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A fire destroyed a garage in the town of Brockway last week.The Black River Falls Fire Department was called to the 326 Sterling Ave. structure about 1:40 p.m. Thursday after a report of smoke coming from the wood frame building. The garage and all its contents are considered a total loss. The cause isn’t yet known but remains under investigation, according to the department.Firefighters found the 60-by-40-foot unattached garage with flames when they arrived and an exterior attack allowed the department to save the nearby single-family home, which did suffer some radiant heat damage.The structure, owned by Lawrence Schultz, is insured and damage estimates are not yet known, according to the department.The BRF Fire Department was on scene for nearly two hours with 10 firefighters who used 17,060 gallons of water to extinguish the blaze. No one was injured.The fire was the first since the department launched its first-ever “Keep...

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The Ho-Chunk Nation will receive 1,553 acres at the closed Badger Army Ammunition Plant, a deal 16 years in the making, Sen. Tammy Baldwin announced last week.“This has been almost two decades of effort to reclaim that particular piece of property,” said Ho-Chunk Nation President Jon Greendeer. “This is a huge gain for the Ho-Chunk people.”Baldwin said she has been pushing the federal government to return the land to the tribe since she was elected to Congress in 1998. The overall plan for the decommissioned plant, spanning 7,354 acres in Sauk County, was finalized in 2001.It divides ownership of the former U.S. Department of Defense site along Highway 12 south of Baraboo primarily among three entities: The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources with 3,400 acres, the Ho-Chunk Nation with nearly 1,600 acres and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Dairy Forage Research Center with 2,100 acres.Baldwin said in a statement that...

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Local attorney and former state representative Mark Radcliffe announced this week that he will join the race for Jackson County Circuit Court judge.“I will be entering into my 19th year of practice this coming summer and believe that my extensive background in many diverse areas of the law would serve me well if elected,” Radcliffe said.Radcliffe is the fourth person to publicly announce they will run for the position when it’s up for election next spring. Current Judge Anna Becker, former prosecutor Robyn Matousek and Black River Falls City Attorney Dan Diehn also said they will run, and all of them will face off in a February primary where the field will be whittled to two.All four were among five local attorneys who had applied for the position to fill the remainder of retiring Judge Thomas Lister’s term. Gov. Scott Walker appointed Becker and she was sworn in this fall.Radcliffe...

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Plans to renovate the Jackson County Animal Shelter are progressing as officials work to finalize building design and launch a formal fundraising campaign.The Jackson County Humane Society’s plan for upgrades already has received county committee approval, and the Black River Falls City Council was expected to give its OK last Tuesday. The group will begin formal fundraising efforts after the city’s approval is finalized.“I think the (project) means that the animals will be more comfortable – are they ever going to like being in a shelter? No, but we can make it as nice as possible,” said Marly Divver, president of the Jackson County Humane Society.“You try to pick out the best thing and do the best you can for them – that’s what we want to do.”The humane society now has preliminary design plans for $500,000 in renovations to the nearly 40-year BRF-based shelter. Under the proposals, the current...

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Black River Falls’ Christkindl Festival is back to help usher in the holiday season this year.The sixth annual event brings German Christkindl tradition to the city with holiday food, fun and activities Friday night and Saturday.“It’s just bringing festivities downtown to have the warmth and the gathering and the holiday themes,” said Joan Hanson, the Christkindl Festival’s chairperson.“I think (it’s popular) just because it is a winter festival. You can always have your festivals in the summertime, but to do it in the winter can get more people into the holiday spirit.”This year’s event kicks off Friday night with the annual opening ceremony on the Jackson County Courthouse lawn where the tree lighting ceremony with musical numbers will take place at 6 p.m. A candlelight procession will follow to the Christkindlmarkt tent on N. Second Street where this year’s coronation of Christkindl and Father Christmas ambassadors will take place at...

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Hunters experienced another drop in deer registered in Jackson County during the nine-day gun season this year.There were a total of 3,747 deer registered in the county in 2014, which represents an 18-percent drop from last year when numbers also experienced a decline.Hunters registered 1,681 antlered and 2,066 antlerless deer in the county this year, a drop in both categories but a larger decline in antlerless harvest from 2013, according to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.DNR wildlife biologist Scott Roepke said he was somewhat surprised by the 10 percent drop in buck harvest, but the department did expect a decline – and in this case 23 percent – in the antlerless harvest because of a buck-only restriction in the county’s eastern forest zone.“Buck harvest is (surprising) a little bit, but antlerless is not surprising,” Roepke said. “The reduction in buck harvest was probably due to a lot of factors.”This...

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Jackson County Animal Officer Barb Pfaff said she knew she’d find animals when she saw a coat near the front door of the animal shelter last week.She looked under the green and red clothing to find a mother cat wrapping her arms around three nearly frozen kittens she was trying to protect from the cold.“We’re grateful that (people) leave them – I’m glad they trust us to be able to make a good place for them,” Pfaff said.“But it isn’t a good decision to leave them out there to freeze.”Pfaff said she’d like to remind anyone who’s dropping off unwanted animals at the Black River Falls-based shelter that an after-hours phone call can be the difference between animals living or dying in cold – or extremely hot – temperatures.She said last week’s incident, which is a relatively rare occurrence, has prompted the shelter to put up an outdoor sign with...

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Black River Falls is moving ahead with disbanding its police department and contracting with the county for law enforcement despite calls for soliciting more public input before making the decision.The city council voted 4-4 last week to dissolve the city’s force and move ahead with an agreement with the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department. Mayor Ron Danielson broke the tie with a vote in favor of the county option.The Nov. 19 decision came as some council members and members of the public called on the council to consider keeping the department and looking into placing either an advisory or binding referendum on an upcoming ballot to solicit community input.“I think this is a very hard decision,” said Alderperson Dave Johnson, one of four council members to vote against the motion for the county contact.“I think we really need to be listening to what the citizens say.”Efforts already are under way to...

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Officials are bracing for opposition that could halt a project to add to the Jackson County Courthouse and bring on a second judge.Jackson County Board Chair Dennis Eberhardt said during a project planning meeting last week that the board will be re-educated on the needs for the second judgeship and a related building project during its regular December meeting.Supervisor and Vice Chair Jeff Amo also raised concerns about support for the project, including whether there will be the two-thirds majority support of the county board needed to OK its financing.“We’re having some problems with the board recognizing the needs,” Amo said during last week’s meeting. “There is some resistance … that has popped up and been discussed.“That is a potential issue that (it) may halt this project altogether.”The county board last March gave its support for a second judgeship as the county continues to struggle with its caseload, and it...

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Peggy Holmgreen just likes to help others.With the American Red Cross, she has had the opportunity to help in a variety of ways.If there’s a house fire, she helps coordinate relief efforts.If there’s a major flood, she plays a role in organizing assistance for anyone displaced.She’s even taken her response nationally in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and a more recent hurricane on the east coast.“I just like to do it,” said Holmgreen, of Black River Falls. “I just always want to be there to be able to help.”Most recently, Holmgreen has been honored for her commitment to the aid organization by being named the Red Cross’ November Volunteer of the Month for the Scenic Bluffs Chapter, which covers Jackson, La Crosse, Monroe and Vernon counties and Houston County, Minn.Holmgreen has served as Jackson County’s disaster action team coordinator for the past five years but started...

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Randy Molini wanted to get back to a more simple life after years of working in the mortgage business.He saw an opportunity to do just that when he bought a farm in Jackson County nearly a decade ago. Not long after, he had purchased what was then a run-down bar in downtown Black River Falls and began working to make it a reputable, popular establishment.Rozario’s Pizza and Pasta, named for his Italian father, was a source of pride for Molini and his family, who say the 53-year-old had even more plans for it.“We were so proud of him for doing that,” said Molini’s older sister, Carol Mandernack. “He had so many dreams – he had so many things he was going to do with that restaurant.“It’s a wonderful establishment.”Family, friends, co-workers and political acquaintances now are mourning the death of Molini who died of an apparent suicide last week. His...

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