By Jack Chavez, Staff Writer
(Feb. 16, 2023) The Town of Berlin Mayor and Town Council agreed to the municipal priorities listed in two separate letters to the Worcester County Commissioners for FY2024 budget requests and projects for the Consolidated Transportation Program through MDOT on Monday.
The total budget request comes to $703,013, including $116,013 for the Rails and Trails program. The letter states that the request only appears to look like an increase over what was requested the prior fiscal year, owing to the timing of a failed grant application for the program.
“In (FY22), the Worcester County Commissioners granted the Town of Berlin $39,875 for a Phase I grant application for the Rails and Trails program,” the letter states. “Due to the timing of the grant application, we did not receive notification that our grant was unsuccessful until after we received funding from the Worcester County Commissioners in (FY23) for a Phase II grant application.”
The town is seeking MDOT’s input to strengthen its application, the letter said. This year’s application will encompass phases one and two as a combined project.
The only new funding in the request is $465,000 to help offset some of the town’s public safety funding for police, fire and EMS services.
“This funding request is consistent with the Town of Berlin’s request for police, fire, and EMS services in (FY22-23),” the letter states.
The only sticking point for the town council was $122,000 for phase one of a Flower Street roundabout project that some councilmembers weren’t aware had even been agreed on.
In the end, the council agreed to replace “roundabout” in the letter with “traffic mitigation.”
“When did we decide that the roundabout on Flower Street was an actual endeavor of this council?” asked Councilmember Dean Burrell.
Councilmember Shaneka Nichols said she thought that the project would be talked about again before it went to the commissioners.
Tyndall said that the project was in the draft capital plan as a project meant to address the issue of speeding on the road that has become a popular alternative route to Ocean City for tourists in recent years.
Burrell said that he wasn’t sure a roundabout would be the best way to address speeding and that he’s been under the impression that a roundabout is better used to facilitate the flow of traffic.
“I really don’t think a roundabout is the best way to proceed. I know that a roundabout would b liked on very negatively by our community,” Burrell said. “I really believe it would be perceived as another (inconvenience) imposed upon the community.”
Tyndall stressed language in the letter that left the possibility open for this project to be changed or dashed altogether and added that he wasn’t saying definitively that the best solution is a roundabout.
Burrell suggested that the requested money for the roundabout could be used elsewhere, but Tyndall said that there’s no guarantee that money if approved for a roundabout, would also be approved for anything else.
“That $122,000 is not plucked out of thin air,” he said. “(It) is taking into consideration as a potential easement that may need to be secured, design and engineering costs that (the project may have). That’s how we arrived at the total cost of the project which is actually split between the Town of Berlin and the county commissioners.”
“The logic for that was the traffic flow is not just Town of Berlin traffic. We’re getting a lot of impact from outside areas and that’s why we’ve asked the county to partner with it.”
Councilmember Steve Green claimed the money would go back to the commissioners for a vote while Councilmember Jay Knerr said he had heard from two commissioners that they would support reallocation.
One suggestion made was to ask for community center help, but Tyndall cautioned that the commissioners rejected a past $15,000 request for community center help.
From the other letter, the town’s state transportation priority requests included a pedestrian bridge across Route 113 at Bay Street, a traffic signal at Route 50 and North Main Street, sidewalks on Old Ocean City Boulevard from Sunlight Lane to Main Street and Main Street to William Street, a roundabout at the intersection of Old Ocean City Boulevard and Main Street and crosswalks on routes 818, 374, 376, 377 and 346.