GAYS MILLS - How votes are counted got to be the issue, when it came to choosing a new voting machine at the meeting of the Gays Mills Village Board on Monday night.
Crawford County Clerk Janet Geisler had earlier presented all the municipalities and townships in the county with two alternatives to replace their existing voting machines. One option was an updated touchscreen model very similar to the current model being used in Gays Mills.
The new touchscreen offered some minor upgrades. It was also the less expensive alternative, coming in at around $3,300.
The other alternative was an optical reading machine that would identify votes marked on ballots that were placed into a slot. After being recorded, the actual cards would remain inside the machine in case of a recount. By contrast, the touchscreen ballot electronically records the vote, but also records the ballot on a continuous paper tape held inside the machine.
The optic reader voting machine cost was around $6,600. Both machines were made by the same manufacturer and came with a 20-year warranty.
Village trustee Kevin Murray objected to the optic reader because it would take away the previously used paper ballots. Those paper ballots were placed in ballot box and removed when the polls closed to be counted manually by poll workers.
Village clerk Dawn McCann and chief election inspector Craig Anderson explained that all ballots would be paper with the optic reader. The cards would be filled out by voters at the polling place, as well as people sending them in as absentee ballots. The only ballots that would be manually counted by poll workers would be ballots with write-in candidates that optic reader machine would place in a different pile.
Murray asserted that voters had a right to fill out a paper ballot and have it hand counted. Use of a touchscreen machine would continue the use of the paper ballot option, dropped in a box, that would require poll workers to count them.
Beth Jensen, another Gays Mills poll worker, said there were many safeguards to making sure the count was accurate. She favored switching to the optic reader system.
Because of the time saved in not hand counting paper ballots, Jensen and Anderson both favored the optic reader voting machine over the touchscreen voting machine.
Village trustee Lee Ruegg asked Murray if he trusted his digital odometer to be accurate. Murray countered that it was not the same thing.
Ruegg also challenged Murray to watch the tallying of the ballots in Gays Mills at some point. Murray said that wasn’t necessary for him to make this decision.
Aaron Fortney made a motion to go with the less expensive touchscreen option for the new voting machine. On a roll call vote, the motion passed 4-1.
Aaron Fortney, Kevin Murray, Seamus Murray and Kim Pettit voted yes, while Lee Ruegg voted no and board president Harry Heisz abstained from voting. Village trustee Larry McCarn was absent from the meeting.
There was some good news about the Gays Mills Swimming Pool earlier in the meeting. Pool manager Kayla Fortney told the board that in her opinion the numbers at the pool this year were good so far, hovering right around 50 per day.
Fortney also noted that lessons had gotten underway Monday and things were going well. There are small group lessons and the village is also offering private one-on-one lessons for parents that prefer it.
At Kayla’s request, the board approved a small toy basketball hoop that could be used by those in the pool on slow days for their amusement.
The pool manager assured the board that the small toy basketball hoop would just offer some entertainment to the kids at the pool, when things got slow. She also pointed out the hoop would not interfere with the sight lines of lifeguards and would not be used when there were 50 people in the pool.
In another matter, Kayla informed the board that a charger for the battery in the chairlift that takes physically challenged people in and out of the pool would not charge. The current battery needed to be replaced. She said a new battery would cost $270 to $300. In response to a question from village president Harry Heisz, the village trustees agreed the replacement battery should be bought to make the lift chair operational, even though it is seldom or never used at this point.
Finally, Kayla told the board that recent fundraising efforts had put the Friends of the Gays Mills Swimming Pool within $700 of reaching their $100,000 goal.
At that point, village resident and former village president Craig Anderson, who was attending the meeting, told Fortney that he would contribute that amount so the group could reach its goal. He wrote a check and handed it to her.
“I could cry,” Fortney said as she took the check from Anderson.
Gays Mills Village President Harry Heisz noted the accomplishment of the constant efforts of the Friends of the Pool group, and just as importantly the generosity of the many donations that were made.
The Save Our Pool fundraising campaign has raised $100,000 in just 14 months, Heisz noted. The project was originally envisioned to raise $100,000 in three years.
Kayla Fortney explained that the group hopes to raise more money to put the village on solid footing with pool and its needs going forward.
Tree Board report
During the Gays Mills Tree Board report, volunteer village forester Cindy Kohles cautioned the board that they might need to apply for more modest grants going forward because of the limits on volunteers and lack of availability of public works employees to do the work.
Nevertheless, Kohles outlined a plan to apply for two grants. One is an American Transmission Company grant that pays for the planting of plants under their electric transmission lines to attract pollinators.
The other grant, from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, would continue to pay for removal of some trees, one on private property and three on public property, and some other tree work in the village. It would also pay to have a professional arborist prune maple trees growing at the Appleland Business Park.
In other business, the Gays Mills Village Board:
• approved the Action on Compliance Maintenance Annual Report, concerning the state of the village’s sewer system, as prepared by Gays Mills Director of Public Works Jim Chellevold
• discussed plans for replacing the roof and repairing the Old Mill Museum building based on a report given by Kevin Murray
• tabled action on confirming the library board secretary position
• approved accepting a small piece of property near the boat landing behind the sewer plant from the Mississippi Valley Conservancy
• decided against making a donation to Driftless Wisconsin, believing economic development would be better served by spending the money on local projects• discussed the current ordinance on lawn, grasses and weeds and the possible need to modify some of the language going forward.