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Gays Mills Elementary School to be bought out and removed
Historic building and landmark
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The former Gays Mills Elementary School located on Main Street near the Kickapoo River will be torn down following action taken by the village board at their meeting Monday night.

The Gays Mills Village Board let stand a plan created by Community Development Alternatives to use a variety of grant funding to buy out and remove the building, along with a Gay Street residence.

CDA Executive Director Dale Klemme explained the grant applications and funding sources that the Prairie du Chien-based consulting firm planned to use to acquire and remove the school building at 600 Main Street and a residence at 225 S. Gay Street.

The buildings will be acquired and removed as part of grant using FEMA funds through the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program and administered in the state by Wisconsin Emergency Management. Those funds will pay for 87.5 percent of the projected $212,450 total cost to acquire and remove the buildings. The matching 12.5 percent of the funding will be supplied from Wisconsin DNR Municipal Flood Control money.

The Gay Street residence will be combined with two Steuben residences as part of a larger Crawford County grant application to fund removal of structures from the floodplain, Klemme explained.

The school property on Main Street will be part of different grant application to be submitted later this spring, according to the consultant.

While the grants would require the buildings be removed from their current sites, it does not require their demolition. Either building could be moved to another site outside the floodplain. However, it seems unlikely the large two-story 109-year-oldschool building in deteriorating condition is candidate for be moved to another site.

Craig Anderson, the former village president, questioned whether the board should approve a buyout of either property. In the case, of the school property, Anderson noted the property owners didn’t do any maintenance on the property, which led to its deterioration. He cautioned that by providing a buyout of that property the village may be creating an incentive for other floodplain property owners to not maintain properties so that they can later receive buyouts.

In answer to a question, Klemme said the property owners, Al and Sherrie Bahr, would receive $55,100 based on an appraisal of the building that was dated June 8, 2008. That’s the date of the second flood. However, the total projected cost of the project is $143,800, which includes the buyout price as well as $76,000 for asbestos testing and removal; state historical project documentation and requirements; and the actual demolition and site clearance.

Village trustees Albert Zegiel and Earl Winsor favored a buyout of the school property and disputed the owner was not deserving of such a buyout.

Winsor noted Bahr bought the property with renters living in the building and subsequently learned the building could not house tenants. Winsor called it “a raw deal.”

Zegiel noted that until recently Bahr wanted to use the building, but sought written permission from the DNR or the village and could not receive it from either.

Anderson also cautioned against the acquisitions and removal of the residence at 225 S. Gay Street, currently occupied by a renter. His concern for the village is the loss of property taxes, net loss of population and loss of a utility user. He noted the owner made no attempt to sell the house either.

The house’s owner Jesse Johnson had approached the village board recently asking if their was assistance to move the building to a lot owned by his family out of the floodplain. There was no such assistance.

Following the spring flood, the house qualified for a buyout and Jesse Johnson indicated he was interested in pursuing a buyout and the village board instructed Klemme and CDA to include the property in grant application for a buyout.

After some discussion, Gays Mills Village President Harry Heisz asked the board if they wished to make another decision on the properties or stick with their original decision to seek the buyouts and removal of the buildings.

Trustees Barbara Sands, Aaron Fortney, as well as Zegiel and Winsor, expressed an interest in letting the original decision to pursue buyouts for the properties stand.

The board also filled a trustee seat that was vacated when Harry Heisz was selected to replace Pat Brockway as the village president last month. Although Craig Anderson had expressed interest in filling the vacant trustee seat at the previous board meeting, it was Ed Block who contacted Gays Mills Village Clerk Dawn McCann to express his interest in filling the seat.

Zegiel nominated Block to fill the open seat, which will expire in the spring of 2015. Sands seconded the nomination.

Anderson said that if asked by the board to fill the seat he would not say no, but felt it was up to the board to recruit someone they wanted to fill the position.

“And, there’s something to be said for getting new blood on the board,” Anderson added in a reference to Block.

Village Trustee Geraldine Smith nominated Anderson and Fortney seconded the nomination.

After Anderson was nominated, Block spoke to say he wanted what was best for the village and that Anderson had more experience than he had.

In a paper ballot election, Block won four to two to become the interim village trustee,

During a report by Kay Smiley on activities in Gays Mills Community Building, located at 212 Main Street, it was revealed that those currently using the building have been paying the utilities in full through rents, fees and donations. Additionally, they have $1,500 on account for building expenses with the village clerk.

Smiley had a mixed reception from the board for some expansion of the building’s use. Concerned about liability, the board would not allow 10 registered exercisers, who have signed waivers to use fitness equipment, to exercise without Smiley or another person in the building to monitor their activities.

However, board members had no objection to a quilter group using the facility and storing a streteched quilt there without having to pay an hourly rental rate. The quilters will instead make a contribution.

Despite some trepidation, the board agreed children could use the building for games and exercise especially during the winter months, as long as there was supervision.

Sands asked if there was a possibility of selling the building to a private party.

Zegiel pointed out that nobody was really interested in buying the building, when the idea was mentioned previously. Since then, he noted people have signed petitions asking the building not be sold and donated money to keep it viable.

Local resident and businessman Jim Shown agreed that village needed to let the people keep it. He pointed out that people had paid to help keep the building available to the public.

Zegiel noted that the village is now at a point where it almost needs the building to accommodate overflow from the increased demand on space in the new Gays Mills Community Commerce Center.

In other business, the Gays Mills Village Board:

• heard from the village president Harry Heisz that residents had resumed living in a building owned by Derek McCormick on Main Street, but some issues around the work done elevating the structure remain unresolved

• heard a report from Brad Niemcek on the status of the Kickapoo Culinary Kitchen and a class being held for individuals interested in starting their own businesses

• agreed to support a trail proposal that seeks to receive a $50,000 grant from the DNR, but made it clear the village could not contribute funds toward the project

• the village also agreed to support a proposed project for dredging the slough behind the Gays Mills Community Commerce Center with the same restriction that there are no village funds available for the project

• heard in an update on the Gays Mills Mercantile Center that smelly hot water is about to be addressed by the village

• heard a request for funding from the Crawford County Tourism Council and rejected it due to a lack of funds

• heard a Stump Dodger Bash sponsorship request and rejected it due to the lack of funds

• agreed to place  a cemetery mowing ad and post the swimming pool manager ad

• granted a temporary Class ‘B’ liquor licenses to a group associated with the Kickapoo Cultural Exchange for an art gallery fundraiser event scheduled for Feb. 28 through March 2