BERLIN – Town children will be able to track a new ice cream truck cruising through the streets in the traditional way, by the music it plays, after the Berlin Town Council granted truck owner Glenn Deskins an exception.
“It’s kind of difficult to run the ice cream truck without it,” Deskins told the council.
The sounds played by his ice cream truck are music, not a bell, Deskins said, comprising 12 to 15 different tunes.
Council member Ellen Lang likened the sounds to a calliope.
Deskins, a retired firefighter and police officer with nearly 27 years of public safety experience, began his ice cream venture after retiring, when his wife decided he needed something to do, he said.
In order to do business, he needed the council to agree to two exceptions to the town code.
“If I could get the extension to 8 p.m., that would be wonderful,” he said. “The second thing, the most important thing, is the bell ringing. When I was a kid, it was the only way I knew the ice cream truck was around.”
Berlin’s code prohibits vendors and solicitors from plying their trade after 6 p.m. Deskins said he needed an extension until 8 p.m. because he does not expect much business between 5-6 p.m., when parents are heading home from work and fixing a meal.
The code also prohibits vendors from using loud speech or music to promote their wares.
Deskins said he would turn the music off when serving children. His research revealed that parents and neighborhood residents appreciate that. “I don’t want to be a nuisance to anyone,” he said.
Mayor Tom Cardinale asked about restrictions on the music on Sunday mornings, when many attend church services.
“The time is already set. It starts at 9,” said Berlin Police Chief Arnold Downing. “He gets to conduct business. … We’re looking at an ordinance that’s already in place. He’s asking to extend the end time.”
Council member Paula Lynch asked Deskins why, since he lives in Ocean Pines, he wants to operate in the Berlin area.
The Ocean Pines Association (OPA) nixed the idea, he said. While the OPA had no problem with the music, it was concerned over its own ice cream selling venues, the Yacht Club and the pools.
“They thought it was in direct competition with the OPA,” Deskins said. “I don’t know if there’s a lot of kids there at the Yacht Club.”
Lynch also expressed concern over Deskins ‘venture possibly competing with local ice cream sellers like Rayne’s Reef and Boomers. “Those people are paying taxes,” Lynch said.
Council member Gee Williams questioned how many children would be walking to those establishments to buy ice cream.
Lynch retorted that walking is what the “new urbanism” concept recently espoused by some council and planning commission members, is about.
Williams said that transforming the town into a walkable space would take decades, from 30 to 40 years.
Downing reminded the council that Deskins, by code is already allowed to operate in the town between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m.
Lynch expressed concern that Deskins, like ice cream vendors she’s seen in Ocean City, would leave the truck’s music on for 20 minutes while serving customers.
“Once he stops, it’s off,” said Downing.
“My number one goal is the children’s safety,” Deskins said. “The vehicle is 100 percent safe. It’s got the flashing lights and everything. It’s well marked.”
Downing said the police department’s concerns had been answered. “I think the exception is warranted,” he said.
The council approved both exceptions.