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Gay Mills Board discusses a water issue
gays mills village board

GAYS MILLS - The quality of municipal water in Gays Mills brought some discussion and action at the village board meeting Monday night.

 A report from the board’s utilities committee complete with recommendations and action started the board discussion.

Gays Mills Village Trustee Kevin Murray presented the report. He said bad smelling water in the older section of town, where he owns a residence, prompted affected residents to sign a petition earlier this year. 

While flushing the system may have cleared up the problem for some of the residences, Murray’s problems persisted and he sent a water sample to LV Lab for testing. 

The results of the testing showed the presence of coliform bacteria.

Murray told the board that the utilities committee consulted the village’s attorney and an attorney from the village’s insurance company. Both lawyers agreed that the village would have no liability for the situation because the municipality had followed a schedule for regular flushing the system. 

Gays Mills Director of Public Works confirmed the village flushed the system twice per year. Regular required samples from the well were not contaminated, so it was assumed the source was probably growing in the nooks and crannies of the old water mains.

While the attorneys agreed the village would have no liability for the situation up to this point, they also advised that the village must now advise its municipal water customers of the situation. If the village didn’t advise water users after finding out about the problem, they could become liable for future problems.

Murray said that in talking with plumbers they suggested the coliform contamination was now probably living in his hot water heater-particularly in the lime deposits. The village trustee outlined steps he took to clean the hot water heater and rid it of the coliform.

As far as the village’s responsibility for notifying village residents of the situation, Murray suggested the village should take out an advertisement in the Crawford County Independent.

Village trustee Aaron Fortney and village president Harry Heisz both objected to taking out an advertisement.

“I just think putting it in the newspaper would be opening it up to a nightmare,” Heisz said.

Fortney pointed out that the newspaper reaches way beyond the water users affected by the coliform discovery.

Heisz explained the village should send out a letter to all residents, even those that weren’t affected by the problem. Most residences affected at this point seemed to be in the older section of town.

Village trustee Al Zegiel pointed out that only Murray’s water had coliform found in it. However, Murray noted that he was the only one to have water tested.

During the discussion of how Murray cleared the hot water heater by shocking the system with bleach, he also discussed another suggestion from the plumbers. He was told if he turned the water heater up to 160 degrees the heat would kill the bacteria and the installation of a mixing valve would lower the temperature of the water at faucets.

Village trustee Lee Ruegg thought the discussion was potentially dangerous, because many people affected by the problem would not have the money to install the mixing valve to make the process safe.

Village trustee Kim Pettit moved to send out a letter to the village’s municipal water users with the necessary information contained in it. Murray seconded the motion and the board passed it unanimously.

Gays Mills Village Clerk Dawn McCann asked that she be allowed to have the village’s attorney, Eileen Brownlee, draw up the letter. The board agreed that Brownlee should write the letter.

Heisz said it would be nice to get the letter to water users prior to the next system flush.

Gays Mills Village Forester Cindy Kohles came before the board to discuss applying for another Wisconsin DNR Urban Forestry Grant. Kohles let the board know what the DNR was focusing on in this year’s round of grants and how that matched with what the village might want.

This year’s grant proposal from the village might request an I Pad or similar tablet to be used in recording information about tree planting and maintenance, Kohles explained.

Another goal might include expanding the public awareness of the role and importance of trees in the village.

 This might included getting trees planted on residential lots. 

A unique feature that might be requested in this year’s grant is known as the ‘Kid’s Climb.’ The activity involves getting children a guided tour of a tree from the base tree to the very top with safe conveyance.

In addition to the DNR Urban Forestry Grant, Kohles discussed a situation with discarded logs on village property where a small park has been created on Main Street. The village has been working for sometime to get the adjoining landowner to move the logs onto his property, so development of the park can proceed.

Jim Chellevold, the director of public works, said the logs had been there for four or five years.

Village resident Craig Anderson, who serves on the tree board and has worked to improve the park, told the board that young people at the residence stated the village had given permission for the logs to remain on the park site. Village president Harry Heisz said the village had not granted permission for the logs to be stored on the site and he would speak to the landowner about it.

After praising Kohles as the best thing that ever happened to the forestry program in the village, trustee Kim Pettit moved to approve a resolution allowing Kohles to apply for the urban forestry grant. The motion was seconded by Fortney and passed by the board.

Gays Mills Pool Manager Kayla Fortney told the board that a recent inspection by a state official of the pool was overwhelmingly positive. The village needed only a couple of minor repairs as recommended by the inspection. The state official told Kayla the pool was in the best shape he had seen it during the years he has been inspecting it.

The board discussed continuing the extended weekend hours at the pool. After some discussion, it was agreed to keep the early morning opening times, but drop the evening time back to a 7:30 p.m. closing from an 8:30 p.m. closing.

At the end of her report, Kayla asked the board if she could be retained as the pool manager for next year. She said a decision now would help her work at retaining workers for next year.

The village board seemed taken aback by the request. Pleasantly surprised, Harry Heisz said that it was possible, but the board had never fielded such a request. Usually, the board struggles to find a pool manager. While a decision on the request was not made, the response was overwhelmingly favorable.

During a report of Friends of the Gays Mills Swimming Pool, Kayla noted that to date $21,000 has been raised toward the $100,000 goal.

In other business, the Gays Mills Village Board:

• discussed some of the options for mosquito abatement outlined in last week’s Independent-Scout story on the subject and agreed to look into the options

• learned that costly heating and cooling repairs are necessary at the Gays Mills Community Commerce Center–including the replacement of a heating pump and the reprogramming of another that will have to be put into the new budget

• approved purchasing a part for the pool’s pump motor to restore pressure in the system at a cost of $1,800

• learned the Kickapoo Culinary Center, the village’s shared-use kitchen, experienced a July lull in activity, which should pick up again this fall

• discussed accepting and mounting a sign for the Gays Mills Community Center created by the local beekeeping group as an act of appreciation for building usage

• learned of the many upcoming fundraising activities planned by the Friends of the Gays Mills Swimming Pool

• approved installing a water hydrant at the park shelter in Lions Park to be paid for by a $1,000 donation from the Lions Club

• discussed cleaning up a large brush pile on School Street behind the old school–but did not reach a decision on how to proceed

• agreed to submit an assessors plat cost estimate of $400,000 based on numbers supplied by Vierbicher and Associates

• tabled action on TID Project changes and trail recommendations because they had not been completed in time for the meeting

• approved a Class B Liquor License for the Crawford County Fair from August 21 through August 25

• approved operator’s licenses for Whitney Terbark, Samantha McCarn and Joan Francis