Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk

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Offer alcohol and they will come is a philosophy that seems to be working for Berlin special events, but how much is too much seems to be the question that continues to give the Mayor and Council some reason for pause.

The latest example came this week when The Globe proprietor Jennifer Dawicki approached the council seeking support from the town for setting up a bar in the middle of Broad Street in front of her establishment. She basically wants to do the same thing for May’s Jazz and Blues Bash and Play Day as she did during New Year’s Eve, which was a huge success by all accounts. She eventually received the council’s unanimous support but it didn’t come without consternation.

Berlin has come a long way in its approach to allowing alcohol on public property. It used to be, and it really was not that long ago, that Berlin wanted nothing to do with it. For several years, a group of residents wanted to have a charitable beer garden at some town events and routinely were met with opposition from merchants and officials. Rarely did their requests ever even get before the Mayor and Council because the private sentiment was simply not there.

That has now changed and it’s a good thing. Berlin’s current renaissance has a tremendous amount to do with its special events. In my opinion, the waves of positive exposure that have come Berlin’s way in recent years are largely a result of this combination of new events, such as the Jazz and Blues Bash, Play Day, Oktoberfest and New Year’s Eve, with other traditional favorites, like the Fiddlers Convention in September and next weekend’s Spring Celebration.

The council is right to embrace the times, grant people the opportunity to enjoy these activities with a cold one or three, even if it is with some hesitation. The case-by-case approach is best, but it should continue to allow it so long as no problems arise.

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Trying to attract Canadian tourists to Ocean City has been discussed often in the past, but nothing concrete has ever taken place. The problem is it’s expensive to market that far north, and it’s a gamble to move into a new market that may or may not return the required investment. It’s one thing to move into the New York/New Jersey market, as Ocean City has done in recent years, but it’s another matter to start targeting another country.

That’s not to say the latest effort discussed this week by the Mayor and Council is not worthwhile.

Back in 2006, former Chamber Director Dan Barufaldi, who had Canadian contacts, seemed intent on targeting Canada. He said all the right things about trying to lure and introduce Canadians to Ocean City, but that effort never truly got off the ground for a variety of reasons, including the fact he and the chamber parted ways and eventually became embroiled in the courts.

Throwing money at marketing in Canada would not be a wise use of the town’s limited marketing and advertising dollars at this point. Instead, I like the idea of setting up the OC Experience travel booth at a Canadian tourism show.

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Ocean City should have a city manager announcement within the next month, as discussions have stepped up and now the list is done to a handful.

It’s interesting to note the process is winding down and Sunday is April 1, a significant date to the city because that means former City Manager Dennis Dare will now officially be retired.

Since his forced resignation back in September, Dare has been receiving his full pay (at a rate of $173,404 per year) for not working. He has been essentially retired, but not according to the city’s payroll figures.

Starting April 1, 2012, his retirement takes effect. The city will, according to the agreement, “pay to Dare in a paid leave status based on Joint and Survivor pension benefit as of thirty years of service to Ocean City as an employee in the amount of $6,665.83 monthly through October 31, 2012.” Subtracted reportedly from that amount will be costs for the health insurance coverage for Dare and his wife.

Combining his annual salary’s weekly rate, from Sept. 9, 2011 to March 31, 2012 with the adjusted salary from April 1, 2012-Oct. 31, 2012, the city will be paying Dare about $133,000 for not working, excluding vacation, holiday and personal leave pay owed to him and other benefit costs.

Dare’s replacement could be picked as soon as next month, and I’m interested to see how much this new city manager is going to be paid because that cost, coupled with the search process expenses and the amounts already paid to Dare, will give us the total cost for this debacle.

It’s expected to approach $250,000. That’s one expensive new direction.
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It’s only been a few short months since the North Ocean City Business Alliance was launched, but progress seems to have been instant.

Although nothing appears to be concrete yet, changes are being made to address the north Ocean City business community’s concerns that it’s often left out of town event planning and marketing. Already, pending the governor’s signature on a local courtesy bill, it’s looking like a wine festival will be held in mid-September in the northern part of town. The details are still being ironed out, and there’s a chance the weekly laser light show pitched for downtown may also consider a north OC stop. The proposed bikini parade looks to be a go and talks are ongoing with the producers of the Cruisin’ OC events in the spring and fall to include a site in north Ocean City.

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