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By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — Another year has gone by, and we will soon be approaching the two-year mark of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Colfax Messenger has been reporting on local news since April of 1897. Here is a look back at the top headlines from January, February and March of 2021.
January 6, 2021
Vaccinations of residents and staff members for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, began at the Colfax Health and Rehabilitation Center on Tuesday, December 29. Around 82 percent of the residents and about 30 percent of the staff received their first dose of vaccine, said Kenzie Galetka, CHRC administrator.
The Colfax Village Board has contracted with Bauman Associates, certified public accountants, for an audit of the village’s 2020 finances at a cost ranging from $26,150 to $27,300.
The Colfax Village Board has approved terminating the lease with Dunn County for the Colfax solid waste and recycling collection site along with a purchase agreement for the equipment and infrastructure Dunn County is selling to Colfax for the collection site. The original lease was signed in 1990, but was renewed two years ago. Colfax leased the site to Dunn County for $1 per year.
January 13, 2021
After 42 years of service to Dunn County, Dan Prestebak, county conservationist, has retired. The Dunn County Planning, Resources and Development Committee held a farewell for Prestebak as part of the December 22 meeting.
Eight candidates have filed nomination papers for state Superintendent of Public Instruction, including one who grew up in Colfax and graduated from Colfax High School. Troy Gunderson of West Salem, who attended school in Colfax from kindergarten through twelfth grade and is the son of Sharon and Del Gunderson of Colfax, filed his declaration of candidacy and nomination papers January 4.
Three of the four positions on the Colfax Village Board coming up for election in April will not have candidates on the ballot, including the position of village president. The village trustee positions currently held by Margaret Burcham, Logan Michels and Anne Jenson, as well as village president position held by Scott Gunnufson, will be on the ballot April 6. Burcham was the only candidate to turn in nomination papers by the January 5 deadline.
January 20, 2021
The “$22 for 22” Steps fund raiser for the Colfax Municipal Building elevator project has raised nearly $5,200 so far.
A Cooks Valley couple with a residence on county Highway DD has filed a lawsuit in Chippewa County against EOG Resources and Kraemer Mining & Materials for the operation of the DS frac sand mine. Kevin and Donna Zwiefelhofer filed the lawsuit in Chippewa County December 11, 2020.
The Dunn County Solid Waste and Recycling Management Board has received four letters of interest pertaining to the transfer station on state Highway 29 west of Menomonie.
The percentage of absences in the Colfax School District due to COVID-19 remains low. Staff absences are around 3 percent and students range from 3 to 5 percent. Influenza absences are also low this year. The goal is to keep influenza absences under 20 percent. The low incidence of illness is attributed to everyone wearing masks and particular attention to washing hands and physical distancing.
January 27, 2021
Mound View Elementary will operate as a virtual school from Monday, January 25, until Tuesday, February 9, because of the number of positive COVID-19 cases and close contacts.
Out of 20 wells tested in the Town of Colfax, 14 were contaminated with nitrate, at least to some degree, and out of the 14 wells, three tested above the drinking water standard of 10 milligrams per liter.
The Elk Mound Village Board has agreed to table discussion and possible action on a developer’s agreement for the proposed Settlers Ridge development.
The Dunn County Board has approved a resolution supporting the creation of the Chippewa-St. Croix Rail Commission to bring passenger rail service to the Chippewa Valley and the St. Croix Valley.
February 3, 2021
Repairing the Red Cedar River bank just below Riverview Avenue in Colfax where the store sewer outlet has eroded the bank could cost as much as $30,000.
Maybe you have heard of them referred to as “mother-in-law apartments” or “mother-in-law flats.” The technical term for a second dwelling on a parcel is an “accessory dwelling unit.” The Dunn County zoning office receives inquiries about ADUs perhaps 10 times each year, but the Dunn County Planning, Resources and Development Committee has declined to move forward with an ADU ordinance based on the idea that there are already other options in the county’s zoning code.
Even though the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine roll-out has already started, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services is recommending that large gatherings still be postponed this summer to allow as many people as possible to be vaccinated first.
A 43-year-old Boyceville man has pleaded “no contest” and has been found guilty on four misdemeanor counts related to poaching Whitetail deer. Judge James Peterson fined Ray C. Stuart $9,932 in Dunn County Circuit Court January 27, placed Stuart on two years of probation, and as a condition of probation, ordered Stuart to serve 30 days in jail on one weekend per month over the next 15 months.
February 10, 2021
If you are a student with a disability, how are you going to get to school or work, especially in a rural area? This was the topic of discussion during a “community conservation” on increasing opportunities for employment for youth with disabilities held virtually by participants from the Colfax, Menomonie and Chippewa Falls school districts February 4 as part of a requirement for receiving Transportation Readiness Grant funding. Colfax received $45,100 in grant funding; Chippewa received $63,150; and Menomonie received $40,250.
The Dunn County Board’s facilities committee has agreed to begin reviewing sample resolutions with the idea of eventually developing a plan for Dunn County to be “Carbon Free by the Year 2050” and to have county facilities and departments run on 100 percent renewable energy.
The Elk Mound Village Board has again declined to act on the terms of a developer’s agreement for the proposed Settlers Ridge development on the east side of the village.
After the grant application is submitted, Dunn County expects to receive $340,000 in COVID-related federal Community Development Block Grant Coronavirus funds to assist with housing for the homeless.
February 17, 2021
It was a matter of “all or nothing.” The Colfax Village Board decided on “all” at the February 8 meeting for the repair of the Red Cedar River Bank below Riverview Avenue and the installation of a new storm sewer system. The two options were “do nothing” or do the $40,000 project.
To beat the February 22 deadline for expenditures in Tax Increment Financing District 4, the Colfax Village Board has approved borrowing about $100,000 toward the Dunn Street project.
The Dunn County Highway Committee has set allowable all-terrain vehicle miles on roads by traffic count and has opened the Caryville bridge to ATV/UTV traffic for a one-year trial period.
Although a trial was scheduled to start February 15 for a former Boyceville woman charged in connection with an emaciated dog, the trial has been rescheduled to May because one of the witnesses has been diagnosed with COVID-19. Anne M. Iehl is charged with one felony count of mistreatment of an animal and one misdemeanor count of intentionally failing to provide food for an animal.
February 24, 2021
A different procedure is being used this year for early childhood screening in the Colfax school district. Instead of the youngsters being brought to school, developmental screeners have been mailed home to families with three-year-old children. The physical distancing related to the COVID-19 pandemic makes it much more difficult to conduct in-person screening.
The Elk Mound Village Board has approved a term sheet for a proposed development known as Settlers Ridge. The board has been working on the developer’s agreement and creating a second Tax Increment Financing District for several months.
Three veteran teachers, each with more than 30 years of service, will be retiring from the Colfax school district at the end of the school year: Linda Bilodeau, Deb Larson and Mark Mosey.
The Elk Mound Board of Education has started discussing the possibility of the school switching from the Dunn-St. Croix Conference to the Cloverbelt.
March 3, 2021
Vernon Schindler, who passed away December 15, 2020, at the age of 78, was a graduate of Colfax High School and served as chair of the Town of Howard for 50 years. The Colfax Messenger published a tribute written by a close friend of Schindler’s.
Highway funding, broadband Internet access, Medicaid reimbursement for nursing homes, mental health beds and property tax levy limits were among the topics the Dunn County Board discussed with state legislators at a special meeting February 22.
The Colfax Village Board’s Elevator Commission needs your help and is seeking groups, clubs, organizations and non-profits that would be willing to take a short survey to assist with an application for a planning grant.
March 10, 2021
Racing could return to the Red Cedar Speedway at the Dunn County Rec Park in Menomonie this summer. The Dunn County Facilities Committee approved forwarding a resolution to the executive committee at the February 24 meeting that would allow racing with a certain number of spectators in the grandstands. The number of spectators would be determined by the positivity rate for COVID-19 in Dunn County at the time of the scheduled races.
It’s been a long time coming, but with the positivity rate for COVID-19 now below 10 percent in Dunn County, indoor visits are starting at the Colfax Health and Rehabilitation Center.
A 52-year-old Wheeler woman has been found guilty in Dunn County Circuit Court on two felonies related to financial crimes against the elderly or disabled. Lori K. Feyen pleaded “no contest” and Judge Rod Smeltzer found Feyen guilty on one count of the theft of movable property worth between $10,000 and $100,000 and guilty on one count of forgery.
The Dunn County Solid Waste & Recycling Division is planning to auction off surplus equipment from the transfer station and collection sites around the county.
March 17, 2021
EOG Resources has started the reclamation process for the S&S frac sand mine in the Town of Howard. EOG is planning to close the frac sand mine and has started the final rough grading of the mine site to establish the reclaimed land surface, said Dan Masterpole of Chippewa County Land Conservation and Forestry Management in an e-mail message to the Colfax Messenger March 4.
If all goes according to plan, construction is expected to begin this spring on two four-plex residential units at 1009 University Avenue in Colfax directly west of the site of the former Area Nursing Home.
On the recommendation of the Colfax Plan Commission, the Colfax Village Board has agreed to allow vinyl siding for the Homes by Croix Creek project in the East View residential development on Dunn Street. High lumber prices due to the COVID-19 pandemic are impacting builders. The developer’s agreement for East View does not allow vinyl siding.
Northern Sands Wisconsin had no mining or other site disturbance in 2020 at the 1,310 acre Albertville Valley sand mine and no activity is expected in 2021.
March 24, 2021
The Colfax Varsity Dance Team competed in the WACPC Western Regional Dance competition in Hudson Saturday, March 20. The team came in third place in Division 5 Pom and earned a spot at the WACPC state program in April.
Dunn County has found itself in the position of finding candidates to appoint for county treasurer and for county clerk. April 2 will be the last day of work for Doris Meyer, Dunn County treasurer. April 15 will be the last day of work for Julie Wathke, Dunn County clerk. Meyer and Wathke resigned for unrelated reasons to accept positions elsewhere.
A 51-year-old Elk Mound man is accused in Eau Claire County of three felony counts related to human trafficking, abuse of an at-risk individual and identity theft for financial gain. Daniel J. King is scheduled for an initial appearance in Eau Claire County Circuit Court on March 30.
The Elk Mound Village Board is discussing options for refinancing $910,000 in debt.
March 31, 2021
Millie Packer, a resident at Ridge Crest Manor Assisted Living in the Colfax Health and Rehabilitation Center, celebrated her 107th birthday March 25. Up until she was 103, Millie lived in one of the Sandy Ridge Assisted assisted living apartments at CHRC. Millie and her husband, Tim, had six children and farmed near Rusk in the Town of Red Cedar not far from Exit 45.
When Gary Swartz saw a shelving unit that had been donated for the Colfax Elevator Commission’s thrift sat at the fairgrounds in August of 2019 that did not sell, he took it home. The shelving unit has now been turned into three flags — a United States flag, a 13-star Betsy Ross flag and a Wisconsin flag. The flags are on display at the Colfax Public Library, and they have been put up for silent auction as a fund raiser for the Colfax Municipal Building elevator project.
Following the death of Tony Braaten in February, the Colfax Village Board has hired a new caretaker for Evergreen Cemetery in Colfax. The village board approved hiring Ron Brantner at the March 22 meeting.
Two candidates will be on the April 6 ballot for Dunn County Circuit Court judge to replace Judge Rod Smeltzer, who plans to retire this summer. Christina Mayer will face Nicholas P. Lange for the Branch II judge position.