The city has the opportunity to apply for a grant for $14 million to fix every city street. Every road would be repaired and brought from its present condition to very good or excellent condition. The understanding, however, according to city manager Pat MacQueen, is that if the city accepts the grant it will spend $600,000 a year to maintain those roads. The city currently spends between $120,000 and $300,000 a year, according to public works director Mike Perreault. City councilors did not balk at the idea; in fact they were enthusiastic about the chance to improve the city’s infrastructre.
At the same time, housing coordinator Andre Caron has several buildings slated to come down in the next several months. October will be a busy month, he said. The two burned out buildings on Main Street will be among those razed.
Sylvia Poulin and the Main Street program worked in partnership with BIDPA over the weekend to beautify the Rite Aid block, planting trees, mulching, adding benches and more. Their efforts are noticeable as you pass on the street.
People have had criticisms: Why did it take until now to get those buildings demolished? Why did city beautification wait until the fall? Why has the city let its infrastructure fall into such disrepair in the first place? These are valid critiques, but they miss the big picture. Berlin is improving. The city has people dedicated to finding their own path forward, not relying on the benevolent will of an industrial polluter to balance their budget. True, they haven’t had that option in a decade, but the “mill mentality” kept the city plodding downward at the same lethargic pace. These efforts, though but a drop in the bucket, represent the turning tide of Berlin’s approach. Residents needs something to rally around, something big to draw them out of their shells to embrace their municipality. These aren’t it, but what they are is something residents can be proud of. Instead of cursing the city for its backward leadership and petty infighting, these are examples of forward thinking actions and decisions. As I said, I feel like I’m here at a time of tremendous positive change in the city, and yesterday I stumbled on a number of examples of it. What are some others?