Economist Outlines Offshore Wind Farm Potential

OCEAN CITY — While the potential offshore wind energy farm off the coast of Ocean City is still moving through its approval process, the time is now for the area’s private sector to get ready for the opportunity, an economist told local business leaders and politicians this month.

During an economic summit hosted by Worcester County Economic Development and the Ocean City Economic Development Committee (EDC) at the new Performing Arts Center last Wednesday, Dr. Memo Diriker, founding director of Salisbury University’s Business, Economic and Community Outreach Network (BEACON), told those assembled a future offshore wind energy farm off the coast of Ocean City is moving closer to reality. Diriker advised local business leaders to begin preparing for the opportunities an offshore wind farm could present in as soon as five years.

“It looks like there should be steel in the water by late 2018 or early 2019,” he said. “It might be delayed somewhat by permitting and political reasons, but the power should be flowing about a year after that.”

In August, the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) opened the online auction for the Maryland Wind Energy Area (WEA), two adjacent lease areas totaling 80,000 acres off the coast of Ocean City for the development of a future offshore wind energy farm. The Maryland WEA covers roughly 94 square nautical miles with its western edge roughly 10 miles off the coast of Ocean City and extending about 30 miles out.

The successful bidder was U.S. Wind, Inc., a Texas-based company with ties to a successful offshore wind developer in Italy, which bid on both lease areas with a combined investment of around $8.7 million. The lease agreements are currently going through the approval process with the Maryland Public Service Commission, and there are still many details to work out with the eventual design, where the distribution lines will ultimately come ashore and how the power generated will be distributed across the grid, for example. However, while the finished product is still at least five years out, Diriker advised local business leaders and politicians to stay out in front of the process.

“Only time will tell if it’s going to be courageously successful or folly,” he said. “You don’t know if you don’t take risks. This is not the time to sit down and deliberate.”

Diriker told summit attenders, at least those who remained to hear his presentation, the process to bring an offshore wind farm off the coast of Ocean City is now well underway.

“The lease has been awarded and the clock is ticking,” he said. “Offshore wind is not going away. It’s a global industry already and it’s gaining momentum here.”

Diriker said the wind farm off the coast of the resort has the potential provide an economic shot in the arm of the local economy and the environment on several fronts and urged local leadership to be prepared for it.

“Wind energy is creating opportunities,” he said. “Opportunity to create homegrown energy, a healthy environment, provide price stability and create jobs and improve the economy. U.S. Wind is going to invest $2 billion in the state economy in five years. The poultry contributes $3 billion annually and this represents an opportunity for another $2 billion. Whether it’s good or bad, it’s coming. The jobs associated with offshore wind energy are good jobs.”

The potential wind farm will create an estimated 850 jobs during the lengthy construction phase and as many as 200 well-paying, longer-term jobs once the facility is up and running. Diriker said there will many opportunities for the local private sector to take advantage of the opportunities created.

“The biggest prize locally will be the operation and maintenance of the offshore wind farm,” he said. “It’s in the owner’s best interest to keep costs down and hire locally and keep the infrastructure needed on the ground close to the facility.”

Diriker said the local economy is well situated to take advantage of the opportunities, but must begin preparing soon.

“The time to increase our capabilities locally is now,” he said. “It’s going to be a very complex facility in the middle of the ocean and we don’t have any time to waste. They’re going to need marine contractors, welders, electricians, and mechanics and we have those jobs on land already. We just have to be ready to adapt.”

Diriker also took some time to dismiss some early negative perceptions of the potential wind farm, including the proximity of the turbines to the coast.

“When you get close to them, they are very impressive,” he said. “We won’t be able to see them from the shore except on the clearest of days, and only then as a hazy silhouette.”

He also addressed the perception a potential wind farm will be paid for on the backs of taxpayers and consumers.

“There is a cap on what you and I will have to pay,” he said. “There are good consumer protections built into this.”

 

A Week In Business

Biz AApple Discount Drugs owner, Jeff Sherr was joined by his staff and members of the Salisbury and Fruitland Chambers of Commerce and members of the Salisbury City and Wicomico County Council, at a ribbon cutting ceremony this month to celebrate the opening of the new Apple store in the Pecan Square Shopping Center. Submitted Photo

 

 

 

 

Matt Ventura

Matt Ventura

New Analyst Announced

WILLARDS — Atlantic/Smith, Cropper & Deeley (ASC&D) announced Matt Ventura as IT Support Analyst.

Ventura joins the ASC&D Informational Technology team to troubleshoot computer help desk tickets. He has seven years of experience resolving computer issues for customers at Best Buy/Geek Squad.

 

 

 

 

New Pharmacy Opens

SELBYVILLE — Carl M. Freeman Companies announced this week the opening of CVS/pharmacy at Bayside Marketplace located at the southwest corner of Route 54 and Americana Parkway across from Bayside Marketplace.

The 13,281-square-foot store opened Oct. 26 and offers pharmacy service, health, beauty and personal care offerings, general merchandise, food and digital photo services.

“The store is the culmination of two years of working diligently with the Delaware Department of Transportation and Sussex County to include left turn access off Route 54,” said Chris Garland, Senior Vice President of Development with Carl M. Freeman Companies. “Our deal with CVS was dependent on that access which makes the store well-situated to serve our Selbyville community.”

 

Agency, Hospital Work

Together On CHWs

SALISBURY – Health providers across the nation are turning to Community Health Workers (CHWs) to serve as connectors between health care consumers and providers. Peninsula Home Care is leading the way as the first home care agency in the region to offer CHW services through a partnership with Peninsula Regional Medical Center’s Population Health Program.

“While community health workers do not replace our team of skilled nurses and therapists who treat patients in the home, they add another level of care by serving as a liaison between healthcare, social services/resources and the community,” said Nancy Bagwell, Peninsula Home Care branch director. “We want the community to know that they do not have to be a home care patient or homebound to receive care and support from a Community Health Worker. CHWs are available to anyone in the community with a health-related need.”

CHWs are serving people in the region through a partnership between Peninsula Regional Medical Center (PRMC), Peninsula Home Care, the local health department, MAC Incorporated (the Area’s Agency on Aging) and other regional healthcare providers. PRMC recognized mandates and changes occurring through healthcare reform and knew it was time to find ways to coordinate and provide healthcare services outside the hospital walls. Patients eligible for a community health worker are identified in the hospital as needing additional intensive case management upon discharge. PRMC then coordinates any referrals to a partnering agency with a CHW close to the patient’s home.

“When someone is in the hospital with a chronic disease, they require more complex case management and then a case manager who can oversee the continuum of care and work with their primary care physician and other specialty doctors once they get home,” Bagwell said. “Community health workers are those case managers who can provide a higher quality of service at no additional cost.”

 

GIS Map Project Could Help Law Enforcement

SNOW HILL – A college project is expected to provide expanded access to GIS maps for Worcester County law enforcement.

County officials agreed to allow Worcester County employee Mark Dunlevy to create a web-based mapping system as a school project as he pursues a master’s degree in GIS Management. The web-based system would allow the Worcester County State’s Attorney and the Worcester County Sheriff’s Department direct access to maps they currently can only get by going through the Department of Development Review and Permitting.

“It will pay for itself down the road,” said State’s Attorney Beau Oglesby. “It’s a time saver. I’m in complete support of it.”

According to Ed Tudor, director of the Department of Development Review and Permitting, Dunlevy, who works in the department’s technical services division, would create a web-based map on his own time, as part of what’s required of him by Salisbury University as he works on his master’s degree. The project, Tudor explained, would help him earn his degree and would provide a service to the county. The web-based map would save Tudor’s staff time, as individuals from Oglesby’s office and the Sheriff’s Department could access the mapping program themselves and wouldn’t need to have employees from Tudor’s department look it up for them.

“We will no longer have to meet individual requests,” Tudor said.

Although county staff members have considered ways to streamline the GIS mapping process in the past, Tudor said none proved feasible. Additional GIS software licenses would allow more people to use the software but were expensive. Having a consultant do a web-map like Dunlevy proposed would also be expensive, at more than $11,000.

Tudor said that Dunlevy’s project would cost the county just $2,533 in associated consulting fees. That expense would be split between his department, Oglesby’s department and the Sheriff’s Office.

Oglesby and Colonel Doug Dods of the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office voiced their support for the project.

“It’s more timely,” Dodd said. “We’re first responders. We may need stuff in five minutes.”

Commissioner Diana Purnell asked who would own the computer application once Dunlevy created it. Sonny Bloxom, Worcester County’s attorney, had similar concerns.

“How does it become ours?” he asked, pointing out that the county wasn’t paying Dunlevy for the work.

Bloxom suggested commissioners approve the concept and give him time to work with Tudor on a way to work out the ownership details.

The commissioners voted unanimously to allow Dunlevy to move forward with the work.

“It sounds like a win-win,” Commissioner Bud Church said.

UMES Holds 18th Winter Commencement

Students A

UMES held its 18th Winter Commencement last Friday. Among the graduates receiving their degrees were, from left, Shelton Handy, who was the student commencement speaker; Blessing Aroh, who became the first person to earn a Master of Science in chemistry degree; and Monica Dore, the first woman to receive an undergraduate degree in engineering from the school. Submitted Photos

New Student Writing Center Opens At School

A ceremonial ribbon cutting ceremony took place last Friday to mark the opening of Pocomoke High School’s new Writing Center. Photo by Charlene Sharpe

POCOMOKE – The urge to put into words the poem that had been floating around in his mind for years hit Henry Maxson at 6 p.m. one evening.

Relieved to finally have the words down on paper, Maxson emerged from his room at 7 p.m. He looked at his wife questioningly when she said, “Welcome back.” He asked what she meant, pointing out that he had only started writing at 6 p.m.

“Six o’clock yesterday,” she replied.

Both Maxson and his audience of student writers at Pocomoke High School laughed at the fact that he had spent 25 hours writing and hadn’t even realized it.

“Occasionally you get lost in your writing,” he said.

Maxson was one of three authors who shared their writing experiences with Pocomoke High School students Dec. 12 to celebrate the opening of the school’s new writing center. Joan la Blanc, a romance novelist, and David Poyer, a best-selling author of military novels, were the other two guests.

Students were excited to hear from published authors as they marked the opening of the writing center, a place administrators hope will foster an interest in written expression among Pocomoke’s teenagers.

“When schools offer you things like this, you should take advantage of it,” junior Li Curtis Whitney said.

Pocomoke High Principal Annette Wallace said the idea of a writing center came about as school officials were trying to come up with an area where students could use their mobile devices productively. Thinking of something like a college coffee shop, she and other school leaders developed the concept of a writing center, complete with lounge-style seating and WiFi access. An empty classroom near the school’s media center made it possible.

“We want this to be an open space where they can express themselves,” Wallace said.

The bright blue walls, comfortable chairs and motivational posters are designed to foster creativity.

“Keep calm it’s only the first draft,” one poster reminds students.

A chalkboard and a whiteboard provide writers with areas for brainstorming.

“The kids love it,” Wallace said. “No other classroom looks like this. We really transformed it.”

When the center is open, members of the school’s English department are on hand to offer guidance, she said.

“We don’t want it to be a free-for-all,” Wallace said. “It’s a setting where they can get help if they want it.”

Pocomoke High students in attendance to celebrate the opening of the space included would-be writers as well as students just happy to have a quiet, relaxed atmosphere in which to do their school work.

“It’s something everyone can use,” Whitney said.

Whitney, along with senior Maya Batson, was honored for the poem he entered in the school’s recent writing contest. He offered a piece of advice to his fellow student authors.

“Don’t be afraid to express yourself,” he said.

For now, the writing center at Pocomoke High School will be open to students after school. Wallace hopes to expand the hours in the spring.

SD High School Student Government Association Members Box Canned Goods During Annual Food Drive

Students E

Stephen Decatur High School Student Government Association members boxed over 2,500 pounds of canned goods collected during the annual food drive at the beginning of December. SDHS donated all non-perishable goods to the Worcester County Sheriff’s Department’s Santa House and Diakonia. Pictured are Trevor Mavioglu, Reagan Dunham, Maury Izzett, Shandon Foreman, Kolby Layton, Stephanie Marx and Trent Chetelat.

Decatur Students Complete Financial Course

Thirty-six students, including these pictured, from Stephen Decatur High School received their certificate for completing the Ever Fi Financial Literacy program last Friday. The course is sponsored by the high school and Bank of Ocean City. Photo by Charlene Sharpe

BERLIN – Stephen Decatur High School students are adding a financial facet to their education thanks to a program offered through the Bank of Ocean City.

Three dozen Stephen Decatur High School students were recognized last week for their completion of the EverFi Financial Literacy program. This is the fourth year the Bank of Ocean City has sponsored the program at Stephen Decatur.

Principal Tom Zimmer commended the students for their hard work and encouraged them to begin using the financial tips they learned now, as teenagers.

“It will only benefit you,” he said.

The 36 students who completed this year’s program came from teacher Kurt Marx’s economics and finance classes. He provided them with time to complete the six- to eight-hour online course, which covered topics from the college financial aid application to fraud. Students learned ways to finance a higher education, how to invest and the meaning of a credit score.

Marx said it was more important than ever for students to know how to manage money. The practice of working for 40 years and retiring with a pension is no longer something the average person can count on, he said.

“It’s critical kids learn,” Marx said. “They’re going to have to deal with money. The sooner they learn it the better.”

Jenny Nakamura, a schools manager with EverFi, said the online program was used by teachers throughout the country. It’s broken into modules so teachers can have their students complete a particular lesson when it coincides with what they’re learning in class.

“Teachers use the program as a supplemental resource,” she said.

Earl Conley, assistant vice president of the Bank of Ocean City, said the EverFi program provided students with the tools they needed to begin understanding finance and managing money. Before awarding the students their certificates of completion Friday, he took the opportunity to warn them about the dangers of debt.

“Debt can be your friend and debt can be your detriment,” he said.

While having a credit card and paying it off can help a person build a credit history, Conley cautioned the students about going overboard.

“Be careful,” he said. “You can run up your credit card debt very easily. It creeps up on you.”

Students said they found the EverFi lessons regarding financing college and identity theft particularly interesting.

Student Delilah Purnell said the program brought the students insight on a variety of topics.

“And the test made you retain info,” she said.

 

Worcester Prep’s Lower School Students Bring Presents To Santa

Students D

Some of Worcester Prep pre-kindergartners are pictured with presents they are giving to Santa. All the children in Worcester’s Lower School brought presents to donate to the Santa House Mission in Snow Hill, which will distribute the gifts to needy children during the holidays. Pictured, front from left, are Arianna Dorfler, Brax Giardina, Gracie Holloway and Gavin Bren; and, back, Kourtney Travis, Kinzie Bunting, Elena Gjoni, John Lynch, Santa, Gabriel Sardi and Ellie Phillips. Organizing the giving was Deena Holloway, back, of the Worcester County Sheriff’s Department.

Charges Filed In Weekend Accident

The GMC pick-up truck that flipped after striking another vehicle is pictured on Saturday night. Staff Photo

OCEAN CITY — A Delaware woman faces drunk driving and multiple traffic violations after a two-car collision on Saturday on Coastal Highway.

Around 10:30 p.m. last Saturday, Ocean City Police responded to a reported motor vehicle accident on Coastal Highway near the Roland E. Powell Convention Center. The accident occurred shortly after The Texas Tenors concert at the new Performing Arts Center ended, causing significant traffic in the area near the facility.

The investigation revealed one vehicle was heading east from Convention Center Drive to turn north onto Coastal Highway when it was struck by a GMC pick-up truck heading north on the highway. The pick-up truck failed to stop at a solid red traffic signal and struck the turning vehicle.

During the collision, the victim’s vehicle was rotated 180 degrees, while the pick-up truck, driven by Debra M. Ryan, 33, of Felton, Del., came to a final rest on its roof in the southbound lanes of Coastal Highway. OCPD officers spoke with Ryan and observed her to have glassy, bloodshot eyes, slurred speech and an odor of an alcoholic beverage emanating from her breath and person.

Ryan agreed to take a battery of field sobriety tests, which she did not complete to the officer’s satisfaction. At that point, Ryan was placed under arrest for suspicion of driving while impaired. At the Public Safety Building, Ryan consented to a breath-alcohol test, the results of which were .12. Ryan was charged with driving under the influence and driving while impaired, reckless driving, negligent driving, failure to stop at a red circular signal, driving in excess of a reasonable and prudent speed and failure to control speed to avoid a collision.

 

Resort Prefers Highway Focus Be On Medians; Concerns Expressed Over ‘Road Diet’ Concept

Resort

OCEAN CITY – According to city officials, the words “road diet” and its $25 million cost were viewed negatively by and large, resulting in the Transportation Commission forwarding a recommendation to dedicate existing funding to a median barrier for now.

Last week the State Highway Administration came before the Mayor and City Council to present the MD 528 (Coastal Highway) Community Safety and Enhancement Project. The project is referred to as the “road diet.”

Currently, Coastal Highway is an eight-lane roadway consisting of three, 11-foot travel lanes and a 14-foot bus/bike lane with a five-foot sidewalk on each side that contain several obstructions such as utility poles, signs, benches, fire hydrants and trash barrels. The median is 14 feet wide consisting of brick pavers and some plantings that do not discourage mid-block crossings. The median allows for a 10-foot left turn lane at intersections.

The project limit, or “target area”, is from Route 90 to Convention Center Drive on Coastal Highway, which is approximately 1.4 miles. Within this section, there are 10 signalized intersections with two pedestrian crossing intersections on 49th Street and 54th Street. There are 59 entrances with 38 on the southbound side and 21 on the northbound side.

The road diet proposes Coastal Highway be a six-lane roadway consisting of two 11.5-foot travel lanes, a 12-foot outside lane and a five-foot bike lane with 10-foot sidewalks on each side, and the median remain at 14 feet with a 10-foot left turn lane at intersections.

A couple options were presented on how the outside lane should be designated starting with a bus/right turn lane, which would restrict the outside lane to buses and right turning vehicles as it does today.

Option two would make the outside lane a through/right turn lane that would open the outside lane to through traffic.

The presentation asked if the bike lane should be placed against the curb or in a pocket lane between the outside lane and travel lanes.

The presentation also asked how the buses should approach the bus stops with a dedicated bus lane against the curb. Options include a bike table, which is a peninsula that requires bus riders to walk across the bike lane to meet the bus in the bus lane, a pocket lane where bikes would not interact with the bus lane or have the bus pull through the bike lane.

Next the presentation explored different options to deter pedestrians from crossing the median mid-block.

The first concept was to install a decorative fence down the median that could be combined with plantings to soften the look as done in Atlantic City, N.J. or with special lighting be more visible at night.

The next option is to have raised planters in the median such as along Route 40 in Harford County.

Another median treatment could be a landscaped swale that would also increase stormwater management credits as well as help with drainage along the highway.

The final option would be dense plantings in the medians. Currently, dense planting in the median exists near 25th Street but pedestrians have created a “ghost path” for crossing.

The project schedule has the final design being completed by December of 2015 with construction starting in fall of 2016. Currently, the design stage is funded with $2.4 million. Construction will cost at least $25 million but is not funded at this time.

At the conclusion of the presentation, the Mayor and City Council voted to forward the project to the Transportation Commission for further discussion and feedback.

On Wednesday, the Transportation Commission reviewed the progress of a SHA Pedestrian Safety Study released in October 2012 that identified a list of near-term, mid-term and long-term improvements along Coastal Highway to enhance pedestrian safety.

Near-term improvements included reducing the speed limit south of Route 90 to 35 mph, relocate all bus stops to upstream of signalized intersections, install pavement marking with advance crosswalk warnings similar to the markings located at 49th Street and adjusting signal timing by shortening mainline cycle lengths to improve pedestrian safety by allowing more frequent pedestrians phases. All of the near-term improvements have been completed.

The mid-term improvements focus on deterring pedestrians from crossing at mid-block and outside of signalized pedestrian crosswalks by installing a median barrier, installing three pedestrian actuated signals warranted due to pedestrian volumes in the areas of 42nd, 49th and 54th streets. Two of those signals have been installed on 49th and 54th streets. Also it was suggested removing all pedestrian and emergency vehicle median turndowns.

Lt. Scott Harner, who works closely with SHA on the Pedestrian Safety Committee, reviewed the results of what has been completed so far.

“Since 2008, there was a total of 41 pedestrian related crashed in that target area, 11 involved bicycles, 22 were alcohol involved, 27 of them occurred at night with one fatality in May of 2012,” Harner said. “After this study was conducted, SHA began immediately implementing many of those recommendations and … moving into 2013 the results are a 100-percent reduction in fatalities and a 100-percent reduction in pedestrian crashes.”

The question on the table for the committee, Public Works Director Hal Adkins said, is does Ocean City want SHA to spend the current funding available of $2.4 million on accomplishing the mid-term improvements or skip ahead to the final design of the road diet.

“I don’t mean to sound sarcastic but it is reality … I don’t know where they are going to come up with $25 million to do two years’ worth of work in the near future. I just don’t see it,” Adkins said. “My personal opinion, I would much rather see them do median enhancements the full length of Coastal Highway before the road diet project.”

However, Adkins pointed out it is unknown how much of the $2.4 million design budget has been spent, or if the design dollars could be transferable to construction dollars.

Councilwoman Mary Knight recognized how much of a difference the lights on the Christmas trees in the medians made a difference in being able to see better while driving at night and would much rather see median enhancements such as lighting than a $25 million pie in the sky project.

“We have to attack the mid-term, and what we didn’t do. We have to attack the median, the esthetics, the lighting, and just improve safety before we get to the road diet. A term that when I say it feels like a bad word,” Councilman Tony DeLuca said.

DeLuca acknowledged several big name hotels being built in Ocean City as the resort continues to grow and trouble picturing Coastal Hwy. being reduced to six lanes of traffic.

“Looking at the big picture, if I thought we haven’t made significant progress I would be looking at this [road diet] as the alternative. I remember before we had median strips on Coastal Highway, and the business community thought the establishment of medians would be the end of business in Ocean City. After it was completed, those same businesses came back to us and said it was the right thing to do, and recognized SHA and their engineers come up with things we really do need to do,” Mayor Rick Meehan said. “If we were starting Ocean City from scratch, this [road diet] would be the way to go to create those bike lanes and everything else.”

Elements of the road diet have potential, Councilman Dennis Dare explained, such as wider sidewalks should be moved up as a higher priority instead of a long-term item.

“I don’t like the idea of doing just this one section of Coastal Highway,” Dare said. “That doesn’t make any sense at all. The reason they picked this [target area] was from the statistics in those years [of the study] and they attributed it to the bars. Well now Ropewalk is going into Frescos, so I guess a couple accidents in the next years will qualify that area.”

It is no secret City Engineer Terry McGean is a proponent of the road diet, but he was disappointed in the SHA presentation of the project.

“Ultimately that [road diet] is where we were going to go. It is going to take a lot of selling … but I would hate to see the whole idea just killed. We do need to pursue it to some point. The SHA did a very poor job explaining the benefits of it,” he said. “Through hard work and good luck we haven’t had any [fatalities] but they are going to come again, and we need to do everything we can on the near term to improve but … I think move forward with the mid-term and ask for most of that design money to go towards that project but leave some money so it’s [road diet] not dead.”

As a result of the commission’s discussion, Knight made a motion to recommend to the SHA and full Mayor and City Council for approval to hold off on the road diet and dedicate the design funding towards completing mid-term improvements on all of Coastal Hwy. that include installing a median barrier with lighting, if warranted install the third pedestrian actuated signal at 42nd Street and removal of all pedestrian median turndowns but leave emergency vehicle turndowns. The commission voted unanimously to approve.

Next the commission reviewed the different options of median barriers presented by SHA last week, and favored the example of Atlantic City’s rod iron fence with landscaping

“We need something people can see through. People riding down Coastal Highway they are looking to see where they are going and where places are. Visibility is important for all business owners and everybody,” Meehan said.

The mayor added, if SHA agrees to move forward with a median barrier, additional pedestrian actuated signals should be considered.

“The pedestrian walkways work and there may be other locations where they need to be considered if we are going to proceed with the medians as has been discussed,” he said.

Dare added the entire signal system on Coastal Highway could be re-thought.

“If 27 percent of the pedestrians are crossing not at the intersection, extending the crossing time doesn’t have anything to do with that. They come up and hit the button and expect the seas to part. I don’t think their solution solves it and they need to look at it comprehensively,” he said.

Knight amended the motion to include SHA consider additional pedestrian signals and conduct a comprehensive signal enhancement. The commission voted unanimously to approve.