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A year in review 2011
Lafayette County
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The Republican Journal celebrates 150 years. According to an article on the front page of the Jan. 30, 1919 edition: “The Republican Journal is the lineal descendant of the Lafayette County Independent, started May 11, 1861 by H.H. Gray, with John E. Duncan as manager. It was mildly democratic, but, for the salvation of the Union at any sacrifice.” The newspaper was run by many different owners throughout the years, but was last purchased by Morris Newspaper Corporation of Wisconsin in 2003.
A 32-year-old Darlington man was arrested on Jan. 4 for setting fire to two cars in an alleyway in Darlington on Christmas eve. Shawn McQuaid sent threatening text messages to a man he was fighting with in a bar in Darlington, then set fire to the man’s vehicle. The fire spread to an adjacent vehicle and threatened nearby buildings. It was extinguished by the Darlington Fire Department. McQuaid was booked into the Lafayette County Jail for stalking, arson, recklessly endangering safety, disorderly conduct, unauthorized use of a computerized communication device and going armed while intoxicated. The Lafayette County District Attorney’s office withdrew from the case and it was turned over to Green County District Attorney Gary Luhman.
Overtime paid to Lafayette County employees in 2010 totaled $514,449.59, the lowest amount in the past four years, according to documents from the county’s finance office. Memorial Hospital of Lafayette County was paid the most overtime of the county’s departments: $193,464.39.
Two grievances filed by Mary Larson, former Lafayette Manor accounting manager, against the county were denied by the county’s grievance committee on Jan. 12. A room full of people attempted to sway the committee, but the grievances filed on Oct. 21 and Nov. 2 were both denied. After the meeting Larson said she would pursue her claim of wrongful termination by filing a lawsuit against the county.
The first baby of 2011 born at Memorial Hospital of Lafayette County was Rylan Winifred McGowan, daughter of Elizabeth and Patrick McGowan of Darlington. She was born early on Wednesday, Dec. 19, weighing 8 pounds, 10 ounces and measuring 20 ¾ inches long. She joins sisters Lilee, 5, and Loudon, 14 months.
Faced with declining enrollment and the desire to maintain small class sizes, current staffing levels and all programming, the Darlington Community School District Board of Education approved resolutions at meetings Jan. 17 and 24 that authorize two referendums on Tuesday, April 5. Voters will be asked to authorize general obligation bonds not to exceed $2,075,000. The bonds would pay the district’s obligation to the Wisconsin Retirement System’s unfunded pension liability as well as several repair projects. The second question would be to renew the current $700,000 per year operating referendum for five years, beginning with the 2012-13 school year.

A review by state nursing home surveyors of a self-reported incident at Lafayette Manor in December resulted in two immediate jeopardy citations to the county-owned skilled nursing facility. The serious citations could result in steep fines (up to $10,000 for each day not in compliance) or a host of other ramifications, including a termination of Medicare and Medicaid programs. According to administrator Catherine Krentz, the December incident involved a resident falling and sustaining a head injury. The resident did not immediately present symptoms and the nurse on duty did not do the proper assessment, according to the documentation. The following day the resident was taken to the hospital before eventually returning to the nursing home and passing away as a result of the fall. The two immediate jeopardy citations that were issued were for standard of nursing care and quality of life. The employment of the nurse involved in the incident was terminated shortly after the incident.
The 54th annual Yellowstone Lake Fisharee, sponsored by the Sportsman’s Clubs of Lafayette County, was postponed from Feb. 6 to Feb. 13 because of inclement weather.
By a vote of 3-2, the Lafayette County Planning and Zoning Committee denied a special exception application from Ivey Construction of Mineral Point to operate a sand quarry on a parcel of land on Rock Road in the town of Kendall. The Feb. 9 decision came after an August 2008 denial and May 2010 altered proposal which was sent to the town level for more citizen input.
Before the sun climbed in the sky last Friday morning, Feb. 18, dozens of teachers, county employees and their supporters gathered in front of the Lafayette County Courthouse, signs in hand, to protest the proposal by Gov. Scott Walker to end collective bargaining for public employees as part of his budget repair bill.
The Republican Journal’s Say Cheese special section was awarded first place honors in the 2010 Wisconsin Newspaper Association’s Better Newspaper Contest during the WNA Convention Feb. 10-11 in Appleton.

Darlington’s Bargain Nook II, a popular stop for shoppers in Darlington for 25 years, will close its doors on April 23, according to Tom Schraeder, executive director of the Hodan Center in Mineral Point, a community rehabilitation program for adults with disabilities, which operates six Bargain Nook stores in southwest Wisconsin. The decision to close the Darlington and New Glarus stores in April was a business decision made to ensure the Hodan Center remains open.
Faced with a loss of revenue of $420,252 for the 2011-12 school year, the Darlington Community School Board of Education approved program and staff reductions during the March 7 meeting. The board also tabled the retirement requests of three teachers as only five teachers can retire in a year.
Lafayette County Sheriff Scott Pedley reported that on March 1 a search warrant executed at a home on Puddledock Road in rural Argyle yielded 9,295.12 grams of marijuana, 103 marijuana plants and 15.8 grams of hashish for a combined street value of $168,233. A large amount of indoor growing equipment and paraphernalia were seized, as well as a pickup truck. Three suspects were taken into custody: Joseph M. Parnello, 37 of Rockton, Ill., and Argyle; Theodore W. Thompson, 33 of Rockton, Ill.; and Cara E. Beachum, 26 of Argyle. The owner of the property, Troy C. Thompson, 43 of Rockford, Ill., and Argyle, was taken into custody earlier in the day.
After several positive comments about the impact of Bargain Nook II in Darlington, the Hodan Center Board voted to keep the Darlington location open. The board’s action was a direct reflection of a number of positive commitments that poured in the days after the closure of the Darlington and New Glarus Bargain Nooks was announced in late February. The store in New Glarus will still close.
Memorial Hospital of Lafayette County unveiled a 10-year proposal set to cost $13.3 million to get a completely new look. During the March 17 meeting a room full of interested people heard about the possible additions and renovations. No action was taken, but the outpatient clinic seemed a priority during the meeting.
The county’s finance office will have a hole to fill again as part-time help from Chris Carl will no longer be an option as Carl accepted a full-time position in Fennimore. The Lafayette County Finance Committee voted to hire a part-time employee to fill the position starting May 1.
The Lafayette Manor Board unanimously supported the work of Lafayette Manor Administrator Catherine Krentz, who has held the position for nearly a year and been scrutinized during that time for a number of employee dismissals. The discussion took place in closed session.

Both questions of the Darlington Community Schools referendum passed. Citizens voted 985 for, 509 against, to authorize general obligation bonds in an amount not to exceed $2,075,000 for the purpose of paying the cost of various capital improvements and maintenance projects; they voted 849 for and 641 against authorizing the school district budget to exceed the revenue limit for non-recurring purposes for the 2012-13 school year through the 2016-17 school year by $700,000 per year.
Overtime doubles at Memorial Hospital of Lafayette County as 21 employees were recently hired. Since 2003 the number of employees has grown from 78 to 99 and only four of those newly hired required approval from the hospital board, county bargaining committee and Lafayette County Board of Supervisors. During those same years the hospital has paid double the amount in overtime.
The Lafayette County Executive, Rules and Legislative Committee reconsidered the wording of resolution 57-10, passed by the full county board in 2002, which outlines the process for refilling vacancies in county departments and hiring for new positions. The committee agreed to clear up the language and more clearly outline the process as a way of ensuring everyone is clear on what defines a new position and the steps that must be followed to bring a new person on board. The resolution will be presented to the county board at a later date.
The Darlington Fire Department was alerted to an out-of-control grass fire on Minerva Street in Darlington during the afternoon of April 13. The fire started on property owned by John and Phyllis Sonsalla and then spread. Argyle Fire Department assisted with the call.
The Shullsburg School Board accepted four additional retirements at an April 13 meeting, bringing the total this year to five. Although the retirements will likely bring a significant cost savings to the district, the school system will also lose 138 ½ years of experience at the conclusion of the 2010-11 school year.
Darlington High School Spanish teacher Dianna Rogers will get an interesting experience for the 2011-12 school year as she trades classrooms with an instructor from Izucar de Matamoros, Mexico, through a teacher exchange program. Mario Quinonez Mendoza plans to come to Darlington.
Highway commissioner Tom Jean will see a $4,000 increase to his annual salary. The Lafayette County Board of Supervisors met on April 19 to approve the recommendation from the bargaining committee. The pay increase was justified by Jean’s working with the towns and neighboring counties to save Lafayette County money. Jean saved the county $6,500 in two months by covering the vacated patrol supervisor duties.
The Lafayette County General Store takes root in Belmont occupying the former Belmont Area Visitor Center off Hwy. 151. The store will promote local businesses by selling a variety of local products.

Five candidates were interviewed by the Lafayette County Finance Committee for the part-time finance director position on April 27. The list of candidates was whittled down from 22 to five.
Four Darlington High School students have been selected as 2011 Canoe Festival candidates, including Shawni Smith, Brianna Reichling, Maddie Gallagher and Meghan Vieth.   
For what is possibly the first time in Lafayette County history, intent to recall papers were filed May 5 with the Lafayette County Clerk’s Office. A group calling themselves Lafayette County Taxpayers for Positive Change will be working during the next several weeks to collect 106 signatures necessary to recall Lafayette County Board Chairman Jack Sauer who represents District 3. All of the women heading the recall effort are former employees of Lafayette Manor.
Sandy Deininger of rural Blanchardville was selected as the new part-time finance director for Lafayette County. She will train under Chris Carl through the end of May.
Former county board supervisor Robert Helm, 73 of Darlington, was sentenced to serve six months in jail and pay $24,564 in restitution after a criminal complaint of theft. He stole a total of $32,853.34 from two elderly women he was guardian of for several years. He did not have to pay restitution to one of the victims as she has recently passed away. Helm entered guilty pleas to two of the seven original felony counts of theft from a business setting. The remaining five counts were dismissed at the time of the plea agreement.
Farmers play catch-up with planting after significant rainfall and cold weather this spring. Many farmers were in the fields planting crops until midnight or later to get caught up on lost time.
The United States Attorney’s Office, at the request of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, filed a verified complaint May 13 requesting that the U.S. Marshals seize cheese products distributed by Brunkow Cheese of Wisconsin, Inc., after FDA inspections found evidence of rodent infestation. The complaint alleges that in February 2011 the FDA conducted a comprehensive inspection of the company that revealed evidence of rodent activity. A follow-up inspection in late April found the company had taken corrective action to remedy many of the February violations, but had not resolved the rodent contamination problem. Brunkow Cheese staff worked with the FDA to rectify the health concern and no products were recalled.
A list of proposed salary increases for the director of nursing, nursing manager and chief financial officer at Memorial Hospital of Lafayette County were put on hold until the state budget is finalized and the county aid is determined. The wage of the vacant dialysis manager was decreased from $27.15 an hour to $25 an hour to have it more in line with other nurse manager salaries.

Black Hawk School District Administrator Charles McNulty submitted his letter of resignation to the Black Hawk School Board. After three years with the district he is moving to take a position in the department of education at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, Iowa.
The Lafayette County Taxpayers for Positive Change were successful in acquiring 106 signatures to recall Lafayette County Board Chairman Jack Sauer. The 114 signatures were turned in to county clerk Linda Bawden on June 3. Bawden has 31 days to review the signatures and addresses to certify them. She estimates the recall election will cost approximately $2,000.
The Lafayette County Dairy Breakfast will be held on the farm owned by the McComish family at 11241 Co. O near Shullsburg. The McComish family settled in that area in 1848 and has been farming ever since.
A meeting on June 14 by the Lafayette County Executive Rules and Legislative Committee reviewed a list of seven allegations made against Lafayette County Board Chairman Jack Sauer as the effort to recall Sauer moves forward. The committee followed the advice of corporation counsel Steve Elmer to take no action on the allegations, which would show the committee believes the allegations hold no merit.
Several days after announcing he would run in the recall election against Lafayette County Board Chairman Jack Sauer, Larry Leahy changed his mind because “I feel I cannot give 100 percent to the position and feel it would not be fair to District 3 at this time.” No other candidates have filed to run against Sauer.
The recall election is scheduled for Aug. 2. In examination of the petition filed by Lafayette County Taxpayers for Positive Change, county clerk Linda Bawden found 110 of 114 signatures to be qualifying. Only 106 signatures were needed for the recall effort. Candidates have until July 5 to file nomination papers to run against Lafayette County Board Supervisor Jack Sauer.
On June 24 lifelong town of Darlington resident George Hirsbrunner filed paperwork declaring his intent to seek election to the District 3 seat on the Lafayette County Board of Supervisors, a position currently held by Jack Sauer who is being recalled by a group of former Lafayette Manor employees calling themselves Lafayette County Taxpayers for Positive Change. Hirsbrunner turned in his nomination paperwork with the necessary signatures on June 28.