Fed Up With Trash Ordeal, Berlin Invokes Project Bond

Efforts to find a working solution in the Franklin Knoll trash pick-up
situation have been unsuccessful, prompting the Berlin Mayor and Council to invoke the
performance bond on developer ADC Builders.

“It’s an option of last resort,”
said interim Mayor Gee Williams.

The town council thought it had
reached a solution a few weeks ago by proposing that the Franklin Knoll
Homeowners Association offer the town a waiver of liability allowing Berlin trash trucks on
unfinished roads in the development, but the association emphatically rejected
that option in a Sept. 4 letter.

“In a meeting of the
Association’s Board last week, I raised the issue and the Board is in full
agreement that the Town’s request in this matter is tantamount to extortion,”
wrote Franklin Knoll Homeowner’s Association
President Keith McGurgan in a letter to the Berlin Mayor and Council. McGurgan is also
an attorney. “In essence, the Town would like to receive indemnification and be
held harmless from the Citizens in exchange for a service that the Town is already
legally obligated
to provide as a result of its taxation of the Citizens
for the same.”

The letter castigated Berlin for neither
providing trash service nor granting community residents a tax credit for
services not rendered.

The Franklin Knoll letter then
demanded immediate trash collection and reimbursement for outside trash
collection costs paid by the association.

“If the Town fails to resolve
this matter with the Citizens by Friday, September [12], 2008, the Citizens
will take necessary action to protect their legal rights and interests,” the
letter reads.

The council did not discuss or
mention tax credits or reimbursement at Monday’s meeting.

According to the letter, the
homeowners association planned to cancel private trash collection and leave
trash at the corner of Esham
Avenue and Ann Court, which was suggested by town
staff, for town pick-up. The letter contends that the community has “no other
meaningful alternative.”

Trash was left for pick-up at
that corner this week and was collected.

When the matter was first
publicly brought up several weeks ago, Berlin Administrative Director Linda
Bambary did mention that corner, the nearest Berlin-owned public space to
Franklin Knoll, but said she would have to check into using it for trash

The Berlin code, according to Bambary’s
research, only allows trash to be collected in front of residents’ homes, and
there would need to be a formal agreement with her office to allow for trash
pick-up at that corner.

“They’ve got to stop doing
that,” Bambary said.

Berlin cannot collect trash in a new
development until the roads are topcoated and handed over to the town.
According to a town agreement with developer ADC Builders, the topcoat is not
required until all construction is completed.

The majority of the homes in the
development were built a few years ago, leaving just three lots vacant, but ADC
Builders has refused so far to topcoat the roads, and as reported by resident
Jason Walter this summer, had begun charging the cost of trash pick-up to the
homeowners association.

At this week’s meeting, the Berlin council was tired
of waiting for action.

“I would request the council
call the bond on the project to require the developer to pay for that road,”
Williams said at the Monday evening Town Council meeting.

Councilman Elroy Brittingham
made a motion to invoke the bond, which passed unanimously.

“Trash pick-up will begin the
very first day our legal council advises us our legal terms allow,” said

Berlin has rarely needed to activate
performance bonds in construction projects, and this may be the first time the
town has had to do so.

“It’s outrageous we’ve had a
situation where a developer provided no practical reason why the work hasn’t
been done,” said Williams.

“There’s just more to it,”
Bambary said after the meeting.

According to Bambary, who has
been working on getting ADC Builders in compliance, the developer has been
waiting for asphalt prices to come down to do the roads. The topcoat work was
originally estimated at $30,000, but current market prices for asphalt have
more than tripled that price to $100,000.

ADC Builders has since said that
it will sign a waiver allowing the town to come onto the roads to collect
trash, as the roads are the developer’s property, not the association’s.

“It’s not that we don’t want to
pick up the trash, but it’s on private property,” Bambary said.