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Bistro funding comes with deadline
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Prospective bistro owner Maxine Brooks, owner of a Main Street property in Gays Mills that was bought out and demolished after the 2008 floods, will have ten days to decide if her Mercantile Center project goes forward.

Brooks qualifies for relocation money through the Community Development Block Grant awarded to the village for flood relocation aid.

The Gays Mills Village Board approved offering a maximum of $80,000 to Brooks at a special meeting held August 12. Of the money, $30,000 is for equipment replacement; the other $50,000 is in relocation funding and requires additional information from Brooks to qualify.

Brooks was initially approved in June 2012 for a $340,000 seven-year forgivable loan to cover build-out costs in the Mercantile Center, when the restaurant was part of a $1.9 million plan than included building an inn next door.

If Brooks chooses to move forward with the bistro project, funds will be contingent upon state approval of the final figure and having the project completed by December 31, 2013.

High bids created a stumbling block for the rental housing elevation project involving five houses.

After viewing the new bids received for the rental elevation project, the board voted to return the project to Couleecap’s Kahya Fox with instructions that the five projects are to be completed on the budget previously approved.

Unlike prior elevation bids, when portions of the job were bid out separately, the five rental properties were bid whole and prices came in several times higher than expected.

Trustee Aaron Fortney questioned why precedence was not followed in the bidding process, but without Couleecap’s representative present, no answer was to be had.

“I am not happy with the bids,” said trustee Harry Heisz. “They are too high.”

Heisz cited several instances he felt were examples of inflated pricing: $9,000 to build a deck; $11,000 to lay 100 feet of PVC pipe; $4,000 to clear brush behind a house, and $1,098 to place a 6” fiberglass gasket on cement.

Fox spoke with Stan Kaitfors of the State of Wisconsin Department of Administration seeking approval for the board to reallocate money from other portions of the remaining Community Development Block Grant budget and was told it would be approved if requested by the village, reported Gays Mills village clerk Dawn McCann.

Heisz and Fortney both expressed an unwillingness to put more money into the project.

“She (Fox) needs to cut something to stay in budget,” said village trustee Earl Winsor.

“I think we need to make it really clear that she has to stay in budget,” Heisz added.

Fortney pointed out that the bids were far too high to be accounted for through inflation. He noted his parents, when considering elevation prior to the 2008 flood, had bids in the $25,000 to $30,000 range for a larger house, yet the lowest bid for the five rental home elevations was $79,000 and others went past $100,000.

“It’s almost like someone knew the numbers going in,” Fortney said.

Village president Pat Brockway pointed out that there was not time to seek new bids and meet the December 31, 2013 close out deadline for the projects.

Fortney moved that Fox be instructed that all five properties were to be done on the previously defined budget and that there would be no additional funds or acceptance of change orders. Heisz seconded the motion. It was approved by all present board members – Heisz, Fortney, Brockway, Winsor, and Geraldine Smith – in a roll call vote.

Changes in the final CDBG-EAP Grant budget approved by the board that will now be sent to Kaitfors for state approval are:

• $16,900 for signs in the village;

• $30,000 for administrative costs;

• $50,000 in contingency funds;

• $188,000 for the acquisition of two Main Street properties; and

• $234,575 for business flood proofing and single home elevations.

The village will now send the budget and a letter requesting approval of the budget revisions and reallocation of funds for flood proofing and elevation, and requesting a time extension to allow for completion of final projects.

The board approved Community Development Alternatives of Prairie du Chien for the contract to administer additional property acquisitions.