IMnsHO…

In texting language IMHO stands for ‘in my humble opinion’, however, I find my opinion on the already much talked about ‘land purchase’ not so humble – more incensed perhaps.
My recent awareness of this proposed ‘Town’ land acquisition began on Thursday, August 6th when I received a copy, via email, of the upcoming agenda of the regular Berlin Mayor and Council meeting for August 9th, 2010. Scanning quickly, my attention settled on #6 –

“Introduction of Ordinance 2010-07An ordinance to authorize and empower the Mayor and Council to purchase real property to be used to house a new police station and a community center and to issue and sell general obligation installation bonds not to exceed $828,530.00. Public hearing to be held on August 23, 2010.”

First thoughts, “WHAT? WHERE? Wow, that’s a lot of money for six acres of undeveloped land! Where’s it going to come from? Perhaps I shouldn’t have paid my property taxes early?” (Further initial reactions not publishable!)
“OK, what to do – first, to find out where this land is located”…prompted a quick email to my 2nd District Councilwoman – Lisa Hall. She replied, “Philips – Rt. 50”.   “That couldn’t be right…if it’s the old Philips Farm, its on Rt. 113 and Bay Street extended.” A correction confirming this location quickly followed.
More tumbled thoughts followed – “wasn’t this land already slated for a medical office facility?“– I had attended the hearings where the Baltimore developer had promised to save a couple of ‘important’ trees during the construction process. Hmm, guess that fell through – tight economy and all.
“Why do we suddenly need a new, Berlin police station?”  Also, recollected a Town meeting some time back where our Chief, Arnold Dowling said we didn’t need the additional space. Now, suddenly we need a considerably larger facility for our still small, population of 3,947 folks? Has crime increased to this extent? This then would mean a larger chunk for Police from our already stretched Annual Budget…? A larger Police presence means more policemen present! Increased taxes?
Then came consideration of a new ‘Community Center’…what’s this about? We already have a multi-purpose community center of sorts…on Flower Street. Again, recollect that during past Mayor Tom Cardinale’s term, there was a push to rehab this facility – for community activities and as a possible site for an Arts & Entertainment Center…lotta’ push but apparently little action – probably due to little money from grants. New street surface, sidewalks and curbing are in place though. Still, if even a portion of the dollars now slated (to be borrowed) for the new land purchase could be funneled to a Flower Street multi-purpose facility rehab there could be a more effective overall Town integration of the East and West sides of Berlin. I’m for that!
Still trying to be fair, I weigh the importance of location. It’s a good corner; it’s an entrance of sorts to the Berlin downtown populated areas. Often, even being  familiar with Berlin’s ‘map’, when driving up from the south, I am oftimes surprised coming upon the traffic light! It’s a busy but poorly marked intersection – which needs some sort of transitional structure showing activity – perhaps a ‘Burger King’?

There could be only one solution to all this thinking; to be present at the scheduled meeting.
(I had missed a few recently; mostly due to weariness. We have a new puppy that awakens between 2 and 3 am; a nighttime ritual of – let’s ‘pee and play’ until 6 am! At six months of age she’s showing no signs of giving up this habit. At 12 months, I will help her!)
Back to the meeting – items #’s 1 through 5 go quickly, then Mayor Williams begins to speak…he talks particularly of the financing; simple interest payment only of 5% for five years, bond issues, delayed payment schedule, and so on. There was even an artful rendition of the planned layout (with buildings) for all to see.

However, my thinking keeps going back to the fact that we’ll (the Town) be in DEBT, further DEBT – for land – without even a brick placed! WHY? Is this commitment action based on need or want?
What will this proposed DEBT do to our property taxes in the future – five years down the road?
If this ordinance is passed, we’ll have committed to an already further unaffordable (for many of us) future IMnsHO!

Since the meeting, I’ve had a couple of people (who weren’t present that evening) ask me about this ‘purchase’…my response to those who are concerned; come to the Public Hearing on this subject on August 23rd! The meeting begins at 7 pm and will be held at Town Hall. Make your feelings known where it counts – and give YOUR humble opinions!