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Trail grant prompts a discussion
at Gays Mills Village Board meeting
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The future of a proposed DNR Stump Dodger Trail Grant took on a sense of urgency at the Gays Mills Village Board meeting Monday night.

A committee interested in pursuing trail options informed the board the village faced a June 30, 2015 deadline of completion of the trail to qualify for $45,000 of matching Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources grant. Currently, there are no firm plans for construction of the trail.

Craig Anderson, a member of the ad hoc committee recently established to continue work on the trail, described the history and details of the trail grant with the board. He told the board that officials with the DNR were not pleased to hear that there had been little progress on the trail, but they expressed a willingness to extend deadlines.

A DNR official told Anderson the agency is willing to do an extension of the grant, if the village board makes it clear it wants to meet the new extended deadlines for developing the trail. The DNR wants bids to be taken for construction of the trail this summer with construction to start by May of 2017 and be completed by October 2017.

The other option is for the village not to pursue the project and turn back the matching grant to the DNR.

Anderson said the purpose of the proposed trail was to provide a recreational option to village residents and visitors. Another purpose of the trail would be to connect parts of the old village with the Gays Mills Community Commerce Center and parts of the newer village.

The ad hoc trail committee, which took over work on the project, is focused on what can be done with land available for the trail, according to Anderson. He said the project had previously become bogged down with a lot of focus on work that couldn’t actually be done.

Ideas of an expanded trail that might connect to the North Crawford Schools or even Soldiers Grove is not a part of this project, Anderson emphasized.

An explanation of the $90,000 matching grant was made. More than one member of the board expressed surprise that the village needed to supply $22,600 in cash from sources other than the village budget as well as $23,000 of in-kind contributions of material and labor.

Gays Mills Village President Harry Heisz stated that the in-kind contribution was not an issue, but coming up with $22,600 in cash would be a big question for the board.

Anderson pointed out that the village board had twice passed resolutions supporting the matching grant for the trail.

However, village trustees Albert Zegiel and Geraldine Smith both took exception with the idea that the village was obligated under the terms of the matching grant to raise $22,000 in cash. Anderson told the board the ad hoc trail committee was ready to take steps to make something happen including fundraising in the community to make the matching cash contribution.

In answer to a question about deadlines for having the cash in hand for the matching grant, Anderson explained that like many other matching grants, the trail grant was a reimbursement grant. This means the village would have to pay the cost upfront and keep track of its in-kind and cash contributions and then receive the $45,000 matching funds upon satisfactory completion of the trail project.

Village resident Jim Lomas asked where the trail being proposed would start and end.

It would start at the county shop property along Railroad Street near Grove Street and head north, Anderson explained.

“It will run as far north as we can take it,” Anderson said.

Another member of the ad hoc committee added the committee hoped to connect the trail to the Community Commerce Center.

Lomas asked if the trail would be used in the winter and if so who would maintain it.

Anderson said the trail would be used in the winter and necessary maintenance would be done by the village.

Several in the audience spoke to the desirability of having a trail constructed in the village for recreational use.

Village trustees Smith, Zegiel, Ed Block and Heisz all expressed some reservations about the proposal as they came to understand it after Anderson’s explanation.

Smith said at one point that she felt the DNR would be fine with a decision by the village not to go on with the matching trail grant.

Anderson explained that the village board’s actions were important to those at the DNR reviewing the trail situation. He said he did not get the feeling this was an “easy come-easy go situation” given the phone conversation he had with a DNR official.

Anderson noted that the village board passed resolutions on Sept. 12, 2012 and June 30, 2013 supporting the trail proposal.

In trying to bring the ranging discussion to a conclusion, Heisz asked the board to consider tabling action until the next meeting or approving a resolution to seek an extended deadline for completing the trail or denying further interest in pursuing the grant.

Block favored getting more information before making a decision.

“We’re interested, but we have some trepidation,” Block said summing up his position. “We have questions to be answered.”

Then Zegiel moved to table action on the Stump Dodger Trail to the next board meeting and Block seconded the motion.

“I don't understand putting a trail through a swamp filled with mosquitos,” Heisz said. He noted his house adjoined the area and he knew what he was saying.

The board voted to table any action on the trail until their next meeting in May 4.

The next meeting of the ad hoc trail committee will be held Monday, April 13 at 9 a.m. at Don Lampert’s house at 216 Orin Street and is open to the public.

In other business, the Gays Mills Village Board:

• thanked village trustee Geraldine Smith at her last meeting as an elected official for serving two terms on the village board

• agreed to get bids for blacktopping portions of West Point Road and Opal’s  Lane and sealcoating a portion of Old Gays Road and the northern dead end portion of Rebecca Street to be financed by a loan not to exceed $125,000

• agreed with a recommendation from the Plan Commission to leave unused land in the TIF District of the Business Park as Industrial Zoned instead of changing it to Agricultural Zoned as some had proposed

• heard in a report on the Kickapoo Culinary Center that the village’s shared use kitchen will get increased usage because of an expansion of Monique Hooker’s operation to four days per week for the next six months

• approved the Gays Mills Farmer’s Market request to display cloth banners on poles similar to those the village uses

• entered an annual agreement with Ocooch Mountain Rescue providing $3,500 for its operation

• heard a report that Showen Company had paid for the repairs to the village pool’s bathhouse roof

• heard John Johnson’s  proposal to sell the Gays Mills Mercantile Center

• discussed and tabled a recommendation from the Wisconsin Division of Housing to adopt Community Development Block Grant polices to address ownership and lower fair market values for housing built for relocated flood victims