Berlin Mayor Outlines Goals With Budget Process Underway

BERLIN – Mayor Gee Williams urged Berlin officials to consider the town’s key goals, ranging from buying the former Tyson property to increasing parking, as they developed the coming year’s budget.

At a budget work session Monday, Williams stressed the importance of continuing the town’s success with the projects identified during Berlin’s strategic planning process. Though the overall budget remains relatively flat as the coming fiscal year approaches, Williams outlined the major projects facing the town — buying the Tyson property, designing a new police station, increasing parking and supporting construction of a new library.

“It’s exciting,” he said. “Let’s not think of it as a burden. We’re all committed to see it gets done one way or the other.”

The purchase of the former Tyson facility, which the town has been moving toward since late 2014, is expected to cost $2.5 million. The town is currently in the process of getting the property appraised and having an environmental study done.

Williams said putting $1 million toward the design and start of construction of the new police headquarters proposed for the corner of Bay Street and Route 113 would get that project, which has been discussed for years, underway.

In addition, he suggested budgeting $500,000 to increasing parking options in the downtown area. Williams said that since being elected mayor he has always heard that there weren’t enough parking options in Berlin but that he had found it to be true in recent years.

“We’re maxed out not all the time but a lot of the time,” he said.

While a shuttle does provide effective transport downtown during special events, Williams said the fact that the town’s lots were full when no events were scheduled meant the town needed to address the problem.

“I don’t think it’s all going to go away,” he said.

The final budget consideration the mayor brought up was the new library proposed for Berlin. He said the Worcester County Library Foundation had asked for $75,000 over the next three years to help support the project.

Aside from the projects Williams talked about, the town’s proposed budget varies little from the current year’s budget, according to staff. Revenues in FY 2016 are projected to be 16 percent — about $715,000 — higher than they were in FY 2015. Much of that comes from an expected increase in residential impact fees — town staff budgeted $284,000 for FY 2016 — as well as a smaller contribution to the town’s stormwater fund than in years past, as the utility begins to stand on its own.

The town expects to receive about $230,000 in casino revenue in the coming year and $450,000 from Worcester County. In all, revenues are budgeted at $5.5 million for the coming year.

“We’ve been talking about growth for a while,” Williams said. “It looks like from a budgetary standpoint it’s here. We’ve gone through the recession and we’re back where we were.”

Capital expenditures budgeted for FY 2016 include a new vehicle for town hall as well as two new police vehicles. The town has planned for $170,500 in street and sidewalk improvements. The proposed budget earmarks $30,000 for a new HVAC system at the town visitor center as well as $25,000 toward the development of architectural design standards.