Berlin Makes Plea For State Grants

BERLIN — Town officials this week approved an application for state Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding for a portion of the estimated $2.1 million repair of the town’s spray effluent storage lagoon, but getting all or any portion of the available funds could prove to be difficult.

Each year the state makes available millions of dollars in federal CDBG funds to towns and counties across Maryland for a wide variety of uses including prioritized public works projects. This year, with an influx of additional cash from the federal stimulus package, the state is opening a second funding cycle for so-called “shovel ready” projects in towns across Maryland and Berlin is preparing to line up for its fair share with the approval of an early application on Monday.

The regularly scheduled funding cycle has a deadline application of May 29, but town officials were able to get an application approved and submitted for the special extra funding cycle the deadline for which passed on Wednesday. The maximum Berlin is eligible in any one year is $800,000, but the town has at least three identified projects in varying degree of shovel readiness for CDBG funds.

Town officials have identified repairs to the spray effluent storage lagoon as its top priority this week and approved an application for the project in the extra funding cycle. Other projects on the town’s list include a major rehabilitation of three streets at an estimated $1.4 million and a significant upgrade to Berlin’s wastewater treatment plant at $9 million. Because the town is only eligible for $800,000 in CDBG funds this year, the Mayor and Council on Monday agreed to get an application in early for the spray lagoon project, leaving the door open for the other projects if the town is denied in its first attempt.

“If we’re funded for the entire $800,000 in the May 13 round, we probably won’t be able to go back in the regular funding cycle,” said Mayor Gee Williams. “We’re basically hedging our bets. If we’re not successful in the first go-round, we’ll be prepared to go back and try again in the second cycle.”

Some on the council were skeptical about getting any of the CDBG funds, given the current economic situation, much less the entire $800,000 the town is requesting.

“I think we all know the chances of getting the entire $800,000 is slim to none,” said Councilwoman Paula Lynch.

However, Deputy Town Administrator Mary Bohlen, who prepared the application and presented to the council on Monday, said it was uncertain how the state would dole out the funds.

“It’s hard to predict,” she said. “It’s like there is a pot of money this big [holding her hands apart narrowly] and a stack of applications this big [extending her arms far apart].”