Council approves additional events, OK’s May Day party
BERLIN– Berlin’s Town Council discussed new housing, events, traffic safety improvements and the effect of being named “America’s Coolest Small Town” during its Monday meeting.
The council approved several special events, including a motion to close Commerce Street on Friday, May 2 from 6-9 p.m. during Victorian Charm’s 20th anniversary celebration.
“It’s the same weekend as the Jazz and Blues Festival, and we wanted to have a celebration for our anniversary and kind of tie it in,” said store owner Debbie Frene. The planned celebration will include live jazz music on the corner of Commerce and North Main streets.
“We don’t know how many people will come out just to listen to the jazz because we are tying it to the Jazz and Blues Festival, and we don’t want people standing out on the street,” Frene said.
Mayor Gee Williams praised the shop, calling it “a prototype … vision of what Berlin could become.”
“I think many of the businesses have used variations of your business model to become successful,” he said. “When you started out nobody was doing the things that you do.”
The council also approved requests for May Day Play Day on Saturday, May 10, Spring Cruisers on Saturday, May 17, a Memorial Day Celebration on Monday, May 26 and Reindeer Run on Saturday, December 6.
Additionally, it set dates for special spring trash and yard waste collection on April 23 and 30 (yard waste) and May 7 and 14 (bulk waste). Hazardous items, including cans of paint, will not be picked up. The town will post a full list of restrictions on its website and broadcast it on local public access television.
During department reports Dave Engelhart, the town’s planning director, spoke about the progress of the “workforce housing” site Cannery Village. The planning commission approved a preliminary site plan was approved on April 9, he said.
The plan, including 40 houses that will be sold to buyers at prices based on their income levels, had been delayed since 2007 before finally gaining approval during a council meeting last year. Councilmember Elroy Brittingham questioned the safety of the entrance for Cannery Village on Cannery Way at Flower Street.
“It’s going to a very dangerous entrance,” he said. “I think that really needs to be looked at.”
Town Administrator Laura Allen updated the council on the sidewalk safety upgrades at Route 113 and Bay Street.
“The state highway administration folks finished the sidewalk and crosswalk improvements on Route 113 and Bay Street,” she said. “They finished those late Friday night, so they were ready to go on Saturday for the Coolest Small Town Celebration.”
Signs reducing the speed limit on 113 through Berlin to 45 mph are slated to go up today. Variable signs alerting the public to the new traffic patterns will be part of the project.
The meeting ended with a flourish of praise for the Coolest Small Town Celebration held last weekend.
“It was probably one of the biggest events we’ve ever had,” said Michael Day, the town’s economic and community development director. “I think our events this year are going to get bigger, and this was good practice.”
Day called on the town to continue the shuttle bus service that debuted during the celebration.
Williams praised the town and its citizens for their conduct.
“We are very grateful for not only all the folks who made last Saturday’s celebration an outstanding success, but also I want to acknowledge all the work and vision and effort by the citizens and public servants … who helped to make all this possible over the last few decades,” he said. “All of this didn’t happen overnight — it happened in a very continuing, steady process of constantly looking for ways to improve the community.”
Williams also recommended strategic planning sessions.
“A lot of good things have been happening, but everything seems to be accelerated,” he said. “I think it’s a good opportunity while interest is high … to gather the community together and organize a way to have a strategic planning effort so we can get guidance from the public about how to prioritize.”
While he looks forward to a “busier, more vibrant town,” Williams cautioned against losing sight of the character and diversity that made the town “America’s Coolest.”
“I don’t think anyone that I’ve talked to wants us to become a big town,” he said. “I think we should continue to make sure this is one of the best small towns not only now, but for the generation that follows. This is a pivotal time and I think it’s our responsibility to do what we can to get the best community input.”