Berlin Borough looks ahead

Council wants to attract businesses, redevelopers in 2021

MATTHEW SHINKLE/The Sun: Berlin Borough is looking forward to bigger and brighter days ahead in 2021. But what exactly might those better days be? The Sun spoke with Mayor Rick Miller about the year ahead.

Days into the new year, Berlin Borough Council is evaluating potential projects and initiatives it hopes to start or complete in 2021.

Long discussed by council and finally acted upon, is redevelopment in key parts of town that have long been vacant. The Sun has covered the acquisition and teardown of certain buildings along the White Horse Pike in downtown Berlin, as council took matters into its own hands to help jump start the redevelopment of the downtown district and attract potential redevelopers and business owners to other parts of town as well, such as the Berlin Shopping Center.

“With the Kmart site being bought (at the Berlin Shopping Center), the owner is looking to fix it up and get it rented out, and there’s been some potential activity across from that site as well,” said Mayor Rick Miller. “Unfortunately, other than that, there aren’t many other areas of town other than downtown Berlin along the White Horse Pike. We’re hoping to fix those recently addressed buildings sometime in the future so that we can redo the pike.”

Looking at the year ahead, Council President Jim Pearce said he looks forward to council addressing redevelopment and various other potential needs or concerns around the borough, some of which have already been noted.

One such initiative includes restriping the curbs in front of the more than 3,000 homes around Berlin Borough, according to Pearce, which has previously been discussed by various council members.

According to Pearce, the Berlin Fire Company noted during its Santa visits this holiday season that some home address numbers on curbs around the borough were either not 100 percent clear or looked different than those in other neighborhoods around the borough, leading council to examine the possibility of renumbering houses within the borough.

“I’d brought this up in recent meetings, and it was once again discussed recently that it’s not uniform across town and they (numbers) are faded in front of some houses,” said Pearce.

He added that council wants to have a safety initiative started — and possibly finished — in 2021, to make affected address numbers uniform and clearer.

At this point, Pearce said council is still in early discussions about such a project. It is unclear whether the borough would do the work in house through the Department of Public Works or go out for bid.

“It has to be uniform; it’s a huge undertaking to do because we have over 3,000 homes in Berlin Borough,” Pearce noted. “It’s been done in years past, but they’re faded in some areas and they look different in newer parts of town, so we want to get this done to ensure it’s all uniform and that the right people can continue to get to the right houses when needed.”

Miller emphasized other projects around town that council hopes to get completed over the next year, including reinvesting in the borough’s parks to make the town more walkable and completing the water main replacement project through the Department of Public Works.

With 2021 having finally arrived, Miller and Pearce said they’re working to stay ahead of the curve moving forward. While everyone wants life to go back to the way it was before COVID-19, the two men said it’s paramount to prepare for what things will be like even after vaccinations, and that  changes wrought by the pandemic could become commonplace or permanent.

“The way we’re approaching 2021 is that we’re very cognizant of the fact that we have to move forward with the idea that COVID-19, or another disease, could be around for a long time,” Pearce advised. “We’re not waiting for this to end and then things are going to go back to the way they were … We’re making plans that this may be around longer than we’d like.”

While social distancing, required temperature checks and face coverings at municipal hall were put in place as a reaction to COVID, Pearce added that, as time goes on, similar restrictions may stay in place or be instituted when needed.    

“You can’t plan for 2021 as if the vaccine will be here and immediately life will go back to how it was before: It would just be foolish of us,” he warned.  “Some people get frustrated with that, and we understand that, but we have a duty to work with what’s happening around us and not to pretend it’s not here.”

Miller looks forward to continued progress after his first year as mayor.

“I have a four-year term; one year went by fast and I look forward to the next three years,” he said. “We can’t wait for this thing to go away to get done the things we need to get done.”