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(Orfordville, WI) Jake Magee, Gazette

Orfordville residents are willing to invest in a grocery store and downtown buildings to make their village better, a survey shows.

Among the village's 1,400 residents, 98 took a survey from the newly formed Economic Development Committee seeking to gauge where residents would like to see the village grow, if at all. Most respondents indicated they favor investing to expand the village's residential, industrial and commercial areas.

“To me, it seems they're saying, 'Yeah, we want you to concentrate on drawing business in town,'” said committee member Gary Phillips.  “To me, that's encouraging that the majority of the folks do want us to work in that direction.”

Committee Chairwoman Beth Schmidt said Orfordville needs to look at how it could draw in new businesses and inspire and enhance ones already in town, she said. The idea led to the committee and subsequent survey.

The most-requested businesses from the survey is a grocery store—something almost 90 percent of respondents indicated they want, according to the survey.

Only 2 percent of respondents do more than half of their shopping in Orfordville. That's a concern but could change if a grocery store comes to the village, Phillips said.

Phillips has called a few businesses to see if a grocery story could be built in Orfordville, but businesses say the town isn't big enough, Phillips said.

Phillips is emailing Dollar General officials to see if would be possible to bring one of its stores to the village, he said.

“Wouldn't it be great to have a grocery store? You bet. I'd love to have a grocery store,” he said. “But it's probably going to have to be a mom-and-pop-style grocery store.”

Besides the idea of a grocery store, almost three-fourths of respondents said the downtown area is unattractive. That's something the committee is already working to fix, Phillips said.

“We've went back and looked at our ordinances, and we've changed quite a few ordinances in the last year because our ordinances were pretty lax,” he said.

Eliminating vagueness from the ordinances gives downtown business a clearer understanding of the town's expectations, Phillips said.

“Nobody really paid attention to it, and it was never really a focus,” Schmidt said.

He said most people focused on the town's business park.

Buildings weren't kept up before most were purchased by local businessman Jason Nehls starting about six years ago, Phillips said.

“I'm doing what I can. I do more stuff every day,” Nehls said.

“It didn't happen overnight, so we're not going to get repairs overnight, either,” Phillips said.

Almost half rated the village's Internet service poorly. The village has what Phillips called “mediocre” Internet service providers and not popular ones such as Charter.

“You're going have that when you're in a rural community. I come from a farm, so I'm just happy things work as fast as they do and you have more than one choice,” Phillips said with a laugh.

Almost one-third of respondents indicated the village's streets and sidewalks need maintenance.

“I don't think anybody could argue that we have some streets in town that need to be addressed, and we're aware of that,” Phillips said, noting street repair isn't cheap. “We only can do what we can do.”

Work to improve the village already has begun.

Renovations began last week to turn the former Burtness Chevrolet car dealership into a new Village Hall and police headquarters. The library recently relocated to an old church on the edge of town. A new gas station and Subway restaurant were built at Highways 11 and 213, Phillips said.

“I think we've made some positive improvements,” Schmidt said. “We need to focus on our downtown area, and I think we really need to bring in some (businesses) … that have a few jobs attached …”

The committee will decide where to focus next and how to address residents' concerns.

“It's been interesting to put a new committee together like this and figure out what direction we're going and all that, so I'm excited to work on this and try to do some things that the residents would like us to work on,” Phillips said.


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