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By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — The Colfax Village Board has accepted Village Trustee Keith Burcham’s resignation from the village board and has appointed his wife, Margaret Burcham, to the position.
Keith Burcham approached the village administrator and the village president about difficulties understanding what board members are saying, said Scott Gunnufson, village president, at the Colfax Village Board’s July 27 meeting.
Burcham has chosen to resign because of his concerns, he said.
“I appreciate everything everyone does to help,” Keith Burcham said.
Village Trustee Mark Halpin noted that he has “lots of time” while he is at dialysis to think and do research.
Keith Burcham is “an excellent board member,” and the village should offer accommodations to him because of his hearing impairment, Halpin said, noting that he had identified several voice-to-text applications that could help Burcham, such as Google Translate.
When asked his opinion about trying out a voice-to-text application, Burcham said he could not understand anything Halpin had said because of the face mask Halpin wore.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, one public health recommendation is that people should wear a face covering in public places where social distancing of six feet is not possible.
Halpin wore a mask during the meeting as did several other people attending the meeting.
According to Burcham’s letter of resignation, face masks are making it more difficult for him to interpret what people are saying because he cannot read their lips.
Gunnufson, who was not wearing a face mask, explained that Halpin had been talking about voice-to-text applications and that the village should offer accommodations to Burcham before accepting his resignation.
“I appreciate the offer, but it is wise to continue with the resignation,” Burcham said.
The Colfax Village Board unanimously accepted Keith Burcham’s resignation.
Burcham said he very much appreciated the opportunity to serve on the village board.
“I have learned so much,” he said.
Margaret Burcham, who had served on the village board until the spring election in April when Gary Stene gathered more votes from village residents, submitted a letter of interest for the village trustee vacancy.
Halpin noted that the village usually advertises vacancies on the village board in the newspaper.
The village president has the ability to appoint a trustee, and when there is no interest in the position, that’s when the village advertises the position, Gunnufson said.
Margaret Burcham was on the ballot in April, and “she has shown interest,” he said.
The Colfax Village Board approved a motion to appoint Margaret Burcham on a vote of four “yes” to one “no” and one abstention.
Voting in favor were Gunnufson and Village Trustees Logan Michels, Gary Stene and Anne Jenson.
Halpin voted “no” on the motion, and Keith Burcham abstained.
Village Trustee Carey Davis was absent from the meeting.
Here is Keith Burcham’s letter to the Colfax Village Board dated July 20, 2020:
Due to a moral dilemma, I am submitting my letter of resignation to the Colfax Village Board as a trustee.
As an elected member of the Board, it is my obligation to represent the residents of the Village of Colfax to the best of my ability. Unfortunately, it is the lack of my ability, which is a severe hearing impairment, to properly represent the Colfax residents.
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 concerns, more and more people are wearing masks in public, more and more people are utilizing Zoom and other technology to protect themselves and others during these unprecedented times.
My hearing impairment required me to learn to read lips at a young age as I am unable to hear certain sounds and have to use reading lips in conjunction with what sound I can hear, to interpret what a person is saying. Even with the most advanced hearing aids currently available on the market, a hearing aid is just basically a loudspeaker. It will not enable a person to hear sounds that they cannot hear in the first place. As previously mentioned, with the wearing of masks and call-in technology, I am unable to read lips to go along with my lack of hearing.
While the Village Board members have tried their best to work with me on this subject, for which I am most grateful, it has become increasingly difficult (and frustrating) to make a meaningful decision regarding Village Board considerations when I know I am not hearing all the facts.
I want to apologize to the residents of Colfax that I cannot fulfill my elected obligations, and I wanted to thank each Board member, past and present, for everything that you have done for me. Being on the Board has opened my eyes to how much the Board is dedicated to understanding and working for the residents of Colfax.
If the Board accepts this resignation, I prefer my last meeting as a member to be the July 27 meeting.
Signed — Keith Burcham.
Letter of interest
Margaret Burcham’s letter of interested is dated July 21, 2020:
I am submitting my letter of interest for a vacancy of Trustee on the Colfax Village Board.
I have recent experience up until the spring election of 2020 as a Trustee on the Colfax Village Board, and I am confident that I could fill the remainder of the vacancy term with little to no interruption.
Thank you in advance for your time and consideration.
Signed — Margaret Burcham