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Board frustrated with costs of rental elevations
in Gays Mills
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The Gays Mills Village Board clearly was not pleased with a request for change orders on rental elevation projects that would cost more than $54,000.

CouleeCap project manager Kahya Fox approached the board with a variety of change orders she said were needed for the projects to move forward and be completed.

Village trustee Harry Heisz was the first to take issue with the change order requests. Heisz reminded Fox that the board had clarified the village’s position on using additional funding from the Community Development Block Grant for the project at the last meeting.

It was clarified at the meeting that CDBG Emergency Assistance Program funds would be those used to pay for the change orders if they were approved. The CDBG money must be spent by December 31 or returned to the state.

“In that discussion (at the last board meeting) we said there would be no more double dipping,” Heisz said. “You’re asking for change orders for things that were (specified) in the bids. We’re way over budget on this.”

Fox went on to describe some of the things that needed to be accomplished for the project to be completed. Three of the properties still needed their sewer laterals replaced to be in compliance with a village mandate to do so following the sewer main replacement project that was completed in 2007.

Residents were granted several extensions to complete the work because of complications caused by the floods of 2007 and 2008. However, most residents have since replaced the laterals with new laterals at their own expense or with the assistance of Community Development Block Grant-funded loans that are repayable when the property is sold. Those loans administered by Community Development Associates, a Prairie du Chien-based consulting firm, are still available, CDA’s Lori Bekkum has told Fox. However, they could not be approved by the end of the year, when the elevation projects must be completed to receive grant funding.

Hesiz said he was surprised that the landlords receiving $90,000 worth of elevation enhancing their properties would be unwilling to pay $2,500 to hookup their sewer laterals.

Fox also pointed to other problems with houses that were damaged in the elevation process that needed to be fixed. The problems included a decorative portion of the front of a house that fell off and a doorway that shifted.

Gays Mills Village President Pat Brockway said that those costs should not be paid because they were already built into the bids for raising the houses.

Fox said that in existing housing rehab there are generally contingency funds built into the bid, but CouleeCap did not allow the contractors to do that.

Neither Brockway nor Heisz accepted Fox’s assessment of the situation.

Heisz said the project was already so far above the cost, it should be completed just on the bid amounts. He noted CDA did five elevations in the village for $125,000 and now these five elevations administered by CouleeCap are costing over $500,000. Later it was disclosed the five rental elevations are being done at a cost of $580,000.

Fox explained that these elevations were somewhat different than the CDA’s and that in a conversation with Bekkum comparing line-by-line costs of elevations the two projects were comparable. Fox also noted that CDA had acted as its own general contractor and had grouped the bid, neither of which CouleeCap had done.

Village trustee Earl Winsor questioned a statement in a bid that said “wood that comes into contact with water was at risk for rotting.”

Brockway said that change orders for rotten wood in the foundation was covered in the bids themselves.

Fox said a problem with the bids had occurred because when the contractors viewed the property in early summer, the basements were flooded and could not be seen. The situation was further complicated by the fact the properties are rentals and the permission to view them had to be approved by both the landlords and tenants.

Fox acknowledged the village board’s concerns, but told them the concerns she had if the contractor doesn’t complete the work.

“What will be left of the project?” Fox asked.

Brockway noted one of the change orders was to repair a foundation on a house that was jacked too high and now had to come down two tiers of blocks. The village president said Jewell and Associates, an engineering firm, had provided the contractors with incorrect elevations and is responsible for the mistake and should correct it at their expense. He noted the firm could turn the claim into their insurance company.

Fox said that in a conversation with Jewell engineer Fred Gruber, he made it clear the firm was not going to pay to have the problem corrected.

Winsor said that he was annoyed the property was raised so much higher than an adjoining property and workers had pointed out that it was much higher than the other property.

Heisz made a motion to deny paying any of the changes. Village trustee Barbara Sand seconded the motion. On a roll call vote the motion to deny paying the change orders passed 6-1 with only Winsor voting against denying the change orders.

Fox explained to the board that some things were absolutely vital to getting the project completed by the end of the year. She asked the board if they would consider paying for certain parts of the change order, particularly the sewer laterals and retaining wall necessary for the project at 506 Main Street

Fox noted the retaining wall was not included in the initial bid because of an oversight in preparing the proposal.

Heisz said CouleeCap approached the board about working on zoning issues at the property to allow for the retaining wall. The board cleared the way for the wall to be installed so the elevation could take place and the agency was fully aware of the need for the wall and its approval by the board, Heisz told Fox.

“Somebody from your company was here when it was approved,” Heisz said in reference to CouleeCap’s Michelle Engh, who was replaced by Fox as the project manager.

Fox said CouleeCap was not in a position to pay the $8,000 for the needed retaining wall and hoped the board would not ask that “we (CouleeCap) eat it.”

Brockway said asking the village to pay for the change orders was “making us look like fools.”

Heisz reiterated that the board had said no change orders would be approved.

Fox pleaded with the board to approve the three laterals with the stipulation the funding would be a loan that would have to be repaid if the buildings were sold in the future. She also asked that the board approve using remaining grant funds to pay for the needed retaining wall at 506 Main Street.

Fox also asked the board to approve a change order to replace rotted joists and sills and remove additional asbestos siding, as ordered by a DNR official. Heisz made a motion to pay for a loan to the building owners to finance the three laterals and to pay for the retaining wall at 506 Main Street at a total cost of $15,500.

Prior to the discussion of the proposed change orders for the rental elevations, the board discussed and approved a bid and contractor for flood proofing work at rental property located at 114 School Street.

The board asked Fox about her concerns with a local contractor, Harrell Construction. Fox acknowledged that the firm was no longer an accepted CouleeCap contractor at this point, because of past experiences. After further discussion, it was agreed the contractor had done good work for the village and CouleeCap in the past and as the low bidder was probably the best choice for the work on School Street.

Fox said that Harrell’s initial bid was higher than the $18,500 allowed for work on the project because the building’s low value prohibited repairing it at a higher amount than half its pre-flood value.

The CouleeCap project manager said that CDA had funding to repair the building's roof and removing that from the project would allow Harrell to come in under the $18,500. Roof work would be necessary to attach a room being added to house the mechanicals currently in the basement.

In other business, the Gays Mills Village Board:

• heard a report from Kay Smiley on the current situation with the Gays Mills Community Building at 212 Main Street

• heard a report from Brad Niemcek outlining the Gays Mills Economic Development Association’s concern for continuing the village’s Long Range Plan in the absence of Flood Recovery Director Julia Henley

• denied a SMRT bus request for a donation because of tight budget considerations

• appointed Harry Heisz to a one-year term as the Gays Mills Mercantile Center Administrator at no salary

• renewed the village employee health insurance early through TRICOR Insurance to save money in higher premiums if the policy were to be renewed at the end of the year

• granted operator’s licenses to Stephnie Dollar and Cortney Yonker