By Sterling McGinn

Village residents will be asked on the November 2024 ballot to approve an additional fire millage for the Newberry Fire Department (NFD).

The decision to place the millage on the ballot was approved at the June meeting of the Newberry Village Council, which took place on Tuesday, June 18 at 6 p.m.

The millage, which would cover the village’s share of the cost of a fire truck and for fire department expenses, would be levied for 10 years beginning in 2025 through 2034. This millage, if approved by voters, would be in addition to the current fire protection millage.

“We are calling it a split millage—instead of two mills going specifically for a brand-new fire vehicle, the one mill will go toward operations to help get the fire fund up to where it needs to be to cover the expenses,” said Village Manager Allison Watkins. “The other one mill will be set aside specifically for vehicle upgrades – repair, maintenance, and purchase of fire vehicles.”

The money would be placed in the fire capital fund. Watkins said that the difference in labeling it as a new vehicle fund and a fund for upgrades and maintenance matters. If money is collected for a new vehicle, but the village could not buy a new fire vehicle, those funds could not legally be used to repair any existing fire vehicle.

“With the more relaxed language, we can still set it aside, and still dedicate to only purchasing and upgrades to vehicles, or whatever the council decides to do with it,” she said. “But the vehicle that is purchased would not need to be brand new, it could be a newer model from a different fire department that maybe gets a newer vehicle.”

Watkins said the village intends for all departments to pay for themselves through taxes or revenue. The fire fund is the only department that doesn’t pay for itself, operating $25,000 short. “To put that into perspective, $25,000 could resurface with tar and chip an entire block of a village street,” Watkins said.

However, Newberry Fire Chief John Wendt had previously told the Newberry News that he and his department would only support the millage request if funds from the additional millage were used solely for the purchase of a new truck.

The NFD is owned and operated by the Village of Newberry and expenses are shared with McMillan and Pentland townships. The cost of purchasing the new NFD truck would be shared between the three municipalities.

The discussion of the village’s role in administering the fire department was again discussed.

Trustee Darrell Schummer asked whether the village would be forced to continue overseeing the fire department for all 10 years of the proposed millage. Watkins said they would not have to.

Schummer also asked if the village is looking into seeing if McMillan Township could take over the fire department. Watkins said she will research the future of the village’s involvement in the fire department.

In other business, the board approved the purchase of a new backup generator for the wastewater treatment plant. The existing generator was installed in 1976 and replacement parts are not available.

The village also approved resurfacing three blocks of Handy Street from East McMillan to East Avenue C. Village staff will remove any existing asphalt before any work begins.

The board accepted a quote from Fahrner Asphalt Sealers to tar and chipping the road, and approved up to $9,000 for road grading and rolling by Norris Contracting.