Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk

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Ocean City should have its new police chief in place sometime next month. Back in March, City Manager David Recor outlined a thorough process of interviewing candidates and reported the Mayor and Council should make their selection by the first of June. These things usually take longer than expected, but sources indicate the appointment will be made sometime in June and that the city is nearing the end of the extensive process.

As always is the case with these sorts of high-profile openings, it’s going to be interesting to see if this lengthy process, which initially yielded over 80 applicants, will result in an internal promotion or an external choice. According to knowledgeable sources, there were several individuals currently employed with the Ocean City Police Department that applied for the top cop job, and I understand at least three made the cut that winnowed it down to 15.

It’s unknown if those individuals are still in the running, but it should be known soon enough.

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The Ocean City Mayor and Council made the right call this week when it decided not to include the $20,000 savings associated with a proposed reduction of the skate park’s hours in the next year’s budget.

Earlier this month, the council decided to form a skate park committee of stakeholders and city staff members to evaluate the facility and its operations over the summer and then to issue a recommendation back to the city. The problem was the city was planning to leave the $20,000 savings from the proposed closures during the offseason in the budget, meaning the plan was still to reduce its hours in the offseason and shutter the skate park completely in January and February. That worried many who felt once the savings were figured into the budget it may be difficult to extract at a later time.

This week, the council decided to proceed as if the skate park’s hours and operations will not be changed but to continue with the idea of forming a skate park committee to report on the facility at a later date.

Assuming the committee will find justification for keeping the park open year-round, it looks like the town’s skate park operation will remain as it has for years. That’s a good thing. In this particular case, the savings realized was just not worth the harm to certain aspects of the community and the perception many would inevitably draw of local government. Most already are skeptical of what government does with our tax dollars, and this would have only heightened those concerns and led to a major backlash against the town.

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In Berlin news, there continues to be some concerns with the town’s handling of storm water issues.

The most recent hubbub involves the town of Berlin’s recent decision to allow a new residential development on Tripoli Street to be exempted from new storm water management rules, despite the fact many of its key approvals had lapsed.

The issue here is an administrative waiver was reportedly granted to the new residential development by the town’s storm water engineer and not specifically the Berlin Mayor and Council. The waiver was granted because the project had already met the former requirements but has been delayed in recent years due to the economy and other factors. That decision has been discussed at length, including during a recent Berlin Planning Commission meeting and later by Councilwoman Lisa Hall during a town meeting.  

Opponents to the waiver being granted believe it’s unfair for the development to be grandfathered in under the old, more lenient and less expensive regulations because the project has been dormant and approvals had expired at one point. Complicating matters is the town will soon begin charging residents $50 a year and commercial properties much more to fund a storm water utility to address flooding woes. The idea this project could contribute, rather than help, the flooding situation in town is disturbing.

On May 16, local businessman and CPA Jay Bergey, who has openly criticized the town’s proposed storm water utility fee structure, sent a letter to Town Administrative Director Tony Carson appealing the town’s decision to allow Main Street Homes to continue with its 40-home development near Stephen Decatur Park under the town’s former stormwater regulations.

In his letter, Bergey, who said he does not have any specific problems with the proposed development, wrote, “I am most interested in the procedure by which the storm water management approval was granted and, in particular, whether any waivers were granted and whether or not the plans are compliant with current storm water management regulations.” He also asked to receive a copy of the documents that led to the approval and offered to pay for the copies to be made at his expense.

Bergey’s appeal was subsequently denied by town attorney David C. Gaskill because it reportedly did not comply with the appeal process outlined in a town ordinance. Gaskill furthered, “in my opinion, you lack standing to appeal unless you can demonstrate that you own property which would be adversely affected by the storm water management decision made in this particular instance.”

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