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Sewer rates to increase in Gays Mills
GM Village Hall

GAYS MILLS - The Gays Mills Village Board approved a two-step sewer rate increase to close a gap between revenue and expenses that was creating an annual deficit of about $30,000.

The rate increase wasn’t an easy place for the board to reach. However, after two motions failed for a lack of a second, new village trustee Krista Eitsert made a motion to raise the sewer volume rate by 50 percent in 2018 and then by an equal amount again in 2019.

The current sewer volume rate is $4.60 per 1,000 gallons. Eitsert moved to make the rate $6.90 per 1,000 gallons in 2018 and then raise it to $9.20 per 1,000 gallons in 2019. The motion was seconded by Albert Zegiel and passed by the board on voice vote. The motion appeared to have Eitsert, Zegiel and Kim Pettit voting yes and John Johnson voting no.

Johnson had previously made a motion to raise the volume rate to $9.20 per thousand gallons immediately in 2018. That motion failed for lack of a second.

Prior to Johnson’s motion, Zegiel had moved to raise the rate to $6.90 in 2018 and then $9.20 in 2019. That motion had also died for a lack of a second.

Two village trustees, Aaron Fortney and Erin Martin were absent from the Monday night meeting.

Village president Harry Heisz told the board at one point that he favored the two-step approach to raising the rates. He also emphasized that something had to be done to close the $30,000 deficit in the sewer budget.

Gays Mills Village Clerk Dawn McCann helped the board understand the situation by supplying a variety of numbers, including the volume rates charged by other local communities. The Gays Mills volume rate was lower than all but one of the others.

In addition to the volume rate, every sewer customer also pays a monthly flat rate of $27.50. Some village residents that still use septic systems for their wastewater, but are in areas served by the municipal sewer system, are required to pay the monthly flat rate. It has been a point of contention at times.

McCann told the board the average use of water and sewer by a Gays Mills resident is 4,000 gallons per month. At the current rate of $4.60 per 1,000 gallons, it makes the volume rate for the average user $18.40 per month. Combined with a $27.50 flat rate fee, the average user is currently paying $45.90 per month.

Under the new rate, the average user will pay $27.60 in the volume rate monthly in 2018 and when that’s added to the $27.50 flat rate fee the average user will pay $55.10 per month.

Then in 2019, the average user will pay $36.80 in the volume rate for 4,000 gallons per month. When the flat rate fee of $27.50 is added, the average  user will pay $64.30 per month.

Zegiel seemed to sum up the feeling of most of the board when he expressed his personal dismay with raising the rates.

 “I sure hate to agree with this, because I don’t want to have to pay that bill,” Zegiel said. However, the longtime trustee was quick to acknowledge the action was in the long-term best interest of the village.

The 2016 sewer budget was provided to the board as an example of how the deficit occurs. The expenses that year were $160,000. That total flat rate fee paid that year was about $89,000. The 8.5 million gallons billed that year at $4.60/1,000 gallons produced  $39,000 in revenue. The two revenue sources produced $128,000 and with expenses of $160,000, a $32,000 deficit was created. However, when the volume rate is doubled in 2019 to $9.20 per 1,000 gallons and if usage stays about the same it should produce more than $78,000 in revenue, which when combined with $89,000 in flat rate fees should create $167,000 in total revenue. That amount of revenue would match or slightly exceed the expenses.

For the sewer rates to be changed to the proposed rates on January 1, 2018 and then again on January 1, 2019 a new sewer ordinance will have to be drafted and passed at a future meeting.

The board meeting began with a report from the village’s volunteer forester Cindy Kohles. She assured the board she was continuing to work on a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Urban Forestry Grant and that it was multifaceted in nature and was likely to be competitive for funding.

Kohles, a retired DNR forestry employee, described some of the work envisioned for the village and some possible sources of funding that might be used in addition to the urban forestry grant.

Kohles was still hopeful a grant from American Transmission Company would be approved and this grant could be used to buy small trees for planting on village lands. Those trees would replace trees, like the ash trees, which are being killed by the emerald ash borer and subsequently removed by the village. Kohles said if the ATC grant does not materialize, some of the funding from the Kickapoo Cultural Exchange currently slated for purchase of trees to put on private property might have to be diverted to getting the smaller trees on public lands.

In general, Kohles was very upbeat about the people the village had appointed to serve on the tree board. She is seeking funds to train some of the board in proper pruning so that those interested can prune trees in the village.

In consultation with the tree board, it was agreed that two ash trees might be appropriate candidates for a $130 injection treatment of a pesticide to help them survive emerald ash borer attack.

The more important of the two trees seemed to be a large ash located in the Log Cabin Village along Highway 131 on the way to the county fairgrounds, according to Kohles

Later, Brad Niemcek provided the board with an update on the Stump Dodger Trail progress.  He told the board that the other co-chairperson, Rachel Jovi, was coordinating sign placement with All County Signs, the company creating the signs.

A cleaning and leveling along 1,000 feet of the trail that will run on the old railroad bed just north of the county/village land around the old highway shop was completed, according to Niemcek. The committee has approved the purchase of bike racks and picnic tables. However, the committee is still not in agreement on benches.

The committee’s co-chairperson said he expects that there are about $17,000 in bills that need to be paid or will need to be paid shortly. Those bills will be paid from the line of credit set up by the village, until the money is reimbursed from the $45,000 grant  that is expected from the DNR when the project is completed. The bills include $500 for picnic tables, $1,500 for benches, $5,000 for signage, $8,000 for landscaping, $500 for t-shirts and $250 for flyer design. The trail has a October 31, 2017 completion deadline.

The committee is also proposing the installation of a fence on the side of the county highway department/village property. This fence is intended to create a 10- to 15-foot-wide lane for the trail, while allowing the village to park vehicles up against the other side of the fence.

During his community room update, Niemcek said that wedding receptions were some of the toughest use the room gets. He proposed creating a three-day rental for $500 that would allow Friday for setup, Saturday for the wedding reception and Sunday for cleanup.

The large room, located in the Gays Mills Community Commerce Center on Highway 131, is currently rented to local residents for $100 for use on Saturday for weddings and other events. Time on Friday and Sunday is provided for free when possible for setup and cleanup.

In other business, the Gays Mills Village Board:

• learned they had lost the services of their building inspector and received no bids from anyone willing to provide building inspection services

• approved conducting a search for a new building inspector through newspaper advertising

• approved closing North Railroad Street from Main Street to the alley during Apple Fest and even to Grove Street if necessary

• agreed to let village president Harry Heisz see if work replacing electrical boxes at the ball diamond can be done for less  than $1,000

• decided on a schedule for producing and approving a village budget in the next two-and-a half months

• learned that grants for paving in towns and villages would be approved at a  special county highway meeting, which Director of Public Works Jim Chellevold would attend and seek money for some projects in the village

• approved an operator’s license for Richard Jahnke