GAYS MILLS - The most striking feature of Gays Mills Village Board meeting held Monday, Aug. 3 was that no one on the board was wearing a mask as mandated by an order of Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on July 30.
The village trustees sat at distances from each other at a horseshoe of tables pushed together in the large Community Room of the Gays Mills Mercantile Center. It is how they have met since April.
In the past, some of the village trustees wore masks, while others did not. Several of the trustees appeared to have masks on the tables in front of them. Only one trustee, Kim Pettit, actually donned her mask at one point in the meeting.
While social distancing was an endorsed method for avoiding infection from the COVID-19 in the past and is still embraced by public health officials, it appears Evers’ mask order does not allow social distancing to be substituted for mask wearing. The only exceptions to the order are to eat or to speak. There are also some specialized exceptions for people with medical conditions.
Unfortunately, any discussion of the mask requirement, if there was any, was not repeated during the meeting.
One of the first discussions of the board meeting involved agenda items in the report of Gays Mills Director of Public Works Jim Chellevold, who was not at the meeting to present the material.
In his absence, Gays Mills Village President Harry Heisz provided the board with relevant information form the report.
Heisz told the board that repairs to the geo-thermal heating and cooling system at the Gays Mills Community Commerce Center are continuing. The contractor handling the work has provided the village with a plan to keep the system working year-round–heating and cooling the large building.
One thing that must be maintained is keeping the level of glycol in the system at 24 percent by checking it and adding more if the percentage drops below 24 percent, according to Heisz. It will also be necessary going forward to keep screens in the system clean so the fluid can circulate as designed
“It’s going to take some maintenance (to keep the system working effectively),” Heisz told the board.
In another matter, the board approved a financial agreement with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to pay $5,880 for work to be done in 2025 on State Highway 131. Specifics of the construction are still being finalized.
During the sewer report, also handled by Heisz in Chellevold’s absence, village trustee Lee Ruegg asked Heisz what was going on with Soldiers Grove in talks about the proposed joint sewer plant project.
Heisz said that Soldiers Grove had been busy with some sewer projects that needed attention and have told him on a couple of occasions that they will be ready to meet next month.
Also, on the agenda under the sewer report was a Davy Engineering update and a payment request.
The village suspended payments on Davy’s billing after the engineering firm far exceeded their bid in analyzing the village sewer system and treatment plant and proposing a plan of action.
Davy is still seeking an unpaid balance of $4,000 on their billing. However, as village trustee Kevin Murray pointed out, the village has already paid more than $4,000 more than the original contract amount.
Village president Harry Heisz warned that soon the bill will probably be sent to a collection agency. Heisz readily acknowledged that the situation resulted from bad communication on the engineering firm’s part. He pointed out that they did more work without coming back to the village for approval.
However, Davy did write and file an individual phosphorous variance for the village and its aging sewer treatment plant, which is currently incapable of meeting the new more stringent phosphorous standards.
The variance allows the village to take some other actions to reduce phosphorous amounts being released into the Kickapoo River.
Ruegg said the village should send the additional billing for the sewer plan back to Davy.
Ruegg, Murray and other trustees felt the large overbilling is not valid since it was never approved by the board.
Heisz said the engineering firm had to pay money to keep moving ahead, but they didn’t come back to the board.
Ruegg stated that it was irresponsible of Davy to not seek approval for the added costs from the board. She questioned how prepared they were to even do the study–noting that Davy said that they were initially unaware the sewer treatment plant was located in the floodway.
Murray said the firm should’ve started by finding a more realistic number as the contracted amount, instead of low balling it and then adding on costs.
Village trustee Aaron Fortney made a motion to have the village find out the amount of overcharges already paid to Davy and the value of the unbilled phosphorous variance permit application. Murray seconded the motion, which the board passed.
Murray said the village should be looking to get a different engineering firm. He said he thought it be a good idea to contact Delta 3 Engineering.
Village president Harry Heisz noted the village had dealings with Delta 3 in the past and it was not very good.
Former Gays Mills Village President Craig Anderson, who was attending the meeting, confirmed that the village had worked with Delta 3 in the past.
“I do remember there were issues, but I can’t remember specifically what they were,” Anderson said.
Murray asked that village create a brief summary of what had been done with Delta 3 in the past.
In other business, the Gays Mills Village Board:
• approved a plan commission recommendation to change the future land use map to accommodate a development allowing residential development along with manufacturing development at 2485 Appleland Drive
• decided to cancel all vending permits already granted for the now cancelled Apple Fest
• learned that progress has been made on creating the specifications for a bid detailing the work needed for the Old Mill Museum Roof Repairs in Robb Park
• approved paying off the swimming pool loan balance with the Friends of the Pool’s raised funds
• approved the proposed library board member-accepting the resignation of board member Mary Green and appointing Rebecca Eby to take her place on the board.
• discussed properties in the village that are not in compliance with the lawn length and weed ordinance
• tabled action on memo of understanding between the new Kickapoo Culinary Center Managers Jill Riggs and John Lenz, who were approved for the job at special board meeting on July 21
• approved a land lease request for 204 Railroad Street
• donated $100 to the Crawford County Clean Sweep event as had been budgeted.• decided the next village board meeting would be held Tuesday, Sept. 1