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2011 - The year in review
Controversy was stirred up by a proposed high-capacity well near the banks of the North Branch of Copper Creek, a class I trout stream.

JANUARY – Despite bidding above the budgeted construction cost, Fischl Construction still produced the lowest bid, thus garnering the contract to build the new Gays Mills Public Works and EMS buildings…...The Soldiers Grove Village Board voted to pursue acquisition of the former pharmacy building for the expansion of the public library……Michael J. Burroughs, accused of murdering Shannon Fischer in a Prairie du Chien apartment building during an argument over drugs, was ordered to undergo mental health therapy before standing for trial…Efforts to solicit additional funding from the Wisconsin Department of Commerce were successful, as Gays Mills received an additional $2.5 million in Community Block Development Grant money to help in the flood recovery projects……The Soldiers Grove Village Board decided to take the former pharmacy purchase for a library expansion to referendum after several members questioned the $60,000 asking price on the property……Joseph Vannatta of Gays Mills was sentenced to three months in jail for misconduct in office involving the purchase of computers with Vernon County credit cards, which were then resold to individuals.

FEBRUARY – Rebecca Kulas was denied a change of venue request after Judge Craig Day deemed the news reporting of Kulas’s role in the death of Jeffery Skarda was factual and did not create conditions that would deny her a fair trial…The Soldiers Grove Village Board decided to move forward with the purchase of the former pharmacy, cancelling the planned referendum, after a village resident offered $15,000 toward the purchase with an additional $5,000 coming from the library, making the village investment only $40,000……Gays Mills accepted the low bid for construction of the village’s new Mercantile Center made by Wieser Brothers General Contractors. The low bid still exceeded the budgeted amount by $60,000…The former Red Apple Inn on Main Street in Gays Mills was reopening under new management as the Two Bucks Bar and Grill…State Senator Dale Schultz met with constituents in the courtroom of the Richland County Courthouse to discuss Governor Scott Walker’s proposed budget repair bill. The crowd spilled over into the side rooms and overwhelmingly opposed the legislation……Fifty-three North Crawford students assembled at the intersection of Highways 131 and County X to protest the budget repair bill that threatened to strip collective bargaining rights for teachers and other public employees.

MARCH – Father Robert Chukwu continued to proclaim his innocence, despite his conviction for theft, at the final hearing to finish action on his diversion agreement with the Catholic Diocese of LaCrosse making partial restitution and serving six days in jail… The Mississippi Valley Conservancy purchased the 85-acre “Kickapoo Bottoms” property adjacent to the Crawford County Fairgrounds…….Craig Anderson declared his candidacy for the position of Gays Mills Village President, giving voters a choice come spring between himself and incumbent Larry McCarn… Crawford County Human Services and the Aging and Disability Resource Center appeared to be set to take the largest cuts to county funding, as preliminary numbers on the budget repair bill were made available to the state…Rebecca Kulas entered a no contest plea in her trial for causing the death of Jeffery Skarda by negligent use of a motor vehicle…..The Gays Mills Village Board approved the allocation of an additional $303,000 in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding toward the building of the new Marketplace development, bringing the total amount allocated for the enterprise to $958,000 in CDBG funding.

APRIL – Craig Anderson was elected as the new Village President of Gays Mills…Local organic orchard owner Greg Welsh was awarded the Ray Haas Pioneer Award at the Organic Valley annual meeting in recognition of his pioneering and visionary efforts within the organic community……….Soldiers Grove’s Herbert Helgerson was awarded the Veteran Lifetime Achievement Award by the Wisconsin Board of Veteran Affairs…Skyler Hammond, 16, and Brandon Buffington, 15, of Eastman were killed in a head-on crash on Highway 27 as they drove home from Seneca High School.

MAY – Concern about the proximity of the planned Community Commerce Center’s dumpster location was voiced by Mike Finnell, whose home was possibly as little as 100 feet from the waste location…Ferryville’s own Ethel Lerum, 95, was the headlining performer at the 19th Annual Gays Mills Folk Festival…..Soldiers Grove approved the purchase of a used equipment-hauling truck for the fire department…A community conference call with DNR hydrogeologist Larry Lynch was held to answer questions about the proposed high-capacity well just 550 feet from the North Branch of Copper Creek in Utica Township on the property of Lima, Ohio podiatrist Darrell Long…A crowd of over 30 concerned citizens attended the Utica Town Board meeting to discuss concerns about the proposed high capacity well…The North Crawford School Board approved the hiring of Katie Strangstalien as the replacement for retiring art teacher Joni Peterson…..DNR hydrogeologist Larry Lynch met with over 100 concerned citizens in the Utica Town Hall to address concerns and questions pertaining to the high capacity well permit application made by Dr. Darrell Long for property adjacent to the North Branch of Copper Creek…..Rebecca Kulas was sentenced to six years in prison for her role in driving the car involved the fatal motorcycle accident, which claimed the life of Jeffery Skarda the previous summer.

JUNE - Closure of the bridge on Highway 61 for a construction project was routing traffic through Soldiers Grove and creating problems along the normal Dairy Days Route, sparking discussion of alternate routes with the village board and parade organizer Rose McCullick…..Soldiers Grove Lions Jack Ott and Guy Nelson met with the Crawford County Sheriff’s Department and the Crawford County Highway Commissioner to settle on a new and shorter route for the 2011 Dairy Days Parade…The North Crawford School Board approved requiring support staff to pay half of the contributions made to the Wisconsin Retirement System, as mandated by Governor Scott Walker’s Budget Repair Plan……The United States Postal Service notified customers of the Mt. Sterling Post Office of the proposal to close the postal office, which has existed in Mt. Sterling for 160 years….The DNR released additional conditions for the approval of the high-capacity well application made by Darrell Long of Lima, Ohio for a site 550 feet from the North Branch of Copper Creek in Utica Township. Amongst conditions applied was the lowering of the maximum pumping rates to 250,000 gallons per day and a restriction upon shipping the water further than 80 miles or selling it for bottling purposes or for use in confined animal feeding operations.

JULY – State Representative Jennifer Shilling (D-LaCrosse) had to run against “fake Democrat” James Smith in a primary election in order to secure the right to oppose incumbent State Senator Dan Kapanke (R-LaCrosse) in a recall election. Smith, until a few weeks earlier, had been a member of the LaCrosse Republican Executive Steering Committee…The Kickapoo Locker celebrated their 70th anniversary of being in business on Main Street in Gays Mills…Four Main Street businesses (Blackhawk Auto, Halver’s Tap, Two Bucks Bar and Grill and Kickapoo Locker Services) were burglarized late Wednesday night or early Thursday morning…Save Copper Creek, a group organized to oppose the proposed high-capacity well 550 feet from the North Branch of Copper Creek, submitted new legal and scientific responses to the pending permit application challenging assumptions made by the Department of Natural Resources in setting conditions for approval.

AUGUST – The murder confession made last autumn by Michael J. Burroughs, in which he admitted stangling his girlfriend Shannon Fischer in an argument of methamphetamine, was ruled admissible......State Representative Jennifer Shilling won in the recall election against incumbent State Senator Dan Kapanke to become the district’s new state senator…Funding of flood relocation construction projects continued to be an issue in Gays Mills. Despite prior approval of nearly $4 million in grants by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA), the funds had not been made available and the village was forced to seek funding from a local bank as a short-term loan to keep work from stopping…The Gays Mills area apple crop was running a week to 10 days behind schedule.

SEPTEMBER – The DNR set a test well as part of the conditions for approval of a proposed high capacity well near the North Branch of Copper Creek in Utica Township. The results would determine the need for a pump test, performed either voluntarily or by mandate……Community Conservation, based in Gays Mills, was awarded a grant by the National Geographic Society in recognition of their effort to catalyze community-based support for the yellow-tailed wooly money in the northern Cloud Forest of Peru…A local pastoral group sponsored a community meeting to discuss the proposed high-capacity well in Utica Township and the role of faith in decision making in response to the issues of the material world…The  Star Valley Cave was closed to the public to protect the bat population, using it for hibernation from white-nose disease, which is decimating bat populations in other parts of the country…The Seventh Annual Driftless Area Art Festival was set to take place in Soldiers Grove over the weekend, offering visitors an opportunity to view work from over 80 regional artists…Save Copper Creek received a $5,000 challenge grant through the Community Foundation of Southwest Wisconsin to help fund their scientific and legal challenge of the proposed high-capacity well in Utica Township… The Ferryville Antique Tractor Association was granted approval for installation of a concrete tractor-pulling track in the baseball field area of the park.

OCTOBER – Dr. Darrell Long, the owner of land in Utica Township who had sparked local controversy after applying for a permit to install and operate a high-capacity well 550 feet from the North Branch of Copper Creek, agreed to meet with the community on October 9 at the Mt. Sterling Lutheran Church… The Flavor of the Kickapoo, a new event at the Crawford County Fairgrounds was held to celebrate the Kickapoo Valley, featuring local breweries, food producers and music…The Mt. Sterling Lutheran Church played host to over 100 community members who came to meet with Dr. Darrell Long, the Ohio podiatrist seeking to install and operate a high capacity well near a Class I trout stream on his Utica Township property. A number of questions from attendees were answered either inconclusively or not at all… The local corn and soybean harvest was running on time and appeared to be yielding very well for area farmers…The Soldiers Grove American Legion Hall played host to a fundraising dance for the Soldiers Grove Public Library, featuring The Roddys and the Bad Axe Blues Band…A Special Session bill, AB24/SB24, offered at the request of Governor Scott Walker sought to limit review of permit applications to the DNR for high capacity wells, oil and gas production and mine prospecting. The proposed bill would also have further limited public notice and created presumptive approval… A change of venue motion in the trial of Michael J. Burroughs for the murder of Shannon Fischer was denied. A second motion to exclude evidence from a cadaver dog search was carried over.

NOVEMBER – “Jane Eyre,” the musical opened at the North Crawford Playhouse…The North Crawford 2011-2012 school tax levy decreased by 4.86-percent in response to state mandate…Completion dates for the Gays Mills Mercantile and Commerce Centers were again moved back, with the new move-in date listed as December 15, according to Recovery Coordinator Julie Henley…Soldiers Grove approved a two-percent raise for village employees, despite diminished revenues… Flood Recovery Coordinator Julie Henley, while hosting a meeting on the future of Gays Mills Main Street, informed attendees that there was no money allocated for improving or revitalizing the older business district. Concerned business owners would need to organize and seek private funding. The Soldiers Grove and Boscobel Libraries co-hosted a showing of the Aldo Leopold documentary “Green Fire” in the Boscobel Library meeting room.

DECEMBER – Funding delays were at play again as the Gays Mills Village Board committees met, bills were mounting faster than the dispersal of monies for the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration and Wisconsin Department of Administration’s Community Block Development Grant…Village President  Craig Anderson agreed to work with Blackhawk Auto owners’ Chris Smith and Stephanie Brandt on a buyout and relocation plan at their request to have someone besides Flood Recovery Coordinator Julie Henley involved in the process… The new completion date for the Village Community Commerce Center was set as December 30… Plans for the use of a proposed high-capacity well in Utica Township near the banks of the North Branch of Copper Creek on the land of Darrell Long, an Ohio podiatrist and financial service advisor, appeared to be changing to bottling for retail sale, according to statements made by Long. The application for the well with the DNR had not been amended to reflect the new use and prior conditions applied to the pending approval continue to restrict the use of water from bottling purposes, according to DNR hydrogeologist Larry Lynch…The North Clayton Cardinal 4-H Club took on the restoration of the historic North Clayton School, now the North Clayton Community Club. With some work completed, there is much more to do and help would be appreciated.