BERLIN – The Worcester County Commissioners agreed to fully fund the Town of Berlin’s annual budget request at a work session this week.
During a lengthy budget session Tuesday, the commissioners agreed to provide the town with its usual annual grant as well as funds to go toward a roundabout and bike path. Mayor Zack Tyndall praised the county’s generosity as the town hopes to move forward with two unique projects aimed at improving mobility in Berlin.
“We’re grateful for the support and partnership,” Tyndall said.
In Berlin’s annual budget request to the county earlier this spring, Tyndall asked the commissioners for a $465,000 unrestricted grant as well as $122,000 for planning for a roundabout on Flower Street and $73,796 for a passive use path along the town’s railroad tracks. The $122,000 would cover half the design and engineering services associated with planning for a traffic circle, which Tyndall has proposed for Flower Street near its intersection with Railroad Avenue, Schoolfield Street and Branch Street.
As the request was reviewed by the commissioners this week, county staff reminded them that last year, the Town of Berlin received $465,000 in unrestricted funds as well as $39,875 for its Rails to Trails project.
Commissioner Joe Mitrecic said he’d been contacted by several town council members who’d said they weren’t interested in the roundabout. Staff noted that funds provided by the county for the roundabout would be restricted to that project.
“We restrict it,” Chief Administrative Officer Weston Young said. “If they’re not moving forward with it we wouldn’t give them the money.”
Mitrecic said Tyndall would likely use the funding as “leverage” to encourage the council to proceed with the project, since half of the necessary money was being provided by the county.
“That seems backwards,” Commissioner Josh Nordstrom said.
Commissioner Jim Bunting made a motion to provide the town its unrestricted grant and bike path funding but not the money for the roundabout. When asked for her input, Commissioner Diana Purnell, who represents the Flower Street area of Berlin, said Tyndall hadn’t spoken to her about the roundabout.
“He tends to do what he feels he needs to do,” she said. “We can leave it there and pull it out if they don’t use it.”
Bunting said the town hadn’t demonstrated a need for it and he felt it was a wish list item.
Purnell said there was a need because traffic was bad on Flower Street with 18 school buses a day traveling it twice a day.
Commissioner Ted Elder said a roundabout, which would be difficult for school buses to maneuver, would likely be worse for traffic.
“It’s a bad idea,” Bunting agreed.
Bunting’s motion to eliminate the roundabout funding failed with a 3-4 vote with Mitrecic, Purnell, Nordstrom and Commissioner Bud Church voting in opposition.
In an interview Wednesday, Tyndall said the Rails to Trails funding would help with the second phase of that project, which will eventually result in a path along the railroad tracks from Heron Park to Buckingham Lane.
As far as the roundabout, the mayor said it was meant to improve both the safety and aesthetics of the area. He said that while this initial funding would help with design, he expected community meetings and discussions to be part of the process.