Md. Comptroller Peter Franchot was joined by other local elected officials yesterday in Ocean City to once again stress the importance of Maryland schools adopting a uniform post-Labor Day start. Currently, all 24 Maryland public school systems start ringing their bells before Labor Day. Worcester County starts Aug. 26. Two school systems — Frederick and Prince George’s County — actually return on Monday, Aug. 19.
While this is not a new pitch, what was different about this week’s initiative is Franchot was armed with an economic impact report compiled by the Bureau of Revenue Estimates. According to the report, Ocean City will see an estimated 29,417 new day trips, 14,206 new overnight trips and approximately $33.5 million in new economic activity. The report finds, “Due to this increase in economic activity, over $930,000 in new wages would be generated. Ocean City would see a significant amount of new wages because of its large number of seasonal employees. This wage increase is not necessarily correlated with new jobs because it is likely that seasonal employment would be extended to accommodate the larger summer vacation period.”
A task force has been formed to address the issue and is expected to make a recommendation to the General Assembly in the next session, which starts in January. This needs to happen in Maryland, and it will surely help our tourism-based area. School calendars will need to be shifted dramatically and it’s possible winter vacation breaks will have to be shortened as a result, but I think it’s worth it and will favorably impact all corners of Maryland.
There has been much debate over whether certain people are being too negative about current affairs in Ocean City or if some are being too optimistic with their heads buried in the sand. Some of this week’s letters to the editor touch on that debate, and Long and Foster Vice President Jim Waggoner’s letter raises some huge concerns.
In his letter, Waggoner, who has been at the helm of the company’s rentals for years, maintains renters are barking about paid parking and have concerns the city will be further expanding paid parking in the coming years. Read his letter for more on that.
At this point, I think the Ocean City Mayor and Council needs to address this issue proactively. It will probably never happen, but it seems logical to me with all the uproar over paid parking inevitably being broadened throughout the resort for the council to simply issue a public pledge that next year there will be no more paid parking areas. The council cannot go beyond that because there is an election in 2014 that could shake up the seats, but it’s an easy move for this council if it sees fit. Just issue a press release far and wide that Ocean City will not add any paid parking to town in 2014 and that it will not be a discussion during budget season. That will help dispel some of these concerns that apparently are negatively impacting the rental market as well as other industries.
On similar lines, it will likely be September before we know if Ocean City voters will be weighing in on the recently added parking meters. City Clerk Kelly Allmond said this week the Board of Elections is scheduled to meet next week to review the 1,700-plus signatures on the petition and that results will come in three weeks most likely.
If the minimum amount is reached, the paid parking areas added this year will be removed, and the council will have to decide on when the referendum vote will be held — in a special election or during the fall election of 2014. The latter I hear is favored.