Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk

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Ever since he offered to become the town’s first fire chief, I have wondered how Ocean City Fire Chief Chris Larmore gets paid his $1 annual salary. Staff writer Bryan Russo found out some details this week about the city’s only “community service” employee. Apparently, Larmore, who should be credited for this charitable act, receives his paycheck with the first fiscal year’s payroll. It reportedly comes to about 85 cents with 15 cents withheld. Of that withholding, 8 cents goes to his pension, 6 cents to Social Security and 1 cent to FICA. However, since Larmore is covered under the town’s health insurance policy with Ocean City paying 90 percent of the cost, he ends up having to pick up the remaining expenses of that coverage. It’s been a little under a year since Larmore took the job, and he seems to have no regrets, according to an interview this week. It’s the understatement of the year to say the city is getting quite a bargain with Larmore as this position would certainly merit a salary of $100,000-plus under the town’s pay scale.

Drinking on the beach has been in the news the last couple weeks. One story this week dealt with the potential consideration to allow more oceanfront hotels and restaurants the ability to sell and serve alcoholic beverages to beach-goers. There are a few exceptions, but generally this is illegal in Ocean City, and there appears to be little momentum to change the law among those who govern alcohol licenses in the county. Nonetheless, Ocean City Councilman Jim Hall would like to see this explored. Last week there was the announcement by Assateague State Park officials that effective next Tuesday consuming or possessing an open beer or mixed drink is prohibited in all park day-use area, including the beach, without a $35 permit. The good news is park officials understand this is a dramatic change and not all beach-goers will be aware of the law change the first year. That’s why there will be a simple slap on the wrist in most occasions in the early going with rangers planning to simply ask the drinkers to dump out the alcohol and brief them on the new law. Consequently, it appears the first summer may be more about education than strict enforcement and fines with a tougher approach starting later this year.

The term “Employee Longevity Bonus” is a term unknown to most in the private sector. However, if you work for government, you are well aware of it. It’s been well documented that public sector employees throughout Worcester County and in Ocean City will not be receiving their usual salary increases for the next fiscal year. Those fell victim to budget belt tightening. It appears the same will go for these longevity bonuses, at least as far as county employees go. It’s unclear exactly how much this will save the county, but I did learn this week in 2008-09 fiscal year longevity bonuses totaled $85,000 for full-time county employees, excluding the school system. Here’s the breakdown of the bonuses given last December: 49 employees who had worked for the county for 20 years each received a $500 bonus ($24,500); 37, 25-year employees earned a $1,000 bonus check ($37,000); nine employees received $1,500 checks ($13,500); and five employees earned $2,000 payments ($10,000).

In other news, Ocean City had an impressive showing at the Restaurant Association of Maryland’s Annual Awards Gala Monday night. It’s not an overstatement to say it was an historic night. At a time when every little bit helps as far as tourism exposure goes, this is big news. The highlight of the night would have to be Seacrets owner Leighton Moore receiving the Restaurateur of the Year Award, a swan song of sorts considering his pending retirement from the restaurant business this summer. It was also a big night for Fager’s Island, which was inducted into the Hall of Honor; the Marlin Moon Grille, which brought back to the beach the Favorite Restaurant crystal bowl; and Liquid Assets, which was honored for its tremendous beverage and wine program. Congratulations to the recipients on these impressive awards.

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