BERLIN — Lower Shore Land Trust Executive Director Kate Patton has petitioned the mayor and council to endorse Grow Berlin Green’s next big project: creating a master plan to make Berlin a “walkable” town.
Grow Berlin Green is a partnership promoting a more eco-friendly town by providing people the tools and education to live in a more environmentally sustainable way. The organization regularly collaborates with the municipality to affec change in the community but this is by far the group’s most ambitious project.
The master plan would tell the town the best way to connect the schools, parks, greenways and sidewalks in a way that encourages more walking and biking and less driving.
Appearing before the mayor and Town Council Monday, Patton said as gas prices continue their steady climb, it’s an idea whose time has come. She also talked about the diminishing number of children who are able to walk to school and adults who would make better use of a pathway, for instance, to get downtown or to the grocery store without having to walk in the street.
“I think Berlin is poised to bring more of that back to our community,” she said. “It makes it more attractive to people who want to live here.”
One of the centerpieces of the plan will be the creation of recreational walking and biking trails. Patton said a number of people who stay in Berlin day-bike to Assateague Island and said a connecting pathway might draw more people out and to the town.
She also suggested the need for a bridge or tunnel that would allow people to get across Route 113 at the Bay Street intersection. Although the State Highway Administration has balked in the past when it came to making the intersection walker-friendly, Patton said if the town approached them with a change that is part of an overall plan, it might fall on more receptive ears.
Patton listed a variety of grants and matching grants that would be available for such a project. She said that with the council’s support, the Grow Berlin Green plan would be even more attractive for state, federal and non-governmental contributions.
The council endorsed the effort. Mayor Gee Williams said that during the Local Development Council (LDC) meeting Monday, he had suggested that this kind of path would be an acceptable use of some slots funding. The LDC has to approve slots funding expenditure plans for the municipalities and the county.
Mark Wittmyer, one of the LDC members, explicitly suggested Berlin’s plan include greater spending on traffic and pedestrian safety measures, including sidewalks.
In other business, the council passed the first of several purchase orders making use of the $3.5 million recently granted and loaned them by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development program for the waster water treatment plant upgrade.
In addition to the purchase, installation and maintenance of the force main for the system, the council elected to buy and store a liner for the lagoon to be constructed at the new spray site.
Town administrator Anthony Carson told the council that although the town wouldn’t require the liner for some time, 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.
Carson said all of the companies that responded to the bid charged premiums for guaranteeing their prices more than two months in advance. By purchasing and storing the liner until it is ready to be used, Carson said the town will save $80,000-$100,000.
Williams praised the town staff and council for their continued diligence when it came to applying for grants and loans as well as for discovering savings wherever possible.
“[By everyone] meeting all the obligations and the deadlines all the ratepayers benefit,” Williams said. “Quite frankly if we had to do it on our own we just couldn’t.”