A special meeting to discuss the future of the old Gays Mills Community Building at 212 Main Street was held last Thursday evening at the new Gays Mills Community Commerce Center, located on Highway 131.
In April of last year, the Gays Mills Village Board passed a one-year moratorium on making a decision about the disposition of the old community building. That moratorium is set to end next month.
The special meeting about the old building’s future was called by Gays Mills Village Trustees Harry Heisz and Albert Zegiel. Both serve as members of the village board’s public properties committee.
On Thursday night, the village boardroom was filled to capacity with village and rural residents, as well as fellow trustees Aaron Fortney and Earl Winsor.
Heisz explained that if people wanted to see the village maintain the old community building, as well as the new facilities containing the village offices, library, meeting rooms, hall and kitchen, the board would need to see something from those assembled that showed it was a potentially workable situation.
“I’m not saying we have to have all the answers tonight,” Heisz said. “If we don’t have a plan, how are we going to go about it.”
Heisz explained that the revenue cap placed by the state does not allow the village to increase its revenues. He also noted that the village had trimmed many services in order to balance the budget. As the village moves forward, they face a future in which revenues remain stagnant, while costs continue to rise. As it stands now, Heisz said there is no money to fund the maintenance of two community buildings.
Winsor spoke up to remind those present that the board had not made any decision about what would happen in May.
“I think there is some confusion about what we mean when we say disposition,” Winsor said. “I hear it and I think about disposal myself, but that’s not what we mean. We just mean we have to decide what to do about it.”
“Can those of us here get out and talk to people in the next two months?” asked business owner and village resident Allison Showen.
While Heisz said he could not speak for the board, he said such activity would make him more confortable as a board and committee member in considering recommending the building be kept as village property.
“If there is a purpose and people get behind it, you will be amazed how quickly that pool will grow,” Heisz said. “But, you have to have the people to lead it.”
“Maybe we should be talking about ways to save the ton of money to help pay for the community building,” said Kevin Dohse, a member of the Gays Mills Folk Festival of Music and Dance Committee.
Dohse suggested actions such as not running the coolers and freezers in the community kitchen at the Gays Mills Community Commerce Center, when they were not in use, could save the village considerable money.
Heisz and Zegiel both acknowledged that conservation could be made a greater priority of the village.
Zegiel went further.
“I am totally for keeping the (old) building in the community,” Zegiel said. “Our major problem is the cost.”
Last year, the building produced roughly $2,000 in income and cost $4,000 to operate, according to Heisz. At it’s most expensive, it cost the village $4,000 beyond revenues it provided.
Heisz also explained that cleaning maintenance of the building could be done by a village employee, but only if the help was found through the Experience Works program. The village had two women working through the program earlier, but currently only has one. The program, run through the county, employs those over 55 who meet the income guidelines and the village seems like it would happily employ another.
Bob Van Hoesen, who lives on Gays View Road outside the village limits, suggested that those present interested in seeing the building kept by the village meet after the meeting ended.
Fourteen of those present, including trustee Al Zegiel, moved to the community room in the Gays Mills Community Commerce Center at the conclusion of the meeting to discuss steps for garnering input from the community on interest, support and fundraising.
The group plans to meet regularly to create a plan to present to the board by May.