The Gays Mills Village Board was told at their meeting Monday night that there were four bids for the demolition and removal of the old school building in the 600 block of Main Street.
Community Development Alternatives Executive Director Dale Klemme went on to tell the board the lowest bid was from LLK Excavating, owned by Lonnie Kapinus, at $17,500. The next lowest bid was Showen Excavating at $39,577.60. Those bids were followed by two bids over $50,000—one was from Jim Smith Enterprises for $52,450 and the highest bid was from KP Dozing at $58,500.
Village Trustee Albert Zegiel reacted to the bid reading by noting that the village had previously seen that the lowest bidder “on a lot of jobs had screwed up.” He moved to accept the bid of Gays Mills contractor Showen Excavating. The motion was seconded by John Johnson.
Gays Mills Village President Harry Heisz asked Klemme about rules on the bidding and what it would take to not select the lowest bidder.
Klemme said he would advise that the board make the motion to accept Showen Excavating contingent on the acceptance of the bid by FEMA, the funding source for the work. The consultant noted that LLK Dozing had acceptably removed a radio station building in Prairie du Chien recently, while Showen also had a good record for demolition and removal of buildings on their work.
Klemme said he received an e-mail about taking a bid other than lowest bid from Roxanne Gray, from Wisconsin Emergency Management. Gray had brought out several points in the communication. She noted usually the only reason to not accept the lowest bidder was because they were unqualified or had done bad work in the past, according to Klemme.
Gray said in the e-mail that she was not certain FEMA would pay up to the lowest bid for another contractor and questioned whether this would be in line with the procurement process. She also questioned whether such a move would meet the rules of the village’s procurement process.
Klemme again urged the board to make the selection of a contractor other than the lowest bidder contingent on a clarification from FEMA.
Klemme said in her communication that Gray indicated the village may have to cover the rest of the cost beyond the cost of the lowest bid.
Actually, FEMA will pay only 85 percent of the cost and the other 15 percent will be covered by a Wisconsin DNR grant, Klemme told the board. The DNR’s willingness to take a bid other than lowest bid should also be assessed, the consultant told the board.
Ultimately, the board passed a motion to approve acceptance of the second lowest bid from Showen Excavating, pending the acceptance of the bid by both FEMA and the DNR. If it is not acceptable to the agencies, then the matter will be reconsidered at the next meeting.
In another matter, Dale Klemme announced some recommended changes to the Community Development Block Grant Housing Policy governing the sale of mortgaged, newly constructed homes built as part of floodplain relocation.
The policy changes were favorably reviewed by a housing committee that lacked the quorum to actually recommend them to board. The modification of the policy came down to two changes, according to Klemme. Houses that were to be sold must at least initially be listed at no less the mortgage price and requests to sell houses for less than mortgage price must be reviewed by the village board within 30 days. Another policy requiring the state to sell any property they own by default to the village at the price of $1 was also deleted at the request of the state.
Zegiel asked if the policy guaranteed the low and moderate-income homeowners their down payment or equity at the time of the sale. Previous statements had, at times, said the owner’s equity would be secure regardless of the market price of residences. Most of the residences are now assessed at prices lower than their cost of construction.
Klemme said that there was no special provision guaranteeing equity repayment and the mortgages would be handled like any other transaction. Under the adopted policy, mortgages would be satisfied first and the decreased value of the house would reduce the owner’s equity.
The motion passed on a voice vote with Zegiel, Kim Pettit and Steve Welter voting yes; John Johnson and Jim Lomas voting no; and Aaron Fortney abstaining.
Brad Niemcek, the chairperson of Gays Mills Recreational Trail Committee, provided an update on the trail. He began by telling the board that a story about the trail in last week’s Independent-Scout was “approximately accurate.”
The trail proponent went on to tell the board that the committee and the Gays Mills Economic Development Association were convinced a trail would be “an important community asset.”
Lomas questioned Niemcek about posting for the trail meetings. Niemcek said it was posted at the Royal Bank, the Marketplace and the Gays Mills Community Commerce Center.
Lomas asked who was on the committee. Niemcek said that in addition to himself, the committee was made up of Sharon Murphy (Niemcek’s wife), Lila Marmel, Mark Drake and Lumen Hobbins. Of those five, only Drake is a village resident.
The committee chairperson told the board that the next trail meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 9 at 6 p.m. in the Gays Mills Community Commerce Center.
A discussion ensued about the ownership of the former Stump Dodger Railroad bed, the proposed area for at least part of the trail. The railroad ceased operations in the 1930s. Some believe ownership of the easement resides with the landowners. Others believe the easement still exists and still others believe an out-of-state corporate entity got ownership of the easement with a quitclaim deed in the 1980s.
Niemcek told the board that if the community wants the trail they will have to be proactive, unless efforts to mediate (with the landowners) work out.
Lomas questioned whether the trail and its maintenance would be a burden to the village.
Zegiel said that unless the landowners are “switching over” on granting the trail permission, he thought it was a waste of time (to pursue building the trail on the railroad bed).
“If the board believes we’re wasting our time please tell us,” Niemcek said. “Then, I can get back to living a normal life.”
Village resident Jay Haggerty asked about the plans to get the trail connected to the Gays Mills Community Commerce Center by going behind houses on Highway 131. Niemcek told him the committee had abandoned those plans.
Village trustee Aaron Fortney said he was “all for a trail somewhere.” Fortney went on to say if the Independent-Scout story gave the impression he was “100 percent against the trail,” and that is not the case.
John Johnson like Lomas was concerned the village would have to use its staff for trail maintenance. Niemcek sought to assure him that would not be the case.
Johnson pointed out the trail, if built where it is proposed on the old railroad bed, would require fencing on both sides, and a way over or under it for cattle.
Fencing along a portion of the proposed trail on the railroad bed with cattle on the property would “occasionally wash out” and have to be repaired, Niemcek conceded.
Niemcek pointed out that a portion of the trail would be “done for us.” He explained local businessman Ritchie Stevenson had purchased land north of the business park and that Jim Showen would be doing the work of constructing a trail there.
Niemcek told the board that the committee currently had more than $11,000 collected or pledged for the trail. There is a matching $45,000 grant available from the DNR that will accept $22,500 of in-kind contributions, like work and materials. However, $22,500 would have to be assembled in cash. The committee has previously assured the village that the cash portion would be obtained through fundraising efforts.
When Niemcek invited Johnson to join the trail committee, Johnson’s response was immediate.
“I wouldn’t join your committee,” the trustee told Niemcek.
Tiring of the ongoing trail conversation, village trustee Kim Pettit sought to put the issue in perspective.
“The trail’s not here yet,” Pettit said. “When the trail becomes a vision, we’ll have something to talk about. Right now, the trail is just a glimmer in someone’s eye. I think were talking about things that will make the meeting go on longer.”
The village board must have agreed with Pettit and the meeting moved on to the next item on the agenda.
In other business, the Gays Mills Village Board:
• heard Niemcek report that Kickapoo Culinary Center, the village’s shared use kitchen, had record revenue of $17,000 last year
• approved putting out to bid work funded by urban forestry grant
• learned the Friends of the Gays Mills Library would fund a cleaning position for about $1,500 per year
• learned the DNR would not offer assistance to the village in removing two dilapidated buildings near the dam
• discussed the flooded yard and drain situation with resident Jay Haggerty
• contributed $500 to the county’s animal control officer
• approved a rule aimed at stopping dogs and cats from running at large in the “platted portion of the village”
• tabled committing to a donation toward a smoke alarm give-away until more information can be obtained
• informed Derek McCormick that the village had been advised by their attorney to not retroactively re-appraise his damaged multi-unit residence on Main Street to reduce past taxes
• agreed to limit the village’s solar ordinance to applications within the “platted portion of the village”
• heard a report from a resident on the possibility of getting land into the pollinator preservation USDA program through a lease agreement with another party
• agreed to advertise the swimming pool manager position
• donated $3,500 to rescue squad services through Ocooch Mountain Rescue
• approved an operator’s license for Rikardo Jahnke