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Fitness center proposal update presented to Gays Mills board
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The Gays Mills Village Board began their regular monthly meeting with Harry Heisz chairing the meeting as the board’s president pro tem in the absence of village president Pat Brockway, who resigned last month for health reasons. Before the meeting ended, Heisz had been appointed by the board to fill out the rest of Brockway’s term as village president, which ends in April of 2015.

For his part, Heisz seemed to take things in stride and chaired a relatively relaxed board meeting. Village trustees Aaron Fortney and Barbara Sand were both absent.

The board began with an informational presentation the proposed North Crawford Fitness Center led by Tarasa Lown. With the assistance of architect Dan Blumer, from HSR Associates, and North Crawford High School Phy Ed Instructor Judd Eastman, Lown explained the scope of the fitness center project. Lown, who coordinates a large federal fitness and wellness grant at the school, emphasized the potential impact of the proposed fitness center not just on students, but the larger community.

The school board will decide at their January meeting, whether to place the referendum to build the fitness center on the spring ballot, Blumer told the village board.

Lown explained that up to $250,000 worth of equipment purchased through a federal PEP Grant would be housed in the fitness center if it is approved and built. She explained that the equipment under terms of the grant must be available only to students and staff during the three years of the grant’s duration, but that the equipment and other things purchased with grant funds is eligible to be used by the larger community. The grant expires August 1, 2015.

Blumer pointed out that if the referendum is approved and the building is constructed it will probably not be completed until the spring of 2015.

To Lown, the fitness center could fill a void in community wellness resources.

“We don't have a YMCA or an activity center,” Lown said. “This fitness center could be used by North Crawford graduates, who come back or stay in the community.”

Lown went on to explain the fitness center if available to the larger community could be an economic development tool for business bringing employees to the area.

Gays Mills Village Trustee Earl Winsor asked Lown if she was asking for specific action from the village board in regard to the proposed fitness center.

Lown explained to Winsor and the board that the presentation was intended to further the board and the community’s understanding of the fitness center proposal with the most up-to-date and accurate information. She told the board the relationship of the district with Vernon Memorial Healthcare was intended to benefit both organizations. It is anticipated that VMH’s skills in running a fitness center and hiring a maintenance company to service the equipment would be a direct advantage the district might enjoy by partnering the Viroqua-based hospital and clinics.

The Pep Grant coordinator went on to note that the $1.2 million fitness center’s cost to taxpayers was figured to include the cost of a 20-year bond, as well as maintenance and energy costs. The total costs would add $45 annually to taxes of the owner of a $100,000 property, according to Lown.

Eastman, the high school phy ed teacher, told the board the facility would not just be centered on high school athletes looking for strength training. He said that instead it would offer something to all kinds of users from cardio workouts to rehabilitation work. It would be ready for both the first-time user and people with lots of fitness experience, according to Eastman.

“There would be a wide range of equipment that could service any type of person, not just athletes and very serious fitness people,” Eastman said.

“What happens if the public doesn’t want to participate?” village trustee Geraldine Smith asked. “I think it’s terrific for the children, but what if the rest of community doesn’t want it.”

Lown said then the community would say no to the referendum if it were placed on the ballot this spring.

Heisz, who serves as the North Crawford School District’s Director of Maintenance, told Smith the school would then accommodate the equipment within existing space at the school and design programming for the students without offering it the larger community.

“So, if the referendum doesn’t make it the building doesn’t get done?” Smith asked.

“That’s right,’ responded Blumer. “Unless there’s a big donation.”

Lown further explained the alternative, if the referendum would fail.

“The project won’t go away,” Lown said. “We’d still do the project. It’s just that we won’t be able to share it with the community.”

Smith stated that her retirement income limited her ability to pay for more property taxes. She questioned paying $45 more annually and then having to pay a fee to use the fitness center.

Blumer noted that VMH and other facilities often have reduced rates a free use available to the elderly and others on fixed incomes.

Lown assured the board that before the referendum arrived, the district would have much more exact figures and plans.

Later during the public input portion of the meeting, an unhappy resident of one of the rental properties being elevated as part of the flood recovery effort with Community Development Block Grant funds rose to speak about the situation. Ron McCormick, who lives at 102 Main Street in a building owned by Derek McCormick, described the conditions of the three-unit building since the contractor began working on the building.

“The building is a complete disaster,” Ron McCormick told the board. He went on to point out the work is not completed and is way past due.

Heisz told McCormick that he was disappointed that neither CouleeCap Housing Director Todd Mandel nor CouleeCap project manager Kahya Fox were at the meeting to discuss the rental elevation project or the Main Street property in particular.

Ron McCormick told the board that the contractor and workers were responsible for breaking pipes used to convey hot water heat from the furnace, as well as wrecking the furnace, He also noted the plumbing in the building was frozen and ruined.

The general contractor, Quality Energy Concepts from Mauston, was supposed to have the work completed by December 22 and the final deadline for payment from the CDBG grant was January 1. Both dates have past without the work being completed, according to Ron McCormick. He asked the board to not pay the contractor any more at this point.

Village trustee Albert Zegiel asked if the village would be able to withhold any further payments to the contractor. There was some discussion of the matter and some on the board thought the village might not be able to control the money coming from the state and administered by CouleeCap.

In answer to the question, Dawn McCann noted the money would come through the village.

Zegiel urged putting a hold on any payments until things were corrected.

Village trustee Earl Winsor asked if it was  possible to talk with Wisconsin Department of Administration’s Stan Kaitfors about the situation. Kaitfors has been responsible for administering the Community Development Block Grant funds being used by CouleeCap to elevate rental properties in the floodplain and save housing space for low and moderate-income renters.

Heisz told the board and McCormick that he had been trying for days to contact CouleeCap’s Mandel and Fox about the situation. He said replacing the furnaces was definitely part of the original bid.

“The walls weren’t even poured right,” an obviously frustrated Ron McCormick said. “They didn’t do a damn thing they were supposed to do. How can we allow contractors like this in town?”

In other business, the Gays Mills Village board:

•  heard report on progress in the shared-use kitchen, known as the Kickapoo Culinary Center

• heard another report from Jim Hackett, a Crawford County Sheriff’s Deputy, who is working two to three hours per week for the village

• heard a report on the Gays Mills Mercantile Center from Harry Heisz stating the 5-6-7-8 Dance Studio was current on its payments and should be allowed to terminate its lease at the village-owned building

• heard a request by Ron Hayden on behalf of the McCormick-Rose American Legion Post to use the Gays Mills Community Building at 212 Main Street for children’s air rifle instruction and competition on a monthly basis

• approved a request from the Kickapoo Exchange Food Co-op to hold their annual rummage sale at the Gays Mills Community Building as a fundraiser and agreed to charge them $100 rent for the two-day event

• discussed improving signage on snowmobile trails indicating where fuel and food can be purchased

• approved a Class B liquor license for the Crawford Stewardship Project for an event scheduled February 8 at the Gays Mills Community Commerce Center.