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Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette Logo Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette


Annexation worries table Briddeltown water issue

BERLIN — When the water system serving Briddeltown, an area just beyond Town limits near Stephen Decatur High School, fail a little more than three years ago, Worcester County officials worked with Berlin to have water connected as a temporary solution.
Since then, the County has been paying the Town a flat rate based on the estimated average cost of water for the houses in the area as it sought an alternate solution. Recently the County decided that the best solution was to become a permanent subscriber to the Town of Berlin’s water supply and has made overtures that would better track the costs.
For the benefit of both service provider and customer, it was suggested that a water meter be placed at the entrance to Briddeltown so the precise usage could be calculated. 
At the time of the emergency this solution was also suggested but turned down since the deal was only to be temporary. 
Instead, a deal was struck that the County would pay double the water rate to ensure that all costs were covered. Although the change could have an affect on the town’s income, it is not likely to be a significant one.
“Getting the double rate, we certainly didn’t lose anything,” Town Administrator Tony Carson.
Since both parties would likely benefit from the new arrangement, its adoption seemed a done deal but confusing language in the contract made the Mayor and Council put the brakes on so the implications of the hookup could be more seriously reviewed.
The agreement contains a clause that prohibits Berlin from seeking annexation of the area. The clause was ostensibly added because the homeowners were opposed to the notion of annexation. The opposition stems both because the their tax liability would increase and also from the fact that, since the homes are currently on septic, they would likely be required to upgrade to public sewer as part of an annexation.
Although the Council in no way begrudges the current residents their decision, some question remained about whether Berlin could accept or annex undeveloped land that is currently in the “Briddeltown Sanitary Service Area”.
Although it was clear that the Town could not pursue annexation of Briddeltown, some of the language of the agreement made is seem as if the Town could never pursue annexation in the area at all, which was something to which the Council might not necessarily agree.
Assuring some residents that they wouldn’t be annexed against their will and preventing the Town from growing in that area for perpetuity were radically different notions and, according to Williams, not in the Town’s interests.
“Why would we do that?” Williams said.
Since increasing the capacity of the wastewater treatment plan, Berlin is poised for growth. Although all parties want to ensure that Berlin grows slowly and proportionately, Williams suggested it didn’t make good economic or environmental sense to exclude the possibility of connecting as-yet-undeveloped land to public water and sewer should future owners desire such a thing.
While Briddeltown uses sceptic, it is becoming more difficult for developers to ignore public water and sewer systems when they are available in the area. 
The Council directed Carson to return next meeting with those issues clarified and tabled the matter.