Berlin Borough Council discusses police issues and outdoor dining

Bond ordinances passed include three related to capital projects

Berlin Borough Council met for an online session June 11 to discuss recycling, police brutality, outdoor dining and other issues and passed various ordinances, three of which are related to capital projects.

Hosting a public hearing, council passed three bond ordinances authorizing the acquisition of various equipment to complete capital projects for the borough’s roads and water and utility systems, as well as minor upgrades to other areas within the borough.

The three ordinances have a combined cost of approximately $3 million. All passed unanimously and without comment from the public.

Having experienced the area’s first few thunderstorms of the season earlier this month, councilman Andy Simone addressed residents’ concerns about the timeliness of the Department of Public Works to pick up and collect debris and fallen branches from storms. Simone reminded residents the first priority is to ensure the safety of travel for borough residents, but that the daily pickup of trash and recycling is the first task the department is to complete each day.

Simone also stated during the meeting that the borough is unable to clean up debris and organic material on private property without permission from residents, or along streets, roads or parks that belong to the state or county.

“I ask that the residents please be patient as public works continues to remove large residential piles that are left curbside,” Simone said. “We have received plenty of inquiries in recent days.”

Mayor Rick Miller also reminded residents there is a formal request that can be made on the borough’s website to help make the process easier and quicker.

“We have the Mobile311 service that helps residents with being able to report their issue through that,” Miller noted. ‘That can help pinpoint the location and get the request over the public works right away.”

Councilman Jim Pearce also spoke during council reports on the Berlin Police Department’s role in the community, as the country continues to see civil unrest in the wake of the killing of George Floyd and other African American citizens at the hands of police across the country.

“The number one fact that the police and governing body want to be known is that we condemn all police actions and the use of excessive force that was used in the killing of George Floyd,” Pearce said, referring to the actions of a Minneapolis police officer who pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck and caused his death last month.

“Our department has stated that they recognize there are bad cops and they are just as angry, and possibly more angry, because of what it has done to their reputation.”

Pearce said the police department has had several internal discussions on the topic to ensure such incidents never happen in the borough.

“Any and all complaints, such as the use of excessive force, are thoroughly investigated by the Berlin Police Department,” Pearce insisted. “They are continuing to strengthen their policies and working to implement additional training so that nothing like this ever happens in Berlin.”

Pearce also said the police department is audited and evaluated by the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office each year.

Another ordinance passed during the meeting was one that allows issuance of zoning permits for temporary outdoor restaurant seating and retail outdoor sale  areas for a period of 120 days. Solicitor Howard Long said the intent is to help get local businesses reopen in the wake of financial hardship caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Long also discussed a resolution passed by council that authorizes agreement  to a one-year option for the disposal of the county’s recyclable material.

“We’re doing the first of two, one-year options that exist,” Long said. “At the moment, the borough is being charged $5 per ton for its recycling; those municipalities that were not as smart as this mayor and council that didn’t join this co-op [years ago] are paying upwards of $175 per ton to dispose of their recycling.

“This is a tremendous deal for the taxpayers of Berlin.”