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


Berlin stormwater projects expected to clear snags soon

(Sept. 3, 2015) At least one stormwater project included in Berlin’s current fiscal-year budget has hit a snag because of delays with an easement approval.
Town officials say those delay is are temporary, and that resolutions could come within the next 30 days.
Stormwater revenues and costs each increased 69 percent in Berlin’s fiscal year 2016 budget, in part because of nearly $2 million in endowments from the Department of Natural Resources, Housing and Urban Development and FEMA.
Those grants were earmarked for major stormwater projects on Flower Street, Williams Street, and Nelson Street, Grice Street and Franklin Avenue.
In May Water Resources/Public Works Director Jane Kreiter said some of those improvements were “98 percent complete” in the design phases, and that she expected bids to go out in August and for construction to start soon after that. Completion is expected during the 2016 fiscal year.
She added that the improvements on Nelson, Grice and Franklin were “only about 40 percent designed,” and could be shelved until next spring.
Responding to a public comment, Town Administrator Laura Allen provided an update to the situation during a Town Council meeting on Monday, Aug. 24.
“There are several phases [of stormwater improvements] that we’ve developed and we’re working on easements for each of those phases,” she said. “We’re having some challenges with regard to easements and we’re looking at redesigning a little bit.”
Mayor Gee Williams said this kind of delay is nothing new for the town.
“We approved the Tripoli Street [improvement] months and months before they were able to start, and it boiled down to one person not granting an easement to the town,” he said. “Eventually, thank goodness, they did.
“I’m not sure why that happened – I guess it’s part of human nature,” Williams added.
Allen said the town did have some flexibility in the design, which the town could alter if the delays related to the easements continue.  
Apparently the town is waiting for the county to sign off on easements for the Flower Street improvements, Allen said later in the week. She said the county officials are willing, but wants a plat – or for a survey to be done to define the specific boundaries –before they officially grant the easement.
“We’ve got a surveyor going out and surveying the property, and that’s getting ready to get wrapped up pretty soon,” she said
Allen said an offline wetland could also be included in the parcel, adding that the town has exchanged letters with the county and she expects a resolution soon.
Meanwhile, the town has already submitted that portion of the improvements for permitting.
“We’re not going to start any of the work until we’ve got a formal approval from the county with regards to the easement and we’ve properly notified the neighbors in the area,” she said. “That process is under way. It’s just going to take a little bit longer than we initially thought.”
On Williams Street, the town has just begun discussions with property owners regarding easements. Allen declined to give specific details because of the nature of the negotiations, but said the town is operating under the parameters of the Community Development Bloc Grant.
She added the town was still on track to finish the projects during the fiscal year.
“I’m hoping to get the easements worked out in the next month,” she said. “I don’t mind saying that process is taking a little bit longer than we expected. Some of that has to do with the fact that we’re bound by a federal process that has many steps to it, and so we’re just making sure we’re consistent and dotting all of our ‘I’s’ and crossing all of our ‘T’s.’
“We’re also being respectful of the property owners and trying to give them ample time to respond to our offers and our counter offers,” Allen added.
The town has done less work on the Nelson, Grice and Franklin improvements. Allen said that was by design and that the town is still considering a spring 2016 start date for that portion.
“The way that we have this project structured, that would be at the end, and we do think we’ll be able to get pretty far up there, but the focus right now is on the Flower Street and Williams Street area,” she said.
“It’s kind of hard for us to tell at this point until we get in to more of the permitting and actually get the construction bids back, but the intention is to get up there as far as we can along Hudson Branch.”