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Proposed Gays Mills village budget moves forward
GM Village Hall

GAYS MILLS - The Gays Mills Village Board approved the proposed 2018 Budget for publication and scheduled a public hearing on it for Monday, Dec. 4 at 6 p.m. prior to the regular board meeting.

At the regular board meeting Thursday, there was little discussion of the proposed budget.

“Does anyone have any questions?” Gays Mills Village President Harry Heisz asked. There were none.

“It is what it is,” commented village trustee Kim Pettit.

With that, village trustee Aaron Fortney moved to approve publication of the proposed budget and the public hearing on it. Trustee Erin Martin seconded the motion and the board approved it on a voice vote. The budget as proposed incudes a general budget of $733,000 in expenses and revenues, a water budget of $105,510 in expenses and revenues and a sewer budget of $157,567 in expenses and revenues. The sewer budget also includes using $10,000 from the utility’s savings account  to balance the budget.

During old business, the board approved paying Davy Engineering $20,000 to prepare a preliminary Compliance Alternatives Plan in 2018 and Final Compliance Alternatives Plan in 2019. Those two plans are essentially the preparation of a facility plan to address the future lower phosphorous limits on the effluent discharged from the village’s wastewater treatment plant.

Davy intends to prepare the village to receive a compliance variance from the DNR based on several factors primarily surrounding the excessive cost of compliance for the small village.

Gays Mills Village Clerk Dawn McCann told the board that she would propose paying for the cost of Davy Engineering creating the required plans by using money in the sewer utility’s savings account.

There was a brief discussion of the recently approved sewer rate increase that was designed to balance the sewer utility budget.

Trustee John Johnson moved to approve paying Davy to prepare the two reports at a cost of $20,000. Fortney seconded the motion and the board approved it on a voice vote.

The board also approved retaining the services of Brad Smrcina as the village’s building inspector. The village will lose the services of its current inspector on January 1, 2018.

In making the motion to hire Smrcina to act as the village building inspector, trustee Erin Martin said she “moved for lack of other options that we accept the offer of Brad Smrcina to serve as building inspector.”

Village president Harry Heisz noted that Smrcina handled building inspections for the Village of Mt. Sterling and several other local communities.

In discussing the fees he would charge, it appeared they would be higher than the previous inspector.

During the early part of the meeting, Brad Niemcek presented a final report from the Stump Dodger Trail Committee. The trail is completed, according to Niemcek, a co-chairperson of the committee. He told the board that the committee had raised $30,000 in cash contributions far exceeding the minimum $22,500 required to receive a $45,000 matching DNR trail grant. The in-kind contributions of labor, equipment and materials also exceeded what was necessary for the village to make its $45,000 matching total of cash and in-kind contributions.

While building the trail was completed by the October 31, 2017 deadline, the committee intends to continue working on fund raising and other activities in an attempt to assist the village with the ongoing maintenance of the trail, Niemcek told the board.

The trail committee co-chairperson stated the trail was 3.1 miles long. It was envisioned to be closer to five miles, but the committee was unable to get permission from three property owners.

Niemcek also informed the board that an anonymous complaint to the DNR that work on the trail near the slough was endangering the adjacent wetlands had prompted a visit from a DNR employee. Niemcek was told during the DNR inspection that the trail on adjoining property was probably wider than necessary. The DNR employee said that he would report on the situation to his supervisors.

The Stump Dodger Trail has 15 benches, four picnic tables and plenty of signage. Funding for informational signs was provided by the Crawford County Community Fund, according to Niemcek.

“Thank you from us,” village president Harry Heisz told Niemcek. “We appreciate what everybody did.”

Niemcek said a plaque listing all who helped on the trail construction, as well as all who served on the board during the trail construction would be created and hung in the hallway of the Gays Mills Community Commerce Center.

Unfinished portions of the trail and connections were discussed by village trustee Aaron Fortney and former village president Craig Anderson.

Fortney questioned a connection not made near the north end of the trail. Anderson also questioned the lack of a “final little connection” that sent trail walkers into the county yard. Additionally, Anderson questioned why the trail was not completed on the southern end where it enters county land to make a connection to village-owned property.

Niemcek said that using the old county highway shop entrance to the trail was necessary because other plans were “stymied.” He said there were plans to make that area look “prettier.”

The trail co-chairperson believes with enough people using the trail and asking why it does not go through to County B and why they must walk through the county lot, it will cause things to change. He referred to this as Phase 2 of the trail creation.

“It just might take a while to get there,” Heisz added.

Krista Eitsert said that when her family first arrived in town and went out to check the trail a year ago; they were surprised to find a no trespassing sign on the county highway department lot.

“I’m amazed to see the number of people downtown walking on it,” Heisz said. “My wife walks on it every day. It’s nice and level and it’s something she can walk on. I really appreciate it.”

 In other business, the Gays Mills Village Board:

• tabled action approving a contract to replace electrical panels at the ballpark

• heard a report on the village’s shared use kitchen and community room

• tabled action on the 2018 Memo of Understanding with the Gays Mills Economic Development Association for management of the kitchen and community room until some of the changes can be reviewed and discussed

• approved renewing the Gundersen Health Plan for the village employees

• approved a 2018-19 Maintenance Assessment Contract with Equity Appraisal

• approved renewing the property and liability insurance policy with TRICOR-EMS for 2018

• agreed to install a wood floor in Suite 126 of the Gays Mills Mercantile Center after agreeing other uses including creation of a dentist’s satellite office were not happening

• approved advertising for a 2018 Swimming Pool Manager Position, while reaching out to this year’s manager to see if he is interested in working in the position again next summer