Friday, December 12–Town To Elect New Councilman On Tuesday

BERLIN – District 1 voters are being asked to cast their vote for a new councilman at Buckingham Presbyterian Church on Tuesday, Dec. 16 from 7 a.m.-7 p.m.

Vying to fill the seat vacated by Mayor Gee Williams are Phil Cropper, Rex Hailey and Troy Purnell. The trio squared off last week in a candidates forum hosted by the Assateague Coastal Trust.

In the part two of our council preview, the following is a review of some other topics raised during that forum.

Wind, Alternate Energy

Hailey: “I think we should,” Hailey said, suggesting locating windmills near the old Berlin dump.

Purnell: “We should pursue all avenues of alternate energy, solar, windmills, anything else we can come up with,” he said. “I’d love to see them on the outskirts of town.”

Money to take up the alternative methods would probably mean borrowing funds, he said.

Cropper: Other sources of energy should be looked at, but placement should be carefully considered. Windmills should not be put at town entrances or in the downtown corridor, for example.

“I do not want to see windmills in the town district,” he said. “I do think there’s lots of areas we could use them.”

The town’s spray irrigation site is one possibility, he said.

Wastewater Capacity, Spray Irrigation

Purnell: Worcester County has mandated the use of spray irrigation in Berlin and the town does not have a choice.

“We must find the spray land and find out how to pay for it,” Purnell said.

Cropper: Increased capacity will be needed, he said, and more spray land will be necessary to handle more effluent.

“We need to keep our eyes and ears open,” Cropper said. “Everyone needs to be required to do it.”

The taxpayers of Berlin should not be paying for the expansion of the plant and new spray land, he said.

Hailey: Developers adding homes and residents to the town need to come up with the money to add the infrastructure.

“We don’t want to spent $12 million without the customers for it,” Hailey said.

Stormwater Issues

Cropper: The town needs to listen to the experts and should probably hire a consultant to look further into the recommendations from the Army Corps of Engineers’ stormwater study. “It’s a huge issue and we really need to address it,” he said.

Hailey: Many of the town’s ditches are deep and pose problems in cutting grass and neighborhood children are getting stuck in them. The town should consider covering the ditches and piping the stormwater.

Purnell: Most of the high priority areas were never required to have stormwater management and the impervious surfaces generate a lot of run off. The town needs to take a long-term approach to improvements.

Berlin In 20 Years

Cropper: “I would love to say that 20 years from now that Berlin was a smart growth town,” Cropper said, with many businesses downtown. “I would love for it to be a well thought out planned town.”

Hailey: Hailey hopes that people can still say that Berlin is a great place to live, and that the next generations have remained or returned to live there.

Purnell: The comprehensive plan, when finally complete, will steer growth and provide general guidelines. “I see a lot of walking trails. I see a lot of bike paths,” said Purnell. “Right now it’s really tough getting around town on a bike or on your feet.”

Keeping Downtown Viable

Hailey: “We could get another movie,” Hailey joked. He would actually like to see more restaurants and family businesses.

Purnell: Downtown should be promoted as much as possible. “We can really make it more of a destination than it is if we promote it more,” he said.

Cropper: The town needs to work with the Main Street program to promote downtown. He said he remembers many little shops downtown, such as a barbershop and a pharmacy. There is room for a range of businesses downtown, from dance studios to brew pubs, Cropper said.

Closed Door Meetings

Purnell: The only subjects that should be considered in executive session are personnel matters and land acquisition.

Cropper: He said he strongly agrees with the Open Meetings Act.

“We need to have more citizen involvement,” said Cropper. “More people need to go to meetings.”

Behind the scenes maneuvering needs to be brought into the open, he said, including phone calls to friends on commissions attempting to influence a matter before that body.

Berlin should recruit media students from Stephen Decatur High School to film and broadcast Berlin Town Council meetings live. The website must be kept up to date, he said.

Hailey: “When I was running those meetings, we did exactly what the government told us to do,” he said. Personnel and contracts are the limit.

Greatest Job Opportunities

Cropper: With Atlantic General Hospital in Berlin’s backyard, medical offices are on obvious choice.

Industrial property should remain industrial and not be turned into residential like the Davis-Taylor farm, he said, and the town should recruit companies to use it.

Hailey: The main thing the town needs is small businesses to fill the stores on Main St. The industrial park across the highway should also be promoted to businesses.

Purnell: Atlantic General Hospital should be one of the town’s biggest priorities. “There’s a need for more doctors and medical facilities around here,” he said.

The town also should make some bureaucratic improvements.

“Berlin’s not been the most user friendly to business lately. We need to change that and make it easier,” Purnell said.

A Change To Manager

Form of Government

Hailey: A city manager can be problematic if the position is too autonomous. There’s no good reason to make the switch, since Berlin has a city manager overseen by the mayor and town council.

Purnell: Purnell said he agreed with Hailey.

Cropper: “You have a $15 million budget we’re leaving in the hands of the highest vote getter,” Cropper said, and decisions are made by quorum vote.

A city manager can be replaced more easily than a mayor, he said, saying he strongly supports making the change.

Historic District

Purnell: The historic district should be expanded, he said.

Cropper: The current historic district needs a clear set of guidelines. He would love to see property values increased by placement in a historic district but waiting two months to get minor changes like paint color approved is too long.

Hailey: “Too many people get all involved in paint color,” he said. Historic district restrictions only apply to the parts of the house visible from the street.

Keeping The Young In Berlin

Hailey: The town must offer more employment opportunities to keep the young here, but the entire county needs to be looked at, not just Berlin.

Purnell: “No doubt youth are very important and they must have more opportunities,” he said.

More businesses need to be encouraged to come to Berlin and that will help provide jobs for young people.

Cropper: Keeping the young in Berlin starts with creating good childhood memories of Berlin, he said, with skating or soccer facilities in town, for example.

“We need to make Berlin a place people want to come back to,” he said.

Closing Remarks

Hailey: Hailey said he would do everything he could to bring people back to Berlin.

“It’s a great place to live and grow up,” Hailey said.

Cropper: “I’m here for you. I’m not in this for any personal gain,” he said. “I love this town.”

Cropper said he wants to help the town evolve as it should.

“I made Berlin my home because I want to walk to shops. I want to walk to restaurants,” he said. “That’s what Berlin’s about, building a community among your friends and neighbors.”

Cropper said he wanted to bring fresh blood to the town council.

Purnell: He emphasized that he knows the town and its citizens very well from living and working in town. All citizens have the same concerns, he said.

“Responsible spending is really a big reason for me wanting to do this,” Purnell said.

He wants to keep the town going forward in a sustainable way.  Purnell said he understands leadership and responsibility.