By Sterling McGinn

After announcing plans to remove trees downtown, the Village of Newberry is now seeking input and suggestions for either replanting trees, or for another option for streetscape.

Surveying residents and business owners of the community was discussed at the February regular session of the council.

The meeting took place in the Water and Light chambers at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, February 21. All members of the council were present, plus four members of the public.

The trees, were planted along sidewalks in the business section of Newberry years ago, are slated for eventual tree removal after root systems damaged sidewalks and raised metal grating at the base of the trees.

The uneven sidewalks and metal grating are a potential safety hazard to pedestrians, the council has stated.

The question that remains is what will replace the trees after they’re gone.

“Our main conversations have been, ‘What are we going to do when we take them out,’” said Village Manager Allison Watkins. “We need to be prepared for that, at a minimum, the concrete will need to be repaired.”

If trees are not replaced, the board offered suggestions of a seasonal flowerpot or boxes.

Watkins said she has communicated with an arborist from the DNR for his opinion of the tree root issue and what to do next.

Though he has not physically inspected the trees, the arborist believes the roots have not been able to get sufficient water, caused the roots to move to the surface, breaking the concrete.

“When you put in trees in those kind of areas with concrete around them, you need to leave a one-to-three inch base of crushed stone or pebbles in order for the water to make its way down to the roots,” said Watkins.

If trees are replanted downtown, a base of stones will need to be placed along the trunks of each tree, Watkins said.

It is also believed that the wrong type of trees were planted.

“This has been the second time that trees have had to be removed down there,” explained Trustee Lori Stokes. “That’s what they said the last time, and these trees were supposed to be the right variety and now they are outgrown.”

Watkins said that she had acquired a list and additional information of the types of trees that can be planted for streetscapes.

In an effort to solicit more feedback from residents and business owners, Watkins suggested an online survey with several questions that residents can answer or give an opinion.

For those who do not use Facebook or the internet, Watkins proposed printing a survey that would be mailed out with the monthly Water and Light bills. The survey would be sent to anyone who is a customer of Water and Light, not just to village residents.

Costumers would return completed surveys to the village.

“I think the survey would help us get a good idea as to what the majority of the community wants to see happen down there,” Watkins said. “The community is being included in the decision making and the council and the infrastructure committee will have a better idea of what the residents want to see.”

After discussion, the board voted to move forward with the proposed survey.

In other business, the board received an update regarding the three fire trucks damaged last year on the Fourth of July.

Tanker #2, which was damaged after being backed into a village light pole near the fire hall, has been returned and is back in service. The repair bill was $48,563.20. Except for a $1,000 deductible, the repairs were covered by insurance.

Tanker #1 is now being repaired in Grayling. That truck was damaged while attempting to pull Engine #1 when it became stuck in a wet yard at a fire call on July 4.

The repair estimate is $19,929.06, according to Watkins—about $30,000 less than expected. These damages are also covered by insurance.

The damages to Engine #1 are mostly cosmetic, Watkins said. The truck is functional and will be repaired after it is brought to Grayling for inspection.

Though the repairs were covered by insurance, Watkins said that the fire liability coverage will increase by an unknown margin in the 2023-2024 year due to the three claims.

The village also wants to buy back-up cameras for the tanker vehicles.

The fire department also needs a new Cascades System, which is used to fill the department’s SCBA tanks. The total cost of the Cascades System is $36,137.45.

The Village of Newberry, McMillan Township and Pentland Township will each pay a third of the total cost.

After discussion, the board voted to pay their share of the cost of the system. Pentland Township already approved paying their share of the cost at the last township meeting, and the matter will be discussed at the next McMillan Township Board.

Also approved that evening was the purchase of a pickup truck for the Water and Light Department and the paying of the monthly village payables.