Archived entries for …more about Town

ALL eight syllables for Berlin – let’s finish the job!

In-for-ma-tion Tech-nol-o-gy  – eight syllables which really mean information transmission for the people of our town.

During the past year a reasonable number of our tax dollars have gone toward a major upgrade of our Town’s communication equipment – the ‘hardware’ that allows computations, data storage and plain old communication to take place within and without the various Berlin governmental departments. The ‘within’ portion of the work is done; the ‘without’ is incomplete – we remain having a poor face for our Town’s website.  Take a look…  Compared with surrounding Towns throughout Delmarva, Berlin’s website is confusing and dull; giving the casual visitor no sense of what Berlin MD really has to offer; certainly showing no sense of pride.  Actually though, contained in our Town Government website is a wealth of valuable, up to date information – it’s the ‘face’, the lipstick if you will, that needs to be fixed.  One year ago our Mayor & Council budgeted for this final step – for the IT (those eight syllables again) Committee folks to move forward by reviewing the info and selecting a web design firm to complete this face.  One year – it’s time to finish the job!

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The Resuscitated, Rejuvenated & Revitalized…Berlin Chamber!

While sitting at my worktable yesterday I glanced at a just received email in my computer ‘in box’…a weekly update from the Berlin Maryland Chamber of Commerce.  Within a new, very appealing visual format was advertised an upcoming Chamber Business After Hours, the current Chamber Member Drive, a note of applause for recent local donations to the victims of the earthquake in Haiti; a ribbon cutting for a new nearby venue, a date for the Atlantic General Hospital Flu Clinic, another date – for the Maryland Coastal Bays Program Citizen’s Advisory Committee meeting, an announcement for a business related seminar in Snow Hill next week; and more!

No longer must we wait for a ‘sometimes’ monthly, hard copy newsletter to arrive via snail mail – Great!  And, concurrent with these media improvements, our Chamber now has an actual physical presence, a public, walk-in office on Main Street (across from Victorian Charm) where visitors and locals alike may drop by and get up to the minute recommendations for local dining, shopping and services – learn about town history, whatever!  Wow, our Chamber is finally becoming a real Chamber of Commerce – doing the work of a real Chamber; supporting local business interests, which in turn support our Town and its people in many ways!

I suspect these long overdue but truly welcomed improvements are due to a shift in management philosophy.  Thank YOU!  No matter the reason I am delighted!  As an already proud resident, our Chamber (having arisen almost Phoenix-like), is making me ever more proud to call Berlin MD my hometown!

MISSING SOMETHING HERE…?

IMG_2198En route to someplace located near U.S. Route 50 yesterday I passed OUR town sign located in the median strip across from the Maryland State Police Barracks. I had to do a double take to see if the back looked the same as the front. Yep, it too was bare!
My thoughts also took a quick turn – aren’t we preparing for the largest and most popular event that our town holds annually – The Berlin Fiddlers Convention? Sure we are, I saw a poster through email the other day. And, isn’t this coming ‘end of summer’ weekend (and the one that follows) historically the last and best – with visitors traveling right past the sign to our beautiful beach in Ocean City Maryland? As I recollect, a lot of interested people spent time and money having the original sign erected in the late 1990’s. It’s a good informational sign about our town and along with the billboard at Camp Whaley, serves notice to folks traveling in our direction that Berlin is here and we are an active, fun, and interesting place to visit also!
The responsibility for keeping this sign up to date has been on the Berlin Chamber of Commerce membership – specifically, member Steve Frene, who did a great job. I have no idea to whom this responsibility has fallen now. It matters not who though – it just needs doing!
If the Chamber is having a problem finding someone to do this – then perhaps both the purpose and means needs to be re-examined. In addition to our busy event calendar being listed here throughout the year, the space could be thrown open to Chamber member businesses for a small fee and a brief time. Something like, “New Chef at Globe”, or “Vera Bradley Sale at Victorian Charm”. It’s just a thought, however this would offer further opportunity for Berlin to strut and brag, which is why the sign was placed there originally!

    There is NOTHING missing in Berlin except someone to put up the letters!

NOTE: One day after this blog was posted, the message, ‘Fiddlers Convention’ and the dates – September 25, 26 and 27 appeared on the mentioned sign. A very grateful THANK YOU to whomever. This town; its people and businesses are far too important to be neglected or further politicized!

March – UPS & DOWNS…around our “growing Green” Town!

A visit to the Home, Garden & Condo show at the Convention Center in Ocean City this past weekend turned up a very nice surprise.  While examining a bucket of live algae (very interesting stuff) at the Maryland Coastal Bays booth, Kate Patton, Director of the Lower Shore Land Trust, strolled over and asked if I had visited our “Berlin” booth yet.   Being ever curious I turned the corner and there it was – a wonderful display (predominantly GREEN in color and thought) of Berlin in photos, manned by two very pleasant volunteers standing beside a rain barrel and one of our old street corner signs (Graham & William).  There were take-away goodies here too – some candy and a nifty little attachment for a spigot – to aerate while reducing overall flow – saving our water!  With the current impetus by all on those three very important “E’s”energy, environment = economy, Berlin MD with the overall enthusiasm of many local groups may become a leader in both learning and action in the new millennium!   For more on these fine efforts – keep watching for word from the newest group –“Grow Berlin Green”.  A website should be up soon at this address http://growberlingreen.org.
Alas, there is a down – rumor has it that we’ve finally hired a utilities director but as of this writing the Berlin Utility Commission hasn’t been notified.   The other day, out of frustration I perused ten months worth of approved “meeting” minutes and identified a large number of unresolved issues – including questions and requests for updated information – made by the BUC to the Town.  Sharing a home with an interested BUC member, attending public meetings and being Berlin ratepayers has led to many lively conversations often ending in the mutually frustrating question as to why the Town is not responsive – not keeping the Berlin Utility Commission informed of the frequent actions often taken by Town – even without informing the public.  Certainly too, anything to do with Water, Wastewater and Electric qualify as subjects for BUC oversight under our Town Charter, why then is this happening?  These days with everyone faced with rising costs and husbanding their checkbooks we need the positive participation of every interested citizen.
One further question – if Berlin has enough funds to consider a new Town Park can we find the same money for purchase and installation of an AMI (Advanced Metering Infrastructure) water/electric system for Town ratepayers?  These do work and encompass those all-important “3 E’s” – ENERGY CONSERVATION thus ENVIRONMENTAL CONSERVATION thus ECONOMIC CONSERVATION – SAVING OUR DOLLARS!  HOW MUCH MORE “GREEN” CAN ONE GET???
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America’s Coolest Small Town – Budget Travel Contest!

Note: The voting in this contest ends on April 3rd at which time the votes will be counted and the top 10 will be selected as “America’s Coolest Small Town(s)”. Berlin, currently standing in 12th place (992 votes) probably won’t make the cut! Seems that our neighbor, Onancock VA – presently standing in 4th place with 4,019 votes and a population of less than half (1,525 vs. Berlin’s 3,491) has more folks willing to use their keyboards to cheer for their town. Have you voted yet? If not click the link below and get busy during this last week of voting!
OK, so it’s a bit gimmicky…but at the heart of this contest, it’s true – Berlin Maryland is one of America’s Coolest Small Towns! Recently an entry was posted on the Budget Travel Contest website making our town a contestant for this honor! The editors have narrowed it down to a mere 22 towns nationwide…! YOUR vote can take us to the top (where we already know we belong)!!! Here’s the link – please go cast your ballot TODAY! (No online registration necessary) Note: Ballots may be cast weekdays from 10 am until 8 pm.

http://www.budgettravel.com/bt-srv/coolestsamlltowns/

Our entry says…”Berlin Maryland is definitely one of America’s coolest small towns — there is something for everyone! Located at the heart of the mid-Atlantic coastal region, a mere 7 miles inland, time and nature have created a most perfect place to live…and a very exciting place to visit! From surfing, sunbathing and fishing at the acclaimed Assateague Island National Seashore, (located on one of the few remaining natural barrier islands) to canoeing the quiet, peat-blackened waters of the meandering Pocomoke River this area has much to offer any water enthusiast . Hiking, biking or driving is enjoyed along the nearby scenic, 63 mile long old Algonquin Indian “beach to bay” trail is also available for the land lubbers. And, viewing the famed Chincoteague Island ponies in their natural habitat or the endless variety of wild fowl stopping to rest here along the famed Atlantic Flyway is also within an easy drive from town. Within our towns’ small Main Street commercial district, along tree lined streets one may view not only lovely period historic homes but set forth on a journey of discovery to seek that special something within our myriad of unique shops and to view the works of the many resident artists and craftsmen of renown within their galleries. We must mention too the multi-acre Stephen Decatur Park, that includes a large nature pond and public tennis courts! Berlin was recently honored with the State’s much coveted “Arts & Entertainment District” designation. As for the “entertainment” portion of the honor — along with the usual eateries there is the fully restored, Globe Theater…serving trendy bar food along with a full menu of year round live musical performances. However, like any small town our civic pride forces focus towards our annual Chamber of Commerce sponsored festivals including the Spring Jazz and Blues Fest, the well loved Fall Fiddler’s Convention and caroling during our month-long Victorian Christmas celebration. Our Town museum — the Calvin B. Taylor House also sponsors a series of popular summertime Concerts on the Lawn. To enjoy a picture view of our very real, small town flavor, you may rent the now 10-year-old Paramount movie — Runaway Bride starring Julia Roberts and Richard Gere — where you can experience see Berlin Maryland up close! You will see that we’re a very cool, small town and certainly are one of the best places to live or visit. Come join us anytime!”

Looking up…a week of promise!

After nearly two weeks of intense cold, some things here in Berlin Maryland are finally beginning to turn around.  With the warmer weather on Friday this writer ventured downtown to accomplish some long past due errands.  Upon parking the car on Main Street some welcome activity caught my eye.  Looking up, workmen atop ladders in front of our the old hardware store were busy caulking and painting second floor windows.  My first thought was, “I love that guy”…by ‘that guy’ I mean Mr. Girardi, the new owner – and while I really don’t know him I’m already very grateful for his prior restorations – other town buildings and with the quiet, yet confident manner with which they’ve been accomplished.  Thank you for your vision and serious investment in a place we’ve come to call home – you are my first 2009 Valentine!
Later, finally completing those errands seemed to call for some celebration, perhaps a lunch out was in order so I dropped down to the new Dave & Kelly’s Deli.  Looking over the menu, and tossing diet resolutions to the wind, I ordered a chilidog with the works.  Wow!  Upon unwrapping the foil I found a generously sized hot dog topped with chili, melted cheddar and cooked onion on a fresh, crusty, yet tender roll – you know the kind, the type we often seek yet seldom get!  A real treat!
These two serendipitous events really topped off a week of  “good news” meetings at Town Hall.  On Tuesday the Berlin Utility Commission met and during a lengthy meeting considered several options for that long anticipated, very much needed, Purchase Power Agreement going forward for the Berlin Electric Company!  Also, that evening two new members were introduced; Jennifer Smith and Jason Walters.  It is to be hoped that with new energy (and added intellect) the BUC may continue to provide our Council with timely and wise counsel toward making the very best of Berlin-owned utilities for the benefit of all Town rate-paying citizens!
One more event stands out during this busy week  – a public work session was held Thursday evening within Town Hall.  In attendance were representatives from various organizations – “green” people – those folks who strive to preserve and protect our local environment and people who care enough to improve our already considerable charm.   The purpose of the meeting was to introduce the concept of an “environmental park” to be located a few steps from the downtown area on an eight-acre parcel of undeveloped land.  This meeting was the beginning…let’s see where it goes!
Wrapping up I must wonder if perhaps we haven’t caught a little of that new promise from our Nation’s capital…a spirit of “can do” – we can, and we can do it very well!  Here in Berlin, the lengthening days hold a lot of promises – things are looking up!

Our town HEART at pause…”the hotel”


Last Sunday when I drove by and noticed a shuttered and bleak silence emanating from the Atlantic Hotel I became seriously reflective. First feeling shock (OK, I had heard rumors), and then sadness, I then went on to consider the importance of this building’s history as it relates to the people of Berlin MD.

Early in my own history here, I remember immediately learning that “the hotel” was at the geographic center of town – furthermore, that it was the town “heart” – and certainly a strong social force! Phrases such as, “see you at the hotel”, “they are at the hotel” and “let’s hold it at the hotel”, became to this listener, almost everyday statements. If one wanted a good lunch or dinner on a dreary winter day, it could be found at “the hotel”. If a donation for a Town function or other good cause was needed, we could ask at “the hotel”.
Thinking about my own experiences then made me realize what a huge part the Atlantic Hotel has played in the lives of other town residents. Perhaps a quiet, romantic dinner here led to an engagement party on the porch, which then led to a toast during a summertime wedding reception and yet later to hosting a Christening celebration in the main dining room. Add to that the countless bereaved Berlin families who have held a reception after a funeral. “The hotel” has always been a dignified yet familiar place in which to hold the most serious rites of a Berliner’s life.
I’m sure too that if the walls could talk, we would learn of business conducted, political fortunes won and lost, angry words uttered and then hands shaken upon agreement – all within “the hotel”.
More than 20 years ago, it was with foresight and determination that a group of leading town citizens, “visionaries with pockets”, gathered to rescue and restore an already old building at the heart of Berlin – I’m asking that you please do it again!

Campaign NON-SENSE – give me your GOOD sense!

As a concerned Berlin MD rate and property taxpayer, I’ve listened closely to the many arguments and promises being made surrounding the upcoming election on December 16th for the District I Council seat – and as “town neighbors” feel somewhat familiar with all candidates.
First off are a couple of related issues that my spouse and I believe are very important…
While these guys are running to fill the District I seat vacancy their assessments will have impact – they will vote on issues that will affect all within the Town boundaries – every district. And too, we want this person to be current on every level – this means they attend most all of the meetings – not just the ones with high visibility! In a small town decisions made within the Historic District Commission, CDMA and other citizen-based committees, actually impact widely. I’m fully aware that many keep abreast of Berlin happenings via gossip (known politely as “shared information”) and local weekly tabloid articles but we all can “oh, so skillfully” practice slanting to confirm our opinions! There is no substitute to getting facts first hand and making good evaluations.
Which brings me to some of the campaign non-sense I’ve heard recently – specifically about Mr. Purnell. Yes, Troy makes his living by being one of those “filthy developer” guys. However, through his attention to his mostly successful business interests has learned, sometimes the long way – experience, about doing things the RIGHT way.  And, while not all appreciate the sometimes “-plastic” homes built, few of us can afford the luxury brick or stone mansions, especially these days. Furthermore, with his background in those basic living needs – utility and infrastructure services – Troy could serve us very well in the next two years (re-election for that seat comes in 21 months). It’s non-sense to believe that he would risk the intense public/political scrutiny to better his business interests over the interests of his town.
As for the second hopeful, Phil Cropper – while only a year long resident he is learning and he’s interested and if he continues asking those important questions and attending Town meetings he could be a fine representative in the near future – though perhaps not now when we need experience in the machinations of Berlin Town government and already proven expertise.
Third of the candidate trio is Rex Hailey. While former Mayor Hailey is to be commended for his many years of service to Berlin, he’s on my list of no-shows at many of the meetings mentioned earlier – perhaps relying too much on “shared information” – just doesn’t do it! Another thought here; in these times we all must work together to make current history – not live in the past.
Berlin has important issues which require immediate attention! Our water and sewer rates will rise with the plant upgrade (NOT expansion) to meet new State environmental standards. The Town just-released, audited budget for Berlin, while currently showing “in the black” numbers will be mightily impacted by blooming economic deficits nationwide – leaving the question of how will our Town Government accrue income? Through taxes – your money and mine. I want some very prudent fiscal management (skin-flint type) and judgment practiced here at least until reasonable growth can again take some of the burden…who best to do this? I want NO non-sense!

Again, Assateague Costal Trust sponsored an evening with the candidates on Tuesday, December 2nd, beginning at 7 pm at Stevenson Methodist Church on North Main…a very enlightening evening with candidate answers based on some no non-sense questions.
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Downtown PARKING – a little “self-governance”, temporarily?

With recent focus on our tight daytime parking conditions in downtown Berlin MD, I vote for a little of that “self-governance”, it may be just the stuff to carry us through the Holiday-Event shopping season thundering our way.  Our annual VICTORIAN CHRISTMAS celebration begins next week with Arts Night on the 28th!

Certainly a benefit of living or working around Berlin is that most already know of some out of the way, yet convenient spaces.  We can park and yet not tie up parking for visitors and potential customers for our town businesses…and in this “less than stellar” economy that is very important.  Everyone benefits from a continuing and vibrant town center.

However, never a big fan of adding rules to rules, perhaps it’s time to take another look at current realities.  We have
several marked, Town-owned or maintained Public Parking lots just steps off Main Street. Wisely, shop owners and downtown business employees who park all day are already strongly motivated to park off Main Street. Employees of the Town government have been instructed to park in the St. Paul’s Church lot. I’m betting that if these reasonable requests were met on a regular basis there would be little need for more rules. Otherwise we are looking at more regulations – more signs and ultimately more costs in providing Police enforcement. Do you really want this?

That having been said, our downtown district needs more permanent parking.  Good minds are working on this – trying to configure around our narrow streets, sidewalk shops, restaurants and second floor apartments toward a more beneficial plan for all.  However, as one friend so aptly put it – “we’re not starting with a cornfield”.  This will take time and it will take now scarce investment dollars.  So, in the meantime we might try a little self-governance to keep things moving – toward the future of our businesses and our town.
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