PFAS affecting Gilman’s water supply, with higher levels likely to come
It’s something that most communities are facing, and that’s dealing with perand polyfluorinated substances, known as PFAS. PFAS are a group of chemicals used to make fluoropolymer coatings and products that resist heat, oil, stains, grease and water, with the coatings found in a variety of products. That includes clothing, furniture, adhesives, food packaging, heat-resistant non-stick cooking surfaces and the insulation of electrical wire, as well as firefighting foam.
PFAS are a concern, because they don’t break down in the environment and contaminate water sources, affecting people’s health.
Some communities are joining a class action lawsuit, against larger companies who manufacture products with PFAS in them. While Gilman’s PFAS levels are not as concerning as other municipalities around the state, they are still there, so it’s up to the village board to decide if they want to jump into that lawsuit.
“Our results were low,” said Gilman public works director Dave Kroeplin at a regular meeting Nov. 8. “I don’t even know if we’d get any settlement out of it.”
Village board trustee Ericka Bertsinger also felt it would cost Gilman more in attorney fees, than they would make in return. Village board president Jane DeStaercke agreed, but did point out that their attorney already said his fees would be much higher if the village ever took action on their own against a company, as opposed to joining the lawsuit.
Dee Bornheimer, village trustee, says as more businesses and people move into the village, the chances of levels rising become greater. Village clerk Candice Grunseth mentioned that while Gilman’s numbers are low, there is talk that the levels for concern will be dropped, meaning Gilman will need to do something to mitigate the PFAS, which is not cheap.
“So, we really don’t need to make a decision or anything tonight?” asked village board trustee Bob Preston.
Grunseth said she would wait to see what comes from a Dec. 14 court hearing, before opting out, as Gilman is automatically counted in for the time being. The village has 60 days after the settlement is approved, to opt out of the lawsuit.
Members also talked about updating their Comprehensive Plan, spelling out the guidelines for businesses and residential development in the village.
“It states what you want to see come in and what you have,” said Grunseth.
The plan needs to be updated every 10 years; if that is not done and someone wants to build something that goes against what the plan states, the individual/ business can take legal action against Gilman to do so, because the plan was not updated.
The price tag for doing so is about $25,000, so Grunseth is looking for smaller quotes.
Grunseth and DeStaercke are also looking at services from the Community Economic Development Association (CEDA), which Gilman could share with other communities in the county, bringing down the cost of their services. Services include assessment and suggestions on how to implement programs, and to seek funding for reclamation of new and existing facets of Gilman. However, it’s $20,000 a year, for a one-day a week position.
“It does sound prohibitive,” said village board trustee Russell Baker.
“It’s something to look at in the future,” said DeStaercke.
Gilman also needs to pass a flood ordinance, on request of the federal government, so the wording was passed on to zoning administrator Jim Flood. Flood is aware of the timeline to review it, as the village has to publish the ordinance in the paper and hold a public hearing, before the ordinance can be adopted.
“So, that’s underway,” said DeStaercke.
If Gilman is interested in purchasing a property with a structure on it and if a sheriff’s sale occurs, Flood would inspect the roof and general structure. Village board trustee Cheryl Rosemeyer confi rmed that if Gilman purchased a property, they would obtain a grant, rehab the building and resell it.
It was agreed the village wouldn’t want to bid on a property, if there are issues with it, which is where Flood comes in.
“We have to do some investigation, before we get involved with that,” said DeStaercke.
Something that did get approved, is the 2024 tax levy of $186,956, as well as the $617,684 budget, at a 11.61 percent increase from last year.
Members also approved a new phone system for the village office, public works, police department and the library, from TSI Voice & Data. After installation fees, the voice over internet plan will cost $192 each month, while the current bill runs over $600.
Members also approved the five-year street plan for the village, with paving one year, and crack sealing the alternate years: Davlin Street, 2023 (complete); Fourth Avenue, 2024; crack seal/chip seal, 2025; Gilman Drive, 2026; and First Avenue North, 2027.
In his report to the board, Gilman Police Chief Tom Tallier shared that counterfeit bills were circulated through town, but was happy with how fast that case was solved. By showing surveillance camera footage around town, he found a license plate on the footage and tracked down the suspect.
Tallier also had an arrest of a suspect for a warrant out of Louisiana.
“It was a weird situation,” said Tallier.
The warrant stated that the suspect was wanted for murder, but the warrant was full of mistakes, including the description and name of the suspect. It turns out, the suspect was not wanted for murder, but actually wanted for battery. Tallier did some research and discovered the suspect was living in Gilman. He put the school on lockdown, as a precaution, and apprehended the wanted person.
“It ended up being OK,” said Tallier.