BERLIN — This week the Town Council didn’t so much call Congress’ bluff as they did ignore it. As the town prepares to get to work on the new spray site, the approved funding for the project remains part of the unapproved federal budget.
Earlier this year the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development program committed to providing $3.5 million in grants and loans in support of the town’s wastewater treatment plant upgrade. The funding — divided into a $2,462,000 loan and $1,037,350 grant — will be used to make crucial upgrades to Berlin’s existing wastewater treatment facility.
The USDA grants are already in place, already listed for disbursement but remain unavailable until the budget passes. This fact made council members a little wary, given that they were being asked to spend $200,000 of it on a liner for the new spray site. But Williams argued that it was a matter of when and not if the town would receive access to the approved grants and loans.
“We would have the funding if congress stops diddling around,” Williams said. “We can’t sit around doing nothing and become hostages to their game.”
Although originally part of the construction bid, the town in April elected to buy the liner separately. At that time town administrator Tony Carson told the council liner pricing is directly tied to the cost of the petroleum it takes to make it. As a result it was impossible to get a reasonable price that a bidder would stand by for more than two weeks.
While the initial estimate was that the town could save $80,000-$100,000 but purchasing the liner separately, in the final analysis they saved closer to $200,000.
According to Jane Kreiter, Water Resources director, the town can safely store the liner with the expectation that construction will begin at the spray site in October. The council voted to make the purchase.
Sidewalks to be Repaired
Sidewalk projects all over town that were green lighted earlier this year are set to begin in August, according to town Public Works Director Mike Gibbons. Replacement and repairs of the sidewalks on Cedar, Flower, Jefferson, West Branch, William and Grace Streets are expected to take place over the course of a month.
Mayor Gee Williams, while complimenting Gibbons’ department’s work reminded residents that all the work couldn’t be done at once and asked for patience during the process.
The Washington Street sidewalk project will begin sometime after Labor Day at the request of some of the people in that neighborhood. Given that Gibbons and his crew will have plenty to keep them busy until then, it was a request with which the town easily complied.
After the Washington Street sidewalks are completed, public works will begin working on much-needed street repairs in that neighborhood.
The mayor and council will hold a work session next week to begin discussions about how to better reign in inattentive landlords. After concerns about the upkeep of rental properties, the council asked planning supervisor Chuck Ward to arrange a meeting between the mayor and council and the planning and zoning staff to review housing regulations.
While Williams was clear that he wanted to keep the meeting focussed, it is likely that among the priorities will be to formulate a plan for discovering unlicensed rental properties in town.
The meeting is 6 p.m. Monday, July 18.