OCEAN CITY – Whether pulling into a gas station, eating dinner with your family or enjoying a day on the beach, keep an eye out because you may be approached by Councilman Brent Ashley giving away free gas in appreciation of vacationing in Ocean City.
At the Shell gas station on the corner of Coastal Highway and the Route 50 Bridge on Wednesday, husband and wife, Bob and Trish Disabato, along with their children Christine and Robert, were surprised with a free tank gas to say thank you for their stay.
Ashley and Joe Kroart, owner of Ocean Gallery, approached the family’s SUV as they pulled up to a gas pump and stunned them with the news that they are the first to receive free gas in the new promotion.
“It feels great to get free gas from anybody but particularly a representative of Ocean City, that’s great,” Bob Disabato said.
The Disabato family lives in Tallmadge, Ohio and arrived in Ocean City last Saturday to begin their vacation. They were ending their stay by stopping at the gas station to fill up before heading to Virginia to visit family.
“It’s beautiful, the beach here and everything,” Bob Disabato said. “My mom and dad brought us here when we were little.”
Bob Disabato works in law enforcement in Tallmadge, and Ashley said, “what a better person to give free gas to.”
The Dispatch asked if more cities in the country should give away free gas as a thank you and Bob Disabato replied, “Yeah that would be great. I think they should. I think it would be good for the economy, it is positive for the city to show its visitors they appreciate them coming in and spending their money and using their facilities and businesses.”
Before the family pulled away, Trish Disabato said receiving free gas was the perfect way to leave Ocean City. Once the family was on their way, Ashley paid their gas bill which came to $26 and some cents.
“Did you see how happy he was? Did you see the smile on his face?” Ashley said. “Those people were thrilled to death.”
The concept of the free gas giveaway has gone over some mountains since the beginning. Ashley first proposed to allocate $1 million of the town’s advertisement budget toward the promotion and once it was noticeable that town officials looked down on that amount of money he returned proposing $100,000. The Mayor and City Council voted to approve a $100,000 allocation towards free gas for Ocean City’s visitors in a 4-3 vote on May 31. A week later, a flipped vote nixed the promotion once they discussed leaving it to the local businesses to provide gas giveaways to promote their own companies, and the town will formulate some kind of plan to support the private sector.
At this point, Ocean City had already announced the formulation of the gas giveaway promotion and the concept received a wide range of publicity.
When the promotion was later voted down by a majority of the council, Ashley said, “I am very embarrassed for the town and for some of the elected officials. It’s given Ocean City a total black eye and has killed our credibility.”
Last week Ashley formulated a new plan, reporting he was going to use his council salary and private business contributions to give away fuel.
Ashley followed through by giving the Disabato family a free fill-up this week. He says he is going to hit restaurants and even the beach next, surprising vacationers with free gas to say thank you.
"Free Gas is just another good reason for families to visit Ocean City, Maryland this summer,” Ashley said.