The bistro proposal has resurfaced for the Gays Mills Mercantile Center, though what will ultimately happen still remains unclear. What is clear is that the time to use the Community Development Block Grant money provided for flood relocation of businesses in Gays Mills is running out.
“The Village of Gays Mills has a performance period end date of Dec. 31, 2013,” said Stan Kaitfors, an employee with the Wisconsin Department of Administration charged with administering the federally provided CDBG funds for Gays Mills. “All activities that occurred in response to the 2007 and 2008 flood will need to have billing completed and turned in.”
“At this point, the Federal Disaster Act declaration came with a loose expectation of completion, the longest contract extends to June 2014,” Kaitfors explained. “While it would be possible to ask at this point for an extension, we are not expecting to grant any extensions request.”
Kaitfors estimated approximately $450,000 of the $2.7 million Community Block Development Grant Funds allocated to the village for flood recovery relocations were left and the only outstanding expenditures he was expecting to see come in for payment through the grant money was the demolition of Blackhawk Auto building and the former funeral home.
The figure provided by Gays Mills’ Central Business District Manager Julie Henley was much lower.
“There is roughly about $300,000 left, which will need to cover any remaining demolitions, equipment replacement at Song’s (mushroom factory), and anything from the Bistro project,” Henley said.
Moving forward on the bistro project requires proof of equipment losses, according to Henley, who said it’s much like an insurance claim, where you need to provide documentation of what was lost. The CDBG funds can cover lost equipment and the cost of a build-out to create a comparable space for a relocated business, and anything beyond that would then require private investment.
Maxine Brooks, the businesswoman behind the bistro project, met with some members of the village board and the village attorney two weeks ago and is now working with Dawn McCann to provide that documentation.
“I wish I knew what to tell you,” Brooks said in response to questions about her bistro proposal. “It’s hard for me to say right now what is going to happen. I can tell you I absolutely want it to happen.
“The village needs me to resupply the equipment list,” Brooks continued. “Then, I will speak with either Dawn (McCann) or Pat (Brockway) later this week to see what they want to do. There was only one bid done, which was Weiser Brothers. I feel the one I received was quite high, and I would like to have another done. There are constraints to who I can have do it, because they have to be qualified to work with the government, but if we could start right now, I could have it open by the end of July or early August.”
Stressing that anything to make this project happen has to happen quickly, Gays Mills Village President Pat Brockway maintained that it was still possible to do something to see the project happen as long as the equipment list was provided soon.
“The money runs out in December,” Brockway said. “After that, she would have to come up with the money on her own.”
If the Brooks’ project does not move forward, Henley said the money is constrained to business relocations only, so the funds cannot be applied to any new businesses or housing development.
In the meantime, Brockway said the board is planning to take out ads to try to rent the remaining empty spaces within the Mercantile Center.