The pandemic brought many unfortunate realities with it, but there have been some silver linings. Chief among these positives in my mind is a new perspective to not take anything for granted. The grind of the pandemic remains memorable to everyone, resulting in a new appreciation for the good times because COVID-19 hung a doubt on many aspects of life for some time.
Additionally, another major bright consequence of the pandemic has been how local schools have adopted as traditions some changes they made to graduation season in 2020 and 2021. The graduation parade on the Boardwalk for Stephen Decatur High School students immediately comes to mind. This is a wonderful celebration and has become a tremendous source of community pride. Seeing the families and former teachers lined up on the Boardwalk to celebrate these graduates is amazing. The smiles on the teens’ faces tell the story, and it warms the heart.
For those looking to view photos, this newspaper and our photographer, Chris Parypa, have partnered on providing high-resolution downloads of all the photos taken for keepsakes. Click to https://www.chrisparypaphotography.com/sdhs2022
The Berlin Town Council did the right thing this week removing funds for portable radios and business credits from ARPA funding and directing the money toward stormwater management projects.
With the changes from the proposed plan, the town will be setting aside more than $400,000 to address stormwater needs. The town has several projects designed and ready, but funding limitations put them off. With these new dollars, some of these problems areas can be addressed. It’s a smart use of the bonus funds from the federal government.
Other projects being addressed through the town’s $4.79 million grant via ARPA include smart meters for water resources; an emergency stormwater project on Washington Street; a well replacement on Branch Street; a new strategic plan; a growth discussion and addition to the comprehensive plan; a new audio and visual system for council chambers; new equipment for the Berlin Fire Company; a program to digitize documents and files; an update to the Broad Street lift station; an updated well house on Powellton Avenue; and a treatment plant upgrade; completion of a rails to trails project.
The sports complex petition group faces a critical deadline next week. It’s going to be a major challenge for the volunteers. The work was complicated by a long delay initially from state elections officials on the exact wording of the petition as well as the needed number of signatures increasing by the day as a result of new voters registering for the upcoming primary in July. The group needs a little more than 2,500 signatures by Tuesday, May 31 to receive a 40-day extension to get another 2,500 signatures. Petition organizer Vince Gisriel told the Berlin Mayor and Council Monday night he hopes to get to 3,000 signatures because invariably signatures are eliminated by elections officials for being invalid. It’s a daunting task indeed.
There were some hopes the ever-increasing fuel prices could be stemmed a bit in Maryland earlier in the week, but legislators ultimately decided not to intervene and halt a planned 7-cent increase to the gas tax. The jump raises the tax on a gallon of regular gas from 36 cents to 43 cents.
Many legislators were requesting a special session to create a plan to delay the tax amid escalating prices at the pump. Governor Larry Hogan even specifically asked Comptroller Peter Franchot to “use every legal and regulatory power at your disposal to halt or minimize the impact of the accelerating gas taxes…”
In a response letter released this week, Franchot advised the governor to use his executive power to halt the increase while he pursues legal options. He wrote, “Over the past several days, my staff and attorneys have been exploring regulatory and legal authority provided by law to my agency to prevent this automatic, mandated increase from taking effect. As my office continues to look for regulatory and statutory flexibility on this matter, I am urging you to immediately proclaim a State of Energy Emergency as set forth by state law (Public Safety Article – § 14-304) and suspend the State’s motor fuel tax until September. Doing so would not only provide relief for Marylanders from the current motor fuel tax rate, but it will also temporarily prevent an increase to the gas tax from taking effect.” As of Thursday morning, Hogan had not acted on the matter, but he could.
In a joint statement, House Speaker Adrienne Jones and Senate President Bill Ferguson resisted calls for a special session to further evaluate the gas tax issue. They said the rising prices is due to “big oil companies exploiting global uncertainty to drive the price of gas to more than $4 a gallon,” not a “marginal impact” of the gas tax.
As of Wednesday, the average regular gas gallon price in Maryland was $4.60, which is up from $4.08 from April 25 and drastically higher than the May 25, 2021 price of $3.02.