I had the unfortunate experience of attending an exercise in futility – the public hearing on the Berlin stormwater utility. It was a standing-room only meeting. There were quite a few people who spoke against the stormwater utility, I was one. Those that spoke in favor of it were mostly people who wanted something done, no matter what. Several non-residents spoke in favor because of environmental considerations. We were then congratulated on our good deportment and respect for our differing views, a now standard speech of Mayor Gee Williams.
Toward the end of the meeting, there was a comment from the back of the room which was acknowledged and answered, I believe, and then another man up front stood up and asked about the drainage ditches that had been discussed at the previous council meeting. He was told rather abruptly that we weren’t going there, and he should have signed up to speak. When he tried to talk, Mayor Williams loudly slammed his gavel and said the hearing was done. It seems the audience is expected to behave in a polite manner, but the mayor, council and administrator are allowed to disrespect the public they serve. Many people left at that point. However, the hearing was not over as the mayor and council allowed Mr. Bergey to address them regarding the 60 businesses that were not in favor of this ordinance. I think the mayor summarily dismissed him too. Council members have continually asked Mr. Bergey why he had waited so long to come forward with his concerns, as if this was not a public hearing where such concerns were supposed to be heard. They proceeded to vote on the ordinance and resolution and passed both unanimously, so the hearing was basically orchestrated to fulfill the procedures of the town. I would have felt better about the decision if they had tabled it and at least pretended to evaluate the testimony of the public hearing, and then passed the ordinance and resolution at the next council meeting.
As with all that has been involved with the mayor’s desire to have this stormwater utility, the hearing was a waste of taxpayer time and money. The Feasibility Study done by the Environmental Finance Center spent much of the study justifying the EFC’s presence in Berlin by documenting all of its "outreach" or propaganda efforts. The study presented the benefits of a stormwater utility as the only “feasible” option to finance the stormwater efforts of Berlin. It told us very little about how they were going to fix the flooding. We waited over a year for this study to tell us what the Mayor and Council had already decided they were going to do – with or without citizen approval. In September 2011, Ms. Throwe of the Environmental Finance Center gave a presentation in Wisconsin, Ill. at the ICMA annual conference entitled "Exploring Stormwater Utilities". In her presentation, she used Berlin and Ocean City as "Case studies from the Mid-Atlantic region." To say she had no vested interest in our “independent” study is ludicrous. This is what she does for a living — promotes stormwater utilities.
This also means that while we waited for this farcical study to be presented, Berlin continued to flood, and this Mayor, Council and administration did nothing to rectify the situation, nothing. Did anyone see any of their stormwater ponds or ditches cleaned in the last year? Perhaps if they had used the $20,000 supposedly budgeted for stormwater management to clean and repair the ditches throughout the town they wouldn’t have had to use it to pump out flood waters in August and October 2012.
Well, they got what they wanted. So now they are charged with taking care of the stormwater issues in Berlin and they have no more excuses. I have lived at my address since 1976 and watched the waters rise with the development of Berlin. The development which, by the way, has obviously not been of any benefit to the citizens since another fee is necessary to cure the problems created by the “great prosperity” brought on by all the “progress” Berlin has experienced over the years. Evidently the tax base is still not big enough. With each new development, I watched the waters rise around me and my property recede. Never did I see the town do anything to replace the stormwater infrastructure that had to handle the new development, and most of the current council was in office the last 10 years and more. Before they spend money on a new community center, police station, street paving, sidewalks, lights that don’t need replacing or whatever other agendas they may have, they should resolve the stormwater issues they have been instrumental in creating. I expect in the very near future, to see improvements on my street (Area 1 in the Army Corps of Engineers study), or I will gladly work with other irate citizens to replace this Mayor and Council in the next elections.
It’s Called A New Tax
The Town of Berlin is raising its taxes. Every property owner within the town will soon be paying a separate tax (most likely included on your monthly sewer bill to disguise it) to pay for portion of the town’s multi-million dollar storm water management plan.
As a gainfully-employed conservative, I am no longer surprised when spendthrift government officials find a new way to tax me. It disheartens me, however to know that this is one more tax; one more burden rested on the shoulders of the good people of this town.
It is difficult to say when, because the American Spirit is resolute, but one day the burden will become too heavy; and the spendthrifts will wake up to a world with no one there to pay for them.
Ryan Bergey, CPA
Fair A Success
The Delmarva Education Foundation would like to thank the sponsors, donors and volunteers who made our second annual Scholarship Fair on Saturday, Jan. 12 an overwhelming success. More than 500 students from 20 different high schools in nine counties on the Delmarva Peninsula, along with military veterans, returning adults learners and vocational education students, attended the Scholarship Fair held at The Centre at Salisbury Mall to find money to continue their education.
Scholarship Fair sponsors were the Community Foundation of the Eastern Shore, The Bank of Delmarva, Pocomoke City Elks Lodge #1624, The Centre at Salisbury mall, Wor-Wic Community College Bookstore, Pepsi, Kitty’s Flowers, Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce and TD Digital Printers, Inc.
Special thanks to Scholarship Fair partners Kids of Honor & Horizons at The Salisbury School, Scholarship Fair spokesman Kaitlyn Austin; financial aid experts Amanda Brumfield from Wor-Wic Community College, James Kellam from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, and Janet Reed from Delaware Technical and Community College; high school counselors Derrick Fooks, Worcester County; Janice Cottman, Somerset County; and Faye Stearns, Wicomico County; and all of our dedicated and hard-working volunteers.
The Delmarva Education Foundation is funded entirely through community support, donations and grants; all funding is returned directly to the community through DEF’s programs and services.
Rota L. Knott
(The writer is DEF’s executive director.)
The Lower Shore Society of Women Leaders would like to thank your paper and our partners, the Carl M. Freeman Foundation~Freeman Stage at Bayside, Atlantic General Hospital, Peninsula Regional Medical Center, OC Marlin Club and The Wedding Center at City Center for promoting the Jan. 15 CPR Challenge, which was held at the Marlin Club in W. Ocean City.
The mission of the Lady’s Night Out—CPR training is to introduce basic CPR to as many women on the shore as possible. The evening was a great success with a room full of enthusiastic young mothers, professionals and grandmothers. When participants began to ask, “When will you hold another CPR training like this, I’d like my friends and family to attend next time…”, we knew the program was a success. Learning basic CPR is one of the most important lifesaving skills that one should know. When a child or an adult goes into cardiac arrest, knowing basic CPR can mean alter the lives of individuals and their families forever.
The next scheduled “Lady’s Night Out”, 45 minute CPR training will be held in Salisbury on Feb. 13, 5:30 p.m. at the Wedding Center at City Center, Downtown Salisbury. To register, contact Patti at 443-880-7795 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On behalf of the Lower Shore Chapter of the American Red Cross, we again, thank our partners for supporting a program which will be implemented in Ocean City, Salisbury and in communities from lower Delaware to the Cape Charles, Va.
Together, we’ll change lives and save lives on the Eastern Shore.
(The writer is the ambassador of the Lower Shore Chapter of the American Red Cross.)