Selling Park Not Answer
Berlin has a budget problem. According to the mayor, for the last five years the town has been borrowing from savings to pay for higher than expected costs at the sewer utility. That this ongoing problem has not previously been addressed by our elected representatives is an issue that the town’s residents need to take up with the council and mayor, and the council and mayor need to address with the town.
But I am not writing to debate the ins and outs of how we got to this point. I’m writing to defend the town’s purchase of the parcel that has come to be known as Berlin Falls Park, which I believe is being unfairly scapegoated for problems that go well and above the purchase of the property.
I did not live here when the chicken plant was in operation. By most accounts I’ve heard, the smell from the plant made the annual spread of chicken manure on the fields, and the monthly odors from the dog food plant, seem like grandma’s apple pie in comparison. When I arrived in Berlin in 2013, the plant was already shut down, the main building crumbling, the ponds covered in layers of scum. From the street the plant was an eye sore. And behind it an environmental disaster was looming.
My wife and I moved here because we wanted to raise our children in a small town where they could walk the streets on summer evenings, where they could run outside, where they could play in grass, where the public schools were better than most, where neighbors talked to one another, where community was more than the street where you lived. We were fortunate to find, almost by accident, this wonderful little town. We have called Berlin home for more than five years, and we plan on continuing to call Berlin home well into the future.
Long after our current budget crisis is a distant memory, Berlin Falls Park—despite its ill-fitting name—will stand as a point of pride for Berlin and will provide immeasurable benefits for future generations. The park is a boon, a gift to our children and our children’s children, an open space that needs to be protected, programmed, and carefully planned. The Falls has the potential to be a community gathering space, a place where we come together as one, where we recreate and celebrate all that makes Berlin great.
As we move forward with a plan for our future, we must remember that the Falls is a jewel in the crown of our town. Throwing it away for the sake of stopgap financial relief is short sighted and continues the poor planning that has brought the town to the deficient fiscal position in which it now finds itself.
The Mayor & City Council (M&CC) of Ocean City continue to overspend taxpayer money. Just recently, we learned that the $34.4 million Convention Center expansion is now going to cost $37.5 million. Originally, the town was to contribute $14 million; now, it is $15 million. Earlier, the state was to contribute $20.4 million; now, it is over $22 million.
Two years ago, the town announced plans to spend $25.4 million on the Public Works and Transit Facility Upgrade Plan at 65th Street. The Town was to contribute $10.2 million, and the Maryland Transit Authority (MTA) was to add another $15.2 million.
A year ago, when the bids were opened, the total cost rose to $35.8 million, a 41% increase over previous estimates. Apparently to contain costs, the M&CC scrapped plans for the $10.6 million employee parking garage which was 34% over an earlier estimate. In place of it, they decided on a $1.3 million ground level parking lot and gatehouse.
There should have been additional reductions in the project. For example, the bids revealed the bus storage structure increased from $3.4 million to $5.4 million, up over 58%. Further, the bids revealed that the new administration building increased from $4.8 million to $7.8 million, up over 62%. Finally, the bids revealed that the service building and accessory structures increased from the original $2.2 million estimate to at least $8.1 million, up an astounding 268%. This particular service building with accessories was originally to cost the Town approximately $212,000. Now, it is to cost over $3.2 million, apparently due to a change in the funding formula between the town and the MTA. The MTA portion of the total project increased from $15.2 million to $18 million, up over 18%.
Why doesn’t the M&CC abandon these projects when the costs rise so dramatically? More importantly, when is the M&CC going to stop overspending?
Vincent dePaul Gisriel, Jr.
Officials Fail Ocean City
The inability to get the “Enhanced Special Event Zone Bills” passed in Annapolis just might be a very good lesson in politics. Delegate Hartman introduced (HB789) and Senator Carozza introduced (SB682). These bills would have increased the types of violations associated with the motorized special events bill which passed last year. While both legislators expected their proposals to pass easily, only Delegate Hartman could deliver his part in the House. Senate Carozza could not deliver in the Senate and the bill was killed.
The last general election continued a trend on the shore, whereby Republicans ran up large gains. While some may celebrate this, I hope the failure of SB682 to even get out of committee may open the eyes of the voters that elections have consequences. While we will never know for sure, I can’t help but wonder if SB682 would have been introduced by former Senator Mathias if we would have had a different outcome. Jim worked hard for us while Mayor of Ocean City and carried that work ethic on to Annapolis as Senator. I was saddened to see him go. If the 2019 motor event weeks in town are crazy again, those who tossed Mathias in favor of Carozza may want to rethink what they did in November of 2018.
Crofton and Ocean City, Md.
Letter To Congressman
(The following letter was addressed to Congressman Andy Harris with a copy sent to this publication.)
I am writing to you today to express my extreme disappointment in your vote on House Joint Resolution 46 regarding the National Emergency declared by the President on Feb. 15, 2019. Although the Resolution managed to pass the U. S. House of Representatives and was subsequently passed by the U.S. Senate, it was vetoed by President Trump. When faced with a vote to override the President’s veto, you again elected to allow the President to divert funds previously appropriated by Congress for other projects, to now use these funds to construct his border wall. This is in direct violation of Article 1 of the United States Constitution which specifies that Congress alone shall authorize funding of the various agencies of the federal government, not to mention the oath of office you took to uphold the Constitution of the United States.
President Trump had requested funding from Congress for construction of the border wall. When the level of approved funding did not meet with the President’s requested level of funding, he proudly shut down part of the federal government hoping to bully Congress to meet his funding demands. To now permit the President to do an end-run around Congress in order to construct his vanity border wall project sets a dangerous precedent. What is to prevent this or future presidents from declaring national emergencies relating to such matters as climate change, gun violence, the opioid crisis, etc.
In order to declare a National Emergency, it is my understanding that the “crisis” needs to meet five tests. It must be sudden, unforeseen, urgent, necessary and not permanent. It is my belief that this border wall does not meet any of these criteria.
The Republican Party used to stand for such things as free trade, deficit reduction, entitlement reform and nationalism. And speaking of the national debt, it stood at $19,947,304,555,212.49 on Jan. 20, 2017 and as of March 25, 2019 stood at a whopping $ 22,027,998,543,525.24. Instead, today’s Republican Party stands for, among other things, voter suppression and defending any position that President Trump tweets. And, in my opinion, far too many members of the party blindly follow the President to the point that they might be seen as his cheerleaders or perhaps they check their brains at the door when entering the House or Senate Chambers.
Instead of draining the swamp in Washington, all this action has resulted in the swamp becoming even deeper.
I look forward to your response to this issue.
Harry W. Yeich