An important special meeting of the Gays Mills Village Board was held on Wednesday, June 26 to discuss just three items under old business.
The board quickly approved a State-Local Assistance Grant Agreement Certification with Wisconsin Division of Emergency Management that certified a list of the properties acquired in the past with funding provided through the agency was still in public ownership and was being used in compliance with the deed restrictions.
The second item on the agenda led to a lengthy discussion on the roles of Community Development Alternatives and Couleecap, as well as others, in the final phase of a highly funded flood recovery and relocation effort. Both the Prairie du Chien-based CDA and the Westby-based Couleecap have had contracts with the village to assist in the flood recovery effort.
Continuing the discussion began at a previous meeting, CDA Executive Director Dale Klemme asked the village board why CDA was continuing to keep track of the project’s financials, when Couleecap, which was handling the housing from a building, elevating and relocating standpoint was collecting 10 percent of the grant for administration. Klemme asked if it wasn’t Couleecap that should be keeping track of the financials, since they were getting the administration money of the grants.
“There’s no reason for us to do something for which someone else is being paid to do,” Klemme said. He questioned whether the village needed to pay twice for the same thing.
“Maybe we’re out of the picture,” Klemme said of CDA’s role in keeping track of the financials in complicated multiple-project, multiple-grant scenario, which has been playing itself out in the village for the last five or six years.
Klemme asked Couleecap’s Kahya Fox about the contract between her agency and the village.
Fox told Klemme that Couleecap did indeed have a contract with the village that covered project development, including new construction, demolition and more.
“It’s a developer’s agreement,” Gays Mills Village Clerk Dawn McCann explained. “It’s not for financial services.”
Klemme insisted a project management agreement complying with CDBG-EAP (Community Development Block Grant-Emergency Assistance Program) implementation is a catchall agreement that should include financial reporting.
Fox explained that the 10 percent her agency was paid from the grant was for “project delivery” costs. It covered the cost of the agency in building houses and buying property. She stressed there was a difference between project delivery costs and administrative fees, which would cover things like financial reporting and monitoring.
Bekkum reviewed the remaining budget with housing having $442,000 and business having $404,000 and administration having just $3,650. She pointed out that there was not a lot left to be done with the financial reporting. By Dec. 30, everything should be closed out, the CDA employee told the board.
“Who does that then?” Gays Mills Village President Pat Brockway asked.
“If we had a contract we would do that as part of the administration of the grant,” Klemme said.
Bekkum explained that all the accounts for acquisition and demolition and elevation of residences, as well as business relocation and development money, must all be zeroed out at the end of the year. Much of the housing funds are designated for use in rental elevations and other projects. The business money must cover the cost of the former funeral home demolition. Other uses of the business funds are less clear.
Klemme said that when the state introduced project delivery costs versus administration costs, it resulted in some confusion.
“Are you willing to continue to do what you are doing?” village trustee Geraldine Smith asked.
“Well we don’t want to be the only one standing at the end,” Klemme replied to Smith’s question.
“We’d be there,” Fox said of Couleecap. “We’d be there for the monitoring.”
Stan Kaitfors, who works for the Wisconsin Department of Administration and is responsible for overseeing the CDBG funds, pointed out that “ultimately it (the responsibility) goes back to the village.”
Klemme said it was important to realize who is responsible.
“Who is to answer for this?” Klemme asked rhetorically. “This includes contracted activities from very long ago. We are wiling to continue with the financials. We have a relationship with the village and we don’t want to leave Dawn out there.”
However, Klemme said he was uncomfortable with payments being made for what he considered grant administration.
“How would you suggest we fix this?” Smith asked the consultant.
“I couldn’t answer that,” Klemme said.
Kaitfors said that prior to 2010, 10 percent of a grant could be used for administration of the grant. Now “project delivery” in general can’t be more than 10 percent. However, Kaitfors pointed out that Couleecap’s contract is a developer’s agreement with the Village of Gays Mills not with the State of Wisconsin.
Couleecap has lost money working in Gays Mills, according to Fox.
“People think CDA and Couleecap are making money off the disaster funds and they’re not,” Kaitfors said. “Some engineers and construction contractors might be.”
Kaitfors then indicated that there is some flexibility left in how the remaining CDBG funds could be used, some could be used for needed administration or in housing if that’s where it was needed. The state employee urged the village to look at the remaining CDBG funds as one pot of money without a separation for housing and business funds. He suggested one need for some of the remaining funds might be the demolition of three abandoned residences in the floodplain.
Kaitfors told the board that the money should be spent wisely to complete the project. He told the board the budget for the recovery project was built on estimates of what would be needed. And as the village “rounded the final turn” they needed look creatively at what needs to be done with the remaining money.
Kaitfors acknowledged there were some limitations on how certain “pots of money” could be spent and that those limitations were “hard to explain.” Kaitfors said the state would be willing “to be creative” with the remaining funds to help cover some administrative costs.
“Would it be unwise to keep both (CDA and Couleecap),” village president Pat Brockway asked.
“I don’t think it’s unwise to keep both of them,” Kaitfors replied.
Klemme insisted it would be important to know “specifically who is doing what.”
Heisz said both CDA and Couleecap should draw up contracts and bring them back to the board for approval.
“I’m lost on half of what you’re talking about and I’m a village board member,” Heisz said.
Kaitfors noted that the lead person on business assistance (Central Business District Manager Julia Henley) “was not in the room and probably had some back burner projects.”
“I don’t want to see Gays Mills leave a half-million dollars on the table (because you didn’t ask the right questions),” Kaitfors said. The state employee told the board that the village needs to create a six-month plan.
Kaitfors also told the board that his department would be monitoring the financial reporting and the there would be even “more fastidious” monitoring by other agencies.