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By Sterling McGinn

The Newberry Village Council announced at their October regular meeting that a public hearing will be held in November for the consideration of a $3 increase to their monthly sewer rates.

The meeting was held Tuesday, October 18 at 6 p.m. There were six members of the public in attendance.

A public hearing regarding the potential rate increase will be held on Tuesday, November 15 at 6 p.m. in the Water and Light building, at which point  comments regarding the matter can be given by members of the public. The item will be on the agenda during the regular council session that will take place immediately following the hearing.

The council is proposing an increase from $35 to $38 per month due to inflation, rising operation costs and needed improvements in the wastewater system.

The Village of Newberry was awarded an $840,000 grant and an $840,000 low-interest loan from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) Clean Water State Revolving Fund. The funds will be used for improvements to the sewer system. The repayment of the loan also accounts for the needed increase in sewer rates.

“The rate increase is primarily because of the bond but also for inflation,” said village manager Allison Watkins. “It helps us get ahead of the game when we have to start making the bond payments.”

The board will also consider an annual percentage increase that could take effect in 2024 and continue yearly.

If the council approves the proposal at their November meeting, the rate increase would take effect January 1, 2023.

In other business, representatives from Northern Sand and Gravel requested permission to drill a well at their cement plant on East Victory Way, which was formerly Newberry Redi-Mix.

Allison Watkins noted that she received a letter regarding the request for a well. “For my position, I don’t think there is enough information for a decision to be made today,” said Watkins.

Northern Sand and Gravel would like to have a second source of water available at their facility which is located within the village limits.

“It’s not a money issue…our main issue is having another water supply,” said Allan VanSloten, president of Northern Sand and Gravel.

“We are planning to put a new plant up and we want it state of the art. We have back up in cement storage and everything, but we don’t have a backup in our water supply.”

“If we were to do a large pour, and something failed in the village water supply, or our meter had problems at our site, we have to have a contingency plan when we are doing State work or important work for the community,” explained Kathleen VanSloten.

The VanSlotens provided the council with letters from the Michigan Department of Transportation and the Michigan Concrete Association supporting the need for the additional water supply.

Currently, the village has an ordinance prohibiting wells to be drilled in the village limits. There is a stipulation that a well could be permitted if the village water or sewer cannot be reasonably supplied.

“There is a law stating that no wells are allowed to be drilled in the village limits,” stated trustee Dennis Hendrickson. “There was a business a few years back that wanted to put a well in because of the iron bacteria and it was denied, and they closed their doors,” Hendrickson said. “If we open our doors, who else is going to come knocking.”

No action was taken on the matter that evening. The item will be brought to the infrastructure committee for recommendations moving forward.

Other business that evening included reports from village officers and management, payment of bills, and reports from village boards and committees.