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Mercantile sign funds under question
in Gays Mills
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The Gays Mills Village Board will be waiting longer to find out if the state will allow them to use money left from the Community Development Block Grant to provide a sign on the outside of the Mercantile Center.

Stan Kaitfors, the Wisconsin Department of Administration Flood Recovery Specialist working with the village, while unable to attend the board meeting on Monday, Sept. 9, did send a letter asking questions about funds allocated and already spent on signs. In the letter, Kaitfors noted that $1,500 per tenant had been allocated, and spent, for signage, causing him to question allocating more money to the project.

The money was used for door signage (decals) and an indoor directional sign, according to exiting Gays Mills Central Business District Manager Julia Henley, who said the signs present were those agreed upon by the tenants, who initially did not want outdoor signs, but have since changed their minds.

“I’ve sent Stan the explanation of how the money was spent, so I don’t know why he still has questions,” Henley said.

Henley did stress that Kaitfors consent should be received before spending money on an outdoor sign. This would insure the village was reimbursed for the expenditure. Village trustees Harry Heisz, Geraldine Smith, and Aaron Fortney asked village president Pat Brockway if it appeared the village would be reimbursed, if they moved forward on the project.

“I don’t know,” Brockway answered. “I really think we need to have him pre-approve (it).”

Kaitfors did provide some long awaited funding answers, as the village works to wrap up the relocation and redevelopment grants. An extension for completing projects was denied, so all physical and paperwork will need to be complete and prepared for the state audit by December 31, 2013.

Flood-proofing of floodplain businesses was also denied by the state. Gays Mills had requested to use leftover business relocation funds to offer flood-proofing assistance to businesses that are still in the floodplain. Kaitfors denied the request on the grounds that there was not sufficient time to begin and complete the process before the Dec. 31 deadline.

The bid to purchase, move, and perform site cleanup on the Jennifer Chellevold property (Orin Street) was awarded to Aaron Gardner on a bid of $25.77 to purchase the house and $200 to perform cleanup. If Gardner does not sign the contract, the board approved having the project then go to the other bidder, Showen Excavating, for demolition and cleanup at $9,182.

Three addition properties have requested buyouts, of which two have been denied.

Two of the new requests were for residential buyouts without relocation. The third was for the school building next to the dam owned by Al and Sherry Barr, the last remaining floodway property in the village.

“Stan said the purpose of the funding was to keep residents in the village,” Brockway reported. “He is also concerned that there is not enough time to complete the school project.”

“The school is the last remaining floodway building,” commented Dale Klemme, Director of Community Development Alternatives. “If one were to proceed, one could have the asbestos and lead remediation and demo bids done before the closing papers were signed as a way to shorten the process.”

Klemme recommended the board move forward on the school project in such a manner, contingent upon Kaitfors approval.

The board unanimously approved seeking approval and moving forward on the acquisition and demolition of the school building. They also unanimously denied the two residential requests based upon their failure to lead to relocation within the village.

The board heard from Cindy Kohles on the Urban Forestry projects.

Kohles is seeking volunteers with the urban forestry project.

“Some of the trees planted earlier have been lost,” Kohles reported, noting that the trees represented a significant economic investment. “We should be making an effort to not lose more.”

Kohles has been watering trees as a volunteer and hopes others can step forward to help too. She also expressed hope that there might be volunteers to help with pruning on some of the village properties and with performing a tree inventory and database to complement future planning in the village.

Part of the grant that paid for the trees included a public outreach aspect. Kohles is planning a community tree walk and asked for some of the board members to participate.

Requests to purchase village lots acquired through the CDBG grant have been tabled. The village will be seeking more information to determine fair market value before determining a price per lot.

“Assessed values from the tax rolls vary between $2,700 and $5,100,” said village clerk Dawn McCann.

“Those values were based on a different situation, one that no longer exists,” pointed out trustee Albert Zegiel.

Klemme confirmed that the value of the lots would have decreased significantly based upon his prior experience.

The board will seek feedback from the state on how pricing must be done and will seek an opinion of value from the county assessor.

In the meantime, village employee Maura Otis is one of those seeking to purchase a lot. The board approved moving forward with clearing the legal path for Otis by having village attorney Eileen Brownlee draft a conflict of interest letter.

The board adjourned to closed session to discuss unpaid rents at the Mercantile Center and issues with the leases under review by the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration.

Three tenants account for the majority of the $7,380 in unpaid rents and expenses, according to McCann. The village will have Brownlee look into options for proceeding.

In addition, the EDA has requested additional information into their investigation of the leases for spaces in the Gays Mills Mercantile Center. Henley has been instructed by the village to reply to their concerns. Brownlee will handle any additional leases.

In other business, the Gays Mills Village Board:

• heard from village resident Kay Smiley who is looking for volunteers for the Gays Mills Village Stewards Information Booth and old Gays Mills Community Building Fundraiser during Apple Fest;

• heard the update from Jen Klekamp on the end-of-year activities with the pool;

• heard a report on the Kickapoo Culinary Center from Brad Niemcek;

• heard a report from Henley on her closing activities as she wraps up her position as Gays Mills Central Business District Manager;

• approved applying restrictions from the Gays Mills floodplain ordinance to CDBG lot sales;

• approved the Owens Trench and Excavating bid for $35,770 for the water and sewer line relocation project;

• denied the request to purchase a lot by Trudy Kuzniar, as the lot in question was acquired through FEMA funds and cannot be sold;

• approved recommendations from the Gays Mills Mercantile Center Committee on banning animals, overnight stays, and flyer postings in common space, as well as requiring placement of objects in the common space receive approval from the committee prior to being installed;

• approved applications of temporary Class “B” licenses for the Sportsmen’s Club, Lions Club, and Societies’ Sons during Apple Fest (9/27/13-9/29/13);

• approved applications of temporary Class “B” licenses for the Sportsmen’s Club (10/12/13-10/13/13);

• approved applications of temporary Class “B” licenses for Valley Stewardship (10/18/13);

• approved Operator’s Licenses for Donald Lampert, Jessica Rizzolo, and Jessica Loven;

• and set the date of the next regular board meeting for October 7, 2013.