There’s a lot happening in Berlin Borough in the upcoming weeks.
At the May 13 council meeting, Mayor Rick Miller announced that the Berlin Downtown Revitalization Corp would host its first strawberry festival on May 22, 3 to 7 p.m., at borough hall. In the same breath, he reported that the 4th of July parade is cancelled and emphasized that council does not plan events but merely issues permits for them.
Regarding the 4th of July parade, Miller added, “While it’s funded partly by Berlin and Berlin Township, it’s run exclusively by volunteers from the ICCA (Inter-Community Celebration Committee). “We’re not involved in the planning except for safety and those types of things. …
“All these events are handled by outside groups,” the mayor added. “They have their own volunteers, their own decision making processes, their own planning.”
During the workshop session, council members noted that although COVID regulations have lightened up, big events like the 4th of July parade takes months of planning and preparation. Though there may be money for it in the budget, time is another big factor for why the parade will not be happening.
Council President Jim Pearce noted that the VFW would hold Memorial Day festivities. on Saturday, May 29. Members will meet at the Berlin Cemetery for a flag-placement ceremony.
Council also held a public hearing on the 2021-2022 budget at its May 13 session and unanimously adopted it. Councilman and Finance Chair Jake Miller announced that this year’s fiscal plan will result in a tax increase of 1.5 cents, which equates to $35.66 a year for the average assessed home.
“It’s a heck of a budget we put together,” he declared. “I want to thank all the department heads for all their contributions and working hard to get this budget as low as it’s been in years.”
Council previously met on March 31 to go through the budget line by line and look for cost savings, and lowered the tax levy from 2.1 cents to 1.5, as previously reported by The Sun.
On the advice of Solicitor Howard Long, council added to the agenda and introduced an ordinance to opt out of Section 31B of the state ordinance New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance and Marketplace Modernization Act. (More information can be found at https://www.njlm.org/969/Cannabis-Legalization ) The borough has until Aug. 21 to make a decision on the opt-out.
Long explained that doing nothing would mean an opt-in that would bind the municipality to a five-year period in which state regulations and all categories of licenses become permitted use in various borough zones. Opting out now allows the council and the mayor more time to decide on and pass ordinances regarding cannabis businesses. Long reminded council that it can always opt back in, but once that happens, it will face the five year bind.
“This basically says the council and the mayor want to control if and when and where they want to permit these kinds of facilities, not just anywhere where the state might decide,“ he noted.
In new business, council introduced three bond ordinances to acquire equipment and complete capital improvements for the sewer system, water system and the borough. Public hearings on all ordinances will take place at the next meeting on June 10, 7 p.m., at the municipal building.
Council also unanimously struck down resolution 2021-060, which would have approved right-of-way use to Cross River Fiber company. Municipal Clerk Dwayne Harris explained that the resolution would allow the telecommunications firm — in order to expand its technological infrastructure — to have nonexclusive access to telephone poles and underground facilities, “so they can map their way through the borough of Berlin.”
Pearce was adamantly opposed to the resolution.
The next council meeting will be an in person session at 7 p.m. on June 10, in municipal hall. There will be a recording of the meeting uploaded at a later time.