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Grant deadline is near in Gays Mills
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CouleeCap’s Director of Housing Todd Mandel presented an optimistic assessment of the rental elevations and other housing efforts currently underway in Gays Mills to the village board at their regular monthly meeting Monday night.

Mandel told the board that while there are still concerns that the work gets finished by the Dec. 31 deadline, the general contractor, Quality Energy Experts from Mauston, has assured CouleeCap the work on the five rental elevations and two flood proofings will be completed by Dec. 22. This will give CouleeCap’s Kahya Fox seven working days to inspect and approve the work.

Contractors have all received payments and everyone should be back on the job working, Mandel told the board. Tom Konsitzke, the general contractor, has informed CouleeCap that if the work is not totally completed by the deadline, he will work on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Mandel explained all of houses have been raised, filled and lowered at this point and the remaining work reconnecting sewer water and utilities, as well as other finishing touches should be completed by Dec. 22.

The situation with a house removal at 326 Orin Street is presenting other concerns to CouleeCap and the Gays Mills Village Board. Removal of the house was awarded to Aaron Gardener, the low bidder, whose intention was to move it to a rural lot on Norwegian Hollow Road near Soldiers Grove. However, as of Monday, the house hasn’t been moved. Like the rental elevations, the funding for the removal of the house must be spent by December 31.

The Showen Company is the second lowest bidder with plan to demolish and remove the Orin Street house for $9,182. Gardener has informed CouleeCap that he will be ready to have the house moved by December 22. CouleeCap’s Mandel told the board that the village could cancel the contract with the low bidder at any point.

If the house is not removed from the property by January 1, the funds available from a Community Development Block Grant to remove it will no longer be available. Since the removal of the house is part of the relocation effort, the village will be responsible for moving the house from the lot at their expense, if the December 31 deadline is not met.

Mandel advised the village board to give Gardener until December 15 to move the house and if it hasn’t been moved by that point to award the bid to the Showen Company.

After some discussion, the board decided to do just what Mandela had suggested. If the house at 326 Orin is not moved by Dec. 15, Showen is authorized to remove the house at $9,182, their initial bid.

Although Showen and some board members believe a deadline for moving the house was set when the contract was given to the low bidder, no one could recall the date nor find the document that included it at the board meeting Monday night.

The board also approved Showen to remove the house at 107 Park Street for the lowest bid of $6,564.

The final item on the agenda for housing elevations and removal was an approval by the board of moving Community Development Block Grant Emergency Assistance Program funds initially approved for business assistance into the housing relief effort The money will be used to cover administrative cost of housing removal and rental elevations and the costs of the rental elevations. The motion made by Earl Winsor and seconded by harry Heisz was approved the board.

In another report to the board, Kickapoo Culinary Center Director Brad Niemcek said he expected three different food processors would operate in the shared-use kitchen in the month of December for a total of eight full days. There are also three family Christmas parties planned. All of this activity will produce revenue in rents for the Gays Mills Community Commerce Center.

However, several other events including the visit of Santa this week, sponsored by the PACE Club, will be done rent-free for the community’s benefit, according to Niemcek.

On another matter, Niemcek told the board that DNR conservation funds were paying for the upgrade of boat or canoe landings on County B near Highway 131 and at County S near Highway 131 under the direction of Community Development Alternatives. The same funds will be used to improve three more landings near the dam and swimming pool.

Niemcek told the board that GMEDA was still interested in the construction of a trail along the Kickapoo River from the historic district near the dam north to an area near BAPI. The village has been approved for a DNR grant of $50,000, but does not have all of the necessary landowner approvals at this point. Niemcek told the board that they had the authority to “kill the project” at this point or wait patiently to see what can be worked out.

Some of the enhancements around the trail project may include the dredging of a portion of the slough, a portion of floating trail across the slough and a handicap accessible entrance to the trail located behind the Gays Mills Community Commerce Center.

Niemcek told the board GMEDA will provide assistance to the trail project in manner similar to the assistance they provided with getting the community kitchen started.

While the DNR is interested in seeing a recreational trail built in Gays Mills, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation does not seem to be interested in a path or paved shoulder along Highway 131 connecting the Main Street to the new development to the north. Inquiries to the DOT about funding for such a pedestrian enhancement along 131 have gone unanswered; village clerk Dawn McCann told board members, who inquired about the possibility of such a project.

As to a trail that would lead from the dam to BAPI, Jim Showen seemed skeptical.

“Wouldn’t old town be worth more than one business?" Showen asked.

In other business, the Gays Mills Village Board:

• approved a recommendation from Gays Mills Mercantile Center Administrator Harry Heisz to allow 5-6-7-8 Dance the opportunity to terminate a lease at the Mercantile Center if the rent to date is paid by December 31.

• heard that heating issues in the common area of the Mercantile Center are being investigated

• tabled an American Legion request for use of the Gays Mills Community Building on Main Street for air rifle competition until more information can be obtained

• approved an early payoff of a line of credit used in the JEM Grant aimed at increasing tourism

• approved the 2014 TRICOR Insurance policy renewal, which includes the village’s liability insurance for $39,000 up from $36,000 the previous year

• unanimously approved the 2014 budget and tax levy

• closed out four different checking accounts opened for use in administering funds from different flood recovery grants

• re-appointed the same election inspectors as last year to serve from Jan. 1, 2014 to Dec. 31, 2015