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Gays Mills Village Board wants to raise sewer rates to cover expenses
gays mills village board

GAYS MILLS - The Gays Mills Village Board needed a special meeting on Monday, Aug. 12 to catch up on some unfinished business and take a preliminary look at the upcoming budget.

One of the first action items on the agenda was approving TID project changes and trail recommendations. The changes were necessitated by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s insistence that the trail or pedestrian-bike-path run entirely on the west side of Highway 131.

The recreational trail is intended to connect the Appleland Business Park to the Marketplace convenience store. The entire project estimated to cost more than $414,000 would be financed by surplus revenue generated from the TID #1 Project that created the business park that is home to BAPI (Building Automation Products Incorporated). 

Tax Incremental Finance Districts or TIDs are intended to allow for infrastructure improvements to previously undeveloped property to be paid for over time. A TID segregates the increased tax revenue from the higher value of the developed properties for the municipality that absorbed the cost of the infrastructure improvements. 

In the case of TID #1 in Gays Mills, a surplus grew as increased tax revenue from the BAPI factory continued to go to the village and there were no other infrastructure improvement costs at the site. 

Last year, Vierbicher and Associates, a consultant to the village, advised that a request to extend the TID should be made and that plans on how to spend the surplus be approved. The village proceeded to do just that.

In addition to the trail, the village planned installation of three-phase power at all building sites in the business park and a few other improvements. However, constructing the trail or path was the focus.

Vierbicher proposed to have the trail begin on the west side of Highway 131 and switch to the east side of the roadway, as it approached the Marketplace and had to cross a wet area. The stream on the east side was narrower and more channelized.

The DOT rejected a Vierbicher proposal to have the trail cross the highway, as potentially unsafe and insisted the trail stay on the west side all the way to Misty Valley Avenue. The DOT plan created a more difficult water crossing for the trail. The project also includes construction of a crosswalk to a sidewalk adjacent to the Mercantile Center up to the entrance of the Marketplace parking lot.

Newly seated village trustee Kevin Murray sough some clarification of the TID trail situation.

It was explained that the village was borrowing the money to finance the building of the trail and would repay the loan at $55,000 from the TID income per year though 2027.

Gays Mills Village Trustee Aaron Fortney moved to accept the recommended TID trail changes. Trustee Larry McCarn seconded the motion and the board passed it.

The board also discussed the possibility that a USDA Rural Development Equipment Grant may be offered this year. Gays Mills Village Clerk Dawn McCann explained to the board that an equipment priority list would be good to have at hand, if the grant became available.  A similar Redevelopment Equipment Grant was used in the past for the purchase of a fire truck. The grant requires a 12.5 percent match from the village.

The village’s list of needed equipment includes a mower, snowplow and street sweeper it was decided. 

Village trustee Fortney moved to approve using the grant for the designated equipment, if it becomes available. The motion was seconded by Murray and passed by the board.

The final item on the agenda was a discussion of finances and a preliminary 2020 budget.

The most involved discussion focused on the need to raise village sewer rates to pay for the cost of the utility’s operation.

The sewer utility has been running at a loss for about 10 years, village clerk Dawn McCann explained at one point in answer to a question from the board. 

“It’s a bad issue folks,” village president Harry Heisz cautioned the board at the outset of the discussion. 

Two years ago, the board raised the usage rate from $4.60 per 1,000 gallons to $6.40. The $2.30 increase was intended to cut the $35,000 annual deficit to $17,000.

Still facing that substantial deficit, the board decided to run the sewer utility with a balanced budget going forward by again raising the rates.

“We’re not doing anybody any favors by not making the rate reflect the costs,” trustee Kevin Murray said.

It was agreed that raising the rate by $2.30 per 1,000 gallons would bring the village pretty close to breaking even.

“We’re not here to make friends,” village trustee Fortney said. “We’re here to make the village work.”

After some discussion of the current flat rate of $27.50 per month, it was agreed to raise the flat rate to $30 per month. The board also agreed to raise the volume rate by $2.50 per 1,000 gallons from $6.90 to $9.40. 

Murray made the motion to raise the rates. Village trustee Kim Pettit seconded the motion and the board passed it. 

The village clerk told the board that an amended sewer ordinance would have to be presented and passed at the September 9 board meeting and notice of the amended sewer ordinance needed to be made.

In other business, the Gays Mills Village Board:

• recommended putting $42,000 into the 2020 budget for road and street maintenance

• recommended budgeting about $5,000 for a used pickup truck to replace the village’s aging unit

• discussed financing needed flood recovery work approved by FEMA including some curb and gutter work on Main Street and repairing the wooden floor in the Gays Mills Community Building on Main Street–it is hoped the curb and gutter work can be complete prior to Apple Fest

• discussed looking for a part-time employee to supplement the current public works crew which is averaging 15 to 20 hours of overtime every two weeks

• noted that Brad Niemcek the Director of the Kickapoo Culinary Center is stepping down in August of 2020 and will need to be replaced