City Awards Ice Cream Truck Franchise Despite Objections

OCEAN CITY – A new ice cream truck vendor has been chosen in Ocean City, despite other potential franchisees asking for the decision to be postponed.

This week the Mayor and City Council scheduled bid openings for the recent vacated vehicle vending franchise, more specifically the roaming ice cream trucks that work Ocean City. The franchise will be a term for four years with only one franchise holder. The franchise holder is limited to a maximum of six trucks. The bids had to be submitted to the City Manager’s Office no later than 11 a.m. on Monday, March 18.

Before the bids were opened during the Mayor and City Council legislative session on Monday evening, Francis Hooks of Salisbury approached the body during citizen comments asking for the bid process to be extended saying he did not have enough time to start up a business and bid.

Hooks explained he has gotten to know Ocean City by spending many years working for well-known Ocean City business owners, as well as received a degree in Biology with a minor in Chemistry and worked at John Hopkins in Baltimore. Hooks also worked for the Town of Ocean City testing water.

Hooks furthered he has knowledge on ice cream and the reaction that creates freezer burn and would like to sell better quality ice cream in Ocean City.

“I would like you to consider not opening, or if you do open to look at these bids if they are adequate … Good Humor and the other vendors … just try to make kids happy. I want to make grownups happy in Ocean City this summer and I want to go with high-end, high-cream, and a little bit of high cost, but well frozen ice cream,” he said, claiming he is smart, wholesome and knows good taste and quality when it comes to choosing the right vendor for the ice cream truck franchise in Ocean City.

City Clerk Kelly Allmond said the legal notices announcing the vehicle vending franchise were advertised for two weeks in the local paper as Ocean City’s code requires.

As the bids came up in the agenda to open, Mayor Rick Meehan reminded the council members it is their choice to postpone the opening or move forward. He noted Hooks was not the only prospective business person who argued the town did not allow enough time to accept bids, as another email was submitted by a separate individual stating the same.

“I think everybody has had equal opportunity, and it was advertised correctly.” the mayor said. “The council has the right to reject any bid if they don’t think they are appropriate but at the same time if you do that and open it back up everybody knows what the first bids were.”

Councilman Joe Mitrecic, being in the construction business, stated he has personally gone through bid processes before and it would be unfair not to open the three bids that were received on time and made a motion to move forward.

“It puts the three people that had bid at a disadvantage if we delay this,” Councilman Doug Cymek concurred. “They have to move the lines to get ready for this summer and I wouldn’t want to see any tremendous extensions in this if we didn’t move forward with it.”

Councilwoman Margaret Pillas grew concerned when she learned there was a second complaint about not enough time allowed to place an adequate bid.

“A second person is saying something is not correct or understood by the public, and we are here to make sure the public does understand,” she said.

Council President Lloyd Martin agreed with his colleagues recalling other bids being denied when they come in late.

“They had the appropriate amount of time to get their bids together like the other three bidders … It would be doing them an injustice to allow other to place a bid,” he said as the council voted to move forward in opening the bids.

The winning bid was from Popsy Pop, LLC. out of New Jersey in the amount of $71,200 per year, totaling $282,800 for the four-year term. The other two bids came in significantly lower than what Popsy Pop proposed.

The availability of the franchise came about when the former holder forfeiting his franchise agreement. Patrick McLaughlin, who operated a fleet of ice cream trucks in Ocean City under the name Arctic Inventions, along with other concession businesses in the resort including telescope pictures and beach stands, pleaded guilty last year to federal tax evasion charges and has since forfeited the vehicle vending franchise agreement with the resort.

In October, McLaughlin was sentenced to 10 months in prison for failing to file individual income tax returns and failing to report employment tax withholdings for his Ocean City-based concession businesses over the six-year period from 2003 to 2009. As a result of McLaughlin’s failure to pay corporate, individual and employment taxes, the total tax loss to the government came in at just under $300,000.

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