By Sterling McGinn

Possible amendments to two village ordinances were on the agenda of the monthly Newberry Village Council meeting held Tuesday, January 19 via Zoom. All members of the board were present for the electronic meeting.

The first amendment discussed was regarding Ordinance A, which is relative to the management, control, and use of the Water and Light plants and distribution systems. The new amendment allows a customer non-elector Water and Light Board member to serve as chairman or acting-chair of that board. Previously, the chairman had to be a resident elector board member. Non-electors are Water and Light customers who don’t reside within the village limits. The Water and Light Board and Village Council discussed amending the ordinance last year, but it was not approved.

The amendment also changes the language allowing non-village resident business owners the opportunity to serve on the board. Trustee Jeff Puckett asked if there are customers outside of the village, who only use village electricity and not water. After being informed that there are, he responded “So what we may have is someone who is appointed to that board—who is a non-resident of the village—make decisions on utilities that they aren’t a customer of.”  After discussion, the council voted to amend Ordinance A with trustee Puckett voting against the motion.

The board then shifted to discuss the section of Ordinance 23 concerning the winter parking ban. Ordinance 23 regulates parking motor vehicles on certain streets and highways within the village. The amendment would specifically impact winter parking.

Due to an obstruction to village snowplows, it is unlawful to park a motor vehicle on the streets in Newberry from 1 a.m. to 7 a.m., during the months of December-March.

The current penalty for the parking violation is a $10 fine. If the amendment were approved, the new penalty would change to have the vehicle towed at the owner’s expense. “We thought that something more visible and tangible might motivate people to not park on the streets,” explained village manager Allison Watkins.

Some of the other changes would include a ban on parking trailers, RVs, and any other object that obstructs snowplowing. The time would also be extended from midnight to 8 a.m., and through the month of April.

Watkins informed the board that the village attorney is looking into the matter. “Not only will we have to publicize it, he is pretty confident that we will have to post signs at the village limits stating we have a parking ban in the winter,” she explained. “If it’s approved, this might not be something we can get in place this year, because we need to make sure we have the signs.”

A lengthy discussion took place among the council members on the enforcement of the new changes, and how to go about towing vehicles. After many suggestions and discussions, the board decided to table the amendment until a future meeting.

Two closed sessions with village attorneys also took place that evening. The first closed session involved the ongoing employee arbitration with former village manager Jennifer James-Mesloh. After returning to the regular session, the board immediately went back into closed session to discuss the litigation with Pentland Township.

No council action was taken in the regular session regarding the two issues. A third closed session was held later in the meeting to discuss union contracts.

In other news, longtime village resident Darrell Schummer submitted a pre-appointment questionnaire for his interest to serve in one of the vacant Village Council trustee seats. The board unanimously voted to appoint Schummer to the position.

The council also voted to purchase a Bobcat 5600 with attachments at a cost of $49.920.49. Finally, the board voted to pay the Village bills totaling $86,511.95. The Water and Light bills totaling $229,879.43 were also approved.