Berlin To Ask County Again For More Capacity To Grow

SNOW HILL – Berlin plans to formally ask the County Commissioners for more sewer capacity, the town informed elected officials this week, less than a month after the county reduced Berlin’s sewer expansion.

“The town is going to be coming back to the commissioners to modify their plan to the full one million gallons per day that was requested in the formal application,” consultant Mark Prouty informed the commissioners Tuesday during a hearing on a separate matter, the expansion of the Berlin water system. “We do see a long term need in the town for those types of flow rates.”

In December, the commissioners reduced the town’s request to expand sewer from 1.4 million gallons per day (mgd) total to 750,000 gallons per day (gpd).

Berlin asked for a water increase of 400,000 gpd, for a total of one million gpd, to handle future growth. Town officials say they are simply planning for growth.

“The sewer system was only increased to 750,000 gpd. Shouldn’t this be comparable?” Commissioner Louise Gulyas asked.

“That’s really kind of up to you at this point,” Comprehensive Planning Director Sandy Coyman said.

The water system proposal was submitted to the county before the commissioners made the sewer decision, he explained.      

“We asked for one million [in sewer],” said Prouty, which was subsequently cut. “I don’t know that you carefully looked at the numbers. I don’t know if we provided you with the numbers.”

Unbuilt in-town development and infill lots within Berlin’s borders need 1,500 EDUs, Berlin Councilwoman Paula Lynch said.

The limited expansion from 600,000 gpd to 750,000 gpd of sewer will not work, she added.

The county has already ensured that the town will take all discharge out of the creek and dispose of effluent by land application, and the request for more capacity would not change that, she said.

Keeping the lesser amount of expansion has practical implications.

“That ups the cost dramatically and someone has to pay for this,” said Lynch. “You plan for 10 to 20 years, you don’t plan for five years.”

One million gpd each of sewer and water capacity would yield 1,600 EDUs.

“It’s sort of a marriage of the water and sewer system to get them both on the same track,” said Coyman.

Gulyas agreed the two request go hand in hand, saying, “If they’re raising the question for water, they’re raising the question for sewer.”

Berlin Mayor Tom Cardinale wants to see a balance.

“It seems to me there should be a balance. One million in, one million out,” he said.

This expansion of the water system would not take care of all future water needs, according to Coyman.

“It would not completely cover what we’d ID’d in the comprehensive plan. We’d ID’d 2,700 units in the growth areas and Berlin,” Coyman said.

The town can apply for more capacity as growth uses water and sewer capacity.

The town cannot request state permits before the commissioners add the capacity expansion to the county water and sewer plan.

“That’s to prevent the county having permits thrust upon them,” Environmental Programs Director Bob Mitchell said.

There is no guarantee the Maryland Department of the Environment will agree with the size of the expansion request.

The town has not settled on a way to increase its capacity with options to increase flows at the three wells the town already has or to add another well.

“Usually when towns bring us something they say, ‘this is what we want to do,’” said Commissioner Judy Boggs. “I’m wondering which option the city wants us to consider.”

Coyman acknowledged, “This is a bit more open ended than what we usually deal with.”

Therefore, Boggs said she has difficulty voting on what’s before her.

 “I don’t think I can vote on that at all because I don’t know what option you’re going to do,” Boggs said. “I can’t ask the appropriate questions because I don’t know which you’re going to do. …         I’m not seeing anything specific I can vote on.”

Commissioner Bud Church said, “I don’t know if it makes much of a difference.”

Commission President Jim Purnell said he did not see a whole lot of problems,”

“I don’t see anything wrong with the request the way it is,” Church said.

The town has not decided on the most cost effective and efficient approach.

Commissioner Virgil Shockley asked if Berlin would look at expanding flows at the three town wells before considering a new well.

“I can’t say that adamantly that will be the case,” Prouty said.

The commissioners amended the water and sewer plan to allow Berlin to expand water capacity to one million gpd, by a vote of 6=1, with Boggs dissenting.

During the discussion, Gulyas left the door open to be receptive to increasing the sewer capacity.

“I don’t have a problem with the proposal. My problem is, did we make an error with the sewer?” Gulyas said. “Maybe we didn’t increase it enough.”