BERLIN — Now that residents in all four districts in Berlin have had a chance to present their individual complaints, the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES) Environmental Finance Center will spend the next few months brainstorming ways to solve stormwater issues in the town.
Center Director Joanne Throwe called the four district meetings a “great opportunity to determine key problems” with stormwater management in Berlin.
“Berlin is at a point where it’s a great time for them to start building a sustainable program long-term,” she said.
Beginning last month, residents in Berlin were able to deliver their personal experiences with stormwater, specifically the flooding associated with it, directly to Throwe in a serious of town-hall meetings. The fourth and final district meeting took place Tuesday, and now Throwe and her team have allocated time to examining the results, looking for similarities and trying to determine which districts have the severest issues.
“Internally, we need to assess what we’ve heard and to review it … we have to look at it systematically,” she said.
While some stormwater issues in town have already been identified, Throwe stressed that the problems don’t appear to be insurmountable at this time. She also noted that Berlin is being “proactive instead of reactive” in dealing with stormwater, which she said is the exception for most communities, not the rule.
“I applaud them,” Throwe said of town leadership, citing their “aggressive nature” in confronting stormwater before an emergency arises instead of after.
“I’m just really grateful that we’ve got people who know this stuff to help us,” said Mayor Gee Williams.
Though Throwe’s team plans on discussing issues with the town next month, Williams has seen some of the preliminary reports and shares Throwe’s confidence that Berlin will be able to address any and all stormwater complaints.
“This is not beyond the capacity of the town if we have the will and support of the community,” he said.
Even though the town hall meetings are over, Throwe and her team will still be collecting stormwater grievances and remarks from residents as they work on crafting a recommendation.
“We’re going to be there throughout the year,” she said.
By next summer, Throwe plans on having a list of solutions, both “green” and “gray,” to present to the council.
Green solutions are those with little to know negative impact on the environment and could be something as innocuous as adding more rain barrels to the town.
Gray solutions are typically more drastic and could include adding underground drainage.
Throwe expects her proposal to the town to be a combination of green and gray ideas. She added that her team will only be making recommendations. It will be up to the council to follow through.
“It’ll be in their hands to act on it,” Throwe said.
According to Williams, there won’t be any hold-ups on the town’s end.
“It’s not like anyone needed to convince me we need to do this,” he joked.
Though cost is always an issue when implementing any new town programs, Williams said that stormwater management is a priority and that it has a “real effect on personal property and business property.”
“It’s not going to get any better by itself … the longer we ignore it, the worse it is going to get,” Williams said.