BERLIN — First considered a decade ago, the town of Berlin is finally moving ahead with the extension of water and sewer services north of town and just beyond Route 50.
The town also plans to continue to offer flexible payment plans for businesses wishing to purchase EDUs and become connected with water and sewer.
According to Mayor Gee Williams, interest from properties between Cheers service station and Route 50 hooking up to the town water and sewer grid was high 10 years ago but gradually faded, especially during the recent recession. Now, with Berlin experiencing an economic boost of sorts over the last two years, the Berlin Mayor and Council agreed that the time to offer those services has finally come.
“It’s just the timing … it’s a business decision,” said Williams.
Of the properties in that area, Williams revealed that several commercial entities have already come to the town requesting the option to be a part of Berlin’s water and sewer network. In addition to commercial operations, any residential properties in the new coverage zone will also be able to take advantage of the town services.
“They can’t expand without water and sewer from the town,” Williams said of Berlin’s northern neighbors.
With the new service, however, Williams predicted that business around Route 50 should boom.
“The holy grail is … the availability of sewer and waste water,” he said.
Town Administrator Tony Carson agreed.
“It’s virtually undevelopable right now,” he said of the area.
A contract for $28,500 for the design phase services necessary to extend water and sewer was awarded to the Davis, Bowen and Friedel firm Monday night. The current timeline of six months of design and three months of construction should mean that interested properties north of town will be able to plug into Berlin water and sewer by the end of the calendar year.
“It’ll be about 9-10 months from now,” said Carson.
Once services are installed, any properties that are in the coverage area and part of the town itself will be able to plug in. Properties not incorporated will be able to annex into Berlin with council approval, with every instance judged on a case-by-case basis.
“There’s different ways for residents to initiate that,” said Carson.
For businesses already established in Berlin, the council continued with a recently adopted strategy that offers flexibility when purchasing EDUs. Any property that uses the town’s water and sewer system must have enough EDUs to balance out their water usage. During the worst of the recession, Berlin’s EDU sales stalled, with only eight sold in 2009 and 4 sold in 2010.
Since then, sales have spiked, with 38 EDUs sold in 2011 and 2012 on track to have strong sales as well.
“We’ve recovered that quickly,” said Williams.
He attributed a lot of the success to flexible payment plans for EDUs, with the town now allowing them to be paid for over an up to five-year period if approved by the council. That policy, along with other business friendly strategies like the aforementioned expansion of water and sewer coverage, has served as a booster shot for Berlin’s economy, allowing it to grow while many others have gone stagnant, according to Williams.
“What we’re seeing is an investment in the town all over … business people are truly invested in the community,” he said.
Williams singled out developer Ernest Gerardi in particular for the personal investments he has made in Berlin, including two new restaurants, both of which are slated to open this summer.
“Everything you’ve touched has turned out so very well,” Williams told Gerardi.
For businesses hoping to soften start-up expenses, Williams said that the flex pay plan for EDUs should help owners “pull the trigger” and open earlier than they otherwise might be able to afford if forced to pay for their EDUs immediately.
“The cash flow in the beginning is all one way: the wrong way,” he said of opening a business. “This is not pocket change either.”