BERLIN – Though both the town and the Adkins Company say they’re committed to working the problem out, signs in front of the store warn drivers that portion of Harrison Avenue is closed to through traffic.
Berlin Mayor Gee Williams says the signs were put up by Adkins Company and shouldn’t stop motorists from using the road.
“It legally means nothing,” Williams said. “These theatrics are childish.”
Williams said he met with Richard Holland of the Adkins Company to discuss the increasing pothole problem on the portion of Harrison Avenue that is owned by the store two weeks ago. According to Williams, the meeting went well, with both parties agreeing to proceed with an appraisal of the property so the town could move forward with purchasing the roadbed.
“Everything was going fine until a lawyer got involved,” Williams said. “It’s totally unnecessary. It’s not the way we do things in Berlin.”
Holland says he hired an attorney to draft a memorandum of understanding to submit to the town. He also put up the signs warning drivers that the road was closed to through traffic. That, he says, is because he doesn’t want drivers damaging their vehicles or big trucks making the street’s potholes worse.
“We’re trying to get a memorandum of understanding agreed to,” Holland said. “They [the town] indicated they will fill the potholes once we get that signed.”
Holland said the town could have taken the roadbed at any time through eminent domain, the government right to buy a property for public use.
“We’ve been telling them for six to eight months to go eminent domain,” he said.
Williams said the reason the town had never tried to buy the road in the past was because the owners of the Adkins Company wanted to maintain ownership of it.
“If it wasn’t done, it was out of consideration of the Adkins Company,” he said.
Eminent domain, he added, was only mentioned recently and would be the last route the town would take to acquire the property.
“It’s not advantageous to either party,” he said.
He said whether the town would go through that process would depend on the results of the current negotiations.
“We’re not going to deny the public the right to use a roadway they’ve used for generations,” Williams said. “We simply want to fix something that should have been done decades ago. We’re not this uncaring bunch of SOBs who go around trying to hurt people.”
Holland says his company wants to get the situation worked out. He said in the past, Adkins Company has always paid for the road to be maintained. He believes it’s unfair for the town to not fix the potholes now, as it’s likely going to purchase the road.
“We’re trying to be reasonable,” Holland said.
Holland says that if the town does not buy the road, Adkins Company will repair it but will also close it on one end.
“I believe they need to buy it,” he said. “They need to decide what they want to do. I think we’ll work it out.”