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Elevation was a 'botched' job
in Gays Mills
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One of the more important items to come before the Village of Gays Mills Board at their meeting Monday night wasn’t even on the agenda. Local landlord Derek McCormick was allowed to raise his concerns about the condition of a building he owns at 102 Main Street following a publicly funded elevation of that floodplain rental property.

The building was already a topic discussion at previous board meetings because of problems encountered in the elevation process. However, at the meeting Monday night, McCormick informed the board how bad the situation actually was.

As far as CouleeCap, the agency responsible for administering the grant funds, and the village were concerned, the project had been successfully completed after some initial problems were resolved. When CouleeCap informed the village the project had been inspected and was successfully completed, the village board authorized paying the contractor.

That was a mistake, according to McCormick. The landlord began by telling the board the property he owns at 102 Main Street is unusable, unrentable and unlivable.”

“I can’t rent it out,” McCormick said.

The landlord outlined some of the problems that he claimed were caused by the work done during the elevation process. He noted the driveway was now undermined by five feet, there was water coming into the basement, there were holes in the roof and the building’s exterior was compromised.

McCormick said that he wasn’t allowed to work on the house and now he is not allowed to fix the house legally.

“Somehow this has to be fixed,” McCormick told the board. “I’m losing money everyday. I can’t continue to dump money into something that is not making money.”

Village board president Harry Heisz told McCormick he would talk about the situation with the village’s attorney Eileen Brownlee.

“Give me this time until the next board meeting and I will see what I can find out,” Heisz said.

The village board president reminded McCormick that the matter was not an agenda item and was being brought forth under a public input  item called ‘Citizens and Delegations’ so the board was limited in what it could actually do at this meeting.

The meeting began with a relatively upbeat report from Kickapoo Culinary Center Director Brad Niemcek, who told the board the shared-use kitchen was relatively quiet at present.

Niemcek also gave the Gays Mills Economic Development Association report and asked the board to consider giving a donation of $500 to Crawford County Economic Development. He noted the organization’s director, Dave Connolly, was doing a lot of work on behalf of the village and the donation should be made.

Later after a brief discussion, the board approved donating $500 to Crawford County Economic Development on a motion made by Barb Sand and seconded by Al Zegiel.

Niemcek also told the board that GMEDA was still working with the DNR about placement of a waterway marker above the dam, warning canoeists and kayakers of the danger ahead of them.

Village president Harry Heisz took exception to the DNR recommendation to place a landing just 150 feet above the dam for canoeists and kayakers to get out of the river and portage past the dam.

“If you don’t make the landing, you’re at the dam,” Heisz said of the location. The matter of the waterway marker placement and the location of the above-the-dam landing will be discussed further.

Niemcek also informed the board that GMEDA was working with the consulting firm Community Development Alternatives to submit a preliminary application for a permit to dredge the Kickapoo River slough or backwater adjacent to the Gays Mills Community Commerce Center.

Sharon Murphy presented a proposal by the Gays Mills Art Collective to rent their former art gallery room in the Mercantile Center for one month at their former reduced rent of $400 per month and include the utilities. Murphy explained the group had received some grant funding and was planning a month-long art camp for kids from July 11 to August 11.

The plan included having 15 to 20 children per week being instructed for four hours on three mornings per week. In addition to offering the group the room at half the monthly rate with the utilities included, the village was asked to be a sponsor and thereby provide insurance under its policy.

Heisz, who serves on the Mercantile Center Committee, said he didn’t have a problem with renting it at that rate because the village wasn’t getting anything for the space right now.

Village trustee John Johnson cautioned that offering the lower rate would set a precedent for others to seek lower rates.

Murphy said she thought having the art camp in the building would make it look more alive and attractive to potential renters of the empty spaces.

“I think it’s a pretty good deal for the village,”
 Murphy said.

“Not in my mind,” Johnson replied.

Village trustee Ed Block moved to accept the art camp offer. It was seconded by Zegiel and approved by the board.

Following her report on the Gays Mills Community Building, located at 212 Main Street, Kay Smiley was praised by trustee Ed Block for her work on keeping the building functioning.

Smiley informed the board bills for utilities were being paid and two new pieces of exercise equipment had been donated for use in the building. She also noted that a licensed and insured fitness instructor, who had run the Lands End Fitness Center for 12 years, was on board with offering instruction in the building.

The building had not yet used any air-conditioning, but will at some point in the future, Smiley said.

Heisz said the costs for her rent of the old village offices would be adjusted for electricity used.

“Thank you for all that work,” Block said to Smiley.

In other business, the Gays Mills Village Board:

• tabled further discussion of the storm sewer drain at the Jay Haggerty property 411 Orin Street

• approved a $500 donation to the North Crawford Summer Rec program with an additional $250 donation personally pledged by trustee John Johnson to the program

• approved a $300 donation to the Gays Mils Village Fire Department for the July 4 fireworks display

• heard a request for a hookup to village sewer and water from Dan McCarthy for property adjoining the village limits on the northern boundary near Highway 131 and agreed to look into annexation of the property for that purpose

• approved hiring two additional lifeguards at pool director Jen Klekamp’s suggestion

• tabled a lease request from Scott Puckett for the former Williams’ property at 237 Gay Street

• approved a lease request from Kate Vereshchagin for the former Martin’s property at 210 Park Street

• approved en masse all the cigarette license applications, machine license applications, annual alcohol beverage applications and all of the operator’s license applications.