Berlin Extends Tattoo Moratorium; Worcester Code Amendment Sought

BERLIN – Town officials agreed to extend a moratorium on the establishment of tattoo shops and write a letter in support of a county code change that would allow for the health department to oversee such operations in Berlin.

On Monday the Berlin Town Council voted 3-1 to extend the moratorium on tattoo parlors, which was first implemented last fall, another 180 days. That is expected to give the Tattoo Ordinance Committee time to pursue a change to the county’s code that would allow the Worcester County Health Department to monitor tattoo shops in Berlin.

“Public safety is our guiding star in all of this,” committee member Patricia Dufendach said.

Initially, town officials created the committee last fall in response to concerns that the tattoo ordinance then proposed was out of date and not in the best interests of the town. Since then, committee members have been meeting with health officials and working on developing tattoo regulations for the town.

Matt Amey, chairman of the committee, said they’ve discovered that in order to give the health oversight of tattoo shops in Berlin department—something the committee considers important to ensure such shops meet health and safety standards— the county’s code would have to be changed.

“We need health department oversight when it comes to inspections,” Amey said.

According to a staff report submitted to the council, under state law a health officer is tasked with authority over “skin penetrating body adornment procedures.” Berlin has no health officer, as that function is handled by Worcester County. Town officials believe the support of the county’s health department would be essential in monitoring tattoo shops.

“The town is not in position to address the health and safety aspects of the committee’s concerns,” the report reads. “There appears to be no option to contract with a local sanitarian to provide that support. Even if there was, the town doesn’t have the expertise to interpret reports from a contracted inspector.”

Amey said the amendment to the county code would allow the health department to monitor tattoo shops in Berlin.

Though he expressed interest in seeing such a change implemented countywide, Mayor Gee Williams advised him to focus on Berlin.

“You’re thinking logically not politically,” Williams said. “Listen to me dammit. Stop with the logic. If logic existed, Washington wouldn’t be in the mess it’s in today.”

The council voted 3-1, with Councilman Troy Purnell absent and Councilman Thom Gulyas opposed, to extend the existing moratorium and send a letter in support of the committee’s efforts to the Worcester County Commissioners.

When asked after the meeting why he was opposed to both actions, Gulyas said he didn’t believe the change would benefit the town as a whole.

“I just don’t think it portrays the image I and a lot of people I represent want to see in this town,” he said. “There have been a lot of people before me who worked to get this town the way it is.”

Gulyas added there would be costs associated with the process.

“I just don’t think it’s going to be a benefit except to a limited, select few…,” he said. “It’s nothing personal but my job as I see it is to make sure things are for the benefit of the town as a whole.”

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.