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To build sewer plant, grants are necessary
In Gays Mills
gays mills village board

GAYS MILLS - It was the moment that Evan Chambers from Town & Country Engineering had been warning the Gays Mills Village Board would have to occur. It happened at the board meeting Monday night.

Although the engineering firm and the village are actively pursuing grant funding, the law requires the engineering firm to figure the cost for the average sewer user, as if no grant funding is used in financing the construction of the new sewer plant.

Without any grant funding for construction of the new sewer plant, the monthly average user rate for a village resident would be $300, according to Chambers. That’s assuming average use at 3,000 gallons per month.

Chambers readily conceded that village residents on fixed incomes would never be able to afford such monthly rates.

Grant funding

The engineer tried to help the board understand what grant funding might be available. There are two readily apparent scenarios involving grants from the USDA Rural Development and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Clean Water Fund..

The Village of Gays Mills would qualify for up to a 75 percent grant from Rural Development. The agency would finance the remainder of the estimated $13.5 million dollar construction cost with a low interest loan that the village could take up to the 40 years to repay,.

However, there would be no problem in paying a larger amount sooner and reducing the payback to the 20 to 25 year range. The quicker pay back would be more in line with expected depreciation of the plant, according to Chambers.

Unfortunately, supply chain issues and higher than expected construction costs have essentially depleted the Rural Development funds for this fiscal year. Chambers suggested his firm and the village would need to wait until the next fiscal year. He anticipated applying for a Rural Development grant in October.

The other obvious scenario is the Clean Water Fund, administered by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Chambers believes the village may qualify to apply for two separate funds administered under the Clean Water Fund and each could offer up to $2 million, for a total of $4 million in grants.

It is possible that grant funding might come from both Rural Development and the WDNR’s Clean Water Fund.

While Rural Development offers low interest loans to be paid back in 40 years with no penalty for early payment, the Clean Water Fund offers a loan without any interest payment, to be repaid in either 20 or 30 years. Early payment is typically discouraged.

Chambers told the board that Town and Country Engineering had notified the Clean Water Fund of their intent to apply for grants for the village’s sewer plant construction.

In answer to question from village trustee Kevin Murray about Rural Development grants, the engineer said that while the village could qualify for grants paying up to 75 percent of the project, the agency might choose to fund at a lower level. It was entirely possible the funding might only pay 60 to 65 percent of the construction costs, the engineer explained.

Infrastructure funds

In addition to Rural Development and the Clean Water Fund, other sources of funding for the sewer plant project may be available. One source is known as Congressionally Directed Spending and it’s possible the U.S. Congress could pay for the entire construction of the sewer plant or some part of it.

Another source of funding might be money from BIL (Bipartisan Infrastructure Law). The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL)—also known as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA)—is a $1.2 trillion investment in repairing and modernizing the nation's infrastructure that was signed into law on November 15, 2021.

BIL covers all kinds of infrastructure from airports to roads and bridges; and yes to sewer treatment plants and municipal water systems.

If the residents of Gays Mils seem lost or even frightened by the evolving sewer plant construction, there may be some relief in the explanations at a public hearing hosted by Chambers and Town and Country Engineering. A date for that hearing has yet to be confirmed.

At the end of Chambers’ presentation, village trustee Kevin Murray threw up his hands and stated with some sarcasm and a smile, “It just looks wonderful.”

“We’re going to do everything we can to help you,” Chambers said in response.

The engineer noted that something like Congressional Directed Spending could come through. The engineer also pointed out the state is sitting on a seven billion dollar surplus, which might be spent to help with things like the village’s sewer plant project.

The Village of Gays Mills is in the process of scheduling a required public hearing. At the hearing, Chambers intends to show the public everything the board has learned over a period of many months—all at once, through a PowerPoint presentation.

Chambers will explain the facility plan from start to finish, discuss projections for the flow load and capacity of the plant, and touch on user rate changes.

In other business

In other business, the Gays Mills Village Board:

• granted a request from St. Mary’s Church for an exemption from the non-profit building/room rental of fee of $100 annually with the stipulation that the church would have to pay the hourly shared-use kitchen rental fees for its use

• approved charging the annual $100 non-profit rental fee for room use by Connect Communities organization and the Pickle Ball players to respectively use rooms at the old Community Building for pickle ball and the Mercantile Center hallways for the monthly Gays Mills Flea Market (when needed)

• approved a Class B Liquor License for the Stump Dodger Bash on June 30 and July 1 at 338 Railroad Street

• approved the Stump Dodger Bash  shelter rental request for the Log Cabin and Ball Diamond park shelters for June 28 through July 4 with the understanding that scheduled ball games would take precedence at the ball diamond

• received a request from Gays Mills resident John Gibbs to investigate light pollution from the Dollar General Store affecting his adjacent residence

• approved raising the hourly wages of lifeguards and bathhouse attendants at the Gays Mills Swimming Pool and in a related matter slightly increasing the cost of using the pool to most swimmers.

Following a closed session, the board reconvened in open session to approve hiring 13 bathhouse attendants and lifeguards for the Gays Mills Swimming Pool.