BERLIN – After two false starts the Graham Avenue submerged gravel wetland project is now moving forward.
The Berlin Town Council on Monday approved an agreement with Maryland Coastal Bays Program (MCBP) that will provide additional funding for the project. The council also voted to award the contract for the project to Goody Hill Groundworks.
“Thank you for moving this important project forward,” said Frank Piorko, executive director of MCBP.
Though the construction of a submerged gravel wetland on Graham Avenue has been a stormwater priority for some time, elected officials turned down staff requests to proceed with it in June and July because of funding concerns. The town has a $75,000 Chesapeake Bay Trust grant for the project and had budgeted $45,500 in town funds but determined the project would actually cost $175,000. Council members said they didn’t want to increase fees for ratepayers or use a loan from the town’s water fund to pay for the project.
On Monday, Piorko explained that MCBP would work with the town to make up the funding shortfall. He said MCBP had cost savings on another project in the same watershed and had asked if DNR would allow the organization to use the extra funds to support the Berlin submerged gravel wetland.
“I want council to know the back and forth was not a slam dunk,” Piorko said. “Your engineer and others from my staff worked to put together a package for DNR’s consideration. The water quality is the part that’s attractive to them.”
He explained that once complete, the submerged gravel wetland would keep the equivalent of 32 bags of fertilizer a year out of the Newport Bay.
“Small practices add up in the health of our bays,” he said.
Councilman Thom Gulyas asked if there were consequences if the town did not move forward with the project. Natalie Saleh, the town’s finance director, said Berlin would lose the Chesapeake Bay Trust grant as well as the MCBP funding.
When asked if returning the grant now would impact the town’s future chances at acquiring grants, Saleh said she thought it would.
Mayor Gee Williams praised the power of partnerships such as the one proposed with the MCBP.
“Almost everything that needs to be done requires a lot more money than it did even just a few years ago,” he said. “Partnerships make it possible to keep moving forward.”
The council voted unanimously to approve the agreement with MCBP and to award the $105,00 contract for the project to Goody Hill. The remainder of the project’s cost will come from landscaping, materials, equipment rental and construction management.