Local Government Berlin incorporation vote less than a week away | The Cullman Tribune

Local Government

Berlin incorporation vote less than a week away

Berlin residents at one of the first meetings held about the possibility of incorporation, back in April 2016. / Tribune file photo

BERLIN -  In less than one week, the unincorporated community of Berlin, a few miles east of Cullman along U.S. Highway 278, may become the county’s newest municipality.  On Tuesday, Feb. 13, 300 or more voters living within the 500 acres of the proposed township will be given the opportunity to come to the Berlin Community Center and vote on whether or not they wish to incorporate.

At a community information meeting this week, Patrick Bates, who has headed up the incorporation effort for two years, said he felt like he and his partners have done all they can and are ready to see the results.

“It’s been going on for two years this month, actually,” said Bates.  “You know, we’ve done some online methods, we’ve done direct mail, we’ve done word of mouth, had some people knocking on doors even.  I think we’ve done the best we can to get the word out.”

This Saturday, Feb. 10, Bates will host the last pre-vote event, a voter turnout rally, at the community center.  Visitors will be treated to free food, will have one more chance to ask questions about incorporation plans and will be encouraged to come back with their neighbors on Tuesday to vote.

Said Bates, “I think the best thing for the community, no matter which way the election goes, is that we have good turnout.  It’d be better in the long run that as many people as possible put their input into this, regardless of whether it passes or fails.”

Bates has been encouraged by verbal commitments he has received from residents who have said that they are coming, and even from some who cannot come Tuesday and have filled out absentee ballots ahead of time.

For supporters of incorporation, the ideas of local control of tax money and access to other government funds are paramount. 

According to Bates, “The big advantage is that it’ll give us some direct local control over some tax moneys that we’re already paying.  It will give us (the) opportunity to take control of our own roads.  That’s a responsibility, but it’s one that I believe we can manage here.  That would also be opening up some grant opportunities, you know: perhaps a storm shelter and some other services.”

Bates also noted that an incorporated Berlin could take care of its own roads without having to wait on a county list, that it could build amenities like parks, and that it could get its own storm shelters like those that have appeared in towns around the county since the April 27 tornadoes of 2011.

Opponents of incorporation are concerned that claimed sources of funding (including sales tax, gas tax, beer tax, and TVA payments, along with accessible grants) might not materialize, leaving the fledgling town to enact local taxes to generate money.  Bates pointed out that Cullman County’s other small townships draw from these sources without problems.  By law, all municipalities have access to a portion of the funding, based on population.

“My biggest concern,” concluded Bates, “is that we actually have turnout and participation in this.  I’m less concerned with whether somebody wants it to pass or not, and more concerned that they actually show up and put their opinion in, in the election on Tuesday.  I think it would be a great thing for us to have the town, but if that’s not what the majority wants, that’s perfectly fine.  We just need to have our say.”

Copyright 2018 Humble Roots, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

  • The southern portion of the proposed town of Berlin, with U.S. Highway 278 running east to west through the middle. Organizer Patrick Bates hopes residents in the unshaded areas will join later.
  • The northern end of the proposed town of Berlin.