By Sterling McGinn

The Newberry Village Council voted at their October 17 meeting to move ahead with removing the trees in the downtown section this fall.

The meeting took place at 6 p.m. in the Village Council chambers in the Water and Light building. Village President Catherine Freese was absent that evening and the meeting was chaired by president pro-temp Lori Stokes.

The last time the council discussed the downtown tree situation, the board voted to remove the trees in the spring of 2024. Past board discussion revealed that the trees are interfering with the underground streetlight wiring and damaging sidewalks. Some metal grates surrounding the trunks of the trees are raising, creating tripping hazards.

The village planned to cutdown the trees when a decision was made for some type of streetscape to replace the current trees. “We don’t know when we are going to have money to do what we need to do, so the infrastructure committee put it back on the table that they would like the trees cutdown,” said village manager Allison Watkins.

There is currently not a plan for new streetscape at this time.

Earlier in the year, the village offered a survey for residents for opinions on the tree matter.

Approximately 187 residents participated in the survey. The results indicate that 78 percent agree that the trees need to come out. A total of 37 percent of individuals want to plant new trees and 47 percent want flowerpots as an alternative.

The village will leave the trunks about 4-5 feet above the ground so snowplows don’t hit the stumps.

“I am not happy about seeing the trees gone—I like to see the trees down there,” said trustee Jeff Puckett. “But there is a whole lot of problems.”

After discussion, the board unanimously approved removing the trees this fall. The village will seek three bids for removing the trees and reach out to the local tree removal companies.

In other news, Watkins updated the board on the ongoing sewer re-lining project, which is part of the Clean Water State Revolving Fund grant and low interest loan.

The large vehicles operating around the village have been the crews cleaning and removing protruding laterals. “Pipeline Management is the big vacuum truck at one manhole and a panel truck at the other manhole,” said Watkins. “They are contracted through Insituform, who is doing the lining. They are measuring from the middle of a manhole to the middle of a manhole, and sending the measurements to Insituform, so they can start the process of getting the lining material prepped before they come.”

They are cleaning the lines, removing roots and cutting protruding taps.

West Helen Street, West Avenue C and the section on Avenue A and now done with the first portion of the project. “There isn’t any issues or concerns so far and the lines still look good for lining,” she said.

The actual sewer pipe re-lining should begin by October 30.

When the company is re-lining sections, they will give residents 24-hour notice that they will have to significantly reduce sewer usage during that time.

While the work is underway, the customer’s lateral is blocked. If the homeowner’s sewer is used too much during the timeframe of the lining, the lateral will fill up, causing a sewage backup.
Once the line is cured, a robot is sent through it using GPS to cut a hole for the laterals.

The company will be educating residents on the streets where the project is taking place.

Also discussed that evening was the 2024 sewer rate increase of .75 cents per month. The board voted in November of 2022 to increase the monthly rate of $35 to $38, which began this year.

The increase is due to inflation and rising operation costs. At the November 2022 meeting, the board also considered an annual percentage increase.

After discussion, the board voted to pass a resolution for the .75 cent increase.