Gilman residents question hydrant fee on water bills
It’s no secret that water rates went up in the Village of Gilman, but some residents are confused over the hydrant charge, as well as why the rates increased as much as they did. Resident Darrell Romig was on hand Sept. 14, for a regular Gilman Village Board meeting, to question the hydrant charge.
“That is included in the entire water rate increase,” said village president Jane DeStaercke. “It’s for fire protection and it will be labeled that going forward, on bills from now on, rather than ‘hydrant fee.’” Romig asked if lots without buildings will have a fee. “We determined that empty lots will not be charged,” said DeStaercke.
Romig pointed out that those lots still need fire protection, but village trustee Cheryl Rosemeyer said that is how the tariff reads currently.
“At this time, we’ve opted not to change that,” she said.
In response to some comments from the public, De-Staercke mentioned that the Public Service Commission (PSC) got involved, which drove the water rate higher than normal.
“They’re the ones who set the rates,” DeStaercke said.
There has been no significant increase in the water rate in 20 years, and the village has increased water rates by 3 percent every time it was allowed, without a major overhaul. DeStaercke said, since Gilman is a residential community, the water service is funded by the taxpayers.
“And that (3 percent each time) has still put us a little behind,” said DeStaercke of the PSC requirements. “So, you have to understand, that we really have no say in how this goes.”
The board also talked about a special meeting they had to approve a Certified Survey Map, so that Dollar General can proceed with their building plan. However, it was reported that Dollar General was denied access by the WisDOT for the driveway to the property where they wanted it. Instead, Dollar General wants the access to the west, rather than to the east.
“They are prepared to put a road in to their property line to the west of the building,” said DeStaercke.
The drive would be a state standard of 66 feet, but it comes with a concern that neighboring resident Jim Hendricks might have to give up his access. Hendricks found it hard to understand what is planned by the map and the board agreed they need to meet with the representatives from Dollar General before approving the new access on the village’s side of the proposal.
“I guess we need more of a substantial design of what they plan to do before we can say OK, yeah, go ahead and build a road,” said trustee John Novitski.
DeStaercke says she is sure Dollar General representatives are willing to meet in a special meeting and that it’s clear people as a whole in the community are looking forward to the store coming “We’re not going to approve this unless he (Hendricks) has access,” said DeStaercke. “We’re not going to take his access away.”
Growth continues to happen in Gilman, as the work continues on the old Superior Choice building that the Gilman Industrial Foundation purchased. The foundation is opening a gift shop called Hidden Treasures on Main, as well as a portion for rental/office space available, with a Nov. 1 opening date.
“The Village of Gilman did not purchase this building – it’s the industrial foundation, which has nothing to do with the village,” said DeStaercke. “Plans are underway and a lot of interest.”
Gilman Police Chief Tom Tallier also reported that the former Phoenix House is also in line for a change, with new owners who also have a facility in Pepin.
“They bought it for assisted living,” said Tallier. To help better the community, a campground ordinance is also in the works from the Parks Committee, but trustee Dee Bornheimer said there were a lot of ordinances from neighboring towns looked at and that they need some more clarification before submitting the new ordinance for approval. The committee agreed to meet once more and come back to the board. There was also nothing concrete to work on with the proposed volleyball courts in the park, but it is still in the works.
Tallier also reported that something unexpected happened, with a string of complaints of report of a stolen car, which led to a drug case and some arrests, all intertwined.
“We’re definitely a safer place after those two arrests,” said Tallier.
The board also bid farewell to one of their own, as, effective Oct. 1, Novitski will no longer be a trustee; he and his wife are moving out-of-state, but until after the official resignation date, the board cannot appoint a new board member. There are several interested parties in filling the position and it was agreed that candidates should submit, in writing, why they wish to be appointed to the vacant seat. DeStaercke said the board will come up with a list of questions for the candidate and get them to them prior to the next regular meeting.
DeStaercke thanked Novitski for his time with the village, saying that trustees enjoyed having him on the board, as he’s been very knowledgeable and active. She wished him good luck in his family’s new venture.
“It sounds exciting.”