vernon County Emergency Management, reports that luckily there have been no cases in Vernon County to date. Although the county’s three nursing homes have their own plans, the county will become involved in the event of an infection. All nursing homes are closed to the public, and staff are required to wear masks when working with patients.

PRAIRIE DU CHIEN – On May 2, at approximately 3:40 p.m., the Clayton County Sheriff’s Office was notified of a one-vehicle accident on Great River Road, south of McGregor. Upon arrival, it was determined a 2000 Chevrolet Silverado was traveling northbound on Great River Road when it failed to negotiate a curve in the roadway. The Chevrolet Silverado entered the west ditch, struck a tree head on and caught fire. The driver of the vehicle was pronounced dead on scene and was the only occupant of the vehicle… The Crawford County Health Department was notified by the local cab company, last week, of an individual needing to go to the hospital for blood tests. The person claimed, when reserving the cab, they were not experiencing any symptoms of the COVID-19 virus, though the rider was going in for blood tests. 

When the cab arrived at the hospital, a nurse directed the cab to stay in the parking lot, and the nurse swabbed the rider for COVID-19. The driver returned the rider to the residence, and then notified a supervisor. This prompted the driver of the cab to be placed on self-quarantine until the results of the test were determined. The cab was also fully disinfected after this rider was inside it. Furthermore, the van was taken out of the rotation immediately after this situation, and it was left out for multiple days, per the recommendation of public health.

RICHLAND CENTER – The April 21 meeting of the Richland County Board of Supervisors was held at the County Highway Shop, with social distancing guidelines in place. The first order of business was the election of Chair and Vice Chair of the County Board, with Marty Brewer being elected chair and David Turk being elected vice chair… Richland County Health Officer Rose Kohout states, “We are very saddened to announce the second COVID related death of a Richland County resident. We extend our condolences to the family and, out of respect for the individual’s confidentiality and the privacy of the resident’s family, no additional information will be provided…" Complying with the law requiring an annual meeting as well as the order for social distancing created a problem for the Richland Electric Cooperative’s annual meeting Saturday, but with a little creativity and assistance from WRCO, the cooperative had a drive-in meeting.

BOSCOBEL – Mary Karsten of Boscobel’s home has been turned into a mask making factory recently, with over 1,400 made and distributed to area hospitals and clinics, the Walgreens store in Prairie du Chien and even soldiers in Kuwait… The Boscobel Farmer’s Market has delayed their opening in Depot Park until May 30 from 8 a.m. to noon. Buying local takes on a different prospective when many items that we take for granted are no longer available on store shelves. We need to protect the local economy including our farmers and local businesses… Tim Bray and his son Jake were setting up their turkey blinds near Mt. Zion on Tim’s birthday, April 18, when he said to Jake, “Wouldn’t it be something if we doubled down on our birthday turkeys before 7a.m. on April 22?” They did. At 6:44 a.m. on their first day in the blind, two big toms came within shooting range and Tim counted down, “3-2-1,” before they both fired dropping their respective targets. Jake’s bird weighed in at 26 pounds and his dad’s weighed 24 pounds. Both had 10-inch beards and 1-inch spurs.

LANCASTER – The Grant County Board of Supervisors held their first meeting of the new two-year term Tuesday, April 21. Robert Keeney was selected again as the chair of the board, and Mark Stead was selected for First Vice Chair, besting Garay Ranum, 10-6, in voting… A BNSF train derailed in far southwestern Wisconsin near Kieler the morning of Monday, April 20, after hitting a large boulder on the tracks. The derailment was across the river from the John Deere Dubuque Works factory. The accident happened on private property and Grant County will not be involved with the repairs. There were no injuries as a result of the incident and the rail cars were empty during the derailment.