By Jack Chavez, Staff Writer
(Jan. 26, 2023) The Berlin Mayor and Town Council began discussions during their Monday meeting to determine ways to raise money for the proposed community center on Flower Street.
Mayor Zack Tyndall has his sights set on fundraising, an effort that he stressed would “not nearly be enough to cover what we have to do” but would nonetheless make a difference.
The two main ideas he brought forth were to fundraise by selling the recently designed town flag and selling street signs that are set to be replaced soon.
“We don’t have that flying anywhere (yet),” Tyndall said of the flag. “We would like to get it flying and purchase some of these, as well as tack on a donation fee for anyone who would like to purchase a flag.”
He claimed that residents have already asked about purchasing street signs.
A subcommittee tasked with pursuing the community center project met Wednesday, and it was expected that they’d discuss these ideas as well.
However, issues with both ideas popped up right away.
To begin, the town would not be able to be the fundraiser for any possible merchandise.
Councilmember Jay Knerr, who owns the Kite Loft in Ocean City, pointed out that the town sells its flag at cost but can’t sell them for profit.
Town finance director Natalie Saleh broke down the issues with both ideas.
“You have to have a specific program dedicated to the community and benefits,” she said. “We cannot ultimately say we’re going to fundraise and build a building. We have to run a program. There is legwork that needs to be done before we start … It should have a program and purpose and the benefit outlined.”
As for the street signs, Saleh said that if they’re sold at auction — as Tyndall suggested — the money must be applied to the purchase of new street signs.
“I don’t think there is a profit there per se,” she said. “The flags, I guess we just need to do a little more research.”
Councilmember Jack Orris said that people should know exactly what their money is going toward — more than the general concept of a community center.
“We’re fundraising for something overall but what is that? I think that right now we’re at the point where it’s, we know that we have a bucket … for funds for a community center … Selling the town flag for fundraising, OK. But asking for fundraising without a plan (is my concern).”
Councilmember Steve Green asked who would run the community center and Tyndall pointed out that Berlin Community Improvement Association has seats on the subcommittee, but it was not clear at the time if it counted as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
Town administrator Mary Bohlen said that the operation of the community center wouldn’t be all that different from how the Calvin B. Taylor Museum is run.
“The town owns the property and the Heritage Foundation runs the museum and does the fundraiser and that sort of thing,” she said. “I think a relationship like that could be established (for the community center).”
“Whatever goes over cost would go to maintenance. It’s not just profit coming to the town — it’s with the intent to provide future maintenance.”