Though there are reasons to be concerned about affairs in Berlin, like the spring property tax hikes, potential charges for bulk pickup and a looming ban on short-term rentals away from Main Street, it’s impossible to see any sort of measured impact on the town’s popularity among the general public.
Over the last week, the town has hosted thousands of people. First, there was the tree lighting last Friday. There were no heads counted officially, but it’s safe to report there were 3,000 to 4,000 people converged on and around Main Street throughout the night. It was the biggest crowd I have ever seen at the event in the 15 years I have been attending.
Though last night’s Christmas parade was held after the paper went to press, it’s a safe assumption the streets were lined with thousands of people as it always appears to be. At 7:30 a.m. on parade morning, I counted three dozen chairs lining the sidewalk reserving prime spaces for the parade.
On the real estate front, as someone with a home for sale in Berlin, I can report interest remains robust among people wanting to live in Berlin. Are they thrilled taxes went up this year and will be going up next year? No, of course not, but it’s not enough to deter them from wanting to live in town.
The Worcester County Board of License Commissioners were right last week to turn down a beer and wine license request from the Uncle Willie’s convenience store east of Route 113. Store connections must simply accept the denial stems from a long history of problems in that area, and there was no testimony given to confirm a need other than some inconveniences associated with having to drive or walk a distance to make their purchases.
Though not unprecedented, the town’s elected officials testified against allowing beer and wine sales at the store before the license commissioners last week. Mayor Gee Williams and Councilman Elroy Brittingham, who lives in the area, each expressed their concerns. Referring to a history of drug and crime concerns in the immediate area around the store, Williams said, “You can live anywhere in Berlin safely. It doesn’t matter the time of day or night. I think our opposition is because we know how long it’s taken to get here. It wasn’t always that way.” Brittingham added, “We know what it was like before and we don’t want to see it again… We visualize six packs going from the store to the park.” BLC member Marty Pusey chimed in too, saying, “I do recall in the ‘90s the drive-by shootings that were happening,” she said. “The community and the town working together have done an outstanding job making that a better place to be.”
It’s just not worth the risk of seeing that neighborhood return to its former blight.
School systems across Maryland are continuing to decide on when to open for their 2020-21 school years.
Officials in Montgomery and Queen Anne’s counties announced this week intentions to open on Aug. 31, 2020 (the week before Labor Day). Howard County went a week earlier with the first day set for Aug. 25.
I was a big supporter of Gov. Larry Hogan’s executive order requiring school systems to open after Labor Day. Once it was overturned by the legislature, I assumed nearly all school systems would open in mid-August.
The good news is that’s not happening as it did before the executive order took place. The bad news is it does seem a great majority of public school systems will open before Labor Day for the next school year. Many are saying the Sept. 8 start date (the day after Labor Day) is just too late. In previous years, the post-Labor Day start date has been earlier. For instance, this year it was Sept. 3.
Meanwhile, in Worcester County, two calendar options are under consideration with the public asked to weigh in this month. Both calendars set the first day as Sept. 8, 2020. The two options mirror each other in many regards with the differences being slight variations to the winter and spring breaks with closing day either June 18 or June 15.
Once all the calendars are ratified, more school systems will open before Labor Day than after, but it’s welcome news for this tourism area to know most are choosing to head back one week before rather than two or three weeks. Frederick County Board of Education President Brad W. Young explained to The Washington Post the reasoning. He said, “Days in June are not as valuable as days in August or September.” That’s a perplexing comment to me.
One thing that is known is Worcester County will not be the only school system starting after Labor Day. Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties will open Sept. 8. I agree more with Anne Arundel County Board of Education member Melissa Ellis than Young’s comments. She told The Washington Post in the same article, “A long summer is more beneficial to students than students being out of school for 10 days for spring break, because then we create a greater impact in the middle of the school year to learning.”