Friday, Aug 13–Berlin To Acquire Land For Police Station, Community Center

BERLIN – A new
Berlin police station and a community center will one day occupy land along
Route 113, possibly within the next five years.

For the last six
months, the town of Berlin has been negotiating to buy 6.5 acres of land on the
corner of Bay St. and the northbound side of Rt. 113, across from the Uncle
Willie’s convenience store, for future police and community use.

“The property is
ideally located,” said Berlin Mayor Gee Williams.

“I think it’s a
perfect location for a police department,” said Berlin Councilman Elroy
Brittingham. “In most communities, everyone loves to have a police department
in their community.”

Police buildings
are not usually a deterrent to crime, Berlin Chief of Police Arnold Downing
said, and the new location would not be meant that way. The Berlin Police
Department simply needs more space than its current confines on William Street.

Also included in
the future vision for the property is a proposed community center, which would
be a new building for Berlin.

According to
Williams, the two buildings would be separate.

Williams emphasized
that the town decided to purchase the property because it is a good value.

“In a normal market
that property wouldn’t even be considered for sale at that price,” Williams

The land is a good
investment at that price, whether the town constructs new town buildings there
or not, Brittingham said.

The town has been
looking for land for a larger police station and a community center for some
time, according to town officials. The 6.5 acres will cost the town $828,530,
plus interest.

For the next five
years, Berlin will pay interest only on the purchase price. After five years,
the town could pay the balance or renegotiate the payment schedule. Williams
described the terms as “very favorable to the town.”

Under this
arrangement, Berlin has time to build up the funds for the purchase price,
Williams said.

Town officials
expect the land purchase process to be completed by Aug. 30.

No construction
will begin until money becomes available.

Some of the
necessary construction funding could come from Berlin’s share of slot machine
revenue. Both projects should qualify for slots revenue funding under state and
county guidelines, Williams said.

“This is long-range
planning. We can’t hardly do anything at least ‘til the funds start coming in
from slot machine revenue,” said Brittingham.

“We have all kinds
of options available to us,” Williams said.

The town introduced
an ordinance this week to allow a bond issue to fund the purchase of the land.
The town council will hold a public hearing on the bond issue on Aug. 23, at
the regular town council meeting.

Land owners Billy
Esham and Newt Chandler, of E & C Development, LLC, will also contribute
$5,000 a year to the Berlin Community Improvement Association towards the
upkeep and rehabilitation of the Flower St. Multi-purpose Building, which
currently functions as a community center in east Berlin.

The new community
center is not intended to replace the Multi-Purpose Building.

“We’re absolutely
confident the money will become available in time to make this possible. We
don’t know when,” Williams said.

Funding should be
in place sooner rather than later.

“I think within
five years we should be in a position to begin one or the other or possible
both,” Williams said.