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City Council holds busy work session


by Tara Giles
Sports reporter - Coos County Democrat and Berlin Reporter
March 24, 2021
BERLIN — During last week's Berlin City Council work session, Mayor Paul Grenier opened the meeting with a Public Hearing in regards to funding for Hutchins Street Sidewalk. After no public comments, the Hearing was closed.

No public comments were delivered after another Hearing involving authorizing USDA RBDG Broadband Feasibility Grant.

A Resolution that would authorize the NHDOT Transportation Alternatives Program for a grant in an amount up to $800,000 was discussed. The purpose of the grant is to build a new sidewalk along Hutchins Street between Napert Village and the intersection of Columbia Avenue with Hutchins Street.

The resolution states, "Whereas, up to $800,000.00) is available to municipalities in New Hampshire and all grants require a match of twenty percent of the total project; and Whereas, if awarded, up to $800,000 of the funds will be used for constructing a new sidewalk along Hutchins Street between Napert Village and the intersection of Columbia Avenue with Hutchins Street; and Whereas, the City recently finished a new sidewalk project along Hutchins Street and there is an area approximately 1,700 feet in length with no sidewalk; and Whereas, the City recognizes Hutchins Street is the City's primary truck route and north/south connector road which experiences heavy traffic and a new sidewalk connecting the two existing sidewalks will make the area much safer for pedestrians and motorists alike; and Whereas, the City's Master Plan calls for the application of TAP funds to construct additional sidewalks in the City."

The Resolution passed unanimously.

A Resolution seeing the authorization of an application to the USDA Rural Business Development Grant Program for up to $30,000 for technical assistance to determine the scope and feasibility of making broadband more accessible and providing more choices to residents in Berlin.

The Resolution reads, "Whereas, there is grant money available from the USDA Rural Business Development fund; and Whereas, there are many benefits to increasing access to broadband and fiber to the premise to improve the economic opportunities of Berlin; and Whereas, this work is in the early stages of formation and there is a need to collect data and work collaboratively with the County in the development of a vision, goals and objectives to guide future work; and Whereas, if it is found to be feasible to bring more providers, add more connections, make broadband more competitive and affordable, it would benefit every sector and every family in the community; and Whereas, the City is in need of more ways to attract and retain commercial development; and Whereas, access to broadband in today's world is just as necessary as any other utility and there is a need to work to make it more available and more affordable."

The Resolution passed unanimously.

The next topic on the table was in regard to pollution control. Jon Goudreau, Pollution Control Superintendent, discussed his FY22 budget requests.

Goudreau said, "Overall, I'm requesting an additional $18,000 which is essentially a flat budget request. Money has been moved out of the chemical line item and moved into sewer cleaning repair line item to do maintenance on the truck. Other changes are in health insurance, and contractual items."

Grenier inquired about how many full-time employees are there, and how many are nearing retirement.

Goudreau said, "We have seven full-time employees, and one who has given a date of Dec. 31 of this year for retirement. There is one other employee of retirement age, who has not indicated that he is considering this yet."

Goudreau added, "I will come to Council when it is time to replace the position, which is the Assistant Superintendent/Chemist."

Councilor Remillard asked about the fencing project.

To that, Goudreau said, "The security fencing has been installed completely, and that the rest of the project will be completed in May."

Councilor Theberge followed up with a question in regard to the lift station and treatment plant at the White Mountain Paper Company, stating concerns regarding the clay that comes from the station.

Grenier responded, "We are just beginning the process."

City Manager Wheeler added, "There will be an engineering study to answer these questions."

Grenier asked Goudreau if any Capital Goudreau projects were planned.

Goudreau responded, "We are saving approximately $18,000 due to interest rates being down."

Wheeler added, "There is a $460,000 user charge that is appropriated, which is a reserve for the replacement of Capital equipment."

Goudreau did note that revenues have been down a bit, as are state aid grants, but states that he believes they will be close to projection by the year's end.

Recreation Director Terry Letarte reviewed here FY22 budget requests. Letarte relayed that she hopes to make an assistant position full time.

Letarte stated, "There is a high turnover rate with a part-time position, and a full- time position would allow us to increase programming. The assistant position handles all of the sports programming and is in the field with the public and the children."

Letarte added, "We need someone on the ice and in the ball-field, along with someone in the office for administrative work."

Grenier responded, "It is only a $12,000 difference in the budget, and the community will get much more."

It was noted that the assistant is highly qualified and knowledgeable about sports and agreed to Letarte's request as does Councilor Remillard.

As far as capital projects, Letarte said, "We are looking into a security system, providing cameras in the gym and in the office for liability reasons."

City Manager Wheeler noted that the Public Works Department budgets are flat lined, save for health insurance and NHRS.

"There is an increase in landfill monitoring for Solid Waste," said Wheeler.

Wheeler added, "There is a new line item for the Assistant Public Works Director position, which is budget neutral, as part of the money came from a Supervisor position, and part from the Director's position."

"City Hall is starting to have problems with the roof, as shingles are missing. The roof has not been replaced since 1994, and $100,000 is being budgeted for that. There is $165,500 for five loader leases. This will give the department a total of eight loaders. Sidewalk tractors are budgeted at $65,000. There is $15,000 budgeted for the Riverwalk match. There is $425,000 budgeted for three new trucks; a recycling truck, a salt truck and a dump truck," said Wheeler.

He went on to say, "Retaining walls are budgeted at $20,000. Hutchins Street lighting is budgeted at $16,000. Drain line replacement is budgeted at $100,000 for High Street. Heritage Park roof is budgeted at $25,000. Pavement resurfacing is at $20,000. Mason Street bridge repairs is at $600,000, and they have talked to a contractor and Brookfield about the project. They will split the work between at least two seasons, which will allow this to be reduced to $300,000. $60,000 is budgeted for a new truck with a dump body. Recreation building repairs is budgeted at $50,000, which is planned for the roof and insulation."

The meeting was closed with a discussion on the Mason Street Bridge project, to put it out to bid again.

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