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October 8: 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 – A new exhibit at the Vernon County Museum is called ‘Drops of Water,’ and explores how water has affected the history of the area through transportation, jobs, recreation, flooding and more. The exhibit begins on the first floor near the museum’s main entrance, and then continues throughout the exhibit halls, with a water droplet icon indicating water stories wherever they are found… The Vernon County Board Personnel Committee took up the posting for the hiring of a new county administrator. October 15 is the last day to apply for the position, which is expected to have a large number of applicants. Three to four applicants will be selected for interviews, possibly as soon as October 20… The Vernon County Dairy Youth Committee hosted a ‘Day of Dairy’ on Aug. 15. Seventeen Vernon County youth participated in the event held at the Klinkner farm, just outside of Liberty Pole… The Friends of Bekkum Memorial Library in Westby are preparing for their Fall Book Sale. This year’s sale will be held Saturday, Oct. 17 from 9 a.m. to noon in the Westby Community Center (library basement) at 206 N. Main… The village of Coon Valley has been awarded up to a $1 million grant from the Wisconsin Department of Administration for a Community Development Block Grant-Public Facilities project. The grant will be used to replace utility pipes that are undersized.

LA FARGE – the LaFarge School Board reviewed parameters to help guide decision making for a potential shift in instructional models, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, and approved them. The model is portrayed in a pictorial format, each with a color- red, yellow, or green associated with them. These stand for in-person, face-to-face, instruction five days per week (green); a hybrid model of in-person and virtual learning (yellow); and full virtual instruction (red). The district administrator said the school had been fortunate to begin the school year with the green model. In collaboration with the Vernon County Health Department, parameters now exist to guide the district in a decision to move to one of the other models. The district will use a combination of internal data about number of cases in students and staff, and a county-wide measure… LaFarge Police Chief Johnathon Brown indicated in his August monthly report that there had been a sexual assault case in the village. Ryan Franklin Lee, 44, LaFarge, has been charged with second degree sexual assault of a child, which is a Class C Felony. This could be punishable by up to 40 years in prison, a maximum fine of up to $100,000, or both… Delores Sandmire was honored for her 12 years of dedicated service to the Lawton Memorial Library in LaFarge on Oct. 3.

ONTARIO – the electors in attendance at the Royall School District annual meeting recently voted to adopt a tax levy for the 2020-21 school year in the amount of $2,128,306. The levy is down 8.42 percent from 2019-29… The Wilton Public Library will host a ‘Book-and-Treat’ event this year for Halloween. Kids will be able to check out a book and receive a bag of Halloween treats… In support of the right to choose books freely for ourselves, the American Library Association and the Ontario Public Library celebrated ‘Banned Books Week’ the week of Sept. 27 to Oct. 3. American libraries are the cornerstone of our democracy. Libraries are for everyone, everywhere. Because libraries provide free access to a world of information, they bring opportunity to all people. Now, more than ever, celebrate the freedom to read at your library…

PRAIRIE DU CHIEN – The Prairie du Chien Common Council has established a St. Feriole Island Improvement Account, which will grow each year when any amount over $15,000 is raised by tariffs from the grain business on the island. An ordinance is being created dedicating the account and setting the guidelines for it, including a 30-month review of the tariffs. The funds in the new St. Feriole Island Improvement Account will be allowed for legitimate purposes, by approval of the public works committee and common council… The first weekend in October would typically be Orchardfest at Shihata’s Orchard. Though orchard-goers will still tour the Apple House, Bakery Barn, U-Pick grove of trees and Country Fun Park, it may happen in a slightly less celebratory fashion due to coronavirus limitations.  Still, there’s reason to relish in the delightful family traditions of fall at Shihata’s Orchard. New ownership is enlivening the scenic 96-acre, 17,000-tree attraction just a few miles northeast of Prairie du Chien along Limery Road. Collin and Gabby Huge, along with her father, Paul DeVoss, purchased the apple orchard July 1, from Dave and Linda Shihata—second-generation owners/operators who carried on the legacy Dave’s parents, Moe and Mary, started in 1968… Sheriff Mike Tschirgi with the Clayton County Sheriff's Office, Iowa, has received multiple reports of theft from mailboxes in the Southeastern portion of the county.  If you have any information regarding these crimes, please call us at 563-245-2422.  If you wish to remain anonymous you can contact us at our TIP line - 563-245-1234. 

RICHLAND CENTER – Ithaca Schools has released a statement that they had been notified that a staff member had recently tested positive for COVID-19 week before last. The statement said that the virus is transmitted through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks. Persons within six feet for more than 15 minutes are considered close contacts. The release said that no children in the district had met the close contacts criteria… Richland School District closed two classrooms week before last “out of an abundance of caution.” One classroom was at Doudna School and the other at Jefferson School. The students were transitioned to remote learning until at least Oct. 5… A small group of people gathered at the Richland Center Depot recently to take part in or observe the planting of a tree in memory of Lon Arbegust, who passed away on January 25. He was a much-admired local historian, who had worked as the Richland Center Tourism Director and as a feature writer for the Richland Observer… The Richland Center Fire Department was paged to English Ridge Road in response to reports of “a lot of black smoke” week before last. Upon arrival, the department found a fully-engulfed structure fire with the roof already collapsed. The structure was a total loss. On scene were the Viola Fire Department, the Richland Sheriff’s Department, Richland Electric Cooperative, Richland EMS, and Richland Emergency Management. 

BOSCOBEL – With the help of generous employees and community members, Gundersen Boscobel Area Hospital and Clinics supported students at the Boscobel, Fennimore, Riverdale and Wauzeka-Steuben school districts. Ashley Trautsch of the Community Crusaders (the hospital’s community-led outreach team) when she recently delivered bags filled with hats, mittens, scarves, gloves, cloth masks, and hand sanitizers to the schools… On Tuesday, Sept. 29, at 12:30 a.m., a 2004 maroon Chevy truck was stolen from Allied Ready Mix in the Village of Muscoda. The suspect, seen on a surveillance video, taking the vehicle appeared armed with an assault rifle, and appeared to be wearing body armor… Mike Nice’s daughter Carly recently came home before a Packer’s game and said she wanted to go fishing. While on the outing near Muscoda, Jim ‘Captain Sturgeon’ Heiar from Richland Center photographed Carly with a just over 60-inch sturgeon, which she landed after a 45-minute fight. She said “we petted it, kissed it, and released it” even though it was a legal size limit. Her father is a retired DNR warden, who estimated the fish to be about 50-years-old.