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Removing snow from hydrants is now an issue in village
In Gays Mills
gays mills village board

GAYS MILLS - The Gays Mills Village Board was a rather mundane affair last Monday night until the last item on the agenda–then it got contentious.

All it said on the agenda was ‘Snow Removal-Fire Hydrants.’ It was the topic that Gays Mills resident Bob Lomas had been waiting for.

“First of all, I came to receive my shovel,” Lomas said. 

It was a reference to a comment made by Gays Mills Director of Public Works Jim Chellevold at the last board meeting.

Chellevold had contended that keeping the area around a fire hydrant shoveled was the responsibility of the property owner. He told the board then that he would deliver a snow shovel  during the next snowstorm to the property owner who had taken issue with the idea that shoveling snow around a fire hydrant was the property owner’s responsibility.

Lomas cited the newspaper story on that meeting and took issue with being singled out.

Chellevold noted that he had not named anyone at the meeting and no name was used in the newspaper report of the meeting.

At one point during the exchange Monday night, Chellevold said he would buy a snow shovel and leave it by the garage door.

“Don’t come on my land,” Lomas responded.

Then, Lomas shifted the conversation to the other concern he wanted addressed.

“Second of all, I want to know how long it’s going to take to clear out the junk cars,” Lomas said.

There was some discussion of how many ‘junk cars’ exist in the village. Cars not currently licensed are not supposed to be stored on property in the village.

From there, the conversation touched on vehicles owned by Chellevold stored in the village buildings. Chellevold noted a four-wheeler stored in a village building is used for work in the village. 

Lomas questioned when one of the DPW buildings had last been cleaned.

Village trustee Kevin Murray returned the conversation to the snow shoveling around the fire hydrants. 

“We do not have an ordinance requiring people to shovel snow around the fire hydrants,” Murray said.

“Does Grove clean around them?’ Chellevold said.

“But legally we can’t make people do it,” Murray said.

“Legally no,” Chellevold acknowledged.

“When I moved here in 2006, I cleaned out around the fire hydrant and I’ve done that since I’ve been here,” village trustee Kim Pettit said. “When I lived in Dubuque it was your responsibility to do it.”

Pettit noted that shoveling away the snow might save five or ten minutes for firefighters trying to stop her house from burning to the ground.

“It’s my responsibility as a homeowner,” Pettit said.

“We can’t do it if it’s not legal,” Murray insisted. The trustee suggested the village ask attorney Eileen Brownlee for an opinion on the legality of requiring property owners to remove snow from around fire hydrants. He noted that the hydrant on his property is buried in blocks of ice.

Village resident Craig Anderson noted that while he removes snow and ice from the hydrant on his property, there are people who are not physically capable of doing it.

Later, Tara Heisz, who was attending the meeting as a member of Friends of Gays Mills, suggested that it might be time to start an ‘Adopt a Hydrant’ program. She noted her son Brexley loves to shovel.

As to Lomas’ concern about the need for removing junk cars, it was noted that the issue was not put on the agenda for this meeting. It was agreed to put the junk car issue on the agenda for the next meeting.

Earlier in the meeting, Tara Heisz from the Friends of Gays Mills discussed a fundraising effort the group is willing to undertake to replace the roof on the Old Mill Museum, which is next to the dam in Gays Mills.

The village has received three bids for the work. Ranging from a $5,000 exploratory/temporary fix to $34,000 for a more robust roof replacement to $54,000 for the truly professional complete replacement with a steel roof.

Village trustee Kevin Murray described the alternatives to Tara Heisz.

“We can make something work with the cheaper bid, but it’s not a 100-year fix.

Asked by board president Harry Heisz how long the cheaper fix might last, Murray guessed 15 to 20 years.

Murray  and others told Tara Heisz they were interested in knowing what the Friends group thought they could fundraise for any of the alternatives.

Tara told the board that in addition to the Mill Building, the Friends were interested in helping to save the Gays Mills Community Building located at 212 Mains Street, which also needs roof repairs.

The group solicited some bids for the work on the Main Street building that came in at around $17,000 for replacing the current roof with a steel roof and installing some venting.

Board president Harry Heisz said he favored taking out a short-term loan to get the roof work done on the Community Building.

The board agreed to solicit bids on the Community Building roof project and consider action at the next board meeting.

In other business, the Gays Mills Village Board:

• learned that the engineering firm Town and Country from Madison that was recently selected to do the sewer plant project will appear before the board soon with a presentation

• approved a revised contract for the Kickapoo Culinary Center kitchen manager Jill Riggs that holds her responsible for sanitation and operation of the shared-use kitchen, but removes the reference to her liability for what happens in the kitchen

• discussed the Resolution for 2021 Amendments to North Mills Subdivision and First Addition to North Mills Subdivision Deed Restrictions and Protective Covenants and referred it to attorney Eileen Brownlee for changes

 • learned an assessment of the BAPI addition was less than anticipated and expected tax revenues will not  cover the cost of the trail along Highway 131, but new revenues from the Dollar General store could be used to cover the shortfall in funds for the trail

• learned pool manager Kayla Fortney feels the village should post the job for the coming season-it was noted she would like to do the job, but currently works out of town and although she felt she could do it, saw some problems, so decided the village should post the job and try and find a new pool manager

• scheduled the next regular meeting of the village board for Monday April 5 at 6 p.m.