Residents Irked Town Not Providing Trash Service

BERLIN – Franklin Knolls residents want to know why they are still waiting on town of Berlin trash service, despite paying thousands of dollars in taxes over the last few years.

Town officials say they are waiting for the developer to add the final topcoat to the subdivision’s roads that will permit Berlin trash trucks to begin making the rounds.

Developer ADC Builders did not return telephone calls requesting an interview, but the company has informed Berlin that work on punch list items, including the roads, should be finished by early September.

“I don’t know where the topcoat falls into that,” said Berlin Administrative Director Linda Bambary. “There is evidence of work being done.”

Residents of Franklin Knolls went before the Berlin Mayor and Council Monday night during the public comment portion of the meeting. The issue was trash service, specifically why Berlin does not pick up their trash despite the $373,000 in taxes paid by the community in the last three years.

“We’re not being provided all the services we pay for,” said Franklin Knolls resident Jason Walter, speaking on behalf of the community.

Berlin does not provide trash service to a new development until the roads are topcoated and turned over to the town.

In Franklin Knolls, the streets still belong to developer ADC Builders, said interim Berlin Mayor Gee Williams.

New roads are typically not finished until construction is completed to avoid damaging the final road surface. According to Walter, just three lots sit empty in the neighborhood and they are not for sale.

“I would have thought that he’d have the topcoat put on before now,” said Bambary.

The town sent a letter to the developer in July, and some of the work from the final punch list has been done on the site, but not the roads, Bambary said.

The only leverage Berlin has over the developer is the town-required performance bond, but that would bring its own difficulties. “It’s quite an ordeal. It’s not that we can’t do it,” said Bambary.

“It’s a major undertaking. The town could end up losing money,” said Berlin attorney Dave Gaskill.

“The developer’s savvy enough to know that,” Council member Paula Lynch said.

The council asked staff to look into legal ways to impose a turnover timeline to ensure timely surrender of roads by future projects.

“We need to put something in,” said Council member Elroy Brittingham.

The town needs to keep this situation from recurring, said Williams, and should create a mechanism that gives Berlin leverage over developers.

In the past, developers were required to install all infrastructure before pulling building permits, which would prompt developers to get the work done quickly, according to Bambary.

Berlin can in the future require developers to pay for trash services out of their own pocket until the new roads are dedicated to the town, Gaskill said.

Until this spring, ADC Builders had paid  $900 a month for trash pick-up for homes in Franklin Knolls, but in April, ADC owner Alan Cohen instructed Beach to Bay Management of Ocean City to use Franklin Knolls’ Homeowners’ Association (HOA) funds to pay for trash service, management company owner Mary Ann Konoski said.

The developer controlled the HOA until this week when the residents voted to take over.

There is nothing Berlin can do for Franklin Knolls residents without exercising the performance bond, the council concluded.

“We have no authority to correct your problems,” Gaskill said. “It is beyond the authority of the council.”

Franklin Knolls residents can take their trash to the corner of Esham Street and Ann Court for pick-up by Berlin, Bambary said, as long as the trash is left on public property.

Berlin will not provide a tax credit to Franklin Knolls property owners because they would have to offer a credit to everyone.

“You’re going to force this to become a legal matter,” said Walter. “I really don’t want to go there.”

Gaskill indicated that the subdivision’s complaint was with ADC Builders.

“Your homeowners association may have cause of action against the developer,” he said.

Walter said the residents are put in a difficult position.

“The town won’t fight a developer they have a performance bond on. It all falls on our shoulders. I don’t believe that’s fair. I don’t believe that’s just,” Walter said.

The town will pursue the completion of the road, but otherwise has few options to help Franklin Knolls’ homeowners.

“We’ve never been taken advantage of in this way before,” said Williams. “We feel we’re being mistreated as well.”