By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Gays Mills Village Board meets in new government offices
Redevelopment dominates agenda
Placeholder Image

The Gays Mills Village Board met in the almost-completed Community Commerce Center Monday night for a three-hour meeting attended by about 20 people.

As is often the case, the village’s redevelopment effort dominated the discussion.

The board took issue with work that had been done in the Community Commerce Center early in the meeting, when Vierbicher’s Patrick Cleary updated them on the status of four buildings under construction. Vierbicher is the firm hired by the village to oversee the entire redevelopment project.

When Cleary finished his portion of the report, village trustee Harry Heisz was quick to remind him that a large sprinkler pipe in the library had not been painted as agreed upon during the design team meetings for the building.

Cleary indicated that painting the installed pipe with the library moved into the space would be much more difficult. Heisz was unfazed.

“It was part of the deal that the pipe would be painted,” Heisz reminded the building construction manager. “That has to be done.”

“If it takes more time now, that’s their problem,” village trustee Kevin Murray added in a reference to Olympic Builders, the general contractors for the Gays Mills Community Commerce Center.

Gays Mills Village President Craig Anderson asked Cleary if there would be trouble heating the Mercantile Center from heating ducts high above the floor and below very high ceilings.

Cleary said the heating system is the one planned for the building. He noted that while fans originally intended for the tenant spaces had not been installed. The spaces were wired for fans to be installed at the tenants’ expense. He also noted the Mercantile Center was “a fairly, highly insulated building.”

During his portion of the flood relocation update, Kurt Muchow, Vierbicher’s project manager, discussed the problem of a shrinking contingency fund for the building projects. He suggested the board submit a request for a $54,900 Community Development Block Grant from the Wisconsin Department of Administration to pay for kitchen equipment and tables for the community kitchen. The state-administered federal CDBG money would be used to replace funding for the equipment from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration. Then, the EDA funds could be used as further contingency funds for the projects, Muchow explained.

The Wisconsin Department of Administration’s Stan Kaitfors, who attended the meeting, told them there was no way of saying whether that grant would be approved. Kaitfors is the department’s project representative.

Anderson reminded the board that it would take at least six months to find out if the request would be granted. The money would come from unused CDBG money returned by other communities and some unallocated funds.

Anderson said although the village had already received a large amount of CDBG funding for the project, their request might still be looked on favorably because of the large low and middle income (LMI) population.

Later in the meeting, the board approved having Muchow submit the CDBG grant request.

Muchow told the board that more money would be arriving from the EDA to pay contractors who have worked on the project. He expects to receive $375,907 in mid-January and another $500,000 in February, if and when the amended EDA grant agreement is finally approved and processed. There will also be the expected EDA drawdown of $310,000.

Muchow said the anticipated EDA funding in February of around $810,000 “would go a long ways toward catching us up with bills.”

At the suggestion of the finance committee, the board approved paying bills to Vierbicher, $13,186 for relocation project management; to Trillium Designs, $2,436 for CDBG-contracted business relocation services; and to Economic Development Partners, $9,500, for assistance in writing the Discovery Center and JEM grants. The board also approved a pay request of $152,287 for Olympic Builders for work on the Community Commerce Center and $275,456 to Wieser Brothers for work on the Mercantile Center. They also approved a Niesen pay request of $66,713 for landscaping work. All of the approved payments to the contractors were contingent on the funding being available to pay them.

However, on the advice of Vierbicher’s Cleary, the board declined to pay Fischl Construction a $36,128 pay request for their work on the public works building and another Fischl pay request of $67,478 for their work on the EMS building. In advising them to not grant the pay requests, Cleary said there was too much work left to be done to justify payment in the amounts requested.

Cleary also told the board to not pay a change order for the EMS building because the problem was caused by the contractor’s actions.

CouleeCap’s Michele Engh explained that the non-profit agency was still working on helping Gays Mills landlords with income-eligible tenants to elevate houses in the flood plain. She told the board that any landlords wanting to take advantage of the grant should contact the agency as soon as possible as the grant would be submitted by Feb.1. She noted the project had a short timeline with the work to be completed by fall.

Engh cleared up a question that the board brought up at a previous meeting. She said low income tenants living in an apartment when the landlord undertook the elevation work, who got better jobs and increased their income would not have to be evicted because they were no longer income-qualified. If they moved out, tenants moving in would have to be income eligible. By participating in the program, the landlords would be limited to 10-percent per year rent increases.

The CouleeCap housing specialist also told the board that four bidders submitted completed design bids on the seven-unit townhouse that the agency wants to build through a for-profit arm. Engh also told the board the village would receive about $4,000 in Payments In Lieu of Taxes or PILOT funds. The agency makes the payment because it's a non-profit and the townhouses it built in Gays Mills are not taxed.

The village is seeking written proposals for acquisition and use of the old Gays Mills Community Building on Main Street, according Gays Mills Recovery Coordinator Julie Henley. Anyone with a proposal can submit it to Dawn McCann, the village clerk.

Henley also told the board during her report that she now anticipated tenants would move into the Gays Mills Mercantile Center on Feb. 12.

 In answer to a question from village trustee Geraldine Smith, Henley said she had leases signed for five tenants and three others are close. There are 11 spaces in the Gays Mills Mercantile Center.

Village trustee Albert Zegiel asked Henley if the proposed Discovery Center she had talked about in a public hearing before the meeting moved into the Mercantile Center would it have the possibility of keeping a retail tenant out.

Henley told Zegiel that the purpose of pursuing a $500,000 Public Facility Grant through the Wisconsin Department of Administration was to build a stand-alone facility. The project may cost as much as $2 million, the recovery director told the board. However, she assured them it would not require village funding.

Henley explained that the $500,000 would represent a “significant pot of money that would put some legs and viability into the project.” She said it was hard to accomplish a project of this magnitude with bake sales. Henley intends to use other grant sources including private foundations to raise the rest of the money needed to launch the Discovery Center.

The board revisited the old Main Street improvement request made at a previous meeting. Gays Mills resident Don Lampert and Chris Smith, owner of the Blackhawk Auto, told the board that they were planning on contacting every business remaining on Main Street to see about their interest in joining a committee to revitalize the old downtown.

Village trustee Kevin Murray emphasized the importance of the old downtown to the village.

“We can’t forget how important the downtown is to the village,” Murray told the board. “There’s a lot of talk of finding a brand for Gays Mills. Well, downtown is our brand. That’s what brings people to town.”

One of the final items on the agenda brought up by village president Craig Anderson was the identification signage for business areas. Specifically, Anderson addressed his concerns about the “Central Business District” sign attached to a retaining wall adjacent to the Gays Mills Mercantile Center. The sign, constructed of foot-high letters appeared about a month ago. No one at the meeting knew who put the sign up.

Anderson said the complaints he has received fell into two categories. One category involved people who objected to the use of the word “central.” They claimed the area was not really central in the village.

The other objections were more centered on the generic tone of the sign. Anderson explained these people felt the central business district sign would be like changing the sign that says “Gays Mills” at the village limits to a sign that read “A village in southwestern Wisconsin.”

The village president said the sign “was not acceptable” and asked the board to determine what they wanted to do about it.

Heisz said he had received more calls about the sign than anything else in a long time.

Anderson made a motion to remove the word “central.”

Murray insisted it was time to take the entire sign down. Anderson allowed that as a friendly amendment changing his original motion to “immediately have the sign removed.” The motion passed.