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November 12: News from around the Driftless Area
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‘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 – Wisconsin DOT recently released a project overview and video about the planned construction of a roundabout at the intersection of Highways 14/61 and 27/82, just south of Viroqua. The purpose of this project is to improve the safety at this intersection. The intersection is experiencing various types of angle crashes. There was on fatal run-through in 2011. In 2018 there were two crashes resulting in serious injuries. Proposed improvements include installation of a roundabout and removal of the wayside along 27 just west of the intersection. The schedule for the project is as follows: September/November 2020 - virtual public involvement meeting (PIM); and 2023 - construction anticipated. The project will be constructed in stages to largely accommodate traffic during construction without detours. However, there will be some short-term detours needed when constructing Highway 27/82 and/or Vernon County T… UW-Madison’s Center for East Asian Studies (CEAS) has awarded the McIntosh Memorial Library in Viroqua a grant as part of the new East Asia in Wisconsin Library Program. CEAS, a federally-funded National Resource Center for the study of East Asia, created the program to encourage Wisconsin libraries to augment their collections with East Asia related materials, and to design new book clubs and other programming with an East Asian theme. This program is part of the center’s focus on promoting the understanding of East Asian histories and cultures, and also aligns with the Wisconsin Idea mission of service to Wisconsin citizens beyond boundaries of the classroom… After 42 years of dedicated service, Al Larson is retiring from the city of Viroqua. Al has seen four Viroqua mayors, numerous council members and four directors of public works in his time, starting with Mayor James McGuire, and Street Commissioner Bud Bekkedal. In fact, Al was hired in the winter of 1979, a recent Viroqua High School graduate, after a job interview at the Bekkedal’s kitchen table. At that time, everyone started in the Public Works Department on the garbage truck…In normal times, there is a community Veterans Day program at the Westby High and Middle Schools every year. These include live music, a guest speaker, recognition of veterans in the audience and seniors who have enlisted for service to their country, and a firing squad at 11 a.m. to recognize the end of World War I on Nov. 11, 1918. But as we know, these are not normal times. The schools have put together a virtual program that will be shown to all middle and high school students on Channel 7 at 10:30 a.m. on Nov. 11. 

LA FARGE – A leaf covered trail and crisp fall air greeted families at another On-site Learning Day hosted by the Kickapoo Valley Forest School (KVFS). Families were encouraged to stop and play at different points along the way. When students attend the Kickapoo Valley Forest School they will be offered many opportunities to explore off of the beaten path. Students will be able to create memories in nature that enrich their lives academically, emotionally and socially. KVFS is creating a unique and special learning environment for its students. Children will learn academic and social skills while simultaneously enjoying the teachings of nature. KVFS is a tuition free public charter school authorized by the La Farge School District. The school will be on site at the Kickapoo Valley Reserve in La Farge. KVFS will offer the last of their fall series of On-site Learning Days Saturday, Nov. 14. The Leadership Team is excited to share a campfire with interested families while enjoying songs and stories together. This event will take place at the Kickapoo Valley Reserve Visitor Center anytime from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m… Meaghan Gustafson, LaFarge School District superintendent, was awarded the Administrator of the Year Award for her integral part in the creation of the Kickapoo Valley Forest School byhe Wisconsin Association for Environmental Education (WAEE), an action-oriented community that celebrates excellence in environmental education, chose Gustafson for this award. Over the last 15 months Gustafson has worked with a team of community members, Kickapoo Valley Reserve staff, LaFarge school employees and the LaFarge School Board to start a new tuition free public charter school. This school is very unique as it will take place outside in nature for most of the day, each school day, all year round… LaFarge Medical Clinic VMH recently has welcomed nurse practitioner Kelli Pasch. When Pasch is not at work, she enjoys spending time with her husband, two children, dogs, cats and chickens on their family farm outside of Ontario… At the annual meeting of the LaFarge Area Fire Association held recently, long time president Elgin Fanta announced that he was retiring. He had made the same announcement earlier in the evening,  at the meeting of the Emergency Medical Services squad, of which he was also president.

ONTARIO – About 50 staff and community members gathered for the Royall School Board meeting recently. Many of them were there to encourage the district to leave the sports season intact during the COVID-19 pandemic. The board agreed with the audience, and voted unanimously to proceed with winter athletics… The Norwalk-Wilton-Ontario School District’s winter sports season is slated to begin, according to Superintendent Travis Anderson. The district based its decision on WIAA recommendations and guidelines… If you happen to be one of those folks going around without a mask, don’t try to enter the doors of Scenic Bluffs Health Center in Cashton. Executive Director Mari Freiberg says the clinic is strictly following the CDC guidelines to help make employees and patients safe. Those best efforts were never more needed than now, as the clinic is now dealing with community spread and a stunning increase in cases… The Ontario Public Library is collecting recipes for a community cookbook.

PRAIRIE DU CHIEN –  Crawford County residents may register, through Dec. 1, for the annual Operation Santa program at either of the following locations: Couleecap Food Pantry in Prairie du Chien or Gays Mills Village Office. To qualify for the Crawford County Operation Santa program, you must be a county resident. Families with no children may receive a free food basket that is typically filled with some household items and all the fixings for a holiday meal.  Families with children can receive gifts or local chamber dollars for each of the children in the household.  Operation Santa distribution is Friday, Dec. 11, from noon to 5 p.m. at Hoffman Hall in Prairie du Chien… A bull elk, rare to Crawford County wildlife, wandered onto a sheep farm in rural Wauzeka last week. No one seems to know where he came from, although a regional DNR wildlife biologist suspects it is a wild elk, about 2-3 years old, that came down from a Black River Falls herd. Rhonda and Greg Cerven own the rural property, just across Highway 131 from Husher Park, about 5 miles outside of Wauzeka toward Steuben. The 6x6, ginger and chestnut-colored elk first appeared on the Cerven farm Sunday morning, Oct. 25, according to Rhonda. He was still roaming their acreage around midday Tuesday, Greg said. There were a few scuffs to the fur on the elk’s left ribcage area, but he looked to be in general good health… Nearly 83 percent of registered voters in Clayton County cast ballots in the Nov. 3 general election, according to unofficial results released by the Clayton County Auditor’s Office. Of the 9,636 voters, nearly half (4,750) voted absentee, while 4,886 cast their ballots on Election Day. The turnout was a little higher than anticipated, but not much, said Clayton County Auditor Jennifer Garms. Iowa, as a whole, broke turnout records in 2020, with more than 1,697,000 people voting, easily surpassing the previous state record of 1,589,951 in 2012. Secretary of State Paul Pate’s office said more than one million Iowans voted absentee, which was another new record. Seventy-six percent of all registered voters in Iowa participated in the general election—one of the highest turnout rates in the nation.