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


Berlin ties bow on strategic plan

(March 19, 2015) With civic engagement at a peak, Berlin officials met last week to finalize the details of a new three-year plan guiding town projects.
The Town Hall gathering held last Thursday also looked to put a bow on a series of recent public meetings collecting opinions from the community.
Members of the town staff met on the previous day to work on what facilitator Christine Becker called “disciplined thought.” The final day was to focus on “disciplined action.”
“The town, the citizens and residents are in sync on what’s important,” she said. “One of the things I found interesting was so many of the things that the community said they really wanted were already in progress.”
Becker said the issue was, “in some cases people may not be as well-aware of what you’re already doing.”
“I think there’s a strong message about, as we build the plan, thinking about how you build lots of communication components into that,” she said, highlighting sidewalks as an example. “Sidewalks kept on coming up over and over again [and] that’s already a priority for you.”
Based on the public sessions, the town listed goals that included increasing parks and recreation facilities, building and maintaining infrastructure, promoting economic development, enhancing public safety and managing growth to preserve traditions.
Staffers then broke into small groups to discuss what Becker called, “not a to-do list, but simply guidelines.”
A half-hour later the group went over the results.
Looking at parks and recreation, one group singled out the tentative purchase of the former Tyson plan as a goal. Actions towards that end included completing the appraisal as well as environmental and feasibility studies mandated by Tyson contract.
Looking at infrastructure, town staff was bullish on projects already under way and underscored the need instead to raise public awareness.
“Every single issue that was brought up is really being addressed in some way,” Water Resources and Public Utilities Director Jane Kreiter said.
Electric Utilities Director Tim Lawrence advocated the implementation of Advanced Metering Infrastructure [AMI], essentially a measuring system for water and electric. Lawrence said the move would help recover revenue lost due to incorrect reporting.
Director Ivy Wells summarized the economic development goal list as “having a really nice meal at the new restaurant that will be where the old Boomers location was.”
Wells hoped to research county incentives for new businesses and develop a one sheet “business briefer” for potential new businesses.
Addressing public safety needs, Police Chief Arnold Downing hoped to develop a funding plan for town EMS, complete the construction of a long desired second police station and use planning and annexation processes to do a better of anticipating new growth.
Mayor Gee Williams led the final group that, as it examined how to preserve tradition during a period of growth, looked to address parking needs, alternate means of transportation and communication issues.
Williams said the completion of the Tyson purchase would solve a number of needs, and hoped written agreements with school and churches could help alleviate parking problems temporarily.
The mayor also advocated adopting a set of architectural standards.
“Having a plan before we build what was needed [is] something that seems obvious, but it’s rarely done,” he said.
Becker said she would summarize steps the town staff can take and draft a framework for the council to adopt, and emphasized the importance of staying true to the data gathered during public meetings.
“The more you can emphasize how closely you adhere to what the community meetings told you, there’s a lot of good value in that,” she said. “You followed what came out of those meetings pretty vigorously.”
Town Administrator Laura Allen suggested creating a quarterly report on progress made on the strategic plan and Becker concurred.
“As you get lost in the business and pressure of your jobs, you want to make sure that that remains front and center, so those regular reports to the council are important,” she said.
“I think the most encouraging thing out of the whole process was the fact that … in general terms the direction and values that we believed the community to have, they confirmed,” Williams said.