Berlin Council To Keep Water Limits

BERLIN – Water restrictions laid down in mid-August will stay in place, the Berlin Mayor and Council decided this week.

“We’re still in a very dry situation. Even the state’s concerned,” said Mayor Tom Cardinale. “Our water situation is serious. That’s all I can say.”

The council considered dropping the restrictions, despite the continuing low water levels, because enforcing the water limits is problematic.

“We might as well lift it. It’s not being enforced,” said Councilman Elroy Brittingham.

Cardinale agreed about the enforcement woes, saying, “I’ve said it was flawed since day one because of not being able to enforce it.”

The regulations restrict lawn and garden watering, including underground sprinkler systems, to Mondays and Thursdays from 7 p.m.-8 a.m. Watering by hand container is permitted every day.

Illicit use of underground sprinklers will result in the irrigation system’s water being disconnected with other violations incurring a small fine.

Berlin’s citizens are not embracing the restrictions on their own, and Cardinale described seeing sprinklers running during a thunderstorm.

“Do you want a green lawn or do you want to take a bath?” Cardinale said. “You’ve got to take responsibility on your own.”

Councilwoman Ellen Lang supports the limits. “I don’t think we should lift it,” said Lang. “Just because there are people who aren’t being responsible doesn’t mean we as a government body shouldn’t be. …  “It’s a valuable resource.”

Cardinale agreed the town needs to conserve water, whether or not there is a drought.

Under the restrictions, violations will cost the malefactor only $25 per incident.

“When you say $25, maybe they don’t take it serious,” Cardinale said.

The town assesses dog owners $400 at a time for a loose dog, Lang said, but substantially less for water transgressions. She suggested the council increase the fine for violations of the water use restrictions.

Councilwoman Paula Lynch thought it might be a little late in the year to worry about changing the fine.

Grass is about to go dormant for the winter, an unidentified resident in the audience said, and the watering of lawns should naturally decrease.

“Plenty of time to revisit it by next July,” agreed town attorney Dave Gaskill.

Only five warning letters have been issued to violators, according to Cardinale.

Water department staff has spoken to other violators, Lang said.

“It’s a difficult thing to enforce. We have to rely on people to be responsible,” Cardinale said.