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Village faces deadline for use of flood recovery grants
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Some questions remain as the Village of Gays Mills seeks to make use of the remaining Community Development Block Grant by the December 31, 2013 deadline. At that time, all projects and corresponding paperwork must be completed.

As of July 29, the village board had identified several uses they would like to pursue for the approximately $612,000 remaining from two CDBG contracts, one for village improvements and the other for housing relocation and elevation.

The picture of what they can and cannot do in the remaining time is becoming clearer, beginning with the state’s denial of an extension beyond the Dec. 31, 2013 deadline.

With the deadline extension denied, the state also determined that the village’s request to apply a portion of the remaining funds to flood proofing and flood mitigation for businesses still remaining on Main Street was not viable due to insufficient time for project completion.

Also denied was a request to make some funds available to single-family occupancy homes for flood proofing and/or elevation.

“The request was inconsistent with what the funds were originally allocated for, relocation out of the floodplain,” explained Stan Kaitfors, the Wisconsin Department of Administration Flood Recovery Specialist working with the village. “The lone exception was to elevate and shore up rental properties for low to moderate-income tenants.”

Preserving and creating LMI properties were part of the original mandate, according to Kaitfors.

That exception allowed two additional rental properties to be approved for elevation and flood proofing.

Additional approvals included using some of the remaining funds to reimburse the village for overtime pay to Gays Mills Village Clerk Dawn McCann for project delivery costs and to increase the administrative funding to cover the costs of having Community Development Alternatives (CDA) handle the paperwork and files as the grants wrap up.

Two items remain in limbo—the Maxine Brooks’ bistro project and the request for additional funding for signs at the Gays Mills Mercantile Center.

At the July 29 meeting, the board voted to give Brooks a deadline for deciding to pursue her project. The village’s attorney, Eileen Brownlee, counseled against the move. So, Brooks was notified of the approaching Dec. 31, 2013 deadline set by the state for the CDBG funds.

Brooks responded with questions about the funding. With those questions now answered, the village is awaiting her decision.

“She has been informed of the money available, if she were to rent a space or if she were to purchase,” said Dale Klemme, the Executive Director of CDA. “The where, and if, she will proceed are still to be decided, at this point.”

Brooks received a $45,000 buyout for her Main Street property. That money will have to be invested in any project she chooses to pursue, thus affecting how much she is eligible to receive.

“The maximum she could receive to purchase is $50,000, but she would need to spend $95,000 to acquire the business to get the full amount,” Klemme explained.

What Brooks receives, if she chooses to move ahead, will be based upon what she has already received, the cost of a comparable property, and actual costs, Klemme said.

“Clearly, she could decide to buy a turnkey operation, which could happen on Dec. 31,” Klemme said. “If she chooses to rent or build, she has less time to decide as the project must be complete by the end of the year.”

The request for additional funds for creating outdoor signs also remains unanswered.

Kaitfors is waiting on information from exiting Gays Mills Central Business District Manager Julie Henley on previous expenditures and how the request meets the intent and purpose of grant funding.

“My understanding is that $1,500 per relocating tenant was already requested and paid for signs,” Kaitfors said. “One of my questions is how many businesses were covered by these expenditures. If there are new relocations, they would qualify.”

Kaitfors stressed that a decision had not been made on the signage. He was awaiting more information to determine that should he approve additional funds, it did not treat businesses unfairly by allotting more money to some than to others.

The village has added one new request of Kaitfors and the Wisconsin Department of Administration, to which there has not been an answer yet – the acquisition and removal of the last remaining floodway property in the village, the old school building on Main Street by the river.