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Berlin officials offer dates for phase one stormwater upgrade

(Nov. 12, 2015) Berlin officials offered some reassurances to Flower Street residents last Wednesday during a stormwater presentation at the multipurpose building.
Berlin Mayor Gee Williams began the session by saying it was meant to update efforts that began in 2014 when the Flower Street culvert replacement essentially began in east Berlin.
“Progress … has been relatively smooth,” Williams said, adding that several seemingly insurmountable hurdles had been cleared with cooperation from the state, county, town and residents themselves. “Residents of the town have been very helpful in answering folks’ questions.”
The town’s efforts to improve stormwater conditions actually date back to 2011, when a feasibility study and a series of public meetings led to the creation of the stormwater utility two years later.
Last year, the town won $1.93 million in grant awards for stormwater improvements from FEMA, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the federal Community Development Block Grant program.
Berlin developed a three-phase plan for stormwater upgrades, starting with the Hudson Branch on Flower Street, then moving onto Williams Street during phase two and finishing along Cedar, Pine, Franklin, Maple, Grice and Nelson streets during the final phase.
Consultant Darl Kolar, from EA Engineering, Science and Technology Inc., led an hour-long presentation on all three phases of stormwater improvements underway in the town.
On Flower Street, improvements include replacing the existing culvert with a box culvert similar to the enhancements on West Street, which finished in 2013. Kolar said among the benefits of the improvement would be reduced flooding, better water quality and reduced nutrient loads.
According to his timeline, the permit process for phase one would start in January, followed by bid advertisement in February, vendor selection by the end of March and construction running from April through July of next year.
Kolar added that completion of one phase would not necessarily delay the next.
“We’re not holding phase two up … they’re going to be right on top of each other,” he said.
Asked if the $1.9 million in funding would be enough to finish all three phases, Kolar admitted, “It’s going to be close.”
Additional funding is continuously being pursued, he said, including a $1 million application with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development program.
Williams said the approximately $170,000 in annual stormwater fees collected by the town made Berlin eligible for the grant money it received, as well as those grants the town is currently pursing.
For most people in town, Williams said that fee is $50 per year.
“If you go and ask for help with an empty hand they’ll say, ‘Oh yeah, we’d love to help you. The line starts right over there in Alaska,’” Williams said. “We all have to do our part to make it work … if we take care of it, we’ll have help financially [from grant funding].”
During the presentation, several residents asked questions about the impact of Cannery Village, a new townhome development on Flower Street still under construction.
Councilmember Lisa Hall, one of three councilmembers present along with Thom Gulyas and Dean Burrell, told the audience all new construction projects in Berlin require detailed stormwater plans.
Taking a cue from Hall, Kolar said, “When a new project comes in, the stormwater requirements require that project to restore the amount of stormwater runoff on that site,” he said. “The amount of runoff leaving that site has to be less than if that site were vegetated and under good condition.”
Williams said the new stormwater regulations were the right thing to do, adding that the three phases of improvements being pursued were essentially “retrofitting the town.”
“In the future, anytime somebody builds anything or does any kind of work they’re going to have to meet the new regulations so that piece of property does not have a detrimental or negative effect on their neighbors, not just next door, but the neighbors down the stream,” he said.
“We didn’t volunteer to be this generation, but I’m so proud of the fact that almost everybody in this community is saying, ‘let’s do it, let’s get her done,’” Williams added. “We’re on the front of this – not the back.”
Following the meeting D.J. Lockwood, a resident of Flower Street, said he came with a number of concerns.
“It doesn’t seem like anything is happening to the end of Flower Street, toward the Cannery Village side,” he said. “From what I’m seeing from what’s going on with the Cannery project, we’re going to have water issues in my back yard, and I see that the Kits Branch [a tributary that runs into Trappe Creek] has already started growing in. No one’s addressed that. I just want to be proactive and I don’t want it to be forgotten.
“I feel the meeting went very well,” he added. “All my questions were answered.”
Town Administrator Laura Allen said she was also pleased with the meeting.
“We would have liked to have a few more folks here, but the folks that were here were really very interested in the project and they asked some good questions,” she said. “I think Darl did a really nice job of fielding all those questions. It’s pretty clear that there’s interest.”
Allen said the town was willing to hold a separate meeting to specifically address any remaining concerns about Cannery Village.
“We’re happy to hold that meeting if they want,” she said, adding that residents could also contact her or Kolar.