Friday, January 16–Berlin Optimistic Stimulus Package May Trickle Down

BERLIN – National news tends to pass small towns by, but the national infrastructure stimulus package proposed by President-elect Barack Obama could lighten Berlin’s load on some major projects.

Berlin Mayor Gee Williams received a letter from Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley before Christmas asking the town to identify “shovel ready” infrastructure projects that are less than two years from getting underway as possible targets for federal infrastructure stimulus funds.

Williams, speaking at the Berlin Mayor and Council meeting Monday night, said the first priority had to be the wastewater treatment plant expansion and improvements. The purchase of more spray irrigation land should be second priority, he said. Street and utility improvements also made the informal list.

The town needs to prioritize community needs, Williams said, which is part of his new approach since taking over as mayor.

Williams asked Water and Wastewater Director Jane Kreiter to put together a status report on improvements to the water system. The water system model is complete and areas for possible water towers have been identified.

“The weak link is where the new developed areas are going to be. That would be the guiding force,” Kreiter said.

The town does need another water tower to improve water pressure, she said.

Williams urged Kreiter to work with the Berlin Planning and Zoning Commission on determining those developing areas, which should be reflected in the new Berlin Comprehensive Plan.

Citizen Sandy Coyman, who serves as director of Worcester County’s Comprehensive Planning department, suggested adding the replacement of the failed and defunct electric plant generator to the list of priority infrastructure projects.

“Let’s latch onto it if we can,” Coyman said, although he acknowledged that a new electric generator sat farther down the list than other needs.

Williams reported that he used a recent surprise visit by O’Malley to a Lions Club gathering in Berlin to discuss energy initiatives with the governor. He said he reminded O’Malley that Berlin is a good place to try new energy initiatives, as it is small enough “not to break the bank.”

Citizens should not count on state initiatives to reduce their electric bills. The most effective way to bring those bills down is conservation, Williams said, adding that he told O’Malley that town officials would testify to that.