BERLIN — As part of their effort to join the Sustainable Maryland Certified (SMC) initiative, Berlin officials are asking town residents to speak up and take part in a survey that will be used to assess a variety of community conditions.
The survey will seek data on everything from stormwater management complaints and natural resources, to input on recycling and personal health and wellness. Officials plan on using information learned via the survey to help develop a list of community priorities.
“You’re actually gaining insight from them on what is important,” said Town Administrator Tony Carson.
Deputy Town Administrator Mary Bohlen described the surveys as giving “a better picture of what citizens are interested in.” Additionally, Carson explained that the assessment would also aid the town in gauging how informed the community is about certain issues. He noted that some residents may be unaware of Berlin’s recycling program or other sustainability projects. Therefore, he believes the survey is killing two birds with one stone, helping both the town and its residents learn more about what Bohlen called “the health of the community.”
Offering the survey is part of the overall effort being made by Berlin to earn the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES) Environmental Finance Center’s SMC status.
“The survey itself is a required part of becoming a sustainable Maryland community,” said Bohlen.
Last summer, Berlin became the first municipality in Maryland to register for SMC. The program evaluates communities on a 150-point judging system, with the points divided between several categories like stormwater management, recycling, and the other criteria measured by the survey. According to the town website, “using best practices in resource areas like water, energy, land use, health, food, and economy, a municipality can receive sustainability certification.”
Carson added that the survey would tie in with the continuing efforts of the UMES Finance Center’s storm water research project.
“It certainly works hand-in-hand with stormwater,” he said.
So far, community input has been tepid. Bohlen estimated only 30 or so surveys had been completed as of this newspaper’s deadline. However, she attributes that to residents not knowing about the assessment, or how important it is to providing the town leadership advice on what improvements the community wants to see most.
“It really is a very short survey,” she added. “It only takes a few minutes.”
Carson clarified that the SMC rating wasn’t something the town decided to go for out of the blue and that many points listed in the initiative are already covered by current Berlin practices.
“A lot of these things we’ve already been doing,” he said.
Following that same thought, Carson said that SMC “works so well in Berlin because of all the environmental initiatives we do.”
“It improves your community,” he said.
Bohlen explained that public input is “vital” to the survey process and urged all residents to take part since everyone is affected by at least some, if not all, of the issues being discussed. Residents can take the survey by logging onto the town’s website and following the Sustainable Community Survey link at the top of the page.