By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Johnson joins village board
in Gays Mills
Placeholder Image

It was a new Gays Mills Village Board that waited for village president Harry Heisz to arrive from the North Crawford track meet Monday night.

Heisz apologized for being 10 minutes late and immediately started the meeting. The difference on Monday night was that village trustee Earl Winsor was gone and in his place was newly elected village trustee John Johnson. Winsor could not run for re-election to the board in April because he has become Gays Mills Fire Chief. Johnson has previously served as both a trustee and a former village president.

Shortly after the meeting began, Heisz asked for any public input under an agenda item called ‘Citizens and Delegations.’ Gays Mills resident Barry Jensen asked if anything was going to be done about the inadequate drainage of water in Robb Park near the dam.

Jensen noted that of the two small tubes in place for drainage of the area, one has been plugged for years and the other was not adequate.

Heisz told Jensen that beavers were plugging the one working tube and that he had spoke about the situation with Gays Mills Director of Public Works Jim Chellevold on Monday morning. It was decided Chellevold would contact the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to seek permission to tear out the smaller tubes and replace them with one larger tube. The tube drains water from the slough and nearby springs into the Kickapoo River.

Jensen pointed out that if the water were not drained properly, a pond would develop creating what he called a “mosquito heaven.”

Heisz assured him that the village was aware of the situation and working to remedy it by replacing the tubes with a larger one.

During Brad Niemcek’s report on the Kickapoo Culinary Center, the shared-use kitchen located in the Gays Mills Community Commerce Center, a recent problem was explained to the board.

Niemcek began the explanation of a conflict that developed over the weekend between two groups using the kitchen by noting that he cannot be present seven days per week at his unpaid position as Director of the Kickapoo Culinary Center.

Last Saturday, a group of 11 people in the pie-crust-making group were scheduled to use the kitchen from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. The enterprise is a start-up food business created by and run under the direction of Chef Monique Hooker. Shortly after the manager got the group working on the piecrusts, another group, which was renting the community room for a party later that evening showed up.  The party group informed the piecrust group that they were using the kitchen for the party.

The piecrust group’s manager asked the party group to enter and exit the kitchen through a storeroom entrance to get their cold food products into the cooler. The party group refused. The manager told the group that being in the commercial kitchen meant they needed to use hairnets. Members of the group told him that they intended to serve 100 people in the kitchen that afternoon and there wouldn’t be enough hairnets to go around.

In retelling the story at the board meeting, Niemcek emphasized that using the kitchen during this time was not what the party group had reserved. Unable to get the group out of the commercial kitchen, the manager of the piecrust group shut down the operation at noon. Niemcek learned of the problem via e-mail at the time, while he was in Madison.

Niemcek told the board that a situation where a community room-related event interfered with commercial use of the kitchen was not acceptable. He pointed out the facility exists in large part by the funding EDA (the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Agency).for the purpose of commercial activity. Hence, the building’s name is the community commerce center.

Village trustee Ed Block asked Niemcek what could be done to minimize this sort of problem in the future.

The director of the culinary center told the board that one option might be to not allow people renting the community room into the commercial kitchen facility. He noted one problem is that people who book the room and those showing up to work on the event are sometimes different people and the later often don’t know the rules.

Niemcek said the use of the community room does not imply the use of the kitchen, which is a separate arrangement.

The group, who rented the community room Saturday, had already made arrangements to reserve it for next year, but Niemcek said with the board’s approval he would return their deposit and cancel the reservation. He stated at one point that there typically are no problems with 99 percent of the users of the building.

Niemcek also informed the board that the Gays Mills Economic Development Association (GMEDA) was asking the village to make a $500 contribution to Crawford County Economic Development. Niemcek explained the CCED Executive Director Dave Connolly was working hard on the village’s behalf on a number of fronts including getting spaces rented at the Gays Mills Mercantile Center.

Several trustees said initially that they were inclined to favor making the donation.

Trustee Barb Sand asked if the village had the money available to make the donation.

“Well, $500 is not going to break us,” village president Harry Heisz said in answering her question. However, the village president asked the board to consider the donation in light of other requests for other donations and the village’s overall financial picture. After Niemcek noted that there was no rush to get the donation, Heisz asked the board if they wanted to table the request to the next meeting to consider it further.

For his part, Block said making the donation might better keep the interest of the CCED in helping the village.

Johnson doubted the value of experts helping the village with Mercantile Center. Heisz pointed out the expert who would help the village with the Mercantile Center was doing it for free and the donation to Crawford Economic Development was a separate matter.

Block said perhaps it would be better to donate just of portion of the money like $200 initially and more later, if it was possible. Trustee Albert Zegiel favored the $500 donation citing the benefits the economic development group provided to the village.

Sand favored a donation of $250 to $300, while village trustee Geraldine Smith favored a donation of just $100.

Johnson moved to table the matter to the next meeting. Tabling the donation was seconded by Sand and passed by the board.

Niemcek also discussed the proposal being forwarded by GMEDA to dredge the slough behind the Community Commerce Center to enhance its recreational value. It was ultimately agreed that the village would take the first step of applying for a permit from the DNR. It was agreed the discussion of cost for dredging would be irrelevant if the DNR was not even going to permit the village to dredge in the first place.

In other business the Gays Mills Village board:

• approved the purchase of a large sign for the Mercantile Center listing the businesses for a price of $6,600 from Countywide Signs

• agreed the village would have the flexibility to charge lower rates to new tenants at the Mercantile Center for one year to encourage tenants to locate there

 • heard an update on a failed attempt to purchase a street sweeper at an auction—the village was hoping to buy it for $45,000 and it sold for $80,000

• heard a presentation and introduction from Will Cronin, the county’s new Community Natural Resources and Economic Development Educator

• discussed the state of buildings and property upkeep in the village with three trustees, who made a walking survey of the situation recently

• approved a prairie planting in portion of the park in the residential section of the new development

•approved a fireworks permit for Don Peterson

• decided against making a contribution to the summer reading and writing program of North Crawford Schools

• approved committee assignments and the library board

• approved a temporary Class B liquor license for May 10 for the Kickapoo Cultural Exchange

• approved operator licenses for Hailey Boland and Amanda Hanson