By Cara Dahl
BERLIN – The Berlin Town Council considered a number of items Monday night at their regular meeting, including assistance for people having difficulty paying their electric bills, a new member for the Ethics Commission and temporary paving of Harrison Ave.
Berlin Energy Assistance
Program Being Supported
The Berlin community has contributed $2,500 towards fellow residents’ energy bills since the energy assistance program debuted, Mayor Gee Williams announced.
The town will match that amount dollar for dollar, making a total so far of $5,000 available to help those struggling to pay their energy bills.
“All of us are very pleased and proud of the support the community showed for that program,” said Williams.
The energy assistance initiative was set up during budget deliberations last spring. Shore-Up will handle the screening of candidates for the assistance, and has dedicated a staffer to handling requests.
“This is another service the town can provide to those who in these economic times may be temporarily struggling…I think it shows the town is truly very generous,” Williams said. “We’ll see how far the $5,000 goes. If the demand is greater than we expect, we’ll make an appeal at a later time.”
The council has set aside up to $10,000 in matching funds. Contributions go directly to a local bank and are anonymous. No one could say how many donations had been made.
“It’s kind of steadily been streaming in,” said Williams. “It’s been incrementally increasing for a month.”
Ethics Commission Changes
The Berlin Ethics Commission will see more changes, with one member, Father Michael Moyer, resigning his position.
The ethics commission faces one of its rare cases in the next few months, after resident Marge Coyman alleged that Councilman and developer Troy Purnell violated ethics laws by participating in a discussion of wastewater capacity prices for new development.
The ethics commission met over the summer and determined that Purnell had violated the town ethics laws, but held no hearing and did not give Coyman a chance to make her case, nor did they give Purnell a chance to defend himself.
The town council recently established guidelines for the ethics commission detailing procedures on complaints and hearings, which had not been in place before.
The council approved a new member for the ethics commission, Anita Todd Monday night. That will allow commission Chair Paul Gorman to set up a hearing and proceed with the case before the commission, Williams said.
“This is not a hidden closed door inquisition. This is an open meeting like all the other meetings we have,” said Williams.
Set For Harrison Ave.
Drivers who use Harrison Ave. will soon be able to enjoy a paved road, though that road covering will be meant as a temporary fix to last just a few years.
The temporary layer of asphalt proposed should last four to five years and cost less than $10,000, said Councilman Troy Purnell. Funding could come from the current road rehabilitation bond.
Previous attempts to cover the road with gravel or crush and run do not last long, especially with the amount of traffic using the road to cut over to the western edge of town, said council members. A complete rehabilitation or redo of the road would cost much more and take longer.
“This will get it stabilized,” said Mayor Gee Williams.
Code Going High-Tech
The town of Berlin will pay $1,200 a year to General Code, a legal code publishing company which handles the Berlin legal code, to host an up-to-date version of the town’s laws on its own website. The Berlin website will have a direct link to General Codes’ Berlin page. Updates will be nearly instantaneous, officials say.
The funds will come out of the $10,000 set aside for website improvements.
“This is definitely one of the highest priorities they have,” Mayor Gee Williams said of the Information Technology Committee appointed several months ago.
Updates will no longer take staff hours to do, saving time for other work, Williams said, calling the switch a good long-term change.
“We’re always going to have a code. We’re always going to have a website,” he said.