Community On Its Own with Drainage Problem

BERLIN- The Townes of Berlin homeowners association must continue to take care of its own stormwater ditches, the Berlin Town Council concluded Monday night.

“We’ve never asked for anything. Why do we pay taxes, honestly? Why do we pay taxes for services we don’t receive?” asked Ron Facello, vice president of the Townes of Berlin homeowners’ association. According to Facello, the town of Berlin does not handle trash pick-up or snow removal for the community, they say due to the nature of the road.

Facello learned of the Berlin Town Council’s decision on the ditches from a newspaper reporter.

“They made no attempt to contact me or let me know any information. That’s very disappointing,” Facello said. “They’ll definitely let us know when the taxes are due.”

Fred Pierdon, chair of the town’s Infrastructure Committee for the Corps of Engineers Stormwater Study, reported to the Town Council Monday night that the ditches are located entirely on private property and are not part of Berlin’s stormwater plan.

Late Mayor Tom Cardinale asked the Infrastructure Committee to take a look at the situation a few weeks ago, shortly before his unexpected death.

The ditches on the north side of the development’s property belong entirely to Townes of Berlin, while the community splits ownership of the south ditch, Pierdon said.

According to Pierdon, there are thousands of ditches on private property in Berlin.

Facello went before the Berlin Town Council last month to plead with town elected officials for help with the swales that border the property, because, he said, they hold standing water and never drain.

The stormwater structures around the property are actually ditches, not swales, according to the town.

“A swale is meant to drain and become dry. A ditch is not necessarily meant to become dry,” Pierdon said.

The town should be ready to advise the Townes of Berlin association, Pierdon said, but not get further involved.

“I can’t imagine the town getting into the business of maintaining hundreds or thousands of private ditches,” interim Mayor Gee Williams said.

Williams agreed that town staff should lend advice and assistance to the Townes of Berlin homeowners’ association, such as directing the group to recommended engineering firms, but not intervene directly.

The Townes of Berlin has already asked for advice from the acting Director of Public Works, Wendell Purnell, but Purnell advised the community to ask the Berlin Town Council for help, Facello said.

“We’re just looking for help mainly because of the health concerns with the standing water and the mosquitoes,” Facello said in a telephone interview this week. “Standing water is obviously not a good thing and we just wanted some help with that.”

The community has already spent a tremendous amount of money trying to improve the ditches but made little progress, he said.

“Does anyone think the town should get into the business of maintaining private ditches?” Williams asked the Council Monday night, getting no response. He added, “We have neither the legal authority or the means.”

Pierdon had some advice for the homeowners’ association Monday night.

“These ditches are lined with trees. Those trees absorb a tremendous amount of water and put it back into the atmosphere,” Pierdon said. “If there’s any tree cutting it needs to be very selective.”

“I’m not asking for everything,” said Facello. “Nobody ever contacted me. I made myself available. Once again, we’ve been snubbed.”