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Former Gays Mills library building sold for $15,000
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The Gays Mills Village Board accepted an offer of $15,000 for the former public library building from the Showen Company at their regular meeting.

The village had solicited sealed bids for the building. At a meeting of the Surplus Village Property Disposition Committee prior to the regular board meeting, the only bid submitted from the Showen Company was opened. It was for $10,000.

After some members of the committee said the bid was too low, it was agreed the bid would be raised to $15,000. The committee then approved recommending that the board accept the bid. The village board was not obligated to take a bid it considered too low under the terms of the sale. The building would have been assessed at $25,000 to $30,000. A real estate appraisal was never obtained.

The committee’s recommendation to accept the offer of $15,000 was approved by the board later during the regular board meeting.

Village board president Craig Anderson stated that, in his personal opinion, the bidder had gotten “a very good bargain on the building” and “was paying under its real value.”

Village trustee Kevin Murray saw it a bit differently. He indicated that he was happy to see the building sold and was glad there were plans to turn it into a retail store.

The board meeting began on a positive note, when funeral director Jay Vosseteig complimented village employees Dawn McCann, Maura Otis and Jim Chellevold for their work on behalf of the village. Vosseteig has purchased the local funeral home and is in the process of having another constructed in the new development on Sunset Ridge Avenue near the Gays Mills Mercantile Center. He currently operates three other area funeral homes.

Later in the meeting, the board approved a budget of $636,500 that had been developed and recommended by the finance committee. Facing large expenses, the budget essentially eliminated all discretionary spending except the swimming pool operating expenses and two thirds of the summer rec donation, according to Murray.

Murray, who had played a major role in developing this year’s budget, explained that expenses for the previous community building and library were $11,000.  The new Community Commerce Center, which includes the new public library, will cost the village $45,000 to operate, Murray said. That’s an increase of $35,000 over last year’s budget. Meanwhile, the village’s debt service has climbed from $55,000 per year to $85,000.

With property taxes capped by state law, the only way the village could balance the budget was to cut expenses. Among the cuts needed, was eliminating the part-time village clerk position, which had been filled by Cheryl Klekamp. Murray explained the position had been created to allow the village clerk more time to address the increased workload created by the expanding relocation effort.

While rent revenue from the Gays Mills Mercantile Center is falling short of expectations due to vacancies in the building and reduced rental rates, one village trustee could see this changing in the future. Trustee Albert Zegiel told the board that he could see the day, when the Mercantile Center would be fully rented and able to cover the costs of the Community Commerce Center’s mortgage-the original plan. Zegiel said that eventually the Mercantile Center would be able to make up the $35,000 shortfall.

Area resident Mickey Rasch asked what the situation was on renting out available space in the Mercantile Center at the targeted rental rate.

Gays Mills Recovery Coordinator Julia Henley explained that a lot would depend on the future of the bistro project at the Mercantile Center. The proposed bistro would rent almost a third of the entire Mercantile Center, but is currently in a holding pattern, while the owner Maxine Brooks considers her options.

Three other spaces are also for rent in the strip mall located on Highway 131 toward the northern edge of the village.

Henley told the board that the situation with the economy was impacting renting available space at the Mercantile Center. She also explained that discounting some rents was necessary to help businesses move into and remodel the unfinished space into usable commercial space.

Henley said she envisioned having the Mercantile Center fully rented by mid-year in the coming year. And, that ultimately the rental income from the Mercantile Center would be able to “handle the mortgage payment on the Community Commerce Center and go a little beyond it.”

In answer to a question, village clerk Dawn McCann said the mortgage on the community center was $541,500.

The board approved the general fund budget as well as the sewer and water budgets.

The sewer budget contained a substantial increase in the volume rate, as the charge would increase $1.40 per 1,000 gallons from $3.20 to $4.60. In explaining the increase, Murray said costs had increased $2.80 per 1,000 gallons and the finance committee had chosen to increase the rate just half of that and use savings in the sewer account to offset the rest of the increased costs. However, Murray cautioned that savings could not cover the rest of the cost in the future.

Kickapoo Locker owner and Gays Mills resident James Chellevold told the board that increased cost would “put us all out of business.”

Later, after further explanations of the increase were made, Chellevold allowed that the board would need to do what it had to do and he would do what he had to do.

There was some discussion about what the Kickapoo Locker might be able to do with clean water it used for cooling purposes besides putting it into the sanitary sewer system and paying for it.

Village president Craig Anderson attributed problems with the sewer budget to lost population and increased costs to a system that was redone just prior to the two floods.

The board approved a $114,692 water budget and a $156,389 sewer budget.

In other business, the Gays Mills Village Board:

• approved a memo of understanding with the Kickapoo Culinary Center that would eliminate profit sharing, as required by the federal government, and substitute a flat payment of $1,500 annually from the Gays Mills Economic Development Association to offset the building’s operating and maintenance expenses.

• approved paying Community Development Alternatives $6,000 for their work in administering two Community Development Block Grants with the funds to come from the grants

• extended two Community Development Block Grants from Dec. 31, 2012 to June 30, 2013 so projects funded by the grants could be completed

• approved a new health insurance plan for the village employees that included a Health Reimbursement Account (HRA) to address deductibles and save the village $3,000 in costs

• increased liquor license fees from $325 to $400 annually

• increased operators license fee from $15 to $18.75

• increased cemetery fees for lots from $200 to $300 and for grave opening from $300 to $400

• agreed to pay $5,000 for appraisal services from Equity Appraisal

• approved allowing dirt from the elevation of a residence at 506 Main Street to encroach on property currently owned by the village at 502 Main Street

• agreed to allow the cement contractor to try installing a series of drains in the plaza area adjacent to the Mercantile Center as an attempt to eliminate flooding of the area

• agreed to accept $410 as settlement on an unpainted sprinkler pipe in the new public library

• allowed an amended purchase offer to Martin’s house allowing them to recover a sink and bathtub if the demo contractor will not salvage them

• approved an application for housing grant and a request for Lot 4 for the twelfth and final house to be built under the current grant funding

• clarified the responsibilities of a group known as the Village Stewards to pay for utility bills in the former Community Building on Main Street after Jan. 1