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OC Council Gets First Look At Proposed $151M Budget

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OCEAN CITY – City Manager David Recor presented his version of a balanced budget on Tuesday, kicking off what will be a week of budget meetings between staff and the Mayor and City Council.

“I am pleased to present the City Manager’s Fiscal Year 2015 Proposed Operating Budget for the Town of Ocean City, which totals $151,361,282,” Recor’s budget message states. “The Proposed Operating Budget includes the Town’s General Fund, all of the Enterprise Funds and Internal Service Funds in addition to the Pension & OPEB Trust. These spending plans reflect the priorities identified by the Mayor and Council’s Strategic Planning Action Items and a commitment to continue to provide a high level of service to our residents and enhance our visitor experience while preserving our organizations long-term financial viability. The Fiscal Year 2015 Proposed Operating Budget is balanced and confirms that our distinguished community is clean, safe, healthy and strong place where the quality of life is unsurpassed.”

Recor’s proposed budget highlights many key components starting with expenditures for all funds totaling $151,361,282, which is an increase of 2.5 percent from FY14. General Fund revenues and expenditures equal $79,351,270, which is an increase of 3 percent from FY14.

Assessed value of real property equals $8,517,160,880, which is an increase of $28,029,607 or .33 percent. The town is currently in the third-year of a three-year assessment cycle. Jan. 1, 2015 is the first year of a new cycle and all Ocean City residential and commercial property, with the exception of a section of commercial property from 25th Street north to the Delaware line, will be reassessed. That section of commercial property will be reassessed in year two. In year three, Ocean City properties will be reassessed to reflect altercations, additions, deletions and/or adjustments.

Property tax revenue projections are based on the constant yield ad valorem tax rate of 47.01 cents per $100 of assessed valuation plus one cent, or 48.01 cents, which generated $42,711,465, including personal property and corporation taxes. One cent on the real property tax rate is equivalent to $851,795. The constant yield rate would bring in the same amount of revenue as the year prior.

The proposed budget includes use of $775,000 in General Fund Balance for Capital Improvement Project funding — $500,000 for canal dredging $175,000 for bulkhead replacement, and $100,000 of special appropriation for healthcare as previously approved by the Mayor and City Council.

The budget also includes $1,871,277 in the Street Paving Fund, and Capital Improvement Project expenditures for General Fund supported projects that total $2,371,361, which represents 3 percent of General Fund expenditures.

Next Recor highlighted the budget provides an FY11 step increase on July 1, 2014 and FY15 step increase on Jan. 1, 2015, equivalent to a 2.33-percent average salary adjustment for eligible Fraternal Order of Police bargaining unit employees totaling $164,676.

The budget provides an FY15 step increase on July 1, 2014, equivalent to a 1.53-percent average salary adjustment for eligible fire/EMS bargaining unit employees totaling $79,631.

Additionally, it provides an FY15 step increase in July 1, 2014, equivalent to a 2.89-percent average salary adjustment for eligible general non-bargaining unit employees totaling $524,242.

Recor furthered the proposed budget eliminates, adds and converts several positions as well as provides $4,500 to resume production of a Fall Newsletter, which will be combined with the Annual Report to Citizens; water usage rates will not be increased; increases the weekend Spring/Summer golf package rate by $4 at Eagle’s Landing Golf Course; and reduces the General Fund transfer to the Transportation Fund by $1,327,606, or 77 percent, by eliminating the $1 bus fare.

The proposed budget does maintain the General Fund Balance consistent with the Mayor and City Council’s policy of 15 percent of previous year General Fund expenditures equivalent to $11.9 million.

“The FY15 Proposed Budget balances a variety of needs and wants, focuses both short and long term, and reflects Strategic Plan priorities and tactical results. I am pleased with the proposal. A lot of hard work, energy and effort have gone into getting it ready for your review. The departments are ready to work with you, and we look forward to it,” Recor said.

Council President Lloyd Martin gathered so far the Mayor and City Council is in support of the proposed budget.

“It looks like a forward looking budget. As we move forward we are always thinking about what may happen, what could happen, and I think that is all because of our staff and what they do. I believe the council is very supportive,” he said.

Budget meetings started on Thursday and are scheduled through the week with a budget wrap-up session beginning next Thursday to conclude on Friday.

The entire budget and calendar are available at www.oceancitymd.gov.





Dew Tour’s Summer Dates Approved For June 26-29

Although the event features many sports events, there is also the Dew Tour Village that offers a variety of activities and vendors. File Photo

OCEAN CITY – It is official, the Dew Tour will be returning to Ocean City in its fourth year to be held June 26-29.

This week Chris Prybylo of Alli Sports, a division of NBC Sports Group, requested the Mayor and City Council approve the 2014 Dew Tour, June 26-29.

The event is part of a professional action sports tour involving BMX, skateboarding and surfing. There is also an interactive festival village open to the public, featuring sponsor displays and product sampling, and concerts, which will take place on the beach north of the pier to about North Division St. The expected number of spectators is estimated at 18,000 per day.

Private Events Coordinator Lisa Mitchell recognized city staff’s concern over the event’s timeframe ending just prior to 4th of July festivities downtown and the time it will take for the Dew Tour to break down. However, a planning meeting was scheduled the following day with Dew Tour officials and city staff.

Set-up of the Dew Tour will begin June 12. The event will take place June 26-29, and break down will begin immediately to be concluded by the early morning of July 3.

The Department of Public Works commented, “The entire event will need to be removed from both the beach and Inlet Parking Lot by July 3, which only leaves the event four days for total removal. This is a real concern due to the fact the 2013 event had almost two weeks to tear down.”

Prybylo disagreed break down took 14 days last year but rather seven at the most. He assured the council a plan will be put in place between the Dew Tour and city staff during their meeting on Wednesday regarding the break down schedule. He said organizers are planning to begin competitions earlier in order to finish earlier and begin break down as soon as possible.

“I want to thank the Mayor and City Council for their support over the past three years. We couldn’t be happier with the support from the staff and community who have really embraced the tour, so we really appreciate everything that has been done and it has been a great event for Ocean City as a whole,” Prybylo said. “We are looking forward to coming back here having another great event, and showing Ocean City to the world again.”

Pillas stated despite concerns the Boardwalk businesses do not mind the Dew Tour’s giveaways at the festival village in exchange for the amount of business the event brings to the Boardwalk. However, concerns continue to be expressed over the family-value of the concerts and the language used on stage.

“We certainly understand your concern around the concert. We had an issue with some inappropriate language a couple of years ago, and I personally pulled them off the stage. It is in their contracts. We cannot completely control them but they are warned, and they know they can get shut down if it happens, and it is certainly something we take very seriously,” Prybylo said.

The council voted unanimously to approve the Dew Tour in Ocean City this summer June 26-29.

“We are proud to host the Dew Tour. It is a great honor for Ocean City. We have developed a tremendous partnership and working relationship, which has helped us develop other events in town. The exposure we get on national television Ocean City shows absolutely beautifully, and it just works so well with the Dew Tour. It is what we are all about being an outdoor family activity … and I hope we can continue this partnership for many years to come,” Mayor Rick Meehan said.

Prybylo agreed the Dew Tour in Ocean City has been a good experience for all.

“We certainly love Ocean City as well, and I speak for NBC and all of our partners. It has been a great experience for the past three years and I am sure it will be a great experience in year four. We have built something pretty great here,” he said.




Ocean City To Discuss Smoke-Free Beach; Referendum To Gauge Voters’ Stance Suggested

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OCEAN CITY – Whether to ban smoking on the beach as well as the Boardwalk will be formally discussed by Ocean City lawmakers next month.

According to Councilman Brent Ashley during strategic planning sessions last week, the Mayor and City Council discussed having Ocean City follow some of its competitor resorts and officially institute a smoke-free beach.

“With the council members that were there, I think the support is there to move forward with some type of plan to be proactive in this [smoke-free beach],” Ashley said at the conclusion of Monday evening’s Mayor and City Council legislative meeting. “All of our neighbors have done this. The State of New Jersey is looking at making all of their beaches and parks smoke-free.”

Ashley recognized there are newspaper articles dating back to 1994 when local businessman Joe Kroart first introduced the opportunity for Ocean City to become the nation’s first smoke-free beach.

“Since then, hundreds of other beaches have done it ahead of us, so I would hope the council would take a pro-active approach this time,” Ashley said.

City Manager David Recor confirmed the matter is scheduled for a meeting in April when the Mayor and City Council will discuss “best practices for both the Boardwalk and the beach”, including a smoke-free beach.

Councilwoman Margaret Pillas asked for the council to consider posing the question of whether the taxpayers want smoke-free beaches by referendum in November’s election. Recor responded a referendum will also be part of the upcoming discussion.

A couple of weeks ago, the City of Rehoboth Beach passed a smoking ban in certain public places, such as the beach, Boardwalk and bandstand that will take effect on May 15.

Rehoboth Beach follows in the footsteps of Ocean City’s more immediate neighbors to the north in Delaware of Fenwick Island, Bethany Beach and Dewey Beach, who all have smoking bans in effect.

Last week The Baltimore Sun editorialized, “The question is no longer whether tourist attractions are in danger of losing business if they ban smoking but whether they are in danger of losing attendance if they don’t.”

More specifically, The Baltimore Sun opinion piece focused on Ocean City stating, “Yet Ocean City remains badly behind the times. The town council has repeatedly considered similar far-reaching outdoor smoking bans in recent years but failed to adopt them. Ocean City does ban smoking in parks but asks visitors only to be courteous about smoking on the beach … That’s unfortunate because it’s contributed to an impression that Ocean City is not the family-friendly resort it claims to be but one that caters to smokers.”

A smoke-free beach in Ocean City was last formally discussed among city officials in July of 2012 when the Mayor and City Council was in consensus to implement smoke-free areas on the beach by the following summer but the topic never returned for further public discussion.

A public hearing was held in December of 2010 regarding a smoking ban on Ocean City’s beaches, Boardwalk and at public parks.

A handful of speakers spoke for and against the question, but the council at that time decided to place cigarette butt cans and signage along the beach and the Boardwalk, providing smokers with smoking stations.

A law was not passed mandating smoking at designated smoking stations but served as a request for smokers to use the stations. However, the council did vote to ban smoking in Ocean City’s public parks.

“Several weeks ago, I brought up enforcing the litter law with people flicking their cigarette butts out of the car window,” Ashley added on Monday evening. “Apparently, I hit a nerve with a lot of people in town and have had many comments on that. I understand the newly formed Ocean City Surf Club is going to be backing that initiative to encourage the police department to start issuing warnings and fines to people who are flicking butts out the car windows.”

In January, Ashley asked the Police Commission to discuss having the penalty for flicking cigarettes out of car windows become heftier in Ocean City after coming across news out of Illinois.

A new law in Illinois that went into effect on Jan. 1 requires a first-time offender who flicks a cigarette out of a window receive a class B misdemeanor with fines up to $1,500. If caught three times, an offender would face a class 4 felony, with a $2,500 fine and up to three years in prison.

During a Police Commission report in February, Ocean City Police Chief Ross Buzzuro stated the department is looking into two areas of Ocean City’s code where flicking cigarettes can be incorporated, littering and discarding objects from a motor vehicle.

“Whether it is someone walking down the street disposing of trash, or from a car, it is something we can certainly take a look at and start to enforce,” Buzzuro said at that time. “We want to reinforce the cleanliness and respect of our town. As we approach the beginning of the season, it is something that we can certainly address.”

‘No Profanity Please’ Signs Unveiled; Council Approves Placement Along Boardwalk

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OCEAN CITY – “No Profanity Please” signs will be posted on each block of the Boardwalk this summer in an effort to serve as a reminder that Ocean City strives to be a family-friendly resort.

Earlier this month, after several months of deliberation, the Police Commission voted unanimously to recommend the Mayor and City Council approve the installation of “No Profanity Please” signs along the Boardwalk at street ends.

On Monday evening, the recommendation came before the council.

“You all recall earlier this year Council Secretary [Mary] Knight received a suggestion by her constituents after visiting Virginia Beach that Ocean City move forward with “No Profanity” signs on the Boardwalk. The Mayor and City Council referred that matter for further discussion to the Police Commission. The police department and Lt. Scott Harner drafted several iterations of the graphic to make the signs family-friendly for Ocean City,” City Manager David Recor said.

Recor presented to the council on Monday the graphic, which will also be made available to the public on the town’s website to allow businesses an opportunity to use as well. The signs have been produced by Ocean City’s own Public Works Department, which recently invested in a sign machine. The signs are available in 12-by-18-inch and 24-by-18-inch dimensions

Councilman Brent Ashley pointed out the Virginia Beach Hotel-Motel Association also posts a “Rules of Common Decency” on its website, Dewey Beach, Del. just recently more than doubled their fines for public urination, and Wildwood, NJ. last year enacted an ordinance against “saggy pants” being worn on its Boardwalk.

“I think it’s fair to say that our competitors are dealing with similar decency behavior situations and are taking steps to protect their family-friendly images, and so are we. Although this is not an ordinance but rather a suggestion, it’s the right thing to do and sends the right message. We respect each visitor that comes to our town and we are just asking that they do the same Now, if we could just add ‘no saggy pants’ to the sign we might have something but that is not going to happen tonight,” said Ashley, who has been an advocate for allowing police to fine individuals for “saggy pants” on the Boardwalk.

The council voted 6-0 with Council President Lloyd Martin absent to approve the motion.

“This is showing how commissions work. This idea was brought to me by two hoteliers, and I brought it to the Police Commission. The research was done, and it was determined it was not going to be anything finable. It is just a general reminder. The whole idea is it shows Ocean City cares … families will see it, and people will remember when they see it that maybe they shouldn’t use the kind of colorful language that some folks use,” Knight said.

The concept was first brought before the Police Commission in January. At that time, Police Commission Chair and Councilman Doug Cymek recognized the public is entitled to the First Amendment and the signage should not enforce a fine or an arrest. He recommended adding “Please” to the sign to help differentiate between asking for no profanity versus implementing a law. Both Police Chief Ross Buzzuro and City Solicitor Guy Ayres agreed.

In February, Harner returned to the commission with a preliminary design of a “No Profanity Please” sign, which differentiates between a friendly suggestion versus a crime.

Unlike Ocean City, Virginia Beach has a law in place that states, “If any person shall, in the presence or hearing of another, curse or abuse such other person, or use any violent abusive language to such other person concerning himself or any of his relations, or otherwise use such language under circumstances reasonably calculated to provoke a breach of the peace, he shall be guilty of a Class 3 misdemeanor”, which is a fine up to $500.




Dew Tour Seeks June 26-29 Dates; Monday’s Official Request Postponed Due To Weather

Photo by Shawn Soper

OCEAN CITY – The Dew Tour is proposed to hit Ocean City the last weekend in June this summer, but its official date approval was postponed this week due to snow.

The date approval was slated to come before the Mayor and Council at its Monday legislative session, which had to be cancelled as a result of the winter storm.

The private event approval request was to be presented to the Mayor and City Council by Chris Prybylo of Alli Sports, which is a division of NBC Sports Group, who was to request Thursday-Sunday, June 26-29, for Dew Tour to take place in Ocean City in 2014.

The Dew Tour is an extreme sports event that last year consisted of three marquee events in distinct beach, city and mountain locales, featuring summer sports of skateboarding and BMX, with additional competitions of surf and freestyle motocross, as well as snowboard and freeskiing featured at the winter event.

The Dew Tour events are premium action sports and lifestyle festivals combining the best in action sports competitions along with the Dew Tour Experience and live music performances.

The Dew Tour is broadcast live on NBC and NBC Sports Network and streamed live on dewtour.com. The Dew Tour is also distributed on Universal HD, and internationally on Eurosport, Extreme Channel, Rogers Sports Network, TVA and Globosat.

This will be the fourth year the Dew Tour will hold its beach event in Ocean City. In past years, Ocean City has been the tour’s first stop.

Depending on when Dew Tour officials can reschedule to come before the council, discussion over the proposed dates will take place, which could be as soon as the next Mayor and City Council meeting scheduled for Tuesday at 1 p.m.

Dew Tour representatives confirmed this week final dates on when the big event will hit Ocean City this summer have not yet been finalized but announcements, such as the dates and other facts on what the event will entail this year will be made in the weeks to follow.

The Town of Ocean City and Alli staff will start event planning in early April, including the impact to the town and the expectations of both the town and Alli Sports. A draft Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) will then be created distinguishing responsibilities of both parties.

This year’s application includes a cost to the city of about $45,000, which has diminished over the years. In 2012, the cost to the town was about $97,000. However, the Dew Tour returns the favor by resulting in positive economic impact from lodging, food beverage, recreation and other incidental expenditures related to the event. Dew Tour in Ocean City breaks record attendance numbers every year in the amount of visitors the event draws to the resort.

The dates to hold Dew Tour 2104 was proposed as early as last June during a Tourism Commission meeting while the event was preparing to take place last summer.

Prybylo proposed for Dew Tour 2014 in Ocean City to occur Thursday-Sunday, June 26-29. However, with the breakdown of the Dew Tour usually taking about a week, staff was concerned over the interference with the 4th of July Fireworks downtown.

The commission was in consensus to further investigate, along with the Fire Marshal’s office and Dew Tour officials, on the time frame and if the Dew Tour site will infringe on the safety regulations associated with the fireworks before moving forward in accepting the proposed dates. When the Dew Tour took place last summer, June 20-23, it had almost two weeks to break down before the 4th of July fireworks.

Harrier Added To June’s Air Show Performer List

Photo by Chris Parypa

OCEAN CITY – The Ocean City Air Show announced this week it will be one of only six events in the nation that will feature a demonstration by the U.S. Marine Corps AV-8B Harrier during this summer’s event.

The Harrier is one of the most sought after military aircraft demonstrations because of its unique ability to hover and perform a vertical take-off and landing. A Harrier demo at an oceanfront venue is dramatic because of the spray it creates when it descends vertically to hover just a few hundred feet above the surface of the water.

The 7th Annual OC Air Show to take place June 14-15 will be the only air show of the year in the mid-Atlantic region to feature a Harrier demo. The U.S. Marine Corps is the third branch of the U.S. military to announce support for the OC Air Show. The U.S. Army Silver Wings Parachute Team will also perform and the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds will headline the event.

“We’re honored the U.S. Marine Corps have selected the OC Air Show to demonstrate the Harrier,” Bryan Lilley, president of the OC Air Show, said. “We are fortunate to have such great support from multiple branches of the military in such challenging times.”

The Ocean City Air Show announced in December the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds jet team will be returning to headline the event this summer.

The Thunderbirds last performed at the OC Air Show in 2012. The Thunderbirds were grounded all of last year until the Pentagon announced late last year it was reinstating the Thunderbirds, the U.S. Navy Blue Angels and other military demonstration units following the one-year hiatus.

The OC Air Show in June will mark the Thunderbirds’ only performance in the mid-Atlantic region in 2014.
“We’re glad to be back,” said Thunderbirds Commander and lead pilot Lt. Col. Greg Moseley at that time. “Right now, we’re focused on training. While we’re excited to know we’ll be able to tell the Air Force story on the road, we’re completely focused on ensuring we have a safe show season.”
The Blue Angels confirmed an Ocean City Air Show stop on its schedule for 2015. The Blue Angels plan their air show stops and other appearances in a two-year cycle and the last cycle was completed in 2012, meaning their plans for 2013 and 2014 were already in the books. The Blue Angels were set to appear last June in Ocean City before the federal government cancelled the season.
The Harrier and Thunderbirds will headline a full line-up of some of the nation’s top military and civilian performers at the Ocean City Air Show in June, according to Lilley.

“The OC Air Show keeps getting bigger and better thanks to the support of the Town of Ocean City and the hundreds of thousands of spectators who come out to make it a success some from as far away as New York, Ohio and the Carolinas,’ Lilley said.

Study Reveals OC Skate Park Usage In Advance Of Budget Talks; An Average Of 31 Skaters Per Day Reported In OC

Located at 3rd Street and St. Louis Avenue, the Ocean Bowl Skate Park was used by 10,329 people in 2013. File Photo

OCEAN CITY – A preliminary meeting with the newly formed Skate Park Committee this week revealed usage data at the Ocean Bowl Skate Park in advance of this spring’s budget discussions.

“Last year, the council looked at possibly closing the skate park during the week as a cost reduction for budgetary concerns. It was met with stiff opposition so we backed off and decided to study it, and put together a group to look at it further, and really look at the numbers, drill down what we can do and can’t do with the public’s input,” Commission Chair Councilman Joe Mitrecic said.

During a budget wrap-up session in April last year, the Mayor and City Council voted to have Ocean Bowl Skate Park operate through the summer during its normal hours, which is open seven days a week during daylight. The changes proposed were to begin the Tuesday after Labor Day weekend when it would continue to be open on weekends, holidays and all Worcester County school days off only, but shut down during the months of January and February during the week. The reduction in hours would have saved the town approximately $21,000.

The council’s consideration sparked a petition online in support of keeping the park open during its normal hours in the off-season. Also, during a Mayor and City Council meeting on May 6, many skate park advocates turned out to voice their support to keeping the park open without changes. By the end of that meeting, the council voted to form a skate park committee of stakeholders and members of the local skateboard community along with town officials to come up with some sort of compromise, but the skate park’s reduction in hours remained in the proposed budget.

Later that month Ocean Bowl advocates returned to Council Chambers to persuade the council to fund the skate park as usual in 2013. The council voted to appropriate $21,000 in the new budget to have the Ocean Bowl operate its normal hours during the off-season and continue with the formation of a skate park committee to conduct a study.

On Tuesday, the Recreation and Parks Commission met with the Skate Park Commission to review data that has been collected throughout the last year.

In summary, Recreation and Parks Assistant Director Susan Petito presented the Ocean Bowl Skate Park was open a total of 323 days during 2013.

In January, February, and March, the park is open from 9:30 a.m. to dark, which has been around 5:30 or 6 p.m., on the weekends and days off of school, and the park is open from 2 p.m., to prepare for when school lets out around 3 p.m., to dark on weekdays. However, the park is closed on Wednesdays.

In April, the park is open from 9:30 a.m. to dark on the weekends and days off of school and open at 2 p.m. until dark on the weekdays but is open on Wednesdays.

In May, the park is open at 9:30 a.m. until dark on the weekends and days off school and open at 11:30 a.m. until dark on the weekdays.

In June, July and August, the park opens at 9:30 a.m. until dark daily, and in September and October returns to opening at 9:30 a.m. until dark on the weekends and days off school, and opens at 11:30 a.m. until dark on the weekdays.

In November and December, the park was open at 9:30 a.m. until dark on the weekdays and days off school and opened at 2 p.m. until dark on weekdays, and returns to being closed on Wednesdays.

According to the report, there were 10,329 visits to the Ocean Bowl in 2013, showing daily attendance averaging nearly 31 skaters per day.

The skate operation brought in a total of $55,194 in revenue made up from pass visits, pad rentals, product sales and numerous camps and programs.  Additionally, the park received a donation of $1,000 from the Elks Lodge to help show support for its continued operation.

Total staff hours equaled 5,361 for a wage expense of $64,576.  Petito noted that staff members are not only responsible for the supervision of the skate park, but they also teach lessons, support scheduled programs and competitions, and support and protect the entire two-block area that encompasses the Downtown Recreation Complex.

The report furthered, per Councilman Dennis Dare’s request, the staff members at the Ocean Bowl have begun to track the departure time of each participating skater so that an estimate of skater hours spent in the park may be determined on a daily basis.

From Thursday, Jan. 16, through Sunday, Feb. 9, the park has been open 17 days, 16 for which skater time in the park was collected.  During those 16 dates, 227 skaters were in the park for a total of 639.5 hours, showing that skaters stay in the park an average of a little over two and half hours per day during the cold weather months.

“Since last year, the skate park has saved about $20,000. Dave [Messick, Ocean Bowl Manager] has done a really great job in tightening up his staffing,” Petito said.

In 2012, the Ocean Bowl cost $95,000 while in 2013 it cost $75,000 to operate.

“We are really trying to squeeze and tighten it up down there, while also keeping a good staff that is going to be there 12 months because we have a lot of shoulder programs, camps and lessons, that aren’t just in the summer, and I need a group of guys that want to be there and also look out for the budget. It’s tough,” Messick said.

The commission will review additional data collected from the most recent months at the next meeting in March, including the number of skate park users during the week versus the weekend, and the Skate Park Committee will reconvene in April prior to prepare for budget discussions.

Anne Cook, whose family uses the skate park on a regular basis, asked what the commission was looking for in moving forward that will make a difference.

“Just have the same attendance during the day on weekdays that you do on weekends to show it is being used,” Dare said. “I just don’t know if the taxpayers can afford to have a facility open for one person or five people to show up on any given day.”


Weekend Event To Highlight Oyster Recovery Partnership’s Gains

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OCEAN CITY – The love of oysters will be shared at this weekend’s Oyster Garden event at Fager’s Island for all to attend.

For 20 years, Oyster Recovery Partnership (ORP) has been a facilitator and implementer of all major oyster restoration activities for Maryland and has become the leading non-profit in restoring oysters in the bay.

ORP restoration efforts have planted nearly five billion oysters in 1,600 acres in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. ORP also founded the Shell Recycling Alliance (SRA), which has recycled nearly 30,000 bushels of shell to provide homes to hatchery-raised oysters

In support of ORP, Fager’s Island is hosting an Oyster Garden event on Saturday, February 15th, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Representatives from five local companies, Bay Landing Shellfish Co., War Shore Oyster Co., Hollywood Oyster Co., Toby Island Oyster Co, and Hooper’s Island Oyster Aquaculture Co.,  cultivating and raising oyster beds will be on hand to shuck their oysters and tell their stories.

“It’s great that Fager’s is putting on this event. It’s a great destination and run by some great people who care about Maryland waters,” said John Apple, owner of Bay Landing Shellfish Co. “What the ORP is doing is revitalizing an ancient industry in Maryland by slowly but surely bringing back oyster populations. This not only helps nourish the bays and sea life in Maryland, but it’s also creating jobs … all in all the oyster recovery is pumping Maryland full of positivity on all fronts. The number of people at the Fager’s event will show how much the community cares about their state and local eco system.”

The ORP will also be on the scene to talk about Maryland’s efforts to restore its waterways, the importance of recycling used oyster shells and the training programs that are helping local aquaculture enterprises.

Bryan Gomes, ORP manager of Special Programs and the Shell Recycling Alliance (SRA), shared some interesting facts that will be expanded upon at the event, such as each adult oyster filters on average 50 gallons of water a day, and create important habitat for other important marine life, including the blue crab and striped bass.

Also, for every half shell a person or restaurant recycles, an average of 10 baby oysters are seeded back to that shell at the Horn Point Lab Oyster Hatchery in Cambridge and planted back in our local waterways. Of the 14,000 bushels the Delmarva area recycled in 2013, about 1,000 bushels came from the Maryland/Delaware beaches. This is enough shell to produce five million baby oysters, a bulk that will be planted in the Chesapeake Bay watershed with some being grown by local residents along the coastal bay watershed through the Marylanders Grow Oysters program.

“ORP and the Horn Point Hatchery hit a milestone last planting season and put over one billion oysters back in the Bay’s watershed in 2013,” Gomes said.

Gomes furthered, in addition to the 16 restaurants in the SRA at the Maryland and Delaware beaches, Fager’s being one of those restaurants, ORP there is a public drop site for people to drop shells at 104 66th Street Shell Depot.

“I’m excited for this event to bring together a handful of oyster growers, and all in the name of oyster restoration,” Gomes said. “I’m looking forward to educating guests on the important work these little guys do in our local waterways.”

The Local Oyster, a traveling oyster bar, and Chef Leo D’Aleo from the Atlantic Hotel will also be attending the Oyster Garden event to prepare a variety of roasted oysters to compliment the oysters being served raw.

“I am thrilled to be working with the great folks at Fager’s Island and equally excited that they are raising money for the ORP. The Local Oyster has been a member of the ORP since last September, recycling all of our shell to help replenish the natural Oyster Beds throughout the Chesapeake Bay,” Nick Schauman of Local Oyster said. “I am most looking forward to meeting all of the farmers in attendance and learning about the different techniques they use to grow their oysters. I am also looking forward to all the smiling faces after they taste our creations.”

The Local Oyster is based in Baltimore but caters events all throughout the region, including Ocean City, and serves only local farm raised oysters because they are sustainable and good for the local environment and economy, Schauman submitted.

Flying Dog Brewery will be on hand featuring its Pearl Necklace Oyster Stout that is a traditional dry stout brewed with Rappahannock River Oysters, and for every bottle of Pearl Necklace sold ORP plants 10 oysters into the bay totaling over one million to date.

Evolution Craft Brewing (EVO) will also be in attendance with its Incubator Oyster stout, made with Sewansecott Oysters.

Fager’s Island will add in BBQ ribs and chicken and Opposite Directions will be providing live entertainment.

It is $30 per ticket, with $5 of each ticket being donated to ORP, for all you can eat and unlimited beer samples from Flying Dog and EVO. Tickets are available online at www.fagers.com or at the main bar at Fager’s Island on 60th Street.

To learn more about ORP and how to get involved, go to www.oysterrecovery.org.

Producer Outlines Future Of ‘Ping Pong Summer’ Now That Rights Acquired

At a press conference prior to filming in October 2012, “Ping Pong Summer” cast members Susan Sarandon, Lea Thompson and John Hannah are pictured with Director Michael Tully and one of the producers, Michael Gottwald, standing. Photo by Shawn Soper

OCEAN CITY — It was announced this week the movie “Ping Pong Summer,” filmed in Ocean City in 2012 and premiered at Sundance Film Festival a few weeks ago, has been acquired by Gravitas Ventures, which will release the film to theaters and on Video On Demand (VOD) by early summer.

“I am very excited about ‘Ping Pong Summer’,” said Ocean City Tourism Director Donna Abbott this week at the Economic Development Committee meeting on Wednesday. “We took a gamble to invest in that with our Tourism Advisory Board contribution, but it looked like it is going to be a very good thing for Ocean City.”

In August 2012, both Worcester County and Ocean City agreed to contribute $100,000 each toward the production believing that the movie would be a boon for attracting visitors to the area.

“This is really a big deal, and we all really need to be excited about it,” said Mayor Rick Meehan this week. “It will take some time to develop but when the time is right we will have a showcase premiere here in Ocean City.”

According “Ping Pong Summer” producer George Rush, the film received a standing ovation at Sundance.

“There was a lot of buzz about the film, we premiered it, and the crowd’s reaction was pretty phenomenal,” he said. “It was a really, really great response with a standing ovation. We were very, very pleased.”

Sundance is the premiere market place for independent films and all the buyers are there to acquire new films for distribution, Rush explained.

“The buyer’s response was overwhelmingly positive, so we knew we were going to land a deal,” he said. “In talking to Gravitas they understood and appreciated the film the most, and we felt comfortable with the plan and the team they that had. There were a few offers but we felt they were the ones that would position the film in the best way.”

According to Rush, Gravitas Ventures is a well-known digital distributor, such as VOD but they are getting more involved in theatrical. The plan with “Ping Pong Summer” is to release the film in theaters around the nation in early summer and on the same day have it available on VOD.

“The film should be available throughout the country but the specifics are still to be worked out,” Rush said. “Our hope is, in addition to a national release, it will have emphasis in the Delmarva region.”

Rush furthered, between now and early summer Gravitas Ventures will be formulating a marketing plan for how to reach an audience, such as trailers, posters, etc.

“Our deal with Gravitas is only for North America, and we are also looking to sell the film overseas, so we have a sales agent that is working with us,” Rush said. “The European film market happens next week. It takes place during the Berlin Film Festival, and ‘Ping Pong Summer’ will be screened there. We are hoping to score a number of foreign deals there.”

According to Rush, it is a priority of the producers to have “Ping Pong Summer” premiere in Ocean City.

“The community was so helpful to us in so many ways that we definitely want to share the film there,” he said. “We are working with our distributor to work that out. One way or the other we will definitely have an Ocean City premiere. It certainly was a gamble for everyone that put money into it, but particularly the city and the county. We have a great deal of gratitude. We told people in the worst-case scenario we were making a really great commercial for Ocean City, and in the best-case scenario we would have a successful film, and I think we got the best-case scenario. We are hopeful the risk for the city will pay off for them, and it will bring more interest around the country and around the world in Ocean City.”

“Ping Pong Summer,” written and directed by Maryland native Michael Tully, is a coming-of-age story set in the summer of 1985, about a ping pong-obsessed teenage boy on a family vacation to Ocean City.
Tully first started writing the script his senior year in high school and has been working on it for over 20 years now. He is from Mt. Air, Md., and vacationed regularly with his family in Ocean City growing up.
“Ping Pong Summer” wrapped up production in Ocean City on Oct. 26, 2012, one day before Hurricane Sandy hit.  The last shot was filmed on the iconic Ocean City Fishing Pier, which was severely damaged during the storm.
The film went into post-production in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Austin, Texas.  The help of hundreds of people from the Delmarva region made the movie possible, which is the first motion picture in more than 25 years to feature Ocean City so prominently. The last was 1980s’ movie “Violets Are Blue,” a box office flop but local sensation that starred Sissy Spacek and Kevin Kline, among others.

Like “Violets Are Blue,” “Ping Pong Summer” drew heavily from the local experience and features famous Ocean City spots like the Boardwalk, Trimper’s, Paul Revere Smorgasbord, Anthony’s, Phillips Seafood, King’s Arms Motel, Old Pro Golf, the Greene Turtle and Hooper’s Crabhouse, among many others.

Locals were also included in the film, many of whom played extras while native Ocean City resident and Worcester Preparatory School student Emmi Shockley featured into the story more prominently as the main character’s love interest.


SUP Pilot Program Proposed In Resort; Beach Patrol Weary Of Allowing SUPs In Ocean


OCEAN CITY – A pilot program looks to be in the works to allow stand-up paddleboards in the surf during the times of modified surfing in the month of September.

Last week, Gabriel Mancini, owner of Mancini’s Italian Restaurant in Fenwick Island and an Ocean City resident, came before the Mayor and City Council asking for the Recreation and Parks Committee to examine Ocean City’s code to consider having a Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP) be reclassified as a surfboard to be allowed in the ocean’s surf during the time of modified surfing beaches.

SUPs are generally longer than nine feet with some extending longer than 12 feet with one to three surfboard style fins in the stern for tracking. The person stands on the board and uses a long single-bladed paddle to navigate the water.

Currently, SUP is defined by City Code as a watercraft due to its use of a paddle. The code states, “It is prohibited for any person to ride a wind surfboard or operate any watercraft from adjoining land upon any beach in the corporate limits of Ocean City, from Friday of Memorial Day weekend to September 30 between the hours of 10 a.m. and 5:30 p.m.”

Ocean City’s modified surfing beach expands two scheduled rotating surfing beaches during times of good surf and poor swimming conditions, as well as has the Inlet open to surfers on a conditional basis on the weekends during the summer due to the surfing beaches being overcrowded.

Modified surfing beaches also come into play as the off-season approaches, such as in the month of September when the beaches are less crowded and at the lifeguard’s discretion they will open the ocean to surfers.

This week the issue came before the Recreation and Parks Commission for preliminary discussion with the Ocean City Beach Patrol (OCBP).

“I did not realize they are in fact interested in catching waves with a SUP. It seems to be some of the surfers are transitioning to catch waves with larger SUPs to catch waves a little easier,” Commission Chair Councilman Joe Mitrecic said.

OCBP Lt. Ward Kovacs pointed out both Federal and State laws classify SUP as a vessel.

According to the United States Coast Guard regulations, a SUP is no different than vessels. SUP users, when outside surf or swim zones or bathing areas, are required to carry a lifejacket, or Personal Flotation Device (PFD), a whistle and, if out after dark, a flashlight to give fair warning to other boaters that they’re in the area.

According to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Regulations, life jackets are also required on non-motorized vessels including canoes, kayaks, stand-up paddleboards and any other device capable of being used as a means of transportation on the water or ice.

“Mr. Mancini had mentioned re-classifying them [SUPs] in the code. The federal government says this, the state government backs it up and is even more restrictive, so I don’t see how the city could unclassify it as a watercraft,” Kovacs said. “I have extensive experience paddle boarding. The paddleboards we [OCBP] use are 12 feet long. I know how they handle in the surf, and just because you put a leash on something it doesn’t mean you have control of the board when you get wiped out on a wave when you’re surfing.”

In putting a measurement to it, Kovacs figured a standard SUP is 12 feet long plus the length of a leash and a paddle, the danger zone created by a SUP can equal at least 38 feet.

In comparing surfers to SUP users, surfers generally stay in one location except when moving with the current. SUPs are made to travel.

“They are in one area and before you know it they will be a mile down,” Kovacs said.

Kovacs contacted a SUP vendor in Virginia Beach where they allow SUs on surfing beaches.

“He said the surfers and SUPrs do not get along,” Kovacs said.

Although the SUPs will go to the surfing beaches with the most distance, the flotation power of a SUP makes it is easier for them to catch smaller waves farther out, which result in SUPs interfering with surfers in the surf zone because the surfers don’t see them coming.

“We are very much concerned over this because it is a growing sport,” Kovacs said.

OCBP Capt. Butch Arbin polled OCBP officers and crew chiefs and there is overwhelming concern over safety and less experienced users being unable to negotiate currents and wind on the ocean side.

Kovacs cited an Ocean City area SUP company, Walk On Water, which recently posted on Facebook, “We understand that there is a request before the Ocean City Council to allow SUP at surfing beaches. There are some SUPrs that are proficient enough in the line up to safely mix in with those crowds. The vast majority are not. In addition the snappy beach break waves in town are not much for SUP. Unless the town was to grant SUP an exclusive beach, the combining of novice SUPrs with novice surfers would be dangerous.”

Kovacs furthered, although Mancini asked for SUP to be considered allowable on modified surfing days, those are usually days with bad weather or are overcast, which wouldn’t be safe for SUPs to operate in the surf anyways.

Recreation and Parks Director Tom Shuster added currently it is permissible for a SUP to go into the ocean any time year-round except from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. between the start of June to the end of September.

“So right now the period of time they are allowed in is much greater than the period of time they are restricted,” Shuster said.

Mitrecic asserted Mancini’s point was when he goes to the beach in September and the beach and ocean is empty he cannot utilize his SUP.

“I think he is more concerned there are people who like to do it on a weekday in September when we have modified surfing and there is not a soul in the water,” Mitrecic said.

Councilman Dennis Dare suggested allowing SUP in the surf during September but first giving swimmers and surfers priority.

“It would be nice to be able to try something out that is very restrictive to begin with,” Dare said.

Councilman Lloyd Martin made a motion to have OCBP develop a pilot program to possibly allow limited access to SUP in the surf after Labor Day in September during the times of modified surfing. The commission approved.

OCBP will return with a recommended pilot program to the commission, which will in turn present the program to the Surfing Commission for input and consensus.