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Gays Mills Village Board regroups after flooding
GM Village Hall

GAYS MILLS - The floods had come and gone (at least for now). Apple Fest had happened without a major problem, other than the cool, cloudy weather. So, the Gays Mills Village Board meeting on Monday night seemed to be a short and matter-of-fact meeting of some people who just wanted to get home.

Brad Niemcek, the Director of the Kickapoo Culinary Center, seemed to sum up the feelings in the room best, during his report on the shared-use kitchen housed in the Gays Mills Community Commerce Center.

“It seems like it was years ago that we got finished with 17 days of feeding people here,” Niemcek told the board.

“It was a super big thing that helped a lot of people here in town,” village president Harry Heisz said of the free meals that the kitchen supplied.

“Thanks,” Niemcek said in response. “And, I hate to sound like a football coach here, but it truly was a team effort.”

The board addressed whether a fall cleanup day should be added to the village calendar to go with the traditionally scheduled spring cleanup day.

Heisz told the board that some residents had requested it. It was noted that a tremendous amount of garbage and debris was removed in front-end loaders to lots of large dumpsters provided by the village following the flood. However, the village president was quick to add that two-thirds of the village was not affected by the flooding and did not use those dumpsters.

It was also pointed out that the county would hold a cleanup day later this month at the highway department in Seneca aimed at electronic waste like televisions, computers, etc. That cleanup day will also include a ‘clean sweep’ aimed at the removal of all unwanted chemicals–including chemicals in unlabeled containers.

“In my personal opinion, we have gone as far as we can go financially (with providing the dumpsters),” Heisz said. The village bore the cost of the dumpsters to this point without flood recovery support from the federal government or the state.

Village trustee Lee Ruegg suggested that the board should consider whether to do a fall cleanup day next year. Other trustees seemed to agree that the subject of a fall cleanup day be decided next year, when the spring cleanup day is designated.

Heisz provided the board with a flood update. He explained that he had attended a meeting at the county highway department in Seneca last week. At the meeting, local government officials presented the expenses incurred already from the flood’s damage to government property.

FEMA officials were in Crawford County last Monday, Sept. 24 assessing residential damage with exterior tours of the affected areas.

“I was very disappointed the way FEMA came in,” said Ruegg, whose house was surrounded by floodwaters on Gay Street for many days. “They didn’t even want to come in.”

Heisz explained FEMA planned to not enter residences in the initial assessment because there were so many to see. He also noted that the FEMA officials were only looking at residential structures, they did not want to view commercial structural damage at this time.

The village is still trying to get a better idea of the damage caused by the flooding. Next week, Gays Mills plans to send residents a survey to fill out and send back to help in gathering information about the extent of the damage.

In an unusual move, the board agreed to a request from residents on Blue Bird Lane to limit speeding on the short residential street that runs off Highway 131 just blocks from the Gays Mills Community Commerce Center.

Heisz reported that speeds of 55 mph were reached by vehicles using the street and this had alarmed residents with young children.

After some discussion, the board agreed to allow village president Harry Heisz and director of public works Jim Chellevold to investigate placing some temporary speed bumps on the street that could be removed in winter months to facilitate snow removal.

In other business, the Gays Mills Village Board:

• agreed village forester Cindy Kohles should apply to the Crawford County Community Fund for money to help plant and replace trees on private property in the village

• added village trustee Lee Ruegg to the committee reviewing the wording, and ultimately the enforcement, of the village ordinance regarding storing unlicensed vehicles within the village limits

• noted the Wisconsin Department of Transportation has failed to reply to a request supported by the Crawford County Highway Department to lower the speed limit on Highway 131 from just north to the Marketplace to near the Royal Bank  from 45 mph to 35 mph

• tabled action on waiving or lowering sewer fees to flood-affected residents until after the meters are read

• approved a proposal to have Johnson Controls test and certify the fire suppression sprinkler systems in the Community Commerce Center and the Mercantile Center at a cost of approximately $4,500