Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk

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At first glance, word Ocean City is giving up on recycling is discouraging. However, that’s not exactly the case, and it would be wrong to infer the effort is being abandoned for the sake of saving money.

The town is looking to outsource its recycling effort to the same Pennsylvania company currently in charge of hauling away its solid waste, which is later transformed into energy and sold to utility companies around the region. This move will essentially save the town about $1 million a year. Whenever any sort of job is outsourced, whether it’s in private or public industry, it usually means job losses. In this case, that’s true, as 15 jobs will reportedly be impacted one way or another, with five reassigned to other vacancies in the city, one retirement and the remainder reportedly downgraded to seasonal employees.

The big change for residents is they no longer will need to separate their recyclables from their normal trash and place the familiar blue bins curbside. They can continue to recycle on their own, but they will have to transport those materials to county recycling stations, as Ocean City will no longer offer them. The Pennsylvania-based company will reportedly sort all metals out of the trash and recycle them but turn all other waste into renewable energy.

It may be wise for other municipalities in the area to look into what Ocean City has done here. It makes economic sense in that it reduces expenses and improves efficiency and could further the life of the county landfills because the waste will stay out of the ground and essentially be recycled.

As expected, Maryland legislators did not see fit to touch a political hot potato – increasing the tax on beer, wine and liquor. This bill was not expected to pass this year, although there seemed to be more of an organized effort behind the so-called “dime-a-drink” tax increase than ever before. The fact it’s an election year surely played a part, but Senate President Mike Miller, probably the most powerful man in Annapolis and that includes the governor, said publicly this week he hopes the legislation does not return anytime soon because he’s adamantly opposed to it. That means a lot.

It’s no secret this winter was terrible for most in business, but optimism abounds, as hopes of cabin fever relief driving folks to the beach seem to be high. Two key indicators recently released prove just how bad January and February were in Ocean City. There will never be a time that January and February are cheered in a seasonal resort, but there’s no question the first two months of this year were difficult to stomach for everyone.

According to the Worcester County Treasurer’s Office, January’s room tax revenue for Ocean City decreased 1.6 percent, from $120,325 in 2009 to $118,346 this year. However, for February, room tax plunged 19 percent to $129,849 from $160,246 last February.

Food tax revenue numbers confirm much of the same. Through the first two months of 2010, total food tax collections for Ocean City come to $37,389. It’s difficult to compare this figure to last year because the food tax was cut in half last summer. However, if we double this figure to represent the same rate of collection as last year, it shows food tax was down 27 percent from the first two months of 2010.

Here’s a look at some others numbers making news this week:

– 18: Seals counted on a marsh in the Isle of Wight Bay last weekend.

– 162: Ocean City condominium settlements through the first three months of the year, according to the Coastal Association of Realtors. That’s a 17-percent increase over the same time period last year.

– 10: Single-family homes sold in Ocean City through March of this year, compared to 17 during the same time period last year. That’s a 41-percent decline.

74: Single-family homes sold in Worcester County through March of this year. That represents an 18-percent surge over the first three months of 2009.

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