Infrastructure Group’s Future Uncertain In Berlin

BERLIN – Questions over the future of the ad hoc Infrastructure Advisory Committee’s purpose and continued existence arose at Monday night’s Berlin Mayor and Council meeting during a discussion of a study to look at the results of the Army Corps of Engineers storm water analysis.

The council pushed a decision back another month until new staff is up to speed.

Council member Ellen Lang questioned whether the Infrastructure Committee, called together by late Mayor Tom Cardinale, should be voted into official being under the regulations set down by the Berlin code.

The council would need to pass a resolution to that effect, interim Mayor Gee Williams said.  Part of the dilemma is the decision on whether to pursue another assessment of town stormwater problems, which could require some oversight by the Infrastructure Committee.

Earlier this month, the council received a proposal from Davis Bowen and Friedel engineers (DBF) to look into how to approach solutions to the flooding problems identified by the ACE report.

“We’re here tonight to make that decision,” said Infrastructure Committee Chair Fred Pierdon. “Are we going to go forward with the project?”

The study offered by DBF raised its own questions.

“I hope we’re not just duplicating effort, that we’re not just doing a study to do a study,” said Berlin Administrative Director Linda Bambary.

An analysis to pinpoint where and how to implement the solutions in the Army Corps report could be useful, she felt.

The Infrastructure Committee looked at the options offered by the Corps report and is at the point where it needs a professional engineer’s advice on what the town can do, most economically, Pierdon said.

“Now we’re saying, will it work or not in the field, and how much will it cost?” committee member Troy Purnell said.

The study, which should cost about $9,500, should yield a clear direction, whether to stop now or move ahead with solutions.

The Infrastructure Committee favors less expensive options, like open swales and stormwater ponds, versus the Corps report’s suggestions of more piping, which comes with a higher price tag and the added inconvenience of ripped up roads, Purnell said.

If Berlin pursues the study, Williams wondered who would shepherd the work for the town. While no one seemed to object to making the committee a permanent fixture, Williams said, “We don’t want to have a committee without anything to do.”

“We can stay as a committee as long as you feel there’s a need for us to do something,” Pierdon said.

Public input needs to be a part of the process before any alternatives are chosen, Bambary said. When it comes to adding storm water ponds, the town would need to buy land, likely from a private property owner, which could be controversial.

“I still feel like public input on priorities is missing,” said Bambary.

Also, with no provision for staff involvement, there would be no official town oversight, Bambary said, although staff could be assigned to work with the Infrastructure Committee.   

Williams agreed that the study and its oversight would need staff involvement.

Any time Berlin spends money, staff should be involved, Lang said.

Williams concluded that the work could wait for a short time while new Planning and Zoning Administrator Chuck Ward, who took up his position this week, studied the project, to then make a recommendation on it, likely in July.