Berlin, Developer Eye Wastewater Deal Terms

BERLIN – A document outlining the deal between the town of Berlin and Berlin Properties North (BPN) to build a wastewater plant at the old Tyson chicken processing facility north of town has been delayed and is waiting on minor changes for approval.

The Berlin Town Council postponed signing the deal this week, tabling the inking of the document during the council meeting Monday night.

According to town Administrator Linda Bambary, the memorandum of understanding needs only minor changes before it can be signed, setting the second Berlin wastewater plant in motion, but the document needs to be reviewed again by both the town and BPN before final approval. Originally, the memorandum was nothing more than a bulleted list, Bambary said, but is now in the final stages of being put into legal form.

BPN and the Berlin Utilities Commission (BUC) will review the memorandum changes before the Town Council signs it, most likely on July 23.

The memorandum is the forerunner of a more formal contract between Berlin and BPN.

“It’s general in nature. Then a definitive agreement would be worked out,” Bambary said.

One thing that is known is that BPN will pay for 150,000 gallons per day of wastewater capacity necessary for the mixed-use development intended for the site. The cost has not yet been determined.

The town will have two wastewater plants when construction is complete, with the current plant being de-rated to handle only 400,000 gallons per day, which can be discharged onto spray irrigation fields, and the new plant at the redeveloped Tyson site handling a total of 600,000 gallons per day.

Bambary expects that the new plant will likely be available to serve the entire town and not be a separate service area. “It’s too early to tell,” she said.

The development, to be called Crossroads, would consist of 300 homes and 100,000 square feet of retail and office space and be located east of Main Street off Route 346.

With literally years of wrangling over wastewater capacity for the project, the plan has come full circle, according to Purnell, back to his first proposal to use the Tyson site’s discharge permit to build a plant on site.

Allocation of wastewater capacity in Berlin has been strictly curtailed in recent years, with a high demand for service to new residential and commercial properties conflicting with dwindling existing capacity.

Developer Troy Purnell concluded that a separate plant would allow him to proceed with the Crossroads project.

The public-private partnership may be unique in Maryland, according to Council Vice President Gee Williams.

“Normally, towns build their own plants,” Bambary said.

The plan for the new facility has Purnell and BPN building the plant, with the town kicking in its share of the cost. Bambary said she did not know how the town would handle the financial process.

“We have to let the public know how we’re using those funds,” Bambary said.

The plant has a long way to go before the first shovel of dirt is dug.

The annexation process for the property, which lies along Berlin’s north border, will most likely begin after both parties sign a wastewater contract. Bambary said that annexing the property before the wastewater plant is approved by county and state could end in problems, if the plant does not get the go ahead. The annexation would probably be tied into the approval of the plant by county and state agencies.

“It’s a work in progress,” Bambary said.