Decatur Farm Residents Seek Berlin Plow Service

BERLIN – Recent heavy snows have once again brought attention to the patchwork nature of town services in newer developments, after a request this week by a local townhouse development for town of Berlin snow plow service.

Town services on private roads have gotten much attention in the last year after residents in some newer developments requested town garbage pick up in lieu of paying private contractors for the service. 

Kristy Clark, president of the Stephen Decatur Farm townhouse homeowners association, went before the Berlin Mayor and Council during the comments period of Monday night’s meeting to request that the town extend snow plow service to the private streets in the development.

Those roads were plowed by the town in this winter’s previous storms, Clark said, which she assumed stemmed from the recent agreement between the town and the neighborhood for town garbage pick up.

However, discussions with Public Works Director Mike Gibbons revealed this is not the case, Clark said. The garbage collection agreement does not cover snow removal.

Clark said that the town has done a much better job of handing the snow than the contractor the townhouse association had been using.

“It was just wonderful to have [Berlin snow plows] come out,” said Clark. “The town is who really cleared our roads for us.”

The private roads in the townhouse development have been impassable since the weekend storm, Clark said Monday night, and residents are concerned that ambulances and fire engines would not be bale to pass down the neighborhood’s streets.

The Decatur Farm development is within town limits and residents pay Berlin taxes, but do not get all town services because of their private roads. This echoes a sore point for residents who also paid out of pocket for trash collection until recently.

Intrepid and Schooner lanes are private roads and cannot be turned over to the town, usually required for dwellings on those roads to receive town services. The two lanes were never intended to be town roads and were not designed to meet Berlin’s road standards.

However, this did not prevent the town from taking over trash collection in that community this fall, under new regulations established this year.

“Personally, I hate that the town ever had all these arrangements. If you live here, you live here,” said Berlin Mayor Gee Williams. “My inclination is we ought to treat everyone the same regardless.”

Previous developments, like Decatur Farm, were built under a different philosophy, Williams said. In the future, there should be one standard for existing and new development.

The town would need to enter a separate snow removal agreement with the townhouse homeowners association before taking on snow removal duties.

Councilman Elroy Brittingham urged town staff to create such an agreement and have it in place immediately.

Town attorney Dave Gaskill said he would put something together overnight that could be signed and made official before the next predicted snowstorm.

Williams said he does not want Berlin to have different classes of citizens. Over the next few years, things like stormwater, ditches, and streets need to become part of an integrated system under the town’s control.

“Let’s leave behind what doesn’t work and try to find something that does,” Williams said.