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Future of former community building discussed
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The Gays Mills Village Board’s Public Property Committee agreed to discuss use requests for the old community building at 212 Main Street at a meeting Monday even though there was no quorum in the committee to make decisions.

With Aaron Fortney and Harry Heisz not present, the only public property committee member present was the chairperson Albert Zegiel.

“I think it’s time to revisit the decision on the old community building,” said village resident Kay Smiley.

Smiley noted that the Second Harvest Food Pantry was moving back to the building this Wednesday. She explained the mobile monthly food pantry had a commitment to work in Gays Mills at least until October, when a three-year run would be re-evaluated. The local community organizer asked if keeping the building open until October would allow for other activities to take place there.

Board president Craig Anderson reminded Smiley that the board had left an option open for her and others to raise money to pay for utilities in the building so it could continue to be used for activities after Jan. 1. Smiley and others had been unable to make the commitment to cover the costly utilities after Jan.1, the board’s deadline for having the cost paid by sources other than the village.

Zegiel told the other board members that an effort to look for outside funding sources had been undertaken and is still underway.

Smiley said that in talking with people in other places about funding, they said it was necessary to have charitable 501C3 designation or work through a municipality. She urged the board members to consider applying for grants to run activities in the old community building. She also reminded the board that 200 people had signed a petition last year asking the village to keep the old community building open.

However, getting approval for a teen activity scheduled for Saturday, March 23 was Smiley’s priority with the board committee Monday night and at the regular board meeting next week. She explained a group of teens from the area was excited to have monthly activities. The group had contacted a band and was preparing to hold the event on March 23 but was unable to rent space at either the Gays Mills Community Commerce Center or the North Crawford School. The only available space found for that day was Kickapoo High School, which many felt was too far away for many of those involved.

Smiley pressed the board members present, who were not on the committee for a feeling of what they might decide about allowing the group to use the building, so planning could proceed. She went on to explain the youth group wanted to try having a monthly activity for six months to see if it could develop and grow.

“You put your finger on the core issue here,” board president Craig Anderson said. “Per the board’s previous action, the building could be used but there’s a need to pay the utilities.”

Smiley acknowledged those previously interested in using the building couldn’t pay for the utilities and used other places. However, she saw the key to using the building in the fact that it had continued to be heated.

Anderson said that having the heat not turned off had been an error that had been corrected. However, board member Earl Winsor stated it was his understanding the building was still being heated.

Board member Geraldine Smith joined Anderson in commending Smiley and the others for their efforts, which both saw as positive. However, both cautioned the village could not pay for the utilities in the building.

“It’s not me against you,” Smiley told Anderson and Smith. “We need to work together.”

In answer to a question, Smiley said the teen group planned to rent the old community building for $10 per hour from 4 to 9 p.m. on March 23, if the board would allow it. She noted the $50 would most certainly pay for the increased heating costs.

Following Smiley’s presentation, Crawford County Independent editor Charley Preusser urged the committee and the board to consider using the old community building in the future. Outlining some of the needs for the building and how $10 per hour rents could help offset the costs of heat and water use in the building.

Anderson challenged Preusser’s assumptions on using rental income to offset utility costs.

Like the discussion of the future use of the old community building, many of the more problematic agenda items to come before the committees involved directly or indirectly the village’s tight financial situation this year.

The village board’s finance committee decided to approve a $500 donation to Experience Works, which is responsible for providing a cleaning worker for village-owned buildings at no cost to the municipality.

Smith, a finance committee member, acknowledged the board’s commitment to draw the line on donations this year. However she explained that the Experience Works donation was necessary because of the major contribution the worker makes to the village, cleaning both the Gays Mills Mercantile Center and the Gays Mills Community Commerce Center. Anderson, another member of the committee, indicated that the funds could come from the $15,000 the village will realize from the sale of the former public library.

With the library building sale funds in mind, the committee approved recommending the board approve the $500 donation to Experience Works.

On the other hand, the finance committee declined to recommended board approval of purchasing a $50 ad in the North Crawford School Yearbook, because of the village’s financial situation.

There was welcome news on one of the village’s proposed new welcome signs, which will soon be erected in the village. It was announced that Sunrise Orchards had requested to pay for the sign being put up on Highway 171 near the orchard. With the Sunrise contribution, recovery coordinator Julia Henley recommended the village spend the $500 it had planned on spending on one of the four welcome signs on directional signs. The finance committee agreed to recommend that action to the board.

Smith said the personnel committee was still working with Jen Klekamp, last year’s swimming pool manager, about this year’s manager position. While Klekamp may take the position, she is in the process of interviewing for another job. If Klekamp takes another job, she promised Smith and the personnel committee that she would work with a new manager to help them with the job. The personnel committee will meet at 6:30 p.m. next Monday before the regular board meeting to discuss wages for swimming pool employees.

Another troubling problem considered by the finance committee was the second phase of the JEM tourism grant, which requires the Village of Gays Mills to make expenditures upfront on the project and then be reimbursed by the Wisconsin Department of Tourism in 45 days. In the initial phase of the grant, the money was provided before any expenditures were made.

Anderson told Henley the village was “a bit skittish” about such arrangements because “it had been left holding the bag” with other funding sources.

Royal Bank had agreed to provide low-interest loans to make the expenditures that would be later reimbursed, according to Henley.

While Smith agreed the village needed to have advertising, she said it was like buying dessert when you can’t afford the main course.

Henley agreed to get loan terms in writing from the bank and review the situation with the grant supervisor.

CouleeCap’s Kahya Fox reviewed a new format for proposals for residential removal that would prioritize contractors who wanted to move structures and contractors’ whose proposal would emphasize salvage and finally those whose proposals were for removal only.

Fox told the board the format would help them to analyze the proposals. Board members including public property member Zegiel seemed to be positive toward the format for proposals, but lacking a quorum the committee could not recommend board action.

In other business, the Gays Mills Village Board Committees:

• recommended that other relocation bills in the amount of $2,396 be paid to Jacaranda (Henley’s consulting firm) as grant funding from Community Development Block Grants and EDA becomes available (finance)

• agreed to recommend the board approve a plan to proceed with an alley closure plan (public works)

• recommended the board approve a variance request for 218 Park Street for the Rental Elevation Program being administered by CouleeCap (public works)

• discussed the proposed bridge project on Highway 131 over De La Mater Creek (public works)