By Sterling McGinn

A shortage of trustees on the Newberry Village Council is leading the existing members to consider legally reducing the number of members from six to four, plus a president.

Several items on the November Newberry Village Council meeting agenda revolved around the board lacking two candidates to serve as trustees. The meeting  was held Tuesday, November 17 via Zoom.

All members of the council were present on the call and only two citizens participated. The meeting opened with a moment of silence for longtime village chief of police, William “Bill” Labadie, who recently passed away.

A resolution was adopted to declare vacancies due to a lack of elected candidates for the two empty trustee positions. Bruce Lane and Jeff Puckett were appointed to fill the seats in December of 2019. Both positions were up for reelection in November of this year. Lane resigned less than  month after his appointment and Puckett served the remainder of the  term, which ended at this meeting.

Kip Cameron and village president Lori Stokes both ran unopposed for trustee seats on the board in the November election.  This was the final meeting chaired by Lori Stokes.

Due to the board being unable to meet in person, Village Clerk Terese Schummer days later swore in Catherine Freese as village president, and Kip Cameron and Lori Stokes as trustees.

Later in the agenda was an item regarding  a possible reduction of trustee numbers from 6 to 4. The General Law Village Act requires the council to consist of six trustees and a president, however, an ordinance can be created to reduce the trustee number to four.

The act also requires the board to set a public hearing consideration for an ordinance, and must published a notice in the newspaper regarding the matter.

“The first step for you as a council is to decide if you want to entertain that,” stated village manager Allison Watkins. “If you choose to do so, this would be the meeting where you would make a motion to have it placed on the agenda in the future.”

The board was not allowed to deliberate or discuss the merits or lack of until a public hearing takes place. The board subsequently voted to request Watkins to place consideration whether to reduce the number of trustees on a future village council agenda. Trustees Jeff Puckett and Dennis Hendrickson voted against the motion.

In the mean time, the board voted to advertise to fill the vacancies. If candidates are appointed, they would serve two years and then their positions would be placed on the ballot for the  November 2022 general election.

In other news, the new 50’ by 60’ Department of Public Works building is nearing completion. The building is located near the intersection of East Avenue C and Charles Road. Construction began this summer, and funding for the project came from the insurance reimbursement following the collapse of the 41 Lumber building.

In addition to the garage portion, the structure includes a break room, offices, and a bathroom with a shower for the staff. An open house will be planned for the future.

Finally, the 2021 public budget hearing will be held at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, December 15, prior to regular monthly meeting.