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Murray appointed to fill open seat on village board
Gays Mills
gays mills village board

GAYS MILLS - Kevin Murray wasn’t off the Gays Mills Village Board very long after losing his seat in the recent April election.

When the matter of dealing with the vacant village trustee seat on the board came up on the agenda at Monday night’s meeting, Gays Mills Village President Harry Heisz outlined what the options were going forward,

The seat has been empty for almost a year since trustee Seamus Murray moved out of the village and had to give it up.

Heisz told the board that they could legally appoint someone to fill the position, they could decide to have a special election to fill the seat or they could simply leave it vacant until the next election.

The newest village trustee Emily Swiggum immediately moved to appoint Kevin Murray to the board and Aaron Fortney seconded the motion. On a voice vote, the board appeared to pass the motion unanimously.

It was interesting political moment, when you unpacked it. Swiggum, attending her first Gays Mills Village Board meeting as a trustee, was there because she had edged out incumbents Kevin Murray and Josh Kasinskas by four votes. Swiggum received 74 votes to secure the third open trustee position on the ballot, while Murray and Kasinskas received 70 votes each.

And, Fortney, who seconded the motion, had received the most votes of any candidate in trustee election with 98 votes, seconded the motion to appoint Murray.

With the vote, Murray stepped forward and took a seat at the board table. He had lost the election, but never missed a board meeting, because he attended the April board meeting on a Monday before the election happened. Now, he was at the May meeting back on the board.

Sometimes the more things change, the more they stay the same.

As for Josh Kasinskas and his term as village trustee, Heisz  made a point of giving a big thank you to Josh for all he put in during his time on the board

Kasinskas, an active force on the village development committee, had told Heisz after the election that he was willing to continue to serve on the development committee.

In a related action, Heisz asked the board to change the development committee from a village board committee to a community committee. Heisz saw it as a way to involve more people.

Village trustee Lee Ruegg, who serves on the development committee, moved to convert the board committee into a community committee. Fortney seconded the motion and board passed it.

Sewage plant

The meeting began with a brief but important presentation by Evan Chambers from Town and Country Engineering. Chambers gave the board an update and a final summary of the sewage treatment plant plans.

Chambers told the board that the public hearing and subsequent public comment period had been accomplished. He explained now it was time to approach vendors for plans that can be reviewed and submitted to the DNR for approval.

 The engineer indicated he favored submitting two distinct plans to the DNR. One for a mechanical plant, like the one the village currently operates, and the other for an SBR (Sequencing Batch Reactors) plant.

The board approved of Chamber’s plans going forward and submitting plans to the DNR. Fortney made the motion. McCarn seconded it and the board passed it

At one point in his presentation, the engineer seemed to caution the board that the DNR was taking more time than the usual 90 days to issue a decision on approval of submitted plans.

Chambers told the board that realistically 2024 would be consumed with designing the plant and the best chance for an early start on construction would be 2025.

Then, Chambers gave the board some good news. Town & Country’s Lisa Twarog worked with Gays Mills Village Clerk Dawn McCann to access grant money from the Congressional Direct Funding Resolution. As a result, U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin had requested a grant of $3 million be approved for Gays Mills to use in building the sewer plant.

Chambers cautioned the board that this was just the first step in process of applying for the grant money and it was still a ways from being approved at this point.

Kickapoo Culinary Center Director Jill Riggs reported that he shared-use kitchen was ready to sign up another client. This food processor is eying the kitchen to make freeze-dried food products.

Heisz said he was happy to see more interest in the kitchen going forward.

In other business

In other business, the Gays Mills Village Board:

• learned the village had purchased a new lawn mower for $12,500 after saving $2,000 on the purchase price because it was last year’s model

• reappointed library trustees Marla Heisz and Emily Bialkowski to another term on the library board

•  approved a request  to allow the ‘Pickle Ball Cabal’ to upgrade the surface of the tennis courts and do other improvements to play pickle ball, as long as the group would be responsible to pay the expenses of the improvements–estimates for the upgrade range up from $10,000

• agreed to let Emily Swiggum help revive the volleyball court near the Log Cabin Park to meet demand

• agreed to improve the anglers’ benches on the west side of the river next to the dam

• hired two new lifeguards for the pool bringing the total to 12

• approved changing the start times for board meetings to 7 p.m. to accommodate the work schedule of trustee Aaron Fortney

• approved a Class B liquor license for the Kickapoo Exchange Chili Supper on Saturday, May 13

• learned village hydrants will be flushed on Wednesday, May 10 and Thursday, May 11, and residents are advised to open water faucets in their residences when the hydrants are being flushed in their area to help clean out the system

The next Gays Mills Village Board Meeting is scheduled for Monday June 5 at 7 p.m.