Pines, Sandpiper Accord On Natural Gas Still Up In Air

BERLIN – Much to the frustration of area residents, negotiations to bring natural gas to Ocean Pines continue between Sandpiper Energy and the Ocean Pines Association.

Ocean Pines officials can offer no information on when natural gas might be available to those who live in Ocean Pines.

“The board’s trying to do everything they can to protect everybody,” said Bob Thompson, the association’s general manager.

Thompson said that in its negotiations with Sandpiper, the board was taking into account the fact that not everyone in the community would want to convert from propane to natural gas.

Dave Stevens, president of the board of directors, said there were several issues that needed to be addressed before an agreement with Sandpiper could be reached.

“It’s our property that they’re talking about moving into,” he said. “They do need an agreement with us.”

In September, the board voted to extend the 20-year franchise agreement made in 1993 with Eastern Shore Gas, which was taken over by Sandpiper Energy, a subsidiary of Chesapeake Utilities, last year. The extension is for an indefinite amount of time so that negotiations regarding the community’s conversion from propane to natural gas can be completed.

“Sandpiper Energy is currently in discussions with the Ocean Pines Association regarding a renewal of the agreement regarding service to the community,” said Bill O’Brien, director of pricing and regulatory affairs for Chesapeake Utilities, in an email. “We hope to reach an agreement soon.”

Pines officials have stressed the need to establish a franchise agreement that ensures responsiveness to member issues, minimizes disruption to the community and offers residential energy options.

Several potential agreements have been considered, but a final draft has yet to be agreed on.

Stevens, who is on the committee of board members working with Sandpiper, said the board would soon receive an update.

“The response we got back from Sandpiper did not further the negotiations or move us any closer to an agreement,” he said Wednesday.

Nevertheless, he said Pines representatives would continue to work toward finalizing an agreement that would allow residents to take advantage of natural gas, long advertised as a more affordable alternative to propane, in the future.

County’s Removal Of Religious Holidays Creates Stir

NEWARK — The largest public school district in Maryland raised quite a stir regionally and nationally last week when its Board of Education voted to scrub any references to religious holidays from its school calendar, but it appears at least locally the practice is already widely accepted.

Last week, the Montgomery County Board of Education voted to remove any references to religious holidays from its 2015-2016 calendar under pressure from the burgeoning Muslim in the county to add a pair of Islamic holidays to the schedule. Essentially, the Montgomery school board decided not to add the requested Muslim holidays and voted to remove all references to other religious holidays from its annual school calendar.

The decision garnered major media attention as many called it political correctness run amok, while others called for equality in the scheduling of off days in correlation with other religious holidays. Montgomery County’s school calendar for 2013-2014 included references to off days for Rosh Hashanah, Christmas and Easter, for example, but going forward those specific religious references will be scrubbed from the official calendar.

In a larger sense, it boils down to semantics somewhat. While the names Christmas and Easter will not appear on the school district’s calendar in the future, the schools will still be closed on the days surrounding those Christian holidays and will be referred to generically as Winter Break and Spring Break, for example.

It’s a widely accepted practice dictated by state law. The Maryland Code specifically dictates a period for public schools to be closed from Christmas Eve through Jan. 1. Similarly, state law requires public schools to be closed from the Friday before Easter to the Monday after Easter. State law does not require school districts to specifically reference the widely accepted religious holidays and most don’t, including Worcester and Wicomico on the Lower Shore.

For example, Worcester’s current public school calendar lists the period from Dec. 24 to Jan. 1 as winter holidays and the period from April 3 to April 6 as spring holidays. It’s widely known those dates coincide with traditional Christian holidays, which is largely by design. However, the Worcester County Public School system recognizes the diversity of its student body and does not specifically reference any religious holidays on its school calendar, according to Coordinator of Special Programs and Public Relations Barb Witherow.

“In addition to code compliance, our school system recognizes that our students and their families are diverse,” she said. “Religious holidays are just one area where diversity exists and sensitivity is important.”

Witherow said Worcester County Public Schools attempt to be cognizant of all religious holidays celebrated by its students, parents, teachers and staff and attempts to make accommodations for each of them.

“For example, in Worcester County Public Schools, schools are provided with a comprehensive list of religious holidays when they are scheduling their calendar of events for the school year,” she said. “This helps prevent conflicts between school events and various religious holidays, demonstrating a respect for the religious practices of all our families.”

Of course, private schools are not bound by state codes and are free to call school closing days by whatever they choose. Nonetheless, other than specific faith-based schools, most appear to follow the accepted state norms.

For example, Worcester Preparatory School, a private school where students are enrolled through a tuition fee schedule, calls its days off around Christmas and New Year’s as Winter Break, and the period around Easter as Spring Break. Curiously, the WPS school calendar specifically notes Good Friday as the designated off day. Of course, the Catholic school Most Blessed Sacrament, also private, does not tip-toe around any school closure names, specifically referencing Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and Easter, for example.

Nonetheless, the decision by Montgomery County last week to scrub any religious references from its calendar touched nerves for many for several reasons. Many lashed out at the Muslim community because its request to have its holy days recognized was the catalyst for the decision. The Muslim community was largely upset because while the names of the other religious holidays were semantically removed, they remained scheduled closed days for the public schools.

In a statement prepared by Montgomery County School Board members Phil Kauffman and Patricia O’Neill, the decision was defended as the right thing to do to attempt to make all happy.

“All the board’s vote did was to change the way those holidays are annotated in our calendar in order to eliminate the misconception that schools are closed for religious reasons,” the statement from Kauffman and O’Neill reads. “We cannot legally close schools on religious grounds. Furthermore, the board’s action is in line with what is done in many other large, diverse districts around the country.”

The statement also denounced any backlash directed at the Muslim community for forcing the decision.

“Finally, it is important to emphasize how strongly we condemn the outpouring of bigotry and hate toward the Muslim community that has been generated by our decision,” the statement reads. “As a board, we are united in respecting and appreciating the advocacy of our growing and vibrant Muslim community and we will continue to ensure that they and other groups feel safe and welcome in our schools.”

 

Allison Makes Leap From Club To Division I

Indian River’s Maggie Allison (seated center) this week signed a national letter of intent to play Division I lacrosse at Towson University after an eight-year career with the Ocean City-based Sea Bay Lacrosse Club. Pictured with Maggie are her parents, Kim and Jamie Allison, along with Sea Bay coaches Fred Yesko and Malcolm Van Kirk.

Submitted photo

FENWICK- Maggie Allison, a senior at Indian River High, this week signed a national letter of intent to play Division I lacrosse at Towson University last week, which is somewhat remarkable in that her school does not currently offer girls’ varsity lacrosse.

Allison has played the last eight years for the Sea Bay Lacrosse Club based in Ocean City. The club features some of the top young female players from all over the resort area and across the Lower Shore. Many of the Sea Bay Lacrosse Club players attend Stephen Decatur, Worcester Prep and other high schools on the Lower Shore.

Allison is a senior at Indian River, but unlike many of her teammates, she did not have the opportunity to show off her impressive skills at the high school level. A decision to add girls’ varsity lacrosse is currently under consideration by the Indian River school board. The board was presented with a proposal in September, but has yet to make a decision. Meanwhile, Allison has made the impressive leap from a club and travel team to tradition-rich Division I Towson.

What’s Your Sign?

horoscopes new

ARIES (March 21 to April 19): While it seems that chaos is taking over, you get everything back to normal, even if it means being more than a little assertive with some people. Expect to hear more job-related news soon.

TAURUS (April 20 to May 20): Expect to be able to move ahead with your workplace plans now that you have a good idea of what you might have to face. You also can anticipate a welcome change on the home front.

GEMINI (May 21 to June 20): A quieter period settles in, giving you a chance to catch your breath, as well as allowing for more time to handle some important family matters. The arts dominate this weekend. Enjoy them.

CANCER (June 21 to July 22): The frustrations of last week have pretty much played themselves out. You should find things going more smoothly, especially with those all-important personal matters.

LEO (July 23 to Aug. 22): Once again, you find a creative way to resolve a pesky problem in short order. However, a matter involving a possible breach of confidence might need a bit more time to check out.

VIRGO (Aug. 23 to Sept. 22): Reuniting with an old friend could lead to the sharing of some great new experiences. But be careful you don’t find yourself once again being super-critical or overly judgmental.

LIBRA (Sept. 23 to Oct. 22): You should be seeing some positive results following your move toward repairing that unraveling relationship. There might be some setbacks, but staying with it ultimately pays off.

SCORPIO (Oct. 23 to Nov. 21): Encouraging a friendlier environment in the home could go a long way to help dissipate anger and resolve problems, especially those affecting children. It won’t be easy, but you can do it.

SAGITTARIUS (Nov. 22 to Dec. 21): A recent act of kindness is beginning to show some unexpected (but very welcome) results. On another note, expect to hear more about a possible move to another locale.

CAPRICORN (Dec. 22 to Jan. 19): The good news is that the sure-footed Goat can rely on his or her skill to get around obstacles in the workplace. The not-so-good news is that new impediments could turn up later.

AQUARIUS (Jan. 20 to Feb. 18): A change of pace is welcome but also confusing. Before you make decisions one way or another, be sure you know precisely what it is you’re being asked to do.

PISCES (Feb. 19 to March 20): Don’t fret if you don’t get the gratitude you think you’re owed for doing a nice thing for someone. There might be a good reason for that. In any event, what’s important is that you did it.

BORN THIS WEEK: You have a way of making the sort of wise decisions that ultimately shed new light on dark situations.

(c) 2014 King Features Synd., Inc.

Assateague Analyzing Feces To Gauge Horse Pregnancies; 29 Island Mares Being Tracked

Assateague’s newest foal and its mare are pictured this fall. Photo courtesy of Assateague Island Alliance

ASSATEAGUE — While it certainly isn’t the most glamorous aspect of managing the famed wild horses on Assateague, a biological technician is spending much of November conducting pregnancy tests on many of the mares on the barrier island in an attempt to predict how many if any new foals will join the herd in the coming year.

Assateague Island biological technician Allison Turner has been following as many as 29 mares in the population of wild horses on the barrier island waiting for them to defecate. The samples are collected, frozen and sent to a lab to be analyzed to determine if any of the mares will be expecting next spring.

There could be one or two new foals next spring, or as many as five or six, or possibly even zero. For two decades or more, Turner has been carefully monitoring the birthing habits of the island’s most famed residents and the information, more specifically the fecal matter, she collects this month will help tell the story for the next year.

“Although it is highly unlikely that all will be pregnant, 29 mares need to be tested, which involves locating and following each horse until she does her business,” said Assateague Island Alliance (AIA) Public Outreach Coordinator Ashlie Kozlowski this week. “Then a sample needs to be collected quickly before becoming decontaminated by another horse. The results aren’t determined by one or two pink lines within five minutes, but rather after being sent to a lab to be analyzed. We’ll have to wait until the end of January to find out which, if any, mares are expected to foal.”

Kozlowski said the pregnancy test process for the mares on Assateague is fairly primitive, but effective.

“There’s really not much scientific about it,” she said. “Allison knows the Maryland herd by their alpha-numeric names and their markings and she simply follows them until they do their business. There are 29 mares she is tracking to collect samples from.”

What is fairly scientific, however, is the complex contraceptive program administered on the wild horses on Assateague put in place several years ago to effectively reduce and manage the size of the herd. In the interest of managing the herd size, which, if left unchecked would overtake the barrier island and gobble up the very natural resources the animals need to survive, the National Park Service several years ago began an contraceptive program for the mares in the herd.

Selected mares are injected with a non-invasive contraceptive called PZP in an effort to prevent multiple births by the same mare in an effort to maintain and shrink the size of the herd to its manageable threshold. Assateague’s contraceptive program has become the model for wild horse and other animal management programs around the country.

As recently as just a few years ago, the size of the wild horse population on Assateague had swelled to around 140. Two new foals were birthed on the barrier island last year, which has been the trend in recent years.

“The trend recently has been one or two new foals a year, but it’s kind of a moving target,” said Kozlowski this week. “In previous years, there have been as many as five or six. That’s why we do these collections and testing now, so we know what to expect in the spring.”

In a typical year, the size of the population remains relatively constant with one or two new foals being born and older horses lost to attrition, old age, illness or other man-made or natural causes. From a high of about 140 just a few years ago, the number of wild horses on Assateague currently stands at an even 100, which is in the ideal target range of 80-100 for the barrier island.

“The goal has always been reducing the size of the herd, but now we’re at the adaptive management stage with a population of 100,” said Kozlowski. “We’ve gone from trying to reduce the size of the herd to holding steady around that 100 mark.”

Kozlowski said similar fecal collections and pregnancy tests conducted last winter resulted in only eight mares being administered, or “darted,” with the PZP contraceptive.

She said the number of mares treated each spring changes based on the test results.

“For example, if any of the mares we’re testing right now come back positive, they won’t be darted in the spring,” she said. “We only darted eight last spring and that is a relatively low number. After they birth one foal, they’re typically placed on the contraceptive. That allows us to stabilize and maintain the population, and it’s also healthy for the mares because of the strain of multiple births.”

Local residents and visitors will have the opportunity this weekend to find out more about the history of the famed Assateague horses and the contraceptive program. Author and photographer Jayne Silberman will be on hand at the visitor center on Saturday to sign copies of her book “Inside the Herd,” a photographic journey with the island’s wild horses.

The book signing will be held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the visitor’s center. In addition, Assateague Island National Seashore Science Communicator Kelly Taylor will make a presentation about the wild horses at 11 a.m. at the visitor’s center.

Worcester Prep’s Upper School Fall Boys’ Sport Teams Top Athletes Recognized

Students E

Top athletes on Worcester Prep’s Upper School fall Boys’ sports teams were, front from left, Adam Pizza, JV Soccer Coach’s Award; Anthony Rilling, JV Soccer MVP; and Baylan McGuiness, JV Soccer Most Improved; and, back, Grant Brown, JV Golf Coach’s Award; Reid Carey, JV Golf MVP; John Meakin, Varsity Golf Most Improved; Sam Deeley, Varsity Soccer MVP; and Ross Dickerson, Varsity Soccer Most Improved. Not pictured were Wyatt Richins, Varsity Soccer Coach’s Award; Davis Mears, JV Golf Most Improved; and Jason Cook, Varsity Golf MVP.

First-Ever Turkey Trot With The Turtle Next Week

 

WEST OCEAN CITY- The first-ever Turkey Trot with the Turtle 5K race is set for next Saturday, November 29 at the Greene Turtle in West Ocean City.

The Turkey Trot with the Turtle, sponsored by the Greene Turtle and produced by OC Tri Running, gets underway on Thanksgiving weekend at the Greene Turtle in West Ocean City. The race starts and ends at the Greene Turtle on Route 611 and the course winds its way through neighborhoods. The race begins and 8:30 a.m. and concludes with a post-race party and awards ceremony at the Turtle around 10:30 a.m. Registration is $25 in advance and $30 on race day. Awards will be given to the top overall men’s and women’s finishers along with the top male and female runner in several age groups.

Ocean City Union Launches Winter Coat Drive

OCEAN CITY– The Career Firefighter/Paramedics Association of Ocean City, IAFF LOCAL 4269 will provide brand-new winter coats to over 40 children in the Ocean City area in partnership with Operation Warm, a national non-profit dedicated to warming the hearts, minds and bodies of children in need.

“When we found out that there are children right here in our own community without a winter coat, we knew we had to take action,” said Ryan L. Whittington, president of the Career Firefighter/Paramedics Association of Ocean City. “By nature of our service to the community, we step up and do what we can help those we serve. Not just during an emergency, but in our everyday actions.”

Ocean City Career Firefighters/Paramedics will personally fit each child with a new coat and help them write their name in the interior tag which reads, “Made Just for You.”

“This is a program that strengthens communities and the overall well-being of children,” stated Rich Lalley, Executive Director of Operation Warm. “A new coat boosts a child’s self-esteem and allows families to stretch limited financial resources to other basic necessities, such as food and shelter.”

Ocean City firefighters are asking the community to donate to this important cause. Each $34 donation provides an underprivileged Ocean City child with a brand new, American-made winter coat. Help the Ocean City firefighters reach their goal by donating at www.operationwarm.org/oceancity. In the comments/notes section apply the code Ocean City Firefighters to ensure your donation stays in the Ocean City Community. You can also mail a check made out to Operation Warm to Ocean City Operation Warm, PO Box 3217, Ocean City, Md. 21843.

 

Campaign Brightens Holiday Season For Local Kids

BERLIN – A local group is hoping to share the “Christmas experience” with area children through the 4th Annual United Christmas Spirit Campaign.

The Young Professionals of Ocean City will host the United Christmas Spirit Campaign on Dec. 6. Each year the event provides 50 underprivileged children with a $100 shopping spree at Walmart.

“It’s really a great event,” said Rob Mattie, chairman of this year’s campaign for the Young Professionals. “It’s one of the most heartwarming events I’ve ever had the privilege to take part in.”

Mattie’s group spends months fundraising to come up with the $5,000 needed to give each child $100 to spend at Walmart the morning of the trip. While donations have been a little harder to come by this year, Mattie is confident that the group will reach its goal.

“We’re coming down to the wire but we’re going to make it,” he said.

The day of the shopping trip, the children — who are selected by guidance counselors at Buckingham and Ocean City elementary schools — meet volunteers from Mattie’s group at the Outback early in the morning. From there, they are taken by buses provided by the Town of Ocean City to Walmart, where each of them is given $100 and a chaperone to help them as they browse the giant store.

Though most of the kids are intent on using their money to buy Christmas gifts for their families, Mattie said volunteers urge them to purchase at least one item for themselves. Mattie said that way, regardless of whether they receive any gifts at home during the holidays, the kids would have something to tell their friends about when they went back to school following winter break.

“You’d think these kids would go wild,” he said, “but I was amazed. The last thing on most of their minds is buying something for themselves.”

When  finished shopping, the kids, who range in age from five to 12, are sent off to an activity room at Walmart organized by volunteers from SonRise Church. In the meantime, members of the Young Professionals wrap and bag the gifts.

The kids and their purchases eventually make their way to Outback, where they are treated to breakfast.

Mattie said he was thrilled that Teron Lewis, Outback’s new proprietor, was happy to continue the tradition his predecessor had started at the West Ocean City restaurant.

“Teron welcomed us back to Outback with open arms and a strong desire to see this event go off without a hitch,” Mattie said.

He said the Christmas campaign was only possible with the support of local donors and volunteers. He encourages anyone who wants to help but can’t afford to donate to volunteer their time. Those who are interested can sign up via www.eventbrite.com by searching for the United Christmas Spirit Campaign or can contact Sara Sabia at 410-289-0883 or Alison McCarty at 410-641-6470.

 

 

Local Man Claims Million Dollar Lotto Prize

A check presentation featuring fitting costumes was held this week at Maryland Lottery offices. Submitted Photo

WEST OCEAN CITY — A local man finally came forward and claimed his $1 million Maryland Lottery Monopoly Millionaire’s Club prize this week, but he has gone to great lengths to conceal his identity.

Back on Nov. 7, the multi-state draw game’s top prize of $21 million was won by a player in New Jersey, which triggered a total of 14, $1 million prizes around the country. The Maryland Lottery then announced one of the $1 million Monopoly Millionaire’s Club winning tickets had been sold at the Greene Turtle in West Ocean City, igniting intrigue around the tight community about the identity of a new millionaire.

The intrigue ended somewhat on Monday when the winner turned in his winning ticket and claimed his prize at Maryland Lottery headquarters. While many by now have figured out who won the million dollar prize through the process of elimination, the winner asked that his identity not be revealed and the Maryland Lottery obliged. The Dispatch will as well. Interestingly enough, the photo released by Maryland Lottery this week shows the typical “big check” presentation with the identities of the winner and his significant other obscured by the iconic black top hats long associated with the popular board game.

What is reportable, however, is the winner is a 62-year-old Berlin man and grandfather of two. He is a loyal Maryland Lottery player and routinely buys his Mega Millions and Powerball tickets on Tuesdays, but also plays Keno from time to time. When he learned how the Monopoly Millionaire’s Club game worked, he bought a ticket because he liked the fact the game has a limited top prize amount and pays out 10 or more $1 million prizes.

“I think they should pay out more millions,” he said when he redeemed his ticket on Monday.

In addition to the monetary prize, the winner also received a personalized Millionaire’s Club Top Hat in a customized Monopoly Millionaire’s Club hat box. He said he plans to pay off his house, pay off several loans and put money aside in his grandchildren’s college accounts, but the big score will not necessarily change his lifestyle.

“I’m going back to work tomorrow,” he told Lottery officials on Monday.

When Greene Turtle staffers were informed the establishment had sold a $1 million winning ticket, they checked the daily sales log and found that only five of the tickets had been sold in advance of the drawing last Friday. Three of the tickets were sold to employees and each confirmed it was not them. A fourth ticket was sold to another Greene Turtle denizen who also confirmed she had not won.

That left just one ticket unaccounted for and it was determined through some investigation that it was likely sold to a local man and frequent player. The unidentified winner came into the Greene Turtle last week and asked why he had been receiving odd text messages and phone calls from unrecognizable numbers. When informed he was possibly the winner of the $1 million prize, he reportedly left abruptly and went to double check his Millionaire’s Club ticket.

For its part, the Greene Turtle West received a $1,000 bonus from the state for selling the winning ticket.