I almost always support the governmental bidding process because it’s the simplest way to do business fairly and explore the market for the best value on services and goods, but Ocean City did the right thing this week when it decided to skip this step, contracting instead with a vendor it has worked with for years. The issue arose when Zambelli Internationale proposed a 12-percent increase over last year’s expenditure for the town’s two fireworks displays on Independence Day, raising the cost to $62,500. The reasons for the increase seem justified and are laid out in a front-page article. The Fourth of July fireworks are too important to botch. It’s better to know these anticipated events will continue to run smoothly and safely than to jeopardize the alternative. Or if you don’t like how I put it, consider how two elected officials said it this week.
– “Maybe someone will come in at 3 percent less but Zambelli has the reputation with us, and they haven’t blown off any little children’s legs.” Councilwoman Mary Knight
– “I’m a bidder out guy, but this is a proverbial John Deere tractor with the green tractor and the yellow seat, the black steering wheel and the chrome wheels. We know what this is and this is what we want.” Councilman Jim Hall
A lot of people are talking about Berlin these days. Unfortunately, most discussions deal with the uncertain future of the Atlantic Hotel, namely who will become the operator of the restaurant and bar within the historic structure. That’s all well and good and it’s fun to speculate and throw around the hot rumors of the day, but often lost in the conversation is some of the good news that’s happening, specifically things to do with the environment, conservation and natural resources. Green issues seem to have a larger role in Berlin today than ever before, thanks largely to the work of the Assateague Coastal Trust and the Lower Shore Land Trust, not coincidentally headquartered in Berlin, and the Maryland Coastal Bays Program. This month’s announcement of a $125,000 grant for Grow Berlin Green, a new initiative with high hopes, is a wonderful coup for the local greenies. Add the possibility of a large environmental park to the picture as well as the ongoing work of the Main Street Maryland program and things are looking up and green in Berlin. While these environmental issues may not be sexy issues for most, I am looking forward to following the paths these initiatives wind in the future.
You never know where former elected officials on the local front are going to end up. This week, thanks to the world of Google News, I came across former Ocean City Councilman Glenn Steckman, who once oversaw the delivery of this newspaper as well as others in the area. Readers will remember Steckman served on the City Council for 12 years. He lost his re-election bid in 2002, finishing fourth in a three-seat race, and soon after turned to a career as a full-time appointed official as a town administrator. Steckman, a controversial figure at times in Ocean City particularly in 2002 when he had well-publicized run-ins with local police, was recently named town administrator for Easton, Pa. Steckman comes to the job after holding similar posts in Maryland, Rhode Island, Delaware and Virginia. Since leaving Ocean City, Steckman has reportedly continued to stir up controversy at his stops along the way. According to The Morning Call newspaper, Steckman is facing “a handful of still-unresolved federal lawsuits filed by Tiverton [Rhode Island] employees, who accused him of not responding adequately to their reports that the police chief was sexually harassing them.” For his part, Steckman maintains he acted appropriately in that case, and it appears the folks in Easton, Pa. liked him enough to give him the $90,000-a-year job. Rather than continue to bounce from job to job, Steckman told the newspaper he hopes this is the position that allows him to establish some new roots. He was quoted as saying, ”My goal is that my son will be going to high school here, so I want to stay at least four years. … I’m 52, how many moves do I have left?”