BERLIN – The Berlin Town Council created a subcommittee for electric sale negotiations Monday in an attempt to streamline and speed up the so far arduous process.
“It seems much more practical than what we’ve been trying to do which is to get the entire council together every tine we’ve got a decision to make,” said Council Vice President Gee Williams.
At the rate the negotiations have been going, Williams said they will never be complete. The sale was approved by public referendum in September 2006, and the town originally anticipated signing contracts in January 2007.
Town attorney Dave Gaskill consulted with the Maryland Attorney General’s office on the subcommittee to avoid problems with the open meetings law, said Williams.
Mayor Tom Cardinale asked Gaskill for a written legal opinion, which the mayor read at Monday’s meeting. That document concludes that, with less than a quorum of the council present, the subcommittee can meet and discuss terms without violating the Open Meetings act. Gaskill was not available for comment.
Cardinale, Williams and at-large council member Paula Lynch will sit on the committee.
“I am more than willing to offer my seat to anybody who wants it,” joked Lynch.
“Somebody’s got to do it. I’m sure it’s going to be a lot of fun,” Williams said.
Cardinale reiterated the subcommittee by itself could not approve any contract.
“Any agreement must be approved in public by the town council,” said Cardinale.
Even when the document is signed, the deal is not complete.
“The [Maryland] Public Service Commission has the final word. Please keep that in mind,” said Cardinale. “Just because it’s signed, it’s not done.”
Concerned resident Marge Coyman asked, “Is there not going to be a public referendum?”
There will be a public presentation, Williams answered.
Another concerned resident, Sue Beaman, told the council, “It just feels as if this is another way to avoid telling the public what’s going on.”
Williams said the public would learn more, as the subcommittee will have to bring its recommendations before the town council, in public.
“We’d rather do more here and have less burden in executive session,” Williams said.