Berlin’s Future Intentions On Street Repairs Questioned

BERLIN – A resident brought his concerns about deteriorating street conditions to the Berlin Town Council this week.

Cape Circle resident Larry Smith approached the council Monday to express frustration over the worsening condition of his street, which he says is filled with potholes and has been for years.

“If you’re on that side of the highway, especially where I’m at, we’re like the red headed step children there,” Smith said. “I brought this up two years ago. It depends on who you are and where you live if anything gets done in this town.”

Smith said he initially approached officials about the condition of Cape Circle two years ago. He said that while some potholes had been fixed, others had not and that the overall condition of the street was poor. He said he’d been told initially that the town couldn’t afford to fix the street unless taxes were raised.

“Well now you’re getting ready to raise taxes,” he said. “When are you going to fix my street?”

Mayor Gee Williams said that was a good question.

“It’s very interesting that many of the streets we’re having trouble with were never built to town standards,” he said. “Basically, they’re streets that were never built to the standards that are required now. That’s why they’re falling apart. Obviously, every street has to be repaved every so many years depending on traffic and its usage, that kind of thing. In reality, we have a situation where we’ve got to literally rebuild streets from scratch … the figures are astounding.”

Town Administrator Laura Allen said that an engineering firm had evaluated the town’s streets last April and had ranked them based on condition. She said there were 10 streets slated to be improved before Cape Circle. Those improvements are expected to cost close to $600,000.

Smith said the patches on his road were crumbling and he was frustrated to find out there were so many streets deemed to be in worse condition than Cape Circle.

Councilman Elroy Brittingham said that the streets were prioritized based on the advice of professional engineers.

“That’s what we’re going by,” he said. “It’s not where you live.”

Brittingham, who lives on Flower Street, added that street concerns were what had prompted him to run for a council seat years ago.

“My street takes more traffic than any street in Berlin,” he said. “It takes 30 school buses a day. Not counting the parents that go from school to school. You can’t even get out of my driveway in the morning and afternoon. That street was so bad at one time, that’s the only reason I’m on the council right now.”

He stressed that the town was doing what it could to improve roadways. Allen pointed out that Berlin was only expecting $212,000 in highway user revenues, which it typically uses to repair streets, in the coming fiscal year.

“We try to stretch those dollars as far as we can,” she said.

Anything beyond the $212,000 to pay for street repairs would come from the town’s general fund. Allen said one project that’s been discussed, the realignment of Flower Street and Decatur Street, would cost $500,000 on its own.

“I don’t think any of us are going to jump on that when we’ve got all the other needs,” Williams said. “I’m just being very frank. I don’t want people worrying about things that go bump in the night.”

Allen said officials would have difficult decisions to make during budget development.

“One of the challenges to the budget process is to what extent do we tap from other resources within the general fund to maintain the roadways,” she said.

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.