OCEAN CITY – At the Mayor and Council’s last meeting of the year, City Manager David Recor presented the first annual update of action items within the Town of Ocean City’s Strategic Plan, reflecting the town moving in a progressive direction.
“I present to you an update on the town wide strategic plan we worked on last year. As part of that, we established a vision for the Town of Ocean City as well as a mission statement and established five-year goals. To implement those five-year goals the Mayor and City Council adopted both a prioritized policy agenda as well as a management agenda,” Recor said. “That plan in brief was effectively the overall working plan for 2013 into 2014.”
Under the Mayor and City Council Strategic Planning Action Agenda, the following items were placed as a top priority under the policy agenda.
The 2013 project is ongoing as the pedestrian safety campaign with the State Highway Administration (SHA), “Walk Smart”, has been successful. Pedestrian incidents have been reduced by more than 40 percent, and staff continues to work with SHA on other design initiatives for future years.
Long-term pedestrian safety traffic studies and conceptual designs are ongoing. SHA conducted its fall meetings with the Mayor and City Council on Nov. 12 discussing ongoing initiatives.
Alternative Revenue Sources
A new revenue report review has been completed, and the Finance Department updated “Revenue Sources” in 2012. To be completed is a comprehensive report of new and alternative sources, followed by a council workshop to discuss direction and a council decision on policy.
A report on tax differential has been completed. An updated study was completed by Municipal & Financial Service Group in February 2013. Additional research on transfer, recordation taxes and county grants compared to assessments was compiled in October 2013.
However, a preparation for joint meeting and a meeting with County Commission is on indefinite hold, as a council decision is in progress while the Mayor and City Council, city solicitor, city manager and staff are evaluating options, alternatives and legal/negotiating strategies.
Parking Needs Study
Staff completed an internal evaluation of public parking lots, street ends and specific commercial areas, and a report with recommendations has been completed as options and alternatives were presented to the Mayor and City Council during fiscal year 2014 Budget Workshop.
A trial program for additional paid parking was implemented during the summer but due to public outcry it was rescinded. No further action is currently planned by staff and the Mayor and City Council regarding paid parking.
An evaluation of cost imbalances related to Town of Ocean City has been completed. EMS services in West Ocean City have been monitored over the last four years, including response times, staffing and call volume.
A report with recommendations is in progress. A council workshop to discuss direction will be scheduled in the third quarter of fiscal year 2014 when staff members will present a detailed analysis. The report will include comparisons of the service levels provided by the town in relation to industry standards. The workshop will be followed by a council decision on policy.
Permits have been acquired, and a decision on funding has been completed. The Mayor and City Council approved $500,000 in “Pay-Go” funding to dredge three canals using FY13 Fund Balance. A bid opening is tentative for January 2014 with construction anticipated for February-May 2014.
The development of a measurement system has been completed and presented to the Tourism Commission and the Mayor and City Council. The monthly report presents a dashboard of statistics including hotel occupancy, room and food tax, visitor guide requests, weather, website visits and more. The report has been well received by the business community and is updated monthly in season on the ococean.com website in the media section.
A Market/Demographic/Town Impact Analysis is in progress. It was discussed by the Tourism Commission and Mayor and City Council. An unanimous vote was taken on Oct. 21 to prepare an RFP for consulting services. The RFP was presented and approved by the council earlier in the meeting that day.
The following items were placed as high priority under the policy agenda.
An actuarial report with options and alternatives was completed during FY14 during collective bargaining negotiations and eventually approved.
The FY14 budget process resulted in limited funding for this item. However, a Market Analysis/Study is in progress as a project scope/outline has been developed by Human Resources and submitted to city manager for discussion and approval. A report with recommendation is to be completed followed by council’s decision on policy.
Private Events Inventory
A standardized Memorandum of Understanding has been developed and implemented for all events. Special Events Superintendent Frank Miller has prepared a draft proposal on “Guidelines for Town-Owned Equipment & Labor Usage by Outside Entities” for review by the Internal Tourism Coordination Group. These guidelines are proposed to create an established system of tracking and approval process, costs, data, sharing, etc. The draft guidelines will then be presented to Recreation and Parks Commission before being presented to the Mayor and City Council.
A policy framework and recommendations of a new fee schedule is in progress to be presented to the Mayor and City Council followed by a decision on policy.
Bike Share Program
A report with recommendation is in progress. Due to competing priorities, this item has been postponed to the third quarter of FY14.
Dedicated Bus Lane
A report on design and options has been completed and included in the approved Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) for design in 2016. Council decision on direction and a meeting with the State Highway Administration (SHA) is to be completed.
A comprehensive plan of projects and costs has been completed. The Capial Improvement Plan was presented to the Mayor and City Council and approved on Aug. 27.
Road Re-Surfacing Plan
An evaluation of road conditions was completed by Public Works and the council decided to fund $2 million in road resurfacing that was approved in the FY14 budget.
The following items were placed as top priority under the management agenda.
A project to repair damages caused by Hurricane Sandy was completed. A full replenishment project, including Sandy storm damage repair and a full four-year advance nourishment, will begin in January 2014. The project is being funded 100 percent by the Army Corps of Engineers through Sandy Storm Repair Funds authorized by Congress.
Five-Year Financial Plan
An underlying assumption is in progress. Draft assumptions are prepared by staff and will be presented to the Mayor and City Council for review and discussion followed by a council workshop for direction and a plan for preparation.
Route 90 Bridge
A report for preparation has been completed. Staff attended an SHA meeting with Worcester County where priority of projects was determined. The council decided to have the mayor prepare a letter to SHA requesting the status of the priority of the dualization of the Route 90 Bridge. During a meeting with SHA a few weeks ago, it was determined Worcester County had not prioritized the project.
Comprehensive Plan Update
An update is in progress. Public input has been scheduled for the second quarter of FY14, followed by a draft to be presented in the third quarter and the council to adopt the plan near the end of FY14.
Election System Update
Research and evaluation of options has been completed. A letter has been prepared by the mayor to Senator Jim Mathias requesting a merger of the Municipal Election with the State Election. A response from the Office of Attorney General was received acknowledging receipt of the request but no definitive timeline was given. The funding to combine the election is to be determined.
The following items were listed as high priority under the management agenda.
Police Organization Study
The organization and structure of the police department has been critically reviewed by Ocean City Police Chief Ross Buzzuro and senior staff. As a result, changes have been made to several operational components. The chief has also submitted a proposal regarding restructuring/hiring of civilian personnel to replace and transition sworn members from administrative to operational duties to the city manager.
Beach Patrol Headquarters
All milestones have been completed. Becker Morgan was chosen as the project architect and a design kick-off meeting was held on Oct. 22 to review space requirements. The location of the corner of Talbot St. and Philadelphia Ave. was chosen for a location and a draft Memorandum of Understanding with the Ocean City Development Corporation facilitating a land swap is currently under review by staff.
The Mayor and City Council approved funding for the project from bond proceeds with OCDC financial support on Aug. 27. Design tweaks are continuing.
Performance evaluation tracking and reporting system is under development using Human Resources and IT resources. The tracking system is complete and information is being populated.
Department head performance appraisal process recommendation has been developed and presented to the city manager. The plan is to engage department heads and evaluate results on progress. The anticipated completion date is the fourth quarter of FY14.
A report of rules and regulations is in progress. Human Resources has identified needed update and policy clarification to reflect current practices. Internal Policy Committee members have been identified and a consulting resource is to be identified.
Employee Reward System
A report with recommendations to be linked with completion of Compensation and Benefits Study is in progress. Council’s decision in direction is to be completed.
The following major projects were placed as priority.
The Performing Arts Center at Roland E. Powell Convention Center is in progress. Construction commenced on Oct. 20 with an anticipated completion date of November 2014.
The reconstruction of the Boardwalk has been completed. The project was completed in April 2013 ahead of schedule and $1 million under budget. Airport improvements have been completed.
The Caroline Street Comfort Station is in progress and is expected to be completed as soon as possible. The project was significantly behind schedule due to weather delays and contractor performance.
Relocation and expansion of a public boat ramp is in progress. The city is actively seeking permits. Construction is anticipated to begin in fiscal year 2015.
The reconstruction of Fire Station 4 is in progress. The old fire station has been demolished and the new one is currently under construction. The project is anticipated to be complete in May 2014.
The renovation of fire headquarters on 15th Street is in progress. A second draft of conceptual design is under review and anticipated to be brought before the Mayor and City Council in the third quarter if FY14.
Scheduled St. Louis Avenue improvements for this past year have been completed.
The following management items have been completed: Capital Improvements Budget, impact of Healthcare Reform, police and dire labor contracts, a budget that meets constant yield, a compensation decision for general employees, a new police chief selection, a solid waste amendment on the town’s role of recycling, document imaging, an interim operation plan for Fire Station 4, and a Sustainable Communities Plan.
The following management items are in progress or ongoing: web-based building permits and business licenses, institutionalization of strategic planning, GIS development proposal, and downtown land acquisition by the Town.
“When you look in total of where we are, what we said we wanted to do and how we were going to do it, I think it is a fairly good report card. I also think it is time for us to be thinking about next year’s work program, and next year’s priorities,” Recor said.
Mayor Rick Meehan recognized one of the terms Recor was hired upon a couple years ago was to develop a strategic plan for the town.
“What you did is follow through. It went exactly as you laid out to us. It got everybody engaged, and all of us around the same table talking about the same issues, and that is important. From a managerial standpoint that is the right thing to do and you were able to accomplish that,” the mayor said. “When you look at this, we have been successful in most of the items that were there and what hasn’t been completed it is moving forward, so I look forward to working on this again after the first of the year so we can continue in this positive direction.
Council President Lloyd Martin felt the goals the city laid out in the strategic plan are on point.
“The goals we set we are going to be there in 2018. A financially sound town government, we’re there. A first-class resort and tourist destination, we’re there. Quality neighborhoods for residents, we’re there. We are moving forward…,” Martin said.