By Sterling McGinn

For the first time in approximately 15 years, The Village of Newberry will have a working DPW (Department of Public Works) superintendent.

Jerry Hollingshead was hired to fill that position on June 19 and his introduction was part of the agenda of the June 20 meeting of the Newberry Village Council.

The Village of Newberry began the search to find a superintendent in April. Wastewater treatment plant superintendent George Blakely had been serving double-duty in the capacity of DPW superintendent for a couple of years, however, he did not wish to continue in both roles.

Hollingshead worked previously with the Luce County Road Commission and has experience in the field of heavy equipment and road maintenance.

“I had eight years full-time and five years part-time there,” said Hollingshead. “I know how to plow snow, patch holes, lay gravel and run equipment.”

For 20 years, he was a manager at the former Tri-County Building Center in Newberry.

The board welcomed Hollingshead to the village staff.

A lengthy discussion revolving around mutual aid fire agreements was also part of that evening’s meeting.

The Newberry Fire Department will be entering an agreement with Garfield Township Fire in Engadine.

That department wants to designate a tanker truck and manpower from Newberry whenever Garfield receives a page for a structure fire. Hendricks Township Fire will also receive a page for the dispatch of an engine and manpower.

“They are short manpower over there and with the other two departments in their neck of the wood— one might have three guys and there might be four guys on the one in Gould City,” said Newberry Fire Chief John Wendt.

“With an automatic page, they will automatically call Newberry asking for a tanker,” said Village Manager Allison Watkins. “With mutual aid, they wait until the chief says that they need help, this is automatic.”

Newberry’s village attorney said the new agreement doesn’t contradict with the existing Eastern U.P. agreement.

The board also voted to begin charging Columbus Township Fire Department for requests for aid.

“We do not have an agreement with Columbus Township, and they do not have an agreement with the Eastern U.P. either,” Wendt said. “So why would we go there…other than if they needed us, but we can’t go over there for free either if there is no agreement.”

The Columbus Fire Department recently revised an old agreement with Newberry, but, the village cannot sign it until pertinent information, such as billing, is sent from Columbus Township.

“Several years ago, there were conversations about updating it, but there was an issue with one of the members of the township board not wanting to sign and it didn’t get signed,” Watkins said.

The most recent proposed agreement includes language that contradicts the Eastern U.P. agreement.

“The main problem comes from the language about reimbursement,” Watkins said. “The Columbus agreement has a signing away of any rights of any reimbursements where the Eastern U.P. agreement allows us to receive reimbursements for larger fires.”

Columbus Township is not part of the Eastern U.P. agreement at this time.

“The issue with the Eastern U.P. agreement is that none of the other townships listed all the other townships as additionally insured,” said Columbus Fire Chief Paul Gaberdiel. “And they didn’t share their insurance declaration with everybody listed as insured, and that is what our risk management person had come up with as to why we didn’t sign it.”

After a lengthy discussion, the board voted to begin billing Columbus Township for fire services rendered until an agreement is made between to two entities. Trustee Jack Olson voted against the motion.

The village has no intention to not respond to a Columbus fire while an agreement is not in place.

In another topic, Newberry High School English teacher Christine Rathje presented the board with three slide show presentations prepared by her students.

Rathje and some of her high school students evaluated needs for both Sherman and Atlas Parks located within the village.

The three improvement projects that the students would like to see take place are a skate park, Atlas Park ball field improvements, and updates to the Atlas Park volleyball court.

The presentations detailed ways to fund the projects and ways the students can participate.

Rathje stated that the same students will continue to work on their park projects when school is back in session. Members of the council provided feedback and were impressed with the students’ presentations.

In other news, the board approved a resolution to tentatively award a construction contract for Insituform Technologies USA, LLC at a bid of $643,747.09 for improvements to the wastewater collections systems.

The village infrastructure committee recommended moving forward with the bid, which is for the wastewater improvements Phase 1 of sewer lining.