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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 July, August and September of 2021.
July 7, 2021
In spite of an outbreak of COVID-19 in Dunn County, the Dunn County Facilities Committee has relaxed occupancy restrictions on the Red Cedar Speedway at the Dunn County Rec Park. The facilities committee approved a motion to double the numbers to allow a certain percent occupancy. For example, instead of nine cases per week of the disease to allow 100 percent capacity, the grandstands could be full if there are 18 cases per week.
What was once an empty lot only a few weeks ago directly west of the former Area Nursing Home in Colfax is showing good progress on the two four-plexes being built by Nick Semling of Countrified Investments.
A Dunn County judge has revoked a plea agreement and has sentenced a 23-year-old former Colfax man who pleaded guilty to the repeated sexual assault of a teenager to seven years in prison and 10 years of extended supervision. Dylan M. Reidel appeared before Judge Rod Smeltzer for a sentencing hearing July 2.
The Elk Mound Village Board voted unanimously at the June 28 meeting to reopen the village hall to the public on July 1.
July 14, 2021
When the enhanced federal Food Share benefits are removed, Dunn County residents who are receiving the benefit will lose about $1.4 million every two months.
The Colfax Zoning Board of Appeals have approved a variance for a chain link fence at 107 Viking Drive and 207 King Olaf Court. The fence would be a four-foot color-coated chain link fence around the backyard of 107 Viking Drive that would extend onto the adjoining lot at 207 King Olaf Court, said Bruce Buckley, owner of the two lots, at a meeting of the Zoning Board of Appeals July 7.
Representatives of the Colossal Fossils Museum out of Wausau presented the “Whale of a Tale” program for the Colfax Public Library at the Colfax Fairgrounds July 7.
July 21, 2021
The Colfax Board of Education has received comments about the public comments policy. Reducing the time for public comment to three minutes per person “is an attempt to silence the people who employ everyone at the school district,” said Rich Jenson, Colfax school district resident, at the Colfax Board of Education’s July 12 meeting.
After holding a modified version of the Dunn County Fair last year for exhibitors only because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the general public is once again invited to the Dunn County Fair to celebrate “136 years of family fun.”
Local Boy Scout Devin Scheffler secured the Elk Mound Village Board’s permission for his Eagle Scout project at the July 12 meeting. Scheffler would like to paint the back of the visiting team dug out on field two at the village park with the names and logos for all the baseball teams in the Dunn-St. Croix Conference.
Ashley Acker has received the Distinguished Graduate Award at Luke Air Force Base in Glendale Arizona. She is a Class of 2020 graduate of Elk Mound High School.
The Colfax Board of Education has transferred $537,225 to Fund 46, the capital improvements fund. The Colfax school district established Fund 46 six years ago.
July 28, 2021
Dr. Rachel Hasler of Clear Connection Chiropractic in Colfax says she was inspired to become a chiropractor while playing high school softball. While Clear Connection Chiropractic in Colfax is located in the former Arvold Chiropractic building at the corner of Main and East River Street, the main Clear Connection office is located in Menomonie on Wolske Bay Road.
A 60-year-old Colfax man who drove his pick-up truck through the wall at the Bridge Stop gas station and convenience store in Wheeler has been charged with a fourth offense for Operating While Intoxicated (OWI). Charles E. Martin appeared in Dunn County Circuit Court before Judge Rod Smeltzer for an initial appearance July 14.
The Elk Mound Village Board unanimously approved a developer’s agreement for Settlers Ridge at the July 19 meeting. Work on the apartment units is expected to begin yet this summer.
Almost 50 percent of Wisconsin residents have completed the vaccine series for SARS-CoV-2, but officials from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services say that’s not enough. A vaccination rate of 80 percent is necessary to keep the virus that causes COVID-19 from circulating and mutating.
August 4, 2021
Brian Styer, a member of the Willing Workers 4-H Club, sold his purebred market barrow at the Dunn County Fair meat animal auction to Midwest Nutrition for $43 per pound. The pig weighed in at 311 pounds, and the maximum paid weight for swine was 300 pounds.
A man charged with first degree intentional homicide in Dunn County has filed a “notice of injury and claim” against the county for $2 million. The Dunn County Board unanimously denied the claim filed by Ryan Steinhoff at the July 28 meeting. Steinhoff alleges the sheriff’s department inappropriately used his mental health records and intercepted confidential attorney-client communication.
Anne M. Iehl, formerly of Boyceville, has been sentenced to two years of probation, 50 hours of community service and court costs for one felony count of mistreating animal and one misdemeanor count of intentionally failing to provide food for an animal in connection with an emaciated dog that came to the Dunn County Humane Society weighing 23.5 pounds. One month later, Gabriel, as the shelter staff called him, weighed 55.6 pounds. Iehl also cannot own an animal for five years.
The Elk Mound Board of Education has approved starting the school year with several measures in place intended to mitigate COVID-19 but made masks optional.
August 11, 2021
Melvina Solberg Evenson, who operated Solberg’s Ready-to-Wear on Main Street in Colfax for 30 years, celebrated her 105th birthday on Sunday, August 8, at the Colfax Fairgrounds.
After serving Colfax Lutheran for 26 years, Rev. Dr. Leslie Walck preached his last sermon before his retirement on August 1.
The Colfax FFA and FFA Alumni will hold the first annual Tractor Fest at the Colfax Fairgrounds on Saturday, August 14.
The Dunn County Board has approved awarding the sale of $6.4 million in general obligation promissory notes to finance capital improvement projects and to refinance existing debt.
Safari Bob brought a variety of animals to the Colfax Fairgrounds for the Colfax Public Library’s summer reading program July 28. Sustainable Safari with Safari Bob is out of Maplewood, Minnesota.
The Dunn County Facilities Committee and county staff are working on a facilities assessment to determine how and where improvements can be made to help meet the goal of using 100 percent renewable energy by 2050.
August 18, 2021
About 50 tractors were parked at the Colfax Fairgrounds August 14 for the Colfax FFA and FFA Alumni’s First Annual Tractor Fest. Other featured activities of the day included raffles, Made in Colfax items for sale, toy tractors and the Thrillbillies, with Colfax native Bronson Bergeson, playing in the beer garden in the evening.
Although the street work on Riverview Avenue in Colfax is progressing steadily, the project is experiencing delays because there is only one entrance to the Viking Addition. Most streets in cities and villages are laid out on a grid so that people have two ways to get in and out during construction. Because the Viking Addition is landlocked, the contractor must shut down early each day and spend time making sure all of the equipment is out of the way so residents can reach their homes.
The Colfax Village Board has approved mapping and the creation of a legal description for a fifth Tax Increment Finance District at a cost of $6,800 with Ayres Associates.
August 25, 2021
A group of volunteers from Walmart worked at the Colfax Railroad Museum on Railroad Avenue in Colfax on August 18 for the United Way Day of Caring. Volunteers from 3M worked at the museum in the afternoon.
A three-week jury trial has ben scheduled next June in Dunn County Circuit Court for a 38-year-old man charged in connection with a homicide in the Town of Dunn last November. Attorneys for Ryan L. Steinhoff told the court that two different evaluations for not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect have been filed with differing opinions.
The Colfax Board of Education has approved the Back-to-School plan with masks optional for the 2021-2022 school year. School districts would find it helpful in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic if the governor or the public health director or the federal government would use the word “mandate” instead of issuing “guidance and recommendations,” said William C. Yingst Jr., district administrator.
The Dunn County Community Resources and Tourism Committee has approved a proposal from Your Web Choice to develop a rural tourism website for Dunn County.
Review of the proposed budget for the 2021-2022 school year of $9.48 million in expenditures was part of the Colfax school district’s annual meeting on August 14. About a dozen people attended the annual meeting.
September 1, 2021
Members of the Colfax Village Board are concerned about the future of the Colfax Rescue Squad because of inadequate funds to replace equipment, compensate employees or to pay other operational costs.
If you know who dropped off the 48-star flag for the Colfax elevator thrift sale August 19 to 21 at the fairgrounds, the Colfax Elevator Commission and the Colfax Municipal Building Restoration Group would love to hear from you. The 48 stars means the flag must be more than 60 years old.
Did you know that the new technology of mRNA (messenger RNA) used for the COVID-19 vaccines I actually not a new technology? A group of doctors from Mayo Clinic held an online forum August 26 to talk about vaccine misinformation and to answer questions from listeners. Work on mRNA started in 1990, and the technology is being used in many trials for different infectious diseases and also is being used to treat some cancers.
The Elk Mound Village Board held a special meeting August 23 to continue discussions about amendments to the development agreement for Settlers Ridge. The amendment includes a provision in which the village will fund an $800,000 incentive payment, and the developer will contribute up to $250,000 to be repaid from the Tax Increment Finance District.
September 8, 2021
The Colfax Rescue Squad is proposing a budget of $448,038 for 2022, with a per capita of $22.10. The proposed budget represents an increase of $15,000 over the budget of $433,038 initially presented at the annual meeting August 31, which had a proposed per capita of $20.28.
After not being held in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 53rd Colfax Firefighters’ Ball will be held Saturday, September 11.
A meeting to organize a Joint Review Board for the proposed creation of Tax Increment Finance District 5 was held at 5 p.m. August 30, with a review of the proposed plan for the district, and immediately following at 6 p.m., the Colfax Plan Commission held a public hearing on the proposed plan and then recommended that the village board move forward with creating TID 5.
The Dunn County Facilities Committee has decided to leave the policy “as is” that determines the number of unvaccinated people in the grandstands at the Red Cedar Speedway based on the previous week’s COVID-19 infection rate. With the current rate of COVID infection in Dunn County, the grandstands could have zero percent unvaccinated people, said KT Gallagher, health officer and director of the Dunn County Health Department, at a special meeting of the facilities committee August 31.
September 15, 2021
The Dunn County Health Department is expecting the current surge of COVID-19 infections fueled by the Delta variant to increase over the next six to eight weeks.
The Colfax Red Cedar Preserve and Recreation Area has a volunteer workday scheduled for September 25 on National Public Lands Day. The management committee is inviting anyone who is interested to devote an hour or two of their time to help out.
A Dunn County judge has ordered a 19-year-old Colfax man bound over for trial on charges related to the sexual assault of a child and also has ordered HIV testing. Brady J. Agema, along with his attorney, Harry Hertel, appeared before Judge James Peterson September 9 for a preliminary hearing.
The Elk Mound Village Board has approved a 3 percent increase to water rates to help catch up on rate increases that should have happened in the past.
September 22, 2021
A 56-year-old St. Paul man has been charged in Dunn County with four felony counts of hiding a corpse in connection with the quadruple homicide in the Town of Sheridan. A criminal complaint in the case against Darren L. Osborne was filed in Dunn County Circuit Court on Wednesday, September 15. Antoine Suggs also is a suspect in the case. Suggs was taken into custody September 17 in Maricopa County, Arizona.
The Dunn County Highway Committee has suggested using $3.2 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to help reduce a $5 million deficit in the proposed budget for 2022.
The Village of Colfax was $92,889 under budget for 2020, although public works was $2,032 over budget, according to an audit report given to the Colfax Village Board September 13.
Dunn County has hired Ann Wodarczyk as the new zoning administrator. Wodarczyk began her duties on September 15. She previously worked in the zoning office in St. Croix County.
September 29, 2021
After being on the waiting list for six years, Colfax resident Gust Fehr was finally able to go on the Freedom Honor Flight out of La Crosse to Washington D.C. Saturday, September 11.
The Colfax Board of Education has agreed to keep the “masks optional” policy in the Back-to-School plan for dealing with COVID-19 — at least for the time being. So far this year, in the first 13 days of school, there are more cases of COVID-19 than there were all of last year, said William C. Yingst Jr., district administrator. As of the day of the school board meeting, there were 46 positive cases of the coronavirus in the district, and as of September 20, there were 73 people in quarantine. Yingst said in his opinion, the masks optional policy “is not successful so far.”
Although agriculture is the primary land use in Dunn County, and agriculture is associated with nitrate contamination of water wells, whether an individual well is contaminated depends on the well’s location and a variety of other factors. Heather Wood, Dunn County water resources specialist, and Chase Cummings, Dunn County conservationist, made a presentation about groundwater and test results at a meeting of the Town of Colfax Plan Commission September 22.
The Elk Mound school board learned at the September 20 meeting that there are fewer than five active cases of COVID-19 per building, with approximately 15 students per building in quarantine.
Nine new staff members in the Colfax school district introduced themselves to the Colfax Board of Education at the September 20 meeting. Cheyenne Bielmeier is a speech and language pathologist. Brittany Halvorson-Canfield is teaching middle school and high school science. Nick Heit is teaching fourth grade. Tristan Kittilson is teaching fifth grade, and Carly Kittilson is teaching second grade. Carragh Knutson is serving as a cross categorical special education teacher at Colfax Elementary. Emily Miller is teaching Spanish at Colfax High School. Nicole Shane is teaching fourth grade. Nichelle Wollberg is teaching biology and science at Colfax High School.