During the last Ocean City Municipal election, the voters were asked to support a new direction. A sustainable direction focused on infrastructure, public safety and responsible reasonable wants. That’s the way the vote went.
So the night the new council was sworn in, a new beginning started. We tackled committees and employee pay and benefits, which took about six months, resulting in good changes being made to support a sustainable future. Millions of dollars’ worth of future liabilities were erased from future budgets.
Now there is a new discussion on our marketing programs and whether the expenditures currently being made are supporting the whole business environment or disproportionally favor only part of the overall town market. Over the last 15 years, the town’s tourism group has tried to tackle new markets with a focus on heads in beds. While the need to win new customers is viable, it should not take priority over retaining and nurturing already established customers. A sustainable economy can only occur if you maintain your base and grow new business on top of that base. If we continue to take our loyal customers for granted and replace them with new customers that are not always as loyal as the past customer at best, we only stay even.
In business it is more productive to expend monies to secure a repeat customer, than to obtain a brand new customer. The gas promotion and thank you bracelets have not gained majority support (being portrayed as weak gimmicks by non-supporters) unfortunately never being able to develop into a full concept. I believe that we must do something now to get visitors to come for longer and more repeated stays here in town and on island. Along with day trippers who have been ignored to a point of negative returns. While a day tripper does not contribute to room tax, they do spend money in restaurants and the retail stores.
Ocean City is still not yet on the path of a sustainable future. More taxpayer money will be needed to maintain this town in the future if the structural economic conditions of local businesses are not addressed. Commercial property and rental properties in Ocean City are no longer competitive or attractive. Acquisition costs and cost to maintain are out of whack. The numbers no longer ad up to be sustainable, that’s why so many new businesses have chosen west of the bridge to open their doors.
It’s simple, return on investment is better on the west side of the bridge than in town. Something needs to be done to change this. While town tax payers subsidize public safety and marketing for non-taxpaying county properties, Ocean City collects no revenue from the west side of the bridge, but provides service there daily and also marketing the whole area with money collected from on-island properties and visitors.
The time is now to let your Mayor and Council understand, that you wish for us to regain the 110-day profitable summer season that was enjoyed in the 80’s and 90’s. Those 110 days is when over 99 percent of businesses are open and staffed for volume. It’s our most profitable time of the year. Support a comprehensive retention marketing plan that utilizes traditional marketing tools as well as non-traditional methods that will make us stand out in a crowded field of summer tourism destinations. The town should market that we are the best summer family beach resort, not what some want us to be (a year-round visitor destination). If and when we become year-round is the time to market us as that.
Please join with me in getting us on a more sustainable responsible future while protecting the traditions and values of Ocean City that has made us the best place to live, vacation and do business.
Joe Hall II
County’s Economic Problems Need Attention
Week after week, I am appalled by the fluff and pettiness that encompasses the local papers. The main focus of the local papers seems to be entirely on the “magnificent” Ocean City and tourism. Even the letters to the editor are written about mostly trivial things such as seniors riding the tram for free, the way people dress on the Boardwalk and why Carrollton Lane should be a two-way street.
It is distressing that there is an inordinate amount of energy focused on the superficial when Worcester County has some major economic problems that affect the whole community. Worcester County has the highest unemployment in the state of Maryland, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The unemployment rate in Worcester County is up 0 .6 % from the previous year. As equally disappointing is the fact that Worcester County has the lowest wages in the state of Maryland at $515 per week. That should embarrass the local papers and local government.
Unfortunately, the local government is more interested in the revenue brought in by Ocean City. They are not concerned about their year-round citizens being able to support their families. Wages in Worcester County are lower than in Delaware and some surrounding counties in Maryland for the same type of work. Employers are able to pay low wages because the county is not concerned about fair treatment and pay for employees. As the long as the revenue keeps coming in through Ocean City, there is indifference toward their citizens’ quality of life.
Worcester County would profit from persuading business to pay a reasonable working wage and by encouraging companies that provide jobs with a decent living wage to set up residence in the county. The tax revenue brought in from increased wages would help enhance the local government budget and the local school district budget. The school district is in desperate need for funds as they are making tough choices about what to eliminate and reduce.
Reductions in the school district budget directly impact the education of children in Worcester County by increasing classroom sizes, limiting materials purchased, reducing the number of teaching assistants, and reducing technology. The county government enjoys boasting about Worcester County schools being one of top school districts in the state. Those bragging rights will be quickly eliminated as the school budget continues to dwindle into oblivion. Therefore, both the county government and local papers need to start focusing on the real issues impacting the local community.
Serious thought and energy needs to be put into figuring out how to keep Worcester County from having the lowest wages and highest unemployment in the state. Higher wages and lower unemployment benefit the whole county including the public school district. To refuse to address these problems faced by the county is reckless and irresponsible. The whole community in Worcester County needs for the local government to take these issues seriously for betterment of the citizens.
Stop Gouging People
I found it odd that the lead story last week was that Ocean City was trying to figure out how to say thank you to its visitors.
Well I have a suggestion that ties in with a Letter to the Editor Last week. The owner of Mario’s parking seemed to be having problems with competition. But Saturday of the Dew Tour I tried to park in the Mario’s lot only to have to back out after she told me it would be $50 to park for the day. Being a local, I obviously knew that was crazy. I argued a bit with her that she was overcharging people, but to no avail. So I backed out of her lot, drove down a few more blocks and parked in one of the church lots for $10.
In her letter last week, she speaks about "right" and "wrong". Well trying to charge anyone $50 for a few hours of parking is just wrong.
Back to saying thank you, if Ocean City really wants to find a way to say thank you to its guests, they should start regulating parking rates just like they had to do with taxis. If Marios was charging $50 for the Dew Tour, I can’t imagine what they were charging for the Fourth of July.
OC Not Keeping Up With Employee Pay
I am writing about the plight of the Town of Ocean City employees, who have not had an increase in pay going on four years. They have not had a COLA or an anniversary incremental increase.
The individuals that are in charge of bringing in revenue for the city schedule all of these high-dollar events, Firemen’s Parade, Air Show, Car Show, Sunfest, Springfest, Bike Week, Ravens Roost Parade and now the Dew Tour. It was also stated that this past Fourth of July was the biggest crowd in several years. It makes one wonder where all this money coming into town is going because they sure are not taking care of their employees.
Just the opposite you might say. Health insurance keeps going up, gas prices as we all know keep going up, as well as food and just about everything else one needs to exist.
I would also like to point out the fact that Snow Hill in November of 2010 gave their employees a $600 bonus as well as making the statement, “The employees are the unsung heroes.”
I wonder if the Town of Ocean City employees have ever heard such a compliment. Also the Town Council of Berlin in May of this year voted 4-1 to approve a budget that includes raises for employees. It is mind boggling how these two much smaller towns can achieve this and Ocean City cannot, and these towns do not host the events Ocean City does.
However, maybe these neighboring towns do not have a council where four out of seven rule. It seems it is all about the vote they may be vying for.
Last, but not least, the Ocean City Council voted to fund the Arts Center renovation to the tune of $600,000. Now that I am sure really hurt the employees’ morale. One would think we live in New York City or Chicago where such an Arts Center would be much more suited. I do not think the demographics of Ocean City will support an upscale Arts Center.
The morale of the city employees that I have spoken with is very low. The consensus is “why give any extra, they do not appreciate us anyway?” Oh, I am sure that they are very grateful for their jobs, but would also like to be able to keep up with the fast growing cost of living. Sleep well the power of four, I am sure that those who need to work two jobs to feed their families never cross your mind.