Village of Wheeler qualifies for CDBG funds

By LeAnn R. Ralph

WHEELER — If Wheeler had a street project, water or sewer project or wastewater project, the village would qualify for Community Development Block Grant funds up to $500,000 or 50 percent of the project cost.

Wheeler’s low to moderate income score is high enough now that the village qualifies for CDBG funds, said David Wierzba, client services manager with MSA Professional Services at the Wheeler Village Board’s February 10 meeting.

MSA specializes in engineering services for municipalities and in helping municipalities find money to do their projects, Wierzba said, adding the problems with Wheeler’s water tower during the sub-zero weather of a few weeks earlier had come to his attention.

Wierzba attended the meeting with Erik Evenson, a civil engineer with MSA.

Evenson previously worked for Cedar Corporation and lives in this area.

The next application for CDBG funds is due May 22, Wierzba noted.

If Wheeler identifies a project by the end of March, MSA would have time to write the grant application by the deadline in May, he said.

Wheeler is eligible right now for CDBG funds, but the state is planning to revise the income scores this summer, and at that point, Wheeler may no longer qualify, Wierzba said, noting that the state periodically revises the scores and that municipalities often go up or down when the scores are revised.

Robin Goodell, village clerk-treasurer, wondered if MSA’s fees can be paid through the grant.

Most of the grants are a 50/50 match, with the grant paying 50 percent and the municipality paying 50 percent, and the engineering fees are usually part of the municipality’s share, Wierzba said.

The Wheeler Village Board approved a budget of $187,369 for 2015 in November.

“Fifty percent is a good deal,” Wierzba said, adding that MSA often is able to find other grants to go along with the  CDBG funds, including money from the Clean Water Fund, state Department of Natural Resources Grants and Wisconsin Rural Water Association grants.

The DNR grants are due in October, and if Wheeler applied for CDBG funds now, the village would find out if the money was awarded in August or September, Wierzba said.

Looking for the money now would allow Wheeler to be in a position to do a project next year, he said.

Wheeler is planning to look into installing natural gas in the village, said Village Trustee Linda Crosby.

Wierzba was surprised that Wheeler did not already have natural gas, noting that he had never worked with a natural gas project and did not know if natural gas installation would qualify for grant money.

Evenson noted that natural gas is quite close to Wheeler, perhaps only a couple of miles out, and that natural gas service had been installed to the Big River Resources ethanol plant between Boyceville and Wheeler.

Village Trustee Crosby wondered if the streets would have to be dug up to install natural gas service.

Directional drilling in which the line is drilled in under the streets would be used to install natural gas service, and the streets would not be dug up, Wierzba said.

Since Wierzba did not have experience with natural gas and grant funding, he told the village board he would look into it and would let Goodell know what he found out.

The agenda for the Wheeler Village Board’s February 10 meeting included Gary Hover of WE Energies to discuss the possibility of bringing natural gas service to Wheeler, along with Jack Bowman of J.B. Hydro to answer questions about plumbing in relation to natural gas service and Paul Behling of Behling Heating and Air Conditioning to talk about heating issues related to bringing natural gas service to Wheeler.

Hover, Bowman and Behling failed to show up at the meeting.

Several inches of snow had fallen the afternoon of February 10, and it was still snowing in the evening at the time of the Wheeler meeting.

Village board members speculated that slippery roads had prevented Hover, Bowman and Behling from attending the meeting.

Village President James Carter recessed the meeting for ten minutes to see if anyone would call and to give the three men additional time to arrive, but during the recess, no telephone calls were received and no one else showed up for the meeting.

Village President Carter adjourned the meeting at a little after 6:30 p.m.