BERLIN — At this week’s Berlin Mayor and Council meeting, a returning service member was honored, a rules and regulations ordinance for town parks was passed, voter re-districting was discussed and an update on the Berlin wind turbine project was given.
Turbine Work Soon
Berlin’s first wind turbine, which will be located at the former Rayne’s property off of Old Ocean City Boulevard, has recently had its base set.
“The foundation for the wind turbine at the Rayne’s property has been installed,” said Electric Utility Director Tim Lawrence. “It’s an eight-inch flange pipe that has a bolted top on it.”
Construction of the turbine will continue once the main pole arrives, which Lawrence expects within the next few weeks. The town already has the generator and the blades for the turbine stored and ready.
The 50kw, 85-foot turbine was first pitched to the town last January and has seen a site change and a few other delays over the past year. Once installed, it will be the first of its kind, a direct drive turbine built without a rotor cog.
Returning Police Officer,
The council began the meeting with a proclamation for Berlin Police Officer Merle Bragg, Jr., who has been with the town since 1996. But Bragg also holds the rank of Sergeant Major in the United States Army and has seen multiple deployments overseas, including from September 2001 to July 2002, February 2003 to January 2004 and finally from July 2004 until November 2013.
Bragg has been part of Operation “Iraqi Freedom” in Iraq and Operation “Enduring Freedom” in Afghanistan. He was also sent to the Pentagon in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Bragg has returned to serving with the Berlin Police Department as of this month.
“We’re all very, very happy and very proud,” said Mayor Gee Williams. “There’s just no way to express our appreciation but thank goodness the good lord saw fit to bring you back home.”
Parks Ordinance Passes
An ordinance governing the rules and regulations of town parks was unanimously passed this week despite some snags in the past.
The ordinance, which defines the use of parks for everything from dog walking to vehicle repair, has seen a number of revisions since first being introduced in September. These alterations mainly revolved around whether or not town parks can be used to conduct private business and, if so, what rules should govern that.
Councilman Dean Burrell was adamantly opposed to allowing any private business in public parks when the ordinance was first discussed, saying, “I’m on record as being opposed to for-profit making individuals utilizing public facilities for their personal gain.” However, the ordinance passed this week unanimously with a section allowing the use of the parks for “activity in which money is exchanged for goods or services” if the individual has written permission from the council to do so.
There were no comments during the public hearing prior to the ordinance being passed. The only remarks made were by Williams, who felt that, while it took more time and effort than initially expected to craft the ordinance, the town now has something that satisfies everyone.
“I think after a good public discussion, we have addressed the updating of this ordinance in a way that I think meets the needs of the parks commission, the police department, the zoning director and also, I think, makes it a fairly straight forward and simple process for businesses who have a valid reason to do business in the parks,” he said.
Redistricting A Result
Of New Census Data
With the numbers now processed from Berlin’s last population Census, some districts are going to have to be re-drawn to even out voters.
“Because of changes in population, changes in building developments, the districts have become significantly skewed over the last 10 years and so we do need to bring those districts back into balance,” said Mary Bohlen, deputy town administrator.
The ideal district size is 1,124 voters but currently some districts in Berlin teeter closer to 1,200 or more while others dip below 1,000. The goal is to re-draw the maps to get all districts within 5 percent of the ideal. Bohlen expects the maps and numbers to come to her office by Dec. 6.
“I’m going to try to meet with the Board of Elections the following week to show them the various plans and to get their input on it,” she told the council.
The re-districting could divide some streets into different districts, something that Councilwoman Lisa Hall was disappointed by. But Bohlen explained that it was just part of the reality of a shifting population.
“Unfortunately, there’s just no other way to do it,” she said. “Those lines have to go somewhere.”