City council returns to regular agenda after summer schedule

By Barbara Tetreault

BERLIN — Meeting last Tuesday night because of the Labor Day holiday, the city council faced a routine agenda as the body returned to its regular meeting schedule after meeting only every other week during the summer months.

City Manager James Wheeler informed the council that he was contracting again with William Hounsell Consulting for legislative services at a cost not to exceed $9,500. Wheeler said the city used Hounsell last year to lobby the legislature to fund state grant aid for wastewater projects. Wheeler and Mayor Paul Grenier credited Hounsell with helping the city obtain funding for the wastewater treatment upgrade.

The manager noted the state is scheduled to get a $236 million settlement as a result of litigation over contamination from the gasoline additive MTBE. Wheeler said while much of the money will go to address contamination of drinking water supplies, the city hopes to make a case for using some of the money for wastewater treatment projects. He said Hounsell will be helpful in that effort. Councilor Mike Rozek said the city needs the access Hounsell provides.

The council approved the filing period for the upcoming Nov. 7 municipal elections as proposed by City Clerk Elaine Reindeau. Up for election are four seats on the city council, four seats on the school board, two seats on the board of library trustees and the mayor’s position.

The filing period will open at 9 a.m. on Sept. 25 and run until 4 p.m. on Oct. 10. Candidates must file with the city clerk’s office.

The mayor’s position is a two-year term. The four four-year council seats up for election are those held by Councilors Mike Rozek, Diane Nelson, Lucie Remillard and Russ Otis.

On the school board, the seats held by Nicole Plourde, Scott Losier, Denise Valerino and Louise Valliere are all up for election. Three of the positions are two-year terms and the remaining seat is for four years.

The two-year library trustee positions held by Yvonne Thomas and Linda Lafleur are up for election.

The city will be putting eight properties up for sale — all but one by sealed bid to abutters. The properties were acquired by the city through the tax deed process. In most cases, the city has removed dilapidated buildings and is offering the lots for sale to abutters at a $1,000 minimum bid, with the requirement they merge the empty lots with their existing parcel. The exception is a two-family building at 635 Hillsboro St. The building is assessed at $54,700 with a required minimum bid of $15,000.

The council granted NEMSI Properties LLC permission to hold a block party at the end of Blanchard Street as part of an open house for the firm’s newly renovated property at 225 Blanchard St. NEMSI said it plans to invite 200 people to the Sept. 21 event.

The council approved the request subject to review by the police department and proof of proper insurance coverage.

In a letter to the council, the Massachusetts-based company said the six-unit Blanchard property is the first of many new luxury rental buildings it plans to do in Berlin.

Mayor Paul Grenier reappointed Gerald Dumoulin, Michael Scala and Peter Higbee to new three-year terms on the Berlin Industrial Development and Park Authority. He also reappointed Alison Findsen to a three-year term as cemetery trustee. The council approved the appointments.

But before tackling the work session agenda, the council went into non-public session with the police commission and top police administrators for about 45 minutes.