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Ingersoll Rand Foundation, Trane employees donate $95k to all-abilities park project

Visitors to All Abilities Trane Park will have quiet places to calm down thanks to a nearly $100,000 donation from Trane employees and the Ingersoll Rand Foundation given to La Crosse Friday in a ceremony at the park.

“Our whole Trane La Crosse and Ingersoll Rand family really believes in the value of this park and are so humbled to be able to help make it a reality,” said Trane employee Anna Balkonis.

The Ingersoll Rand Foundation, the charitable arm of Trane’s parent company Ingersoll Rand, gave its largest-ever grant, $85,000, to the project — a grant that also marked its first donation to a place, rather than an activity.

That grant will pay for what park designers call respite pods, designed to give people on the autism spectrum who are sensitive to noise and activity a place to calm down.

“People who are feeling overwhelmed or overloaded can have a private place to regroup. These pods will be a safe haven for people who are overstimulated or even people who just prefer a quiet place,” Balkonis said.

In addition to the grant, Trane employees joined together to raise $10,000 for the $6 million project at 1500 Chase St. in La Crosse, and the sales office joined in, donating the heating and cooling equipment for the shelter that will house the bathrooms and serve as a gathering space for events.

Peter Thomson, La Crosse Tribune 

Jay Odegaard, Director of La Crosse Parks, Forestry and Recreation, speaks Friday at All-Abilities Trane Park when $95,000 was donated by the Ingersoll Rand Foundation and Trane employees for the project.

“As you can see, this park is changing and improving things well beyond our community,” Balkonis said. “This park and all of the people it is bringing together are putting in small changes to better our world by creating paths to help empower individuals or groups to make even larger changes. It is already bringing more people to our area just knowing that it will be built.”

The park has been in the works since 2014 and broke ground last year. It’s designed to give people of all ages and abilities, including those with mobility challenges and on the autism spectrum, a place to play together safely. There are several specially designed activity zones focusing on the senses.

“People sometimes say that this is a want, but it’s not a want, it’s a need. Children of all ages need a place to go. Everybody has a right to play,” said Fran Formanek, president of the All Abilities Trane Park Committee, which is spearheading the project with the city of La Crosse.

The partnership with Trane cements the legacy of the company and the city, he said.

“By having that marriage, we have a better community where people of all different kinds of races, creeds, disabilities, whatever, can enjoy the city of La Crosse and the area,” Formanek said.

La Crosse Mayor Tim Kabat thanked Ingersoll Rand and Trane employees for their dedication and hard work to raise funds for the park, which will breathe new life into the nearly 7-acre facility, turning two of those acres into an outdoor recreation area with fenced-in play zones and a walking trail.

“We’ll be seeing this park filled with kids of all abilities, all different backgrounds, having a place where they can play safely and having moms and dads and caregivers maybe just get to exhale for a minute to know they’re safe here,” Kabat said. “This is going to be a great place for them.”

Peter Thomson, La Crosse Tribune 

A storm water pond is among the additions included at Trane Park as part of the All-Abilities Trane Park project.

Parks director Jay Odegaard also expressed his gratitude to the volunteers and community partners working to turn the ambitious goal into a reality.

“One of the things we talk about in parks and any facility is, ‘the higher the hill, the better the vision,’ ” Odegaard said. “As we climb the hill trying to get this park built, every once in a while we run into places where we need a hand.”

The project is fortunate to have community funding, he said.

“This is exactly what we need to get us that next hump so we can start climbing again,” Odegaard said.

The first phase of the project is under construction and Formanek said he hopes the second phase will begin this summer.

“We need more donations to make that happen, but we’re very close to that,” Formanek said.

Visit for more information or to donate to the project.

“People who are feeling overwhelmed or overloaded can have a private place to regroup.” Anna Balkonis, Trane employee

Seeking miles of bargains along the Great River Road

FOUNTAIN CITY — Karl Hoffmann wanted $100 for the cast iron, claw-foot tub he bought last year while Up North near his cottage in Crivitz.

The chamber pot he found at a resale shop had a $10 sticker, but the three remaining 7-week-old kittens in the nearby carrier were free.

Meanwhile, Nellie, a pregnant and plump 6-year-old golden Lab, waddled her way up and down the sidewalk here where Hoffman was having a garage sale.

In a few months, Nellie’s litter also will be up for sale at $325 a pooch.

“I should have a sign on her back,” Hoffmann joked about Nellie, who is expecting 11 puppies. “She’s a great duck retriever.”


Brenda Burt prepares her stand for shoppers visiting the 100 Mile Garage Sale in Fountain City. At right is Nellie, her boyfriend's 6-year-old golden lab, whose soon-to-be-born puppies are also available for sale.

The weird, unusual, living and vintage are all on display — and for sale — this weekend with the spring ritual known as the 100 Mile Garage Sale. Many towns, villages, cities and neighborhoods set aside specific dates throughout the spring and summer in an effort to group together sales and maximize the crowds.

But along both the Wisconsin and Minnesota sides of the Mississippi River this weekend, 22 communities have joined together to create a string of sales, many of them just feet away from the passing traffic on the Great River Road.

On Hwy. 61 from Hastings to Winona and on Hwy. 35 from Prescott south to Fountain City, the four day event that roughly circumvents Lake Pepin brings thousands of people to the region that is punctuated with bluffs, barges, passing trains and historic buildings.


A shopper looks over a vintage fly rod Thursday at a sale in Alma. The Mississippi River can be seen in the back ground.

Residents along both sides of the river have always had garage sales but according to Pat Mutter, executive director of Visit Winona, around 2005 the first weekend of May became the official event and was dubbed “The 100 Mile Garage Sale.” The title plays off of “100 Miles of Friends,” a collection of about 15 communities that promote themselves through an umbrella organization, Mississippi Valley Partners. That organization puts together a comprehensive website that lists scores of sales, their addresses and brief descriptions of the inventory.

“Each year it really changes,” said Mutter when asked about the size and scope of the event. “I mean, we get people from around the United States.”

And some of those visitors aren’t just buying.


Karl Hoffmann walks past his sale along Highway 35 in Fountain City. The sale is among scores being held this weekend around Lake Pepin in Wisconsin and Minnesota and attracts buyers from throughout the country, some who show up with moving trucks. 

Bonna Schultz came from Gwinner, N.D., with a truckload of clothing to sell at a family sale in a rural subdivision between Buffalo City and Fountain City. The family has been doing a sale for about 15 years and Schultz was quick to pull out her smart phone to show off pictures from 2013 when the sale was blanketed in wet snow.

“It was actually a good sale because a lot of people wanted to get out after the snow,” Schultz said.

Her family’s driveway included a CB radio, a red, three-piece set of American Tourister luggage, five, waist-high vases and a Sun-Mar composting toilet that’s never been used.

“We had an offer of $300 on it,” said Jerry Axvig, of Moorehead, Minn. “It would be great for a hunting shack.”


A rural subdivision just north of Fountain City and just east of Highway 35 is playing host to several garage sales this weekend. Unlike in 2013, it's not expected to snow, which make's Paul Lorenz's Hawaiian shirt not stand out as much.

Next door, Paul and Cindy Lorenz of Fountain City were just hoping to make enough money to pay off the $150 plumbing bill they incurred the previous weekend while setting up the sale at their son’s home. Paul thought he could easily replace the outdoor faucet so he could wash off a few dog transport crates and a bike he had stored in a barn but he broke the faucet off at the pipe. Thankfully the water had been turned off.

“I think I’m almost even,” Paul said Thursday morning shortly after selling $85 in fishing lures. “It’s not bad for a couple of hours of work.”

Back in Fountain City, Frances Burt and her husband have an old lumber yard building stuffed with old tools, signs, outboard motors, vintage soda and beer bottles and even an A&W toboggan. There are buckets of nails, thousands of car parts and plastic bottles filled with small agates.


Frances Burt is not only holding a garage sale in the former lumberyard building she owns with her husband but is also getting ready to open the Rock in the House. In 1995, a 55-ton boulder rolled down a hill in Fountain City and became embedded in a home. A few months after the incident, she and her husband bought the house and turned it into a tourist attraction.

“We’d actually like to sell the building,” said Burt, 81.

The couple also will likely, someday, sell one of the Great River Road’s more unusual roadside attractions. Burt and her husband, John, 86, and who is in declining health, own the “Rock in the House.”

In 1995, a 55-ton boulder broke loose from the hillside and crashed into the bedroom of Maxine and Dwight Anderson. The couple escaped death and sold the home to the Burts a few months later. The first year the Burts owned the house, 20,000 people visited. Last year, about 3,000 people paid $2 to a get a glimpse at the rock that remains embedded in the house that fronts Hwy. 35 on Fountain City’s north side.

“We’re trying to downsize,” Frances Burt said.

In Alma, where the bluffs have contained the community into a two-block wide, seven mile long city, history mixed with rummage.

In a cinder block garage that at one time was used to store appliances and hardware for a local store, tables filled with items lined the building’s interior. Windows in the back offered views of the swelling river and the occasional passing freight train. Other items spilled out on to the sidewalk and into the street, including a box of sweaters for $2 each, 25 cent Christmas decorations and an old metal bed spring.


Shoppers attending a stop along the 100 Mile Garage Sale route are reflected in the glass of an antique clock in Fountain City. The scores of sales include a wide array of items. 

A bin also held a few dozen wooden yardsticks including some from the Bank of Mondovi, Gilmanton Co-op Creamery and the Lincoln Lumber Co. in West Allis. They were all priced for $1 each but others inside were $5 a piece because of their outdated telephone numbers. The Goodrich Lumber & Coal Co. in Durand, for example, had a phone number of 28.

Robin Becker owns the building and seven others in the city and used two personal days from her job as a teacher in Eau Claire to run the sale on Thursday and Friday. Last year, she made $3,000 over the four-day event.

“We were setting up last weekend and people were stopping,” Becker said. “I had sales starting at 6:15 a.m. this morning. It’s been crazy.”


On the opening day of the annual four day 100 Mile Garage Sale, Gina Dyess carries a parachute she purchased in St. Louis years ago out to the sidewalk in Alma. She wasn't sure how much she was going to ask for the parachute, which she has never used, but was asking $125 for the Victrola. The sale was being held in in the former Heise Grainery barn, constructed in 1862.

One of the neatest settings was just up the street where Gina Dyess used the old Heise Grainery barn, constructed in 1862, to hold her sale. The building still has its original wood floor and the pulley system in the rafters used to pull grain from wagons. Modern Mylar balloons with long strings, and purposefully let loose by Dyess, dotted the ceiling to discourage bats.

Her inventory, like most was a melange of items. However, one stood out. She was asking $125 for a Victrola from the Victor Talking Machine Co. in New Jersey. The price includes a small collection of records, one featuring the song “There’s a Little White House on a Little Green Hill” performed by the Cadillac Orchestra.

“It gets really busy,” Dyess said of the weekend sale. “Whatever you’re not looking for, you can find.”

“It gets really busy. Whatever you’re not looking for, you can find.” Gina Dyess, of the weekend sale


Brenda Burt prepares her stand for shoppers visiting the 100 Mile Garage Sale in Fountain City. At right is Nellie, her boyfriend's 6-year-old golden lab, whose soon-to-be-born puppies are also available for sale.

Peter Thomson, La Crosse Tribune 

Holmen’s Carson Brock tees off during a meet at Forest Hills Golf Course. Brock, a junior, was the medalist during that meet with a 1-under-par 68.

Unemployment hits 49-year low (copy)

WASHINGTON — Hiring accelerated and pay rose at a solid pace in April, setting the stage for healthy U.S. economic growth to endure despite fears of a slowdown earlier this year.

Employers added 263,000 jobs, with the unemployment rate dropping to a five-decade low of 3.6% from 3.8%, though that drop partly reflected an increase in the number of Americans who stopped looking for work. Average hourly pay rose 3.2% from 12 months earlier, matching March’s year-over-year increase.

Friday’s jobs report from the government showed that economic growth remains brisk enough to encourage strong hiring nearly a decade into the economy’s recovery from the Great Recession. The economic expansion, which has fueled 103 straight months of hiring, is set to become the longest in history in July.

“All of the recession talk earlier in the spring was much ado about nothing,” said Gus Faucher, chief economist at PNC.

Trump administration officials insisted that the job market’s gains were a result of the president’s tax cuts and deregulatory policies.

“We have entered a very strong and durable prosperity cycle,” said Larry Kudlow, director of the White House’s National Economic Council.

President Donald Trump also has pressed the Federal Reserve to cut short-term interest rates because inflation remains low. But most economists said the healthy jobs picture, against the backdrop of low inflation, would reinforce the Fed’s current wait-and-see approach. The Fed raised rates four times last year but has signaled that it doesn’t foresee any rate increases this year.

Investors welcomed the April jobs data by sending stock prices broadly higher. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed up 197 points, or 0.75%.

Jason Guggisberg, vice president of Adecco USA, a staffing firm that finds temporary and permanent hires for business clients, said companies are doing much more to attract workers. They are offering more perks — like free lunches or weekly happy hours — and allowing more flexible work schedules.

Some are also raising pay, though Guggisberg said many of them have to be persuaded to do so. Adecco often has to show its clients data about how many jobs are available in a given area and how few workers are actually searching for jobs.

“We are constantly having conversations with clients about supply and demand” and reminding them that most applicants have multiple job opportunities, he said. “Two years ago, I don’t know that I ever had that conversation.”

The brightening economic picture represents a sharp improvement from the start of the year. At the time, the government was enduring a partial shutdown, the stock market had plunged, trade tensions between the United States and China were flaring and the Fed had just raised short-term rates in December. Analysts worried that the economy might barely expand in the first three months of the year and might even tip into recession in the ensuing months.

Yet the outlook soon brightened. Chair Jerome Powell signaled that the Fed would put rate hikes on hold. Trade negotiations between the U.S. and China made some progress. The economic outlook in some other major economies improved. Share prices rebounded.

And in the end, the government reported that the U.S. economy grew at a 3.2% annual rate in the January-March period — the strongest pace for a first quarter since 2015. That said, the growth was led mostly by factors that could prove temporary — a restocking of inventories in warehouses and on store shelves and a narrowing of the U.S. trade deficit. By contrast, consumer spending and business investment, which more closely reflect the economy’s underlying strength, were relatively weak.

But American households have become more confident since the winter and are ramping up spending. Consumer spending surged in March by the most in nearly a decade. A likely factor is that steady job growth and solid wage increases have enlarged Americans’ paychecks.

Businesses are also spending more freely. Orders to U.S. factories for long-lasting capital goods jumped in March by the most in eight months.

Years of steady hiring have sharply lowered unemployment for a range of population groups. The unemployment rate for women fell last month to 3.1%, the lowest point since 1953. The rate for Latinos dropped to 4.2%, a record low since 1973, when the government began tracking the data.

For Asians, joblessness has matched a record low of 2.2%. And the unemployment rate for veterans of the Iraq and Afghan wars dropped to 1.7%, also a record low.

Most of last month’s job growth occurred in services, which includes both higher-paying jobs in information technology and lower-paying temporary work. Manufacturers added just 4,000 jobs. Construction firms gained 33,000, mostly on public infrastructure projects.

Professional and business services, which include IT networking jobs as well as accountants and engineers, led the gains with 76,000. Education and health care added 62,000 jobs, while a category that mostly includes restaurants and hotels gained 34,000.

Retailers, however, continued to cut jobs, shedding 12,000 in April, the third straight months of cuts. The sector has eliminated 49,000 jobs in the past year even as the economy has picked up.