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Village board discusses garbage/recycling and fire protection fees
Gays Mills
gays mills village board

GAYS MILLS - The Gays Mills Village Board resumed a discussion of garbage/recycling and fire protection fees at their meeting on Monday, Jan. 3. 

The board is looking at funding these services through direct billing of residents instead of funding them through the annual budget’s general fund. Reducing their impact on the general fund will allow tax funds to be used for other purposes.

The board previously wanted to have garbage fees added to the water utility bill or added as a fee to be attached to the resident’s tax bill. 

One problem with attaching the fees to the water bill is that a number of village residents do not receive water bills because they have wells and are not municipal water users.

Gays Mills Village Clerk Dawn McCann informed the board that charging garbage fees would not result in the desired result. When contacted, the village’s auditing firm advised that charging garbage fees separately would, by law, force the village to adjust the tax levy down and would not free up money in the general fund. However, the auditors told the village clerk that village could legally charge for the recycling fees separately and not  have to adjust the tax levy.

The village’s recycling costs are currently about $9,000.

Village trustee Seamus Murray said he favored adding the recycling fee as an attachment to the tax bill. Murray said the water bills were high enough already and residents seeing an increase for the recycling fee might suffer sticker shock. However, he felt seeing a recycling fee added to the tax bill would not have the same impact.

The village clerk said a problem that would have to be addressed with going to fees are farmers that live within the village limits. They may own 15 parcels of land, but only one parcel has the house on it. The clerk said it would not be fair to charge per parcel for recycling, where there was none being used.

There was further discussion of what must be done to fairly attach the fee to tax bills.

Village trustee Kevin Murray questioned the situation where there are multiple units in a single building that only receives one tax bill. 

Village president Harry Heisz explained the multiple unit apartment buildings in Gays Mills already charged tenants for garbage service and are not affected by the village’s garbage service.

As for the duplexes that exist, Seamus Murray said he knows of only two of those in the village.

Then, the discussion shifted to funding for public fire protection. The funding is used to pay for water used in fire protection.

There are two sources of revenue from the village to fund the fire protection water bills. The largest is 63 percent that comes from the general fund and the smaller portion, 37 percent, comes from the water utility.

A local resident, who owns two properties in the village, noted that one property had fire protection noted on the water utility billing, while the other without municipal water did not appear to be paying for fire protection. She was informed that properties with wells were not paying the 37 percent of the fire protection billed by the water utility, just the 63 percent that’s coming from the general fund.

Village clerk Dawn McCann said that whatever the board decided about recycling fees needed to be sent to the auditors and then sent to the state for final approval.

The board’s development committee reported that there had been a few people expressing interest in the lots in the North Mills Subdivision, located east of the Gays Mills Mercantile Center and the Marketplace. In addition to interest observed by the development committee, village trustee Josh Kasinkas noted board president Harry Heisz had reported other people being interested in the lots.

Kasinkas said the method for the closing costs needed to be clarified to make the purchases more attractive.

Gays Mills Village Forester Cindy Kohles told the board that Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources changed its rules and was no longer accepting the value of volunteer’s labor as a match  for grant funds.

The forester said that for the current grant, the Kickapoo Cultural Exchange made funding available to make the match. However, she said in the future, funding will have to be sourced elsewhere.

Kohles also told the board that the village’s current five-year forest management plan is over and new one must be created. 

The forester said that while the plan did not need to be completed until the end of the year, she favored completing it by September. With sooner completion, it could be better used in the grant process next year.

Kohles emphasized the forestry plan didn’t have to be extensively detailed.

In other business, the Gays Mills Village Board:

• learned work to disrupt beaver activity in a pond adjacent to the Community Commerce Center parking lot had been done recently

• heard from Harry Heisz that New Horizons confirmed a sidewalk would be installed this spring at the Marketplace to help pedestrians approach the store

• approved an offer from village resident John Gibbs to purchase Lot 24 in the North Mills Subdivision

• approved sending a letter to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation seeking a waiver to let ATVs and UTVs travel short distances on Highway 131 and 171 where the speed limit exceeds 35 mph–one stretch on 131, included in the requested waiver, would allow the vehicles to get to the gas station at the Marketplace legally

• approved not paying out bonuses from the health insurance accounts because there wasn’t a balance at the end of the year as had been the case in the past

• learned in  citizen input that JoAnn Gonos had talked to Mercantile Center tenants and seven supported and two were opposed to her proposal–described at the last meeting as creating a coffee drinking area in the building’s hallway, where discontinued library books would be available for purchase 

• Independent-Scout editor Charley Preusser responded to Gonos’ input by pointing out some of the problems it would entail, including the fact the building did not have hours of operation and locking doors was already sometimes problematic