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September 17: 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 – The Viroqua City Council reviewed and approved the schematic design for a new City Hall at its August 25 meeting. City Administrator Nate Torres said the architects will now proceed through various phases of refining the design down to the smallest detail… ‘COVID can’t stop hope.’ That’s the slogan for the American Cancer Society Sole Burner of Chaseburg event, which will be held Saturday, Sept. 19 in the village park. This is the 15thyear for the event, and co-chair Linda DeGarmo said $1,250,000 has been raised since it was founded. As of September 8, 18 teams and more than 70 people had registered for the event… Brian McCulloh, Viroqua, has been elected as a delegate to the 137thAmerican Angus Association Convention of Delegates, set to be held November 9 at the Kansas City Convention Center in Kansas City, Missouri. McCulloh is a member of the American Angus Association, and is one of 301 Angus breeders who have been elected by fellow members in their state to serve as a representative… Ground was broken on Thursday, Sept. 3 to mark the construction of Vernon Manor’s 32-unit assisted living facility… Two tasty businesses made their official debut last Saturday in downtown Viroqua. That’s when artisan bakery, Bard Bread and Pastry, and Magpie Gelato, a gelato café, opened in the former Dave’s Pizza building on Main Street. Gelato is made mostly with milk rather than cream, and is churned more slowly, incorporating less air, leaving gelato more dense than ice cream… Thirsty Cactus Nutrition has been opened on Main Street in Viroqua by Bridget Woodhouse. The business offers meal replacement shakes, energizing tea and protein coffee, made with Herbalife products. Woodhouse also offers free wellness coaching. 

LA FARGE – A LaFarge home is considered a total loss after a fire Saturday afternoon. The fire at S2130 County Road D was called in right after 1:30 p.m. According to the LaFarge Fire Chief, two structures on the property had caught on fire. One was the home, while a workshop was also heavily damaged. No one was inside the buildings at the time and no injuries have been reported. Fire departments from Westby and Cashton responded as well. The cause of the fire is unknown… Eight-man football was set to make its return to LaFarge this year, but as with so much else, the COVID-19 pandemic upended those plans. With a majority of the Kickapoo-LaFarge co-op team’s scheduled opponents opting to forgo playing this fall, it was decided that the season would be moved to the spring. It is now tentatively scheduled to run from March 8-April 23, 2021. Meanwhile, volleyball and cross country are still a go for this fall. No spectators are allowed at events at this time, but they will be livestreamed… The Town of Stark zoning committee met recently to consider an application to change an agricultural zoning area to recreational. The request came from Mike Donskey, who lives east of LaFarge alongside Highway 82. He indicated his desire to use the property for a primitive campground for tent users. The property is in the Farmland Preservation program, which offers a tax credit to landowners who engage in nutrient management planning on their land. The committee had to decide if the property can be taken out of the program, because if a contract is signed it must remain in the program for 15 years. After much discussion, the committee decided they could not make the decision because the adjoining landowners had not been notified in proper time by the town clerk of the meeting per town ordinance.

ONTARIO – Norwalk sewer rates are going up, the board decided at its most recent meeting. But, not exactly. It was all a bit confusing at the meeting as the board continued to wrestle with problems shared by other communities across the state: an aging infrastructure and a tax base that can’t keep up with escalating costs. In this case, the sewer plant is showing its age. The structure is literally beginning to crumble as the concrete ages, and it is not able to meet increasing operational demands such as managing phosphorous loads. A committee of the board agreed to begin the process of applying for grants for what is estimated to be a $1.9 million project. While rates are not expected to increase immediately, a surcharge will be added to multiple housing units of $30 per unit. Property owners can either absorb the bill or pass it on as increased rent… The Kendall Depot, which serves as the Elroy-Sparta State Trail headquarters, reopened to the public last week. Its hours are from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily until Oct. 31. At the depot, daily bike trail passes are for sale for $5; and annual passes for $25. The building also houses a railroad museum showcasing historic photos and artifacts. Admission is free.

PRAIRIE DU CHIEN – The Prairie du Chien Firefighter’s Association will host the flea market that is usually held in conjunction with the annual Rendezvous on St. Feriole Island, next weekend, September 18-20. (The Prairie Villa Rendezvous itself has been canceled for 2020, due to COVID-19.) Over 100 vendors are expected to be set up and selling their wares. Stop by Friday, Saturday or Sunday, all day, to browse the vast selection of antiques, furniture, linens, clothing, hand-crafted goods, tools, dishes, coins, glassware, jewelry, bags, knick-knacks, trinkets, household decor, baskets, and many other odds and ends. There is sure to be something for all ages. The flea market and beer tent will be located on the south end of the island. Those attending are asked to honor social distancing practices and masks are encouraged.  This flea market is a fundraiser for the firefighter’s association… In observance of the tragic events that occurred 19 years ago on Sept. 11, 2001, the Prairie du Chien Fire Department organized an honorable display at the Wisconsin Street roundabout on Marquette Road... A Clayton County, Iowa, company is working to build the country’s first drone seeders to carry out cover crop seeding, an effort developer Tom Leitgen said will make the practice more efficient and affordable—while potentially revolutionizing the drone industry. “Basically, it’s a disc spreader we put together and made fly.” The idea dates back six years, when Leitgen’s father, Loyal, became interested in utilizing cover crops on the family’s Elmwood Farm, outside Garnavillo. Loyal liked the idea of aerially applying cover crops in the pre-harvest stage. This would put foliage on the ground after the fall harvest, helping to prevent soil erosion and compaction, and maintaining the health of the ground. Early on, he contracted with aerial providers through the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) office to do aerial-seeded cover crops.  But it was not without some problems. One had to do with the timeliness of the cover crop application. So Loyal approached his son, a long-time aviation enthusiast who was running a grain treatment facility in Ethiopia. Leitgen started development in 2017, with a little drone that could carry five pounds, and seeded about 10 acres of annual ryegrass. In 2018, he built a bigger drone that could carry a 30-pound payload, and completed 35 acres. Last year, he worked to perfect the design, using another 30-pound aluminum drone that was an upgraded version of the 2018 model. The family seeded 420 acres with a mix of annual ryegrass, radish and turnip. It was a little less than a third of all the aerial-seeded acres in Clayton County.

BOSCOBEL – It is with great excitement that the Wisconsin River Trail Organization Board would like to share the news received last week that they, along with the City of Boscobel, were awarded a $1.33 million grant for Phase 2A of their trail. This phase starts on the south side of the railroad tracks on Borden Road and ends at Cozy Acres Trailer Park. Construction will begin in the spring, and WRTO will have until 2024 to complete it and pay their 20 percent of construction costs.