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Gays Mills Village Board approves 2020 budget and discusses geothermal
gays mills village board

GAYS MILLS - The Gays Mills Village Board adopted the 2020 budget at their meeting Monday night.

The village’s 2020 balanced budgets call for $789,923 of spending and revenue in the general budget; as well as a balanced water budget of $110,873 and a balanced sewer budget of $138,363.

The budget hearing scheduled prior to the regular board meeting drew no public input. Later during the regular meeting, village trustee Larry McCarn moved to approve the resolution to adopt the 2020 budgets and the tax levy. Village trustee Lee Ruegg seconded the motion and the board passed the budget on a voice vote, which appeared to be unanimous

Earlier in the meeting, the board received an update on concerns with the Gays Mills Community Center’s geothermal heating and cooling system.

Due to the absence of Gays Mills Director of Public Works Jim Chellevold, the update was delivered by Gays Mills Village President Harry Heisz.

The village president began by informing the board that it had become almost impossible to get anyone to service the system.

 Heisz said that when workers from Strang Heating and Electric inspected the geothermal system, they informed the village that working on it was beyond their level of capabilities.

The village subsequently was unable to locate anyone in the area or even LaCrosse to inspect the system. A geothermal contractor was located in Madison. However, the contractor estimated the cost of getting the system “up to par” at $15,000 and that was without the cost of replacing any of the equipment.

Heisz told the board it was time to consider options to replace the geothermal system with more conventional high efficiency furnaces and air conditioners.

Village trustee Lee Ruegg agreed. She noted it was irresponsible to install a system that had no repair service for it in the area. It was noted by Heisz and others that when the system was installed eight years ago, there were people in the area willing to repair geothermal systems, but they no longer do the work.

The village president went on to explain that the geothermal system in the building is comprised of 10 units and each unit costs from $6,000 to $10,000 to replace. Each unit is responsible for a specific zone in the building. The unit handling the zone for the village office has failed twice and had to be replaced. Additionally, one of the units servicing the library zone is now failing.

Heisz told the board he would wouldn’t propose taking out all of the geothermal system at once. Instead, he proposed replacing the system by zones as needed, while continuing to use geothermal in the zones where it was working. This plan would allow the village to have furnaces and air conditioning units of different ages, the village president explained.

Village trustee Kevin Murray questioned if the building had enough space to be retro-fitted with furnaces and air conditioning units. Heisz explained how it could be done. In addition to his duties as village present, Harry Heisz is the Director of Maintenance for the North Crawford School District.

After more boarddiscussion of the geothermal situation, Heisz concluded he would start looking at some options for replacing it.

When the board asked if replacing the system would create more costs to operate, village clerk Dawn McCann noted it can’t be more expensive than the current geothermal system, which costs $14,000 per year in electricity.

After the discussion, the board decided that in the future if the Jim Chellevold, the director of public works, was not attending the meeting, he would be required to submit a written report. Lee Ruegg made the motion and Kevin Murray seconded it requiring written reports from the director of public works. The motion was passed by the board.

Another important matter that drew some scrutiny and action from the board was billing from Davy Engineering for their reports on the joint sewer project and phosphorus levels compliance. Davys initially told the village the cost of the reports would be $20,000. However, the engineering firm has already billed the village about $34,000 for the work and has outstanding bills on the work for another $4,400.

“We should not pay another dime,” village trustee Kevin Murray said. “This all should’ve been put into the estimate.”

Murray and other trustees expressed the feeling the firm low-balled the estimate to sell the village on approving it.

Murray made a motion to cease payment to Davys pending a meeting about the outstanding bills. Ruegg seconded the motion and the board approved it.

In a related matter, the board decided to table having Davy Engineering do an application to USDA Rural Development for financing for the joint sewer plant project. The board will wait until after a scheduled December 12 meeting of the Soldiers Grove Village Board, where Davy will be making a joint sewer plant presentation. The Gays Mills Village Board intends to meet in a special meeting following that meeting in Soldiers Grove.

In other business, the Gays Mills Village Board:

• learned, from Kevin Murray, that Jim Chellevold, director of public works, was considering a plan to shave down the bank along the Kickapoo River in Lions Park and take the material south to fill in low areas to get water to flow toward the river on a gentle slope

• learned the cleanup of the public works dumping site near the old school building on School Street had been completed

• discussed problems at a property near Grove and Railroad Streets where a camper has been located in violation of several village ordinances

• learned the Cross Roads Park cleanup of a wood pile and debris could proceed and assigned the work to be done by the public works crew

• approved applying for a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Flood Grant to supply matching funds for three commercial properties being partially funded by another grant for acquisition and demolition

• approved a request from the Kickapoo River Museum to place some informational sign board displays in the hallway of the Gays Mills Mercantile Center

• approved renewing the building inspection contract for Smrcina Inspections

• raised the wages of the village’s election inspectors to $10 per hour from $7.25 per hour

• appointed six election inspectors to serve from Jan. 1, 2020 to December 31, 2021

• approved an operators license for Tracy Lacina