BERLIN – Discussions are underway regarding the potential donation of the Flower Street Multi-Purpose Building to the Town of Berlin.
The Berlin Community Improvement Association (BCIA), the organization that owns the aging facility, has been in talks with town officials regarding donating the property — which includes the multi-purpose building as well as the classrooms alongside it — since the fall. Mayor Gee Williams confirmed that the issue was the subject of a closed session meeting Monday night. He’s hopeful an agreement will be finalized in the coming months.
“Our goals overlap so much I’d be disappointed and also surprised if we can’t work something out,” he said.
According to D.J. Lockwood, chairman of the BCIA, the roughly three-acre property at 130 Flower St. was transferred between various individuals between 1925 and the 1960s. Eventually, the county gained control of the property and owned it until the BCIA purchased it for $700 at an auction in 1971. Though for some time the site was used cooperatively by the BCIA, a masonic lodge and Shore Up, activity there has decreased as the facility’s condition has deteriorated. Lockwood said efforts to improve the building have fallen short. The BCIA, which was created to improve the state of the community through education, recreation and social activities, hasn’t been able to use the building to further its mission because of all of its problems.
“The shape of the building has been holding back what the BCIA was meant to do,” Lockwood said.
The continued demise of the building prompted the group to begin discussions with town leaders regarding the potential donation of the property.
“We’ve been struggling with getting funds to fix it,” Lockwood said.
Williams said that issue was not a new one, as to his knowledge the group had spent the past 10 years looking for funding to help with the old building’s upkeep.
“It’s much harder for a nonprofit to get those grants than it is for a municipality,” Williams said.
While some BCIA members don’t want to give up the property, which was once the site of a school and has been a landmark in the community for decades, many acknowledge that the town would be in a better position to improve or replace it.
“The town has expressed an interest,” Lockwood said. “They want to put something there. The committee feels confident that they’re going to do what they say they’re going to do.”
While Williams didn’t go into specifics, he pointed out that the town had made clear its commitment to establishing a community center on the east side of Berlin in 2015. While vacant property the town already owns on Flower Street has been considered a potential option, the land at 130 Flower St. would be another alternative if the town takes it over.
“When the town sold the property to Dollar General, the proceeds were earmarked for a community center in east Berlin,” he said. “We didn’t designate an exact spot.”
Williams said discussions between the BCIA and town leaders had been ongoing but that the time for a final decision was approaching.
“I think all parties recognize it’s time to fish or cut the bait,” he said.
Lockwood said that while he felt the majority of BCIA members supported the proposed land donation, he planned to discuss it with them once more.
“We want to be as transparent as possible and want everybody to have an opportunity to chime in,” he said. We want to give the members their say.”
He stressed that the BCIA wanted to act in the best interests of the community.
“We want to make as many people happy as possible,” he said.
The BCIA is expected to meet in early February. For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org.