BERLIN — After struggling with stormwater issues for years, the Decatur Farms Home Owners Association (HOA) reached out to the Berlin Mayor and Council this week for assistance funding a $60,000 stormwater construction project.
“We have a water flow problem, a flooding problem and an erosion problem,” said HOA President Frank Siano. “And at this point we have an unsafe area in the community because the water has made its own way. The water, when it rains, heavy rains, steady rains, it backs up into people’s yards underneath their foundations and it stands there for a long time,” said Siano. “It’s been inconvenient and, like I said, has become a safety problem.”
Decatur Farms is proposing a $60,000 construction project that would target the trifecta of water flow, flooding and erosion. The HOA is asking that the cost of the project be evenly divided between the town and the homeowners.
Mayor Gee Williams supports the venture in the interest of building partnerships in the community.
“I know we’re kind of breaking some new ground. Stormwater management is a totally new business,” the mayor said. “I feel comfortable with sharing the cost because this is not the only time we’re going to be dealing with stormwater issues with a home owners association. In an ideal world, it would be a lot less complicated.”
However, Williams did acknowledge that the council would be setting a precedent if it agreed to split the cost of the project with Decatur Farms. If the town went to bat for one HOA, Councilman Troy Purnell pointed out that it would be taciturnly agreeing to do so for all such associations in Berlin. Those communities that have already privately addressed their stormwater issues without aid from the town might be upset, he added.
While it was a good point, the town is trying to make a new start with stormwater, replied Williams. In years past, the council had actually been asked to stay out of stormwater as it related to private property. Public opinion seems to be swinging in the opposite direction now, according to the mayor, with the town adopting a stormwater utility this year. If a precedent is going to be set, he asserted that it should be a positive one that is not weighed down by how things worked years ago.
“I think this is a good precedent because it shows a shared commitment to fixing the problem,” Williams said.
Councilwoman Lisa Hall took a few moments to clarify who she believes is to blame for Decatur Farms’ stormwater woes.
“Obviously, the elephant in the room is that this developer did not do something right with this development and has left this problem, amongst other problems, in that development,” she said.
Hall called the work done at Decatur Farms “a crime” and requested that the town take a closer look at developments in the future while in their early stages.
“Just as much as sticking a gun to somebody, it’s a crime,” she said. “This is unacceptable and I’m very sorry you folks have had to deal with this and now it’s being pushed onto the entire town.”
Because of the cost and scope of the project, no vote was taken on whether the town should help fund the work at Decatur Farms. Several council members promised that they would visit the area in question this week with Siano before making a decision. According to Siano, the contractor can start within two weeks and expects the project to take about that long to complete. Siano told the council that he hopes up to $2,000 can be shaved off the project’s cost.