January 25, 2018
By Ed Byrne
The Brillion News
HILBERT – Barring an 11th-hour miracle, there is a good possibility that a $250,000 state Community Development Investment (CDI) grant will be turned back to the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, unspent.
The Village of Hilbert applied for the grant to help local investor Todd Thiel fund a million dollar project to restore and renovate a vacant gas station and garage at Eighth and Main Streets, turning it into a unique boutique convenience store.
The grant was awarded to the village, which was acting as the go-between.
But when the village board met on Monday night to tie up loose ends – including an agreement with Thiel that would prevent the village taxpayers from getting stuck with the bill if the project fell through – Thiel’s attorney showed up with new conditions for the village to meet.
Attorney Tim Halbach, representing Thiel, said that Thiel now wants the $250,000 CDI grant plus another $250,000 from the village.
“Todd’s position is he wants the grant and he wants the $250,000 from the village,” Halbach said. “If the answer is ‘no,’ the answer is ‘no.’ That’s Todd’s position. If you guys say ‘no, we’re not doing the [$250,000],’ then Todd’s not doing the project.”
Trustee Dan Starfeld was not happy by the new ultimatum from Thiel. The village has repeatedly refused to give Thiel money for the project.
“We went through that when he sat right there,” Starfeld said.
Starfeld said Thiel told the board he would be happy with the $250,000 from the state grant – and is now upping the ante at the last minute. He said village officials have met with Thiel about 15 times since Thiel first proposed the project.
Starfeld held up the minutes of a meeting where Thiel said $250,000 was all he needed.
The deadline for the village to agree to take the grant from the state is at noon on January 30, and the grant is good only for Thiel’s store proposal.
Halbach said he can only represent what Thiel wants now, and that things have changed.
“If he was going to do that, he should have said that right away, off the bat,” Starfeld said. “This is ridiculous.”
Trustee Tim Keuler wondered why Thiel would change his mind after the village submitted the grant application to the state and got the maximum award offered.
Halbach said it has been nearly two years since the dialogue between Thiel and the village began, and costs have gone up.
“According to Todd’s calculations, [local property taxes] have gone up 18.5 percent from last year to this year,” Halbach said. “He’s got all these properties [in the village] so there’s more costs.”
Halbach said that is part of the reason why Thiel is now asking for an added $250,000 from the village.
Please see the complete story in the January 25, 2018 edition of The Brillion News.