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The Ho-Chunk Nation is exploring a major development that could include a sports complex, museum, regional entertainment venue and more near the tribe’s casino in Madison.The tribe is working with city officials, neighboring property owners and others to identify and shape potential uses for almost 48 acres adjacent to Ho-Chunk Gaming — Madison, near the interchange where the Beltline meets Interstate 90-94.“We’re very excited about exploring these opportunities,” said Missy Tracy, municipal relations coordinator for Ho-Chunk Gaming — Madison. “We feel this is an important project. The location is at the gateway to the city of Madison.”It’s too early to estimate a cost or a set timetable, Tracy said.“Right now, they’re just ideas,” she said.Madison Mayor Paul Soglin said the city is interested but that discussions are at an early stage.“It’s an interesting project,” Soglin said. “We will take a look at it. After thorough examination we’ll have answers to...

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A rural Black River Falls man is dead following an accident in the town of Komensky Monday afternoon.Darren Hopinka, 26, died after falling off a vehicle while riding on its rear bumper on Pettibone Pass near Morrison Road. An investigation indicated Hopinka and another man were standing on the bumper of a Dodge SUV during the drive and Hopinka fell and could not survive his injuries, according to the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department.The second man and other individuals associated with the accident were not injured. The sheriff’s department did not release their names.An autopsy was conducted and additional follow-up investigation is ongoing. The Wisconsin State Patrol assisted the sheriff’s department with accident reconstruction....

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Black River Falls now has a formal procedure for appointing new members of the city council.The new ordinance, proposed by outgoing Alderperson Dave Johnson, was OK’d by the city council last week. The policy provides a timeframe for collecting letters of interest, applicants appearing before the council and voting on naming a new member by written ballot.Johnson said he brought the idea forward to allow for more transparency in city government activities and the proposal came after how the two latest appointments were handled.“I just feel there needs to be more transparency in our city government,” said Johnson, who didn’t seek re-election this spring after 10 years on the council. “I think the policy, now that it’s in place, I think it’s going to be a lot better. It’s going to take more initiative for citizens to get involved if they are, in fact, interested in being part of city...

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The Black River Falls Public Library has it all and more: Books, magazines, videos, educational programming. Children’s and teen areas. Computers. A history room. Internet cafe.If patrons are looking for information, it’s a one-stop shop with a bounty of resources.That’s what the Fillmore Street facility is celebrating next week with the observation of National Library Week April 13-18 and its theme, “Unlimited Possibilities.”“Part of the unlimited possibilities is not limited to physical space. We do want to continue to offer the traditional services and we need a physical space, but the possibilities aren’t limited to that with all the online access,” said Tammy Peasley, BRF library director. “Another part of that unlimited possibilities is being responsive to our community.“We can guess and respond to our own ideas, but if we can hear suggestions from the community we absolutely are responsive to that and have a desire to meet community requests,...

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Hatfield Fire and Rescue plans to begin construction of a new station this summer after a recent donation helped push the project forward.The volunteer fire and rescue departments have for years been working to raise about $300,000 for a new building, and a $150,000 donation from the Ho-Chunk Nation gave the organization enough money to move forward with construction.“As a department, it feels very good knowing that people believe in us and want us to continue our services out here and knowing that we’ve grown immensely from the initial building being put up,” said Hatfield Fire Chief Gary Nordin.“We started as a small community with a big goal.”The departments for four years has been investigating and fundraising for a new 4,200-square-foot building to replace the current 1,600-square-foot structure that was built in 1977 and has been outgrown by equipment needs and size.Hatfield Fire and Rescue now has $288,353 toward the...

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A natural gas leak closed down a section of Main Street in Black River Falls for about an hour Monday as officials worked to contain the problem. A gas feed to Matousek Law Office was broken off, causing many passersby to report a strong gas smell to Jackson County dispatch. Officials responded and sent out a message through the county’s mass alert system to tell people in the area to stay indoors and not light any flames or fires.“I could hear (the gas leaking) as soon as I got in that area,” said BRF Fire Chief Steve Schreiber, who led the emergency response. “You could definitely hear it roaring. You know something was wrong. You could hear it.”No one was injured in the incident, and the area was reopened just under an hour after the leak was reported. Schreiber said the broken feed likely was caused by children who were...

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A Tomah Veterans Administration Medical Center nurse said the hospital launched an opioid safety initiative in January 2014, a full year before an explosive report documenting high levels of opiate prescriptions rocked the facility.Molly Ritter, adult clinical nurse specialist at the Tomah VA, said there has been a 36 percent decrease in opiate medication since the initiative began and a 38 percent decrease in “high-risk, chronic opioid users.”Ritter said Tomah’s opioid initiative is part of a national VA review of painkilling medication and potential alternatives.“This is a national issue we’re dealing with,” Ritter said.Tomah VA public affairs officer Stephanie McCrobie said the Tomah VA has formed “multi-disciplinary teams” that meet weekly to review pain-management strategies. Those teams include doctors, pharmacists and nurses.“It’s a team approach to doing the review,” McCrobie said. “It’s about what works best for the patient.”Ritter said “complementary alternative medication” is a key part of the initiative....

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A high-ranking Veterans Administration official met with employees of the Tomah VA last week, one day after testifying before a Congressional committee in Tomah.Dr. Carolyn Clancy, VA undersecretary for health, said it’s critical that the VA establish a “positive culture” at the Tomah hospital in the wake of revelations that have rocked the facility since January.Clancy was one of 10 people who testified at a Congressional hearing March 30 to investigate reports of dangerously inappropriate levels of painkilling prescriptions and retaliation against employees who questioned them.“We got some very good feedback,” Clancy said. “There were lots of concerns expressed about fear and bullying and intimidation, and that’s all under investigation right now.”She said it’s important for the Tomah facility to establish a “positive culture” where employees are valued and respected.“Investigations can be extremely helpful,” Clancy said. “It’s another set of eyes looking at how we are doing things, how we...

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A downtown Black River Falls eatery is on hold for now and may reopen again in the future. Falls Cafe closed March 25 after a short stint at its new location in the dining room of Traveler’s Tales at 44 Main St. Theron Haas of the cafe said “business administration” issues put the business on hold and he wanted to take time to regroup.“I’m just going to be on hold,” Haas said. “I was worn thin with it.”Falls Cafe opened last July in a location at 18 Main St. before moving to Traveler’s Tales in early March. The eatery was providing its breakfast menu from 6-11 a.m. at the new location after which Traveler’s Tales opened for its lunch, dinner and bar operation.Ash Duff, who owns Traveler’s Tales, said he was excited about the concept of two restaurants sharing space but said “loose ends” ended the arrangement for now.“I thought...

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Elk are back in Jackson County.Twenty-six of the animals trapped in Kentucky were transported to their new acclimation pen in the Black River State Forest last week where they will spend the next 75 days before their release.“It could not have gone better,” said Kevin Wallenfang, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ big game ecologist. “The process itself – we agonized over the preparation and it paid off. At the risk of sounding egotistical for all of us, this was great planning.“We really got tripped up no place along the way. The process was great.”The elk completed their stint in a holding and testing area in Kentucky and were transported to Jackson County over Wednesday night and into last Thursday morning. The event was kept under wraps with few people knowing to ensure the animals would have a stress-free experience as they entered their new home.“We were trying to keep...

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Joe Williams has been told of three traits that come to mind when out-of-towners think of Black River Falls.That “gun dealer” on Main Street. The orange moose off the first exit. And that speeding ticket they received on Interstate 94 when passing through.Changing that image is just part of what the Black River Falls Downtown Association is hoping to do with renewed efforts to revitalize and improve the city’s Main Street area.Officials gathered last week for the association’s kickoff meeting for a new program it’s involved in that assists communities push ahead with their efforts and connect them with other municipalities for resources.The event featured a walkthrough of the city’s downtown with officials from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, which runs the Connect Communities program, followed by a brainstorming session for short- and long-term goals to jumpstart BRF’s efforts.The event, attended by officials from the city and a variety of...

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