BERLIN — As part of a continuing effort to put some teeth in the town’s property maintenance rules, the Town Council on Monday held a public hearing on junk vehicles and presented the first reading on brush, grass and weed maintenance rule changes.
Junk, inoperable or unregistered vehicles will no longer be tolerated within the town limits. In the amended ordinance, the town defines junk and inoperable vehicles as those unable to move under their own power.
The council plans to reduce the maximum grass length from 10 inches to six. Owners of properties that are found in violation will now have five days to bring their properties into compliance instead of seven days and the labor rate, should the town have to cut the grass, will increase from $55 to $100 per hour.
Moreover, there will be a $50 fine in addition to the hourly charge for the first violation and a $100 fine on top of the hourly fee for any violation thereafter.
Mayor Gee Williams defended the fine and fee amounts, which would be increased significantly under this new law. Previous fines were $50 per time as well as per hour.
“Quite frankly, some people just found it cheaper to let the down do it rather than hiring somebody to do it,” Williams said.
In other business, Water Resources Supervisor Jane Kreiter told the council the town has begun the bidding process for storage tank construction at the wastewater treatment plant. The bid will also include development of and construction of the new spray fields. This is the last step in a wastewater treatment plant upgrade plan that has been under debate for nearly a decade.
The council finalized a plan and began soliciting government grants and loans more than three years ago. According to Kreiter, this final stage will take about 18 months to build once bids are accepted. The department’s plan is to have the new plant open and fully operational, including the spray facilities before June 2013.
— Director of Community and Economic Development Michael Day told the mayor and council the town was approved for an extension of the facade grant provided by the state that will help fund the conversion of warehouses into retail or office space, something that bodes well for the town’s future development. He also announced that the Donaway Office Building on South Main Street would be converted to retail. “The front that looks like a store is going to be a store,” he said.
— The town Web page is now available for smart phones. Assistant Town Administrator Mary Bohlen encouraged people with smart phones to make use of the site and asked that they make suggestions about ease of use and possible bugs or needed changes.
— Police Chief Arnold Downing said that as school opened, he and his staff have been working with the Maryland State Police as well as the County Sheriff’s Department to monitor the roads near and around the schools in an effort to balance safety with traffic flow. He asked residents to be particularly careful as school is being let in and dismissed.