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Fiscal 2016 Berlin budget includes stormwater project

(May 7, 2015) Two weeks after Berlin unveiled the general fund portion of the budget, town officials met again on Monday to go over the finances of the electric, water, wastewater and stormwater utilities.
Overall costs in the electric fund look to decrease 4 percent, or $200,799, mostly because of a new purchase power agreement with American Municipal Power Inc.
AMP, based in Columbus, Ohio, is a nonprofit wholesale power supplier serving more than 130 municipalities.
“Our current contract [with another supplier] runs out at the end of May, and our new contract with AMP starts June 1,” Electric Director Tim Lawrence said. “Basically, by doing that, we were able to get our purchase power contract to be reduced by what you pay per megawatt hour.”
The switch, Lawrence said, reduced the town’s purchase power costs by 10 percent, although it also drove a 33 percent increase in diesel fuel.
“Now, because we’re with AMP, we may be required to run during the winter time also now, as well as summer,” Lawrence said. “The reason why is this past winter we set an all-time peak for the town of Berlin, and that kind of changed the whole concept of when we peak shave.”
Peak shaving, essentially, is the process of reducing the amount of energy purchased from a utility company during peak hours when charges are the highest. Delmarva PJM, which coordinates the movement of wholesale electricity, requires the town to hit “the five major peaks,” each season according to Lawrence.
Lawrence said costs could fluctuate on diesel depending on usage, but that the town is getting the process  “down more to a fine art.”
“Last summer we ran six times and we hit all five peaks,” Lawrence said. “The summer prior to that we ran 13 times before we hit five peaks. The less you run, the less diesel fuel you burn.
“Overall we were able to reduce our budget by 9 percent, and the power distribution we reduced by 4 percent,” Lawrence continued. “[The mayor and council] were very happy, and I was well prepared when I walked in there. They told me I did a great job, so that’s what counts.”
The new development on Seahawk Road, which looks to add 144 townhome residences in Berlin, drove up revenues in water and wastewater, up 16 percent and 18 percent, respectively. This resulted from a 60 percent jump in special connection fees in both departments.
Water and wastewater administration costs also increased sharply, 28 percent and 41 percent, because of substantial jumps in contingency earmarks.
Distribution costs rose 10 percent because of failing water meters, according to Public Works/Water Resources Director Jane Kreiter.
“Typically a water meter lasts seven-to-10 years,” Kreiter said. “Some of our meters have been in place for 20 years.”
Stormwater revenues and costs each increased 69 percent because of nearly $2 million in endowments from the Department of Natural Resources, Housing and Urban Development and FEMA.
The grants will pay for major stormwater projects on Flower Street, Williams Street, and Nelson Street, Grice Street and Franklin Avenue.
Kreiter said the improvements on Flower and Williams streets were “98 percent complete” in the design phases, and expected bids to go out in August with construction starting shortly after.
“We’re anticipating that to be completed in FY ’16,” Kreiter said. “The Nelson, Grice and Franklin [project] is only about 40 percent designed, so that probably won’t go out for bids until next spring. Hopefully we can get that in next year, but we’re not too sure.”