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By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — Since March, the year 2020 was dominated by news of the SARS-CO-V2 novel coronavirus and COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus. But there were other items, in the news, too.
Here is a look back at the top news stories in the Colfax Messenger from January, February and March of 2020.
January 1, 2020
The Colfax Municipal Building auditorium now has a retractable movie screen courtesy of the Colfax Municipal Building Restoration Group. CMBRG has been holding bake sales to raise money for the screen and a new movie projector.
In honor of what would have Elvis Presley’s 85th birthday, the Colfax Commercial Club, in conjunction with the Colfax Public Library and the Colfax Elevator Commission, will be showing a double feature matinee on Saturday, January 11, with two Elvis Presley films, “Blue Hawaii” and “Viva Las Vegas,” in the Colfax Municipal Building’s Cozy Theater.
The Colfax Messenger is celebrating its 124th year of publication. In 1897, A.C. Chase and his wife, Jennie, decided Colfax needed a newspaper. The first issue of the Colfax Messenger was published April 30, 1987.
January 8, 2020
The Colfax Village Board has approved moving forward with a developer’s agreement to refund an estimated $86,000 in property taxes to Timber Technologies. The tax refund is a way to help the company with the recently-completed expansion project through the village’s Tax Increment Financing Districts.
Out of the 29 supervisors on the Dunn County Board up for election April 7, seven incumbents have filed a notification of non-candidacy with the Dunn County Clerk as of the December 27 deadline. Those filing non-candidacy included John Calabrese (Menomonie); Teresa Lyall (Menomonie); Robin Sweeny (Menomonie); Mary Solberg (Menomonie); Elton Christopherson (Elk Mound); Dale Harschlip (Mondovi); Gary Seipel (Eau Galle).
A 21-year-0ld Wheeler man accused of armed robberies of the People’s State Bank in Boyceville and U-Fuel near Elk Mound has been found competent to stand trial and has pleaded not guilty. David J.R. Hoffman appeared in Dunn County Circuit Court January 3 to enter a plea of not guilty.
January 15, 2020
Several cars from a Union Pacific train ended up as a large pile of twisted metal following a derailment that occurred around 4 p.m. Sunday, January 12, in the Town of Stanton near Knapp. No injuries were reported and no hazardous materials were spilled according to a Union Pacific representative. All together, 38 cars were involved in the derailment, which is under investigation.
Another court hearing is scheduled in Dunn County January 16 for a 26-year-old Eau Claire woman arrested on I-94 in the Town of Elk Mound in October with 85 grams of cocaine in the car. Tamara L. Howlett is scheduled to appear before Judge James Peterson on one felony count of possessing more than 40 grams of cocaine with intent to deliver and one misdemeanor count of carrying a concealed weapon.
The Colfax Dance Team competed in the Western Wisconsin Conference Competition at Eau Claire North on Saturday, January 11. Colfax finished as the runner-up to Spring Valley in the Dunn-St. Croix Conference.
A $20,000 price increase to $60,000 from WRR Environmental Services of Eau Claire for the Clean Sweep hazardous materials program has prompted Dunn County officials to seek additional Requests for Proposals (RFPs).
January 22, 2020
Attorneys representing former Colfax resident Richard Seehaver have filed a motion in Dunn County Circuit Court to suppress statements Seehaver made to investigators following the death of John Likeness in December of 2018.
Bail has been set at $250,000 cash for a 51-year-old Colfax man accused in the death of his father, 78-year-old Edward J. Styer. Gary E. Styer appeared in Dunn County Circuit Court for a bail hearing January 17 on one count of first degree intentional homicide.
The Dunn County Board has once again approved a resolution supporting public ownership of a portion of the Tyrone nuclear power plant property along the Lower Chippewa River in the Town of Peru.
It’s not the first time Town of Colfax resident Terry Nichols has asked the Dunn County Board to put forward a referendum question on technical college funding. Nichols addressed the county board about a non-binding referendum during the public comments portion of the January 15 meeting.
January 29, 2020
The Dunn County 4-H Dairy Judging Team will be headed to the international dairy judging contest in Scotland in June. Members of the Dunn County dairy judging team — Hannah Ullom, Ben Styer, Fritz Ullom, Marie Haase and Abby Powers — gave a presentation to the Dunn County Board January 13.
The number one reason people open enroll their students out of the Colfax school district is because of work-related convenience, said Polly Rudi, Director of Special Education and Pupil Services, who sent out a survey to parents and presented the results at the Colfax Board of Education’s January 20 meeting.
The Elk Mound Board of Education continues to prepare for the $15.7 million referendum question that will be on the April 7 ballot and set the calendar for communications with district residents at the January 20 meeting.
Dunn County Circuit Court Judge James Peterson has set a preliminary hearing for Gary Styer, who is accused in death of his father, Edward Styer of Colfax, on February 15.
February 5, 2020
The Colfax Village Board has given Lynn Niggemann, administrator-clerk-treasurer, the go-ahead to work on scheduling a community informational meeting about the $48.8 million Chippewa Valley Technical College referendum question in the April 7 election.
It’s a win-win situation for both agencies. The Colfax Village Board at the January 27 meeting approved an agreement between the Colfax Rescue Squad and the Elk Mound Police Department for Colfax to supply naloxone to Elk Mound. Naloxone, also known as the brand name Narcan, is a medication identified as an “opioid antagonist” that will reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, such as morphine or other opioid pain medications, or heroin.
Elk Mound High School hosted the 2020 Dunn-St. Croix All Conference Honors Band and Choir Festival on Saturday, February 1.
Following a three-day trial, a Dunn County jury has found a 40-year-old Wheeler woman guilty on seven felonies related to child sexual assault. The trial in Dunn County Circuit Court for Michelle S. Englin began January 27 and concluded January 29 after the 12-person jury deliberated for nearly four hours to return guilty verdicts on seven of the felonies and non-guilty verdicts on four other felonies.
February 12, 2020
Ezra J. McCandless, who was convicted by a jury last October of the first degree intentional homicide of Alexander Woodworth in the Town of Spring Brook in March of 2018, has been sentenced to life in prison. In addition to the life sentence, Judge James Peterson set McCandless’s eligibility for petitioning the court for extended supervision after she has served 50 years.
Described as a cult classic, “The Princess Bride,” a fantasy adventure comedy film released in 1987, will be shown at the Colfax Municipal Building’s Cozy Theater on February 14.
With Wheaton set to leave the Chippewa Fire District at the end of the year, the fire chief and the EMS chief want to assure Town of Howard residents that their service will not change. Scott Bernette, fire chief, and Mark Roshell, emergency medical services chief, spoke to the Howard Town Board at the February 4 meeting. Approximately 30 people attended the meeting.
Northern Sands Wisconsin, the company developing the 1,300 acre Albertville Valley sand mine several miles southeast of Colfax, plans to ask for changes to the reclamation permit Chippewa County issued in 2015.
February 19, 2020
A Dunn County judge has dismissed a request to grant an emergency injunction to stop the Ridgeland Pioneer Days chicken toss and greased pig events scheduled for February 15. Judge Rod W. Smeltzer dismissed an emergency injunction without prejudice filed by the Farm Bird Sanctuary at a hearing held in Dunn County Circuit Court Tuesday, February 11.
Dunn County Circuit Court Judge James Peterson has found probable cause and has bound over for trail Gary Styer, who is accused in the death of his father, Edward Styer of Colfax.
The Colfax Village Board has approved the expenditure of $2,500 from the elevator designated fund for an application to the Community Development Block Grant program for a planning grant for the elevator project.
On the recommendation of the public safety committee, the Elk Mound Village Board has decided not to license cats.
An era ended when Doug Jensen called the February meeting of the Colfax Sportsman’s Club to order, replacing George Richards, who served as the club’s president since May of 2012. The club operates out of, and mostly maintains at its own cost, the Colfax-Dunn County Shooting Sports Complex.
February 26, 2020
Amid concerns about structural damage after an Amazon delivery truck backed into the building Friday afternoon, the Colfax Post office is closed until further notice.
A Whitetail deer killed during bow season near 3M in Menomonie has tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease. This was the first wild CWD deer in Dunn County, although the first CWD deer in this area was detected in Eau Claire County in 2017 with three more positives in Eau Claire County in 2018.
In an effort not to confuse the public too much, the Dunn County Board has officially changed the name of the Community Services Building on Highway 12/29 to the Dunn County Government Center. Dunn County has sold the Dunn County Government Center building on Wilson Avenue to the City of Menomonie, and no county offices remain in that building.
For the first time since 1994, the Dunn County Board has approved increasing the compensation for jurors from $16 for a full day of jury duty to $25. The Dunn County Board approved the increase, along with an increase from 15 cents per mile to 51 cents per mile, at the February 19 meeting.
March 4, 2020
The Colfax girls’ basketball team won the 2020 WIAA Division 4 regional championship, the fourth regional title for the senior class, with a 75-47 home win over Phillips last Saturday.
If you are a registered voter in Wisconsin who may or may not have moved recently your name should still be on the list of registered voters, according to Julie Wathke, Dunn County Clerk, during her annual report at the Dunn County Board’s February 19 meeting. The Wisconsin Court of Appeals District 4 issued two stays January 14 in the case known as Timothy Zignego et al vs. Wisconsin Elections Commission et al, she said.
An informational meeting on the Chippewa Valley Technical College $48.8 million referendum in the April election has been scheduled for March 10 in the cafeteria at Colfax High School.
A 17-year-old Elk Mound High School student has been charged in Dunn County with one felony count of making terrorist threats after sending threatening text messages regarding school staff.
March 11, 2020
A Dunn County judge has dismissed a motion filed by defense attorneys to suppress statements made to investigators by former Colfax resident Richard Seehaver following the death of John Likeness in December of 2018.
After collecting donations for two years and raising over $6,500, Colfax Lutheran is preparing to finish the “Wells for Malawi” campaign by April 1.
Poppa Bear Norton will be performing at the Colfax Municipal Building’s Cozy Theater on Sunday, March 15.
The Elk Mound Village Board has approved a request to waive the requirement for installing sewer and water service at two residential lots on University Street because of the estimated cost of $250,000.
March 18, 2020
After allegedly breaking into the Outhouse Bar, a 31-year-old Bloomer man attempted to elude police officers in Colfax Saturday morning, March 7, by jumping into the Red Cedar River. Joshua A. Whitley is charged in Dunn County with one felony count of burglary and misdemeanor counts of obstructing an officer, theft and disorderly conduct.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, voters in Dunn County are strongly urged to act now to vote absentee for the April 7 spring election.
Based on the recommendation of the Colfax Plan Commission, the Colfax Village Board has approved a certified survey map (CSM) for Pleasant Valley Properties for a proposed storage building on Willow Street.
Never in their wildest dreams did Colfax residents Troy and Michelle Knutson think they would ever attend a church service with the oldest living President of the United States. But that’s exactly what happened on a recent trip to Florida when the Knutsons made it a point to travel to Plains, Georgia, to attend a church service at the Maranatha Baptist Church where Rosalynn and Jimmy Carter are members.
March 25, 2020
The Dunn County Board of Supervisors has declared a state of emergency in Dunn County for a period not to exceed six months because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dunn County’s first positive case of COVID-19 was reported on Thursday, March 19.
KT Gallagher, Dunn County director of public health, had some words of advice for the Dunn County Board at the March 18 meeting: “Take a deep breath and hold onto calm.” Gallagher gave an update to the county board on what her department has been doing to address the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Dunn County Board has authorized the sale of $14.15 million in general obligation bonds to refinance what remains of the $22 million in general obligation health care center bonds dated June 25, 2012.