Berlin Forms Committee To Help With Tech Issues

BERLIN – A new citizen and staff Information Technology Committee (ITC) will help the town of Berlin make decisions on computer and tech issues, while appointments to other committees and the addition of alternates to some should enhance the workings of existing groups.

Berlin Mayor Gee Williams, who came into the office last May after the unexpected death of Mayor Tom Cardinale, has said over the last several months that he would put off making committee appointments or changes until after the mayoral election in October. An interim mayor should not make those decisions, he felt. Williams was elected to retain the mayor’s seat.

The ITC was suggested by several people in recent weeks, according to Williams, including citizens, staff, Councilman Troy Purnell, and Tony Carson, the new town administrator.

“This is an idea that seemed to come from a variety of sources,” Williams said of the ITC.

Williams suggested a six-person body, with three staff members and three citizens. The staff members would be the town administrator, Tony Carson; the grants and special projects administrator, Mary Bohlen, who currently handles the town of Berlin website; and personnel director Rachel Bomar.

The mayor proposed citizen members Thom Gulyas, owner of a local printing business and former town council candidate; Sue Beaman, who writes a blog about Berlin; and Zina Delancey of Go Getters.           

Councilwoman Paula Lynch recommended reducing the three town staff members to two.

“I hate to see it so weighted,” she said. “An uneven number is better for a committee than an even number.”

The council agreed with Carson and Bohlen named as the two staff participants.

The information technology committee will evaluate proposals by staff and make recommendations to the Berlin Mayor and Council.

The group will not have any executive power.

“Ours is going to be a recommending body,” Carson said, who has worked with similar committees in the past.

Carson suggested that requests for new equipment or systems be sent to the Berlin Mayor and Council even if the ITC does not give them a favorable recommendation.

The committee will also be tasked with redesigning the website and making sure information is disseminated.

“We do need to make [the website] more user friendly,” said Councilwoman Lisa Hall. “People should be able to go there and not go to town hall.”

“I think it’s a great idea,” Lynch said.

In the past, technology was handled solely by the town administrator.

The town council also appointed new and alternate members to several town bodies.

“Things are getting busier. So are the people volunteering for these boards,” said Williams.

Some boards have had difficulty achieving a quorum, and decisions have had to be postponed. Alternates will provide for smoother operations, Williams said, as an alternate can step in when a regular member has to miss a meeting.

Alternates will attend all meetings and receive information as regular members do, but will only have a vote when a permanent member is absent. Committees should only fall short of a quorum under extraordinary circumstances, Williams said.

Lynch wondered if the alternate would join discussions when not filling in.

“I believe we should leave that to the discretion of the chairs,” said Williams.

Committee chairs are there to give guidance and set an agenda and are not simply another voting member, he said.

John Barrett, currently a Planning Commission alternate, has been appointed a permanent member of the commission, with Bernell Bowen and Chris Denny each reappointed to another term. Ron Cascio will serve as alternate.

The Berlin Utilities Commission was given its first alternate, Jennifer Smith, and Rick Baldwin was reappointed to another term.

The Ethics Commission has a new member, Paul Gorman, and a newly established alternate position, filled by Bill Burke.

The Historic District Commission also has a new alternate position, filled by Katie Gaskins-Matthews.

The lapsed Infrastructure Committee should be continued as a Stormwater Management Committee, Williams said, but no final decision has been made.

“Many of these folks contacted me first. I’ve never seen so many people enthusiastically volunteer to serve the town of Berlin,” Williams said.