History made: Berlin holds first town council meeting


Berlin’s first government: (L-R) Councilmen Don Bates, Matthew Blair, Jimmy Quick and Donald Gunter with Mayor Patrick Bates (W.C. Mann for The Tribune)

BERLIN – On Monday evening, the recently incorporated town of Berlin held its very first council meeting at the Berlin Community Center.  District Judge Rusty Turner administered the oaths of office to Mayor Patrick Bates and Councilmen Don Bates, Matthew Blair, Jimmy Quick and Donald Gunter.

Before administering the oaths, Turner told the council and crowd, “Two hundred and forty-two years ago next Wednesday, an event occurred in our nation’s history that was probably the most important thing.  A group of people got together for a common purpose and dedicated their lives and their fortunes to founding a new nation and furthering the strongest democracy the world’s ever seen. And I think it’s entirely appropriate that here, in a little over a week, you know, we’ll be celebrating that again, but tonight, to be able to do this for kind of celebrating the same purpose: that a group of people got together to form peaceably, and to form a group that wants to govern and take this community further and unite it for a common purpose.  And it’s kind of neat to be doing this, this time of year. And so, I appreciate the honor and the opportunity because, as a judge, it’s probably one of the most honorable things I’ve ever been able to do, is to help get a new political organization going forward, that’s going to govern this community for a long time to come.”

The mayor and council positions were scheduled for election after Berlin voted to incorporate in February, but no seat had more than one candidate, with one seat still remaining unfilled.  For that reason, the entire Berlin town government was seated without a vote, to the chagrin of one unidentified resident present in the audience. The council declared the vacancy for Place 5, calling for interested parties to present themselves in person at the next council meeting in July.  Mayor Bates even invited the protesting resident to come to the next meeting, if he was interested in joining the council.

Most of the meeting was devoted to the basic administrative tasks of a new municipality, including:

  • appointment of Sue Freeman as meeting secretary in the absence of an appointed town clerk
  • establishment of 7 p.m. on the third Monday of each month as the regular council meeting time
  • authorization of Mayor Bates to negotiate a long-term agreement for use of the Berlin Community Center one day per week for Town business
  • discussion of options for the Town’s bank accounts.  Following council members’ recommendations, Mayor Bates will talk to Peoples and Merchants Banks.  According to him, the County is already holding sales tax revenues for the Town, and the Town could have as much as $13,000 in hand by July’s meeting.
  • appointment of Heath Meherg as town attorney at a rate of $175 per hour.  Meherg is a Berlin native who has represented the airport and county government in the past.  In response to a question from the audience about possible conflicts of interest, Meherg attested that he does not currently have an official relationship to any other municipality.
  • authorization of Mayor Bates to secure a post office box for Town correspondence at a rate of $214 per year

In addition to calling for Place 5 candidates, the council also called for any interested candidates for the position of town clerk to present themselves at the July meeting.  Opening the floor to entertain petitions for annexation received no responses, though one local resident did take an application form after the meeting.

The Berlin Town Council’s next meeting will be held at the Berlin Community Center at 7 p.m. on July 16.  The public is invited to attend.

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