Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk

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A dozen local business owners exchanged thoughts and ideas on Tuesday morning at the Greene Turtle North regarding the viability of Ocean City, specifically the northern end.

Among the numerous topics discussed (see article on page 10A) was the pathetic state of the shopping centers in north Ocean City at this time. The Ocean Plaza Mall is vacant except for Superfresh and Rose’s, and it has been an eyesore for nearly a decade now. Every other smaller shopping center currently has at least one vacancy with most having multiple commercial spaces available.

Perhaps the most successful of the shopping centers is the Gold Coast Mall, which has struggled with tenant capacity as well in recent years. The most notable loss for the mall was when Superfresh closed last year, leaving its anchor store vacant. That just looks bad for the mall and is a perception problem when it comes to trying to score new tenants in other empty spaces throughout the complex.

The good news on that front, however, is Peebles department store is inked to open in part of the former grocery store’s space by summer. Peebles will soon begin advertising for employees. What’s planned for the other part of the storefront is unknown at this time, but that’s a step in the right direction for the northern end.

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 The grievances aired by Ocean City employee John Moxley at City Hall this week were not surprising.

There have been whispers of these concerns for months, dating back to early last year when pay and benefit changes were weighed for city employees.

However, what was a bit surprising to me was to hear about the venom many employees think some of their elected officials are carrying for them. Clearly, these employees are scared of the council’s “new direction” and fear those at the wheel.

Moxley said, “Never before did Ocean City employees felt so naked … naked to the whims of a small majority. … The majority of employees feel disliked and despised by those same members of the City Council.”

Warranted or not, that’s not healthy and extremely disturbing. At some point, the council will have to discuss this issue in public. The council, under the advisement of City Solicitor Guy Ayres, was told previously not to address these grievances as it could be taken as a sign of recognizing the organization effort.

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The City Council was right to reject a plan to increase taxi fare rates this week.

Back when meters were put in cabs, one of the primary reasons for the change was to address the rogue cab companies charging obscene amounts at various different times. I recall a friend who worked at Seacrets and lived in Ocean Pines at the time saying it would cost him $20 during the week days to get home and as much as $40 on the weekends.

Government regulation was needed at that time to wean out the criminals and essentially bring regulations to the industry. A fair pricing model was a focus but the city was also seeking to legitimize the industry, eliminating the drivers who were coming from points far and wide to make some easy summer weekend money. That later became a revenue source through the current medallion system.

The council was right to not allow these rates to be raised. It’s expensive enough as it is and most of the reputable and long-standing companies agree with this premise.

In regards to the $1 fuel surcharge that was permitted should gasoline prices exceed $4-per-gallon, that move seems fair and appears to be a certainty. It’s more a question of when gasoline will hit that mark.

What’s unclear is whether it will top the $5-a-gallon mark. It’s worth pointing out three years ago, according to an invoice I found in our company files this week, gasoline was coming in a $1.72 for a gallon of unleaded gasoline.

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Free always has an appeal, and it looks like the only night Ocean City will not have planned free activities during the upcoming summer season will be Saturdays.

Last week, the Tourism Advisory Board sought the Mayor and Council’s endorsement for weekly fireworks displays and laser shows on the beach. The council approved the events, which will be held on the beach at North Division Street.

With that approval, here’s a look at some of the town’s larger free offerings and the nights they will be held:

Beach Movies: Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays
Fireworks: Tuesdays
Family Beach Olympics: Tuesdays
Concerts: Wednesdays
Sunset Park: Thursday nights
Laser show: Sundays
Sundaes: Sundays
Free is the name of the game, and you can never have enough free value-added activities to offer.
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President’s Day weekend sales earned high marks from most business owners, but it was cut short by the freezing rain/snow forecast for Sunday night. Consequently, it was a big two-night weekend, rather than a nice three-night bump.

Here’s a look at holiday weekend demoflush figures for the last 10 years, according to the town:

2012: 87,4172011: 82,089
2010: 96,102
2009: 84,917
2008: 90,622
2007: 89,234
2006: 91,621
2005: 88,901
2004: 99,057
2003: 84,850

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