Editor’s Note: the story about the Monday, Dec. 6, meeting of the Gays Mills Village Board included an error in the headline that ran on page eight of the December 9 issue of the paper, where the story continued from page one. The headline incorrectly use the phrase, ‘E.coli levels in water…’ and should have read ‘E.coli levels in wastewater effluent…’ The entire story appears here, without that headline.
GAYS MILLS - No one spoke at the public hearing for the 2022 Proposed Budgets and Tax Levy of the Village of Gays Mills, which preceded the regularly scheduled village board meeting on Monday night.
Later in the meeting, the board approved a resolution adopting the 2022 budget and levy. Gays Mills Village Trustee Kevin Murray moved to adopt the resolution and trustee Larry McCarn seconded the motion.
Before the board voted on the resolution, Murray clarified to village clerk Dawn McCann that the budget option he was proposing included the $150,000 street improvement provision. Those street improvements include some short-term borrowing on the part of the village, as has been done in the past to finance the work.
The total TIF & General Budgets for the village includes $904,400 in revenues and $904,400 in expenses. Additional balanced budgets of $108,200 for the water utility and $151,320 for the sewer utility were also approved by the resolution that the board adopted.
The village property tax levy in the approved budget was $164,874. The other approximately $740,000 in revenue comes from intergovernmental revenues, intergovernmental charges public charges for services, regulation and compliance fees and other revenues.
The budget will result in in a mil rate of 6.91 mil rate.
The board passed the budget on what appeared to be a unanimous voice vote with trustees Kevin Murray, Larry McCarn, Josh Kasinkas and Seamus Murray, as well as village president Harry Heisz, present for the vote. Village trustees Aaron Fortney and Lee Ruegg did not attend the meeting.
During public input, local resident Joann Gonos proposed to the board that the village should back a plan to have a meeting space in one of the hallways of the Gays Mills Mercantile Center.
Charley Preusser, attending the meeting for the Independent-Scout, objected to the plan as presented by Gonos. The newspaper editor told the board that the Mercantile Center hallway was often used to store or dump unwanted items.
The hallway currently holds a xylophone and two very large freestanding signs that were formerly part of an exhibit at the Kickapoo Museum in Robb Park, according to Preusser.
Gonos said the xylophone would be removed and she thought the signs should also be removed.
Village president Harry Heisz noted the signs from the museum exhibit were placed there with the permission of the board. However, he also noted that clutter accumulating in the hallway had been a problem.
Murray suggested that Gonos sit down with tenants of the Mercantile Center and return to the board with an agreed upon plan for the project.
Evan Chambers, the Project Engineer for Town And Country Engineering, provided an update to the board on the sewer plant project.
Chambers described a situation where lab reports on fecal levels and E.coli levels in the effluent being discharged from the sewer plant were being questioned by the DNR. The engineer noted that the state agency had changed the reporting methods to be the same as the United States Environment Protection Agency.
These changes affected the reporting of E.coli. The certified lab doing the testing for Town and Country and therefore the Village of Gays Mills is reporting levels of e coli that are alarmingly high, according to Chambers.
“It doesn’t make any sense, we need to investigate it further,” Chambers told the board. The engineer explained that the elevated E.coli levels were not just being reported for Gays Mills, but other communities as well. The elevated E.coli results were also not just being generated by one certified lab, but by several others.
In answer to a question from the board, the engineer acknowledged that investigating the situation would cost the village money for his time.
Chambers appeared frustrated with the DNR actions.
In answer to a question from Kasinkas, the engineer said ignoring the situation and the queries from the DNR could lead to the village being found not in compliance and theoretically result in the village facing daily fines, if the DNR pursued enforcement through the Wisconsin Department of Justice.
However, Chambers said he had never heard of that actually happening.
The engineer also noted that the E.coli/fecal limit adopted by the DNR would not become effective until next year. The prior testing was for the fecal levels only.
Chambers emphasized that he did not believe that the E.coli data was correct.
At one point, the engineer seemed frustrated that the DNR was not recognizing that the village was tin the process of completely replacing the sewer plant in the immediate future and the system put in place would be in full compliance with all standards.
Some lab results had E.coli levels higher than the fecal levels, which include E.coli and other bacteria.
In a related matter, Chambers told the board that the village needed to send a retraction letter to the DNR affirming the agency should completely remove the previous sewer plant proposals made by Davy Engineering for a replacement sewer plant. Because Davy started the process, there were still actions being scheduled and the DNR needed confirmation that the proposal was in fact retracted.
Town and Country had prepared a retraction letter for the village and it would only require the village sending the letter to the DNR. The board approved sending the retraction letter.
Chambers also said he is working on a request from an orchard to be connected to the village’s sewer water system. He noted that at this point the only comparable orchard sewer water treatment he could find was from an orchard in Richland Center. His understanding of that data was the volume involved could double the amount of wastewater being treated.
The engineer told the board that he foresees having a public hearing on the sewer plant plan in May or June.
In other business, the Gays Mills Village Board:
• discussed briefly the marketing of village-owned lots and pricing of village-owned commercial lots
• approved resolution authorizing the sale of lot one in North Mills Subdivision to American Legion Post 308
• authorized the final payment for excavating on the TID-financed trail along Highway 131
• approved another two-year term with the current building inspector
• tabled the proposal for collecting a $5 monthly garbage fee from residents to offset costs until the method for collecting the fee can be worked out
• learned the Gays Mills Fire Department had approved its officers and they are: Fire Chief Earl Winsor, Assistant Fire Chief Andrew Smiley, Secretary Ethan Eitsert and Treasurer Arthur Winsor
• appointed election inspectors for January 1, 2022 through December 31, 2023• approved an operator’s license for Mindy Hayes working at Dollar General