About Joanne Shriner

Staff Writer

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

oyster_garden2_poster_PRINT (2)

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.


Boardwalk Military Banner Program OK’d For Summer

An example of a banner used in the Hometown Heroes Military Banner Program in a California town is pictured. Submitted Photo

OCEAN CITY – Ocean City will be honoring its local home town heroes this summer through a military banner program that will recognize active duty personnel along the Boardwalk.

On Tuesday afternoon, Pat Riordan of the OC Elks Lodge Veteran’s Committee came before the Mayor and City Council to request permission to implement an Ocean City Hometown Heroes Military Banner Program to honor active duty personnel who reside in Worcester County.

According to Riordan, the program was created for the community of Ocean City to honor and recognize active duty military personnel that reside in Worcester County. Banners will display the official military photo of the service person, as well as his or her name, rank and branch of the Unites States Armed Forces. There will be no cost to the honoree for this program.

“It basically started with a trip to California last spring when my wife and I were there on our anniversary trip. We were visiting the town of Temecula, Calif., and they had a similar program that really made you feel good walking around seeing these banners. It touched us, so we came to the Elks who were looking for projects for the Veterans Committee, and they instructed me to go forward with it, which I have been working on the past six months. Hopefully, I am bringing this to you and we can get your blessing to move forward,” Riordan said.

He explained the banner would be similar to those posted in Temecula, obviously changing it to represent Ocean City, but is working with a graphic artist to come up with a final product.

Riordan has met with the Department of Public Works, and 16 locations were chosen to hang banners on light pole locations on the concrete Boardwalk easterly bump outs from the pier to 4th Street from Springfest to Sunfest each year to avoid having the banners destroyed by winter weather.

“I couldn’t have asked for better locations if I handpicked the poles myself. They will be in the area of the Fireman’s Memorial,” he said. “After we take them down after Sunfest, we are hoping to present them to the service member or their family for a keepsake.”

The program will be no cost to the Town of Ocean City. Funds will be raised through local fraternal organizations, charities and businesses to sponsor active duty military from Worcester County.

“It is a great idea and I don’t think we could do too much to honor our veterans,” Councilman Brent Ashley said as he made a motion to approve the military banner program.

Councilman Doug Cymek seconded the motion. It had been several months since he first talked to Riordan about the program and was happy to see him before the council for approval.

The council voted unanimously to approve the program.

“I want to thank you for bringing this program forward and to the Elks and their Veteran’s Committee in working together with different organizations,” Mayor Rick Meehan said. “You are going to find this to be a very special type of display on our Boardwalk, and certainly something that is important to all of is no matter where you are from. Our residents, visitors, and families of service members will see those banners and it will really resonate with them. It is a patriotic feeling and a real tribute to those who are serving us.”


Ocean City Considering Adding ‘No Profanity’ Signs To Boardwalk

This sign was submitted to OC Councilwoman Mary Knight with a request for the city to consider a similar sort of "no profanity" sign on the Boardwalk. Submitted Photo

OCEAN CITY – City officials are currently exploring options, including looking to a neighboring resort for research, about new signage suggesting no profanity on the Boardwalk.

The idea of posting “no profanity signs” on the Boardwalk was brought before the Police Commission this week. Commission members thought it was a creative concept, but the Ocean City Police Department (OCPD) would have no right in lawfully enforcing the signage, it was pointed out.

The signage was brought forward by a constituent of Council Secretary Mary Knight, who in turn passed the concept forward to the Police Commission.

The signs have been spotted on Virginia Beach’s Boardwalk and nearby locations, and Knight has been in contact with the Virginia Beach City Manager’s Office to gather feedback.

“I talked with the city manager’s office in Virginia Beach and they could not quantify the success of the program, although they have received many positive comments,” Knight submitted.

According to Cymek, it has been suggested to install a few similar signs on the south end of Ocean City’s Boardwalk.

“It is clear it is not something you can make an arrest on. They are still entitled to their First Amendment rights,” Cymek said.

Councilman Dennis Dare was concerned over the perception the signs may give.

“I learned a long time ago you don’t want to make laws that you can’t enforce,” Dare said.

Cymek added another suggestion was adding the work “please”, to help differentiate between the sign asking for no profanity versus implementing a law.

“We would have to continue our operations as if those signs didn’t exist … so for us, yes, it is a possible plus, and considered a tool or helpful hint so to speak … but there is nothing there for us to use from a law enforcement standpoint,” OCPD Chief Ross Buzzuro said.

City Solicitor Guy Ayres agreed there is a big difference between putting up a sign as a courtesy versus making it a crime.

Buzzuro concluded with OCPD planning to contact Virginia Beach to receive additional information in how the neighboring resort went forward with installing the signage and how the signs have been proven productive.



Church Fire Victim Released From Hospital; Community Plans Benefit Friday

Photo by Chris Parypa

OCEAN CITY – The woman battling back from injuries sustained in last year’s St. Paul’s by the Sea Episcopal Church fire was released from the hospital over the weekend and the community is planning to come together for a fundraiser this Friday.

The benefit for Dana Truitt will be held Jan. 10, from 5-9 p.m. at Seacrets on 49th Street. The event will include lite dinner fare, beer and wine, live music, a silent auction and 50/50 raffle.

Marianne Buas, owner of the Buckingham Motel, along with her husband, Spiro, are spearheading the fundraiser as Truitt and her fiancé have been long-time employees of the hotel.

“She [Truitt] volunteers at the church three days a week, which is amazing … because a lot of people donate their money but because she doesn’t have much money she donated her time,” Buas said. “She doesn’t have much and these bills she is getting are going to be tough. She was in the hospital for over a month. She is going to have to be in physical therapy several days a week here in Berlin and she will have to be taking trips to Baltimore [Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center] every week.”

In developing the fundraiser, the Buas family has found helping hands along the way. Julie Smith of the Angler Restaurant will be preparing the food and collecting donations from other restaurants for the event, as well as Seacrets providing the space and beer and wine, and Greene Turtle North being a ticket outlet, along with many others.

“Everybody we call is eager to donate something,” Buas said.

Truitt was spending her morning at the church’s rectory, which was home to the Shepherd’s Crook food pantry, on Nov. 26 to prepare for a community Thanksgiving dinner when tragedy struck.

The investigation into the fire revealed a suspect, later identified as John Raymond Sterner, 56, of Ocean City, purchased gasoline at a nearby Shell station at the foot of the Route 50 Bridge, walked several blocks to Baltimore Ave., doused himself in gasoline, set himself on fire and then entered the Shepherd’s Crook.
Sterner was found deceased inside the building by first-arriving firefighters. During a search of the second floor of the structure, firefighters found the church pastor, Rev. David Dingwall, who was unconscious. Dingwall was quickly removed from the building and treated briefly at the scene by Ocean City paramedics before being transported to Atlantic General Hospital, where he later succumbed to his injuries. The Ocean City Fire Marshal’s Office ruled Sterner’s death a suicide and Dingwall’s death a homicide.

Shortly after setting himself ablaze and entering the Shepherd’s Crook, Sterner came into contact with Truitt.

In a telephone interview with The Dispatch from her hospital room at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in early December, Truitt recounted the events just prior to and after the blaze.

Truitt said she saw Sterner set himself on fire and come directly into the church rectory. Sterner attempted to prevent her from fleeing, but she was able to force her way past him. However, she was not able to get by the burning man before he came into contact with her and caught her on fire as well.
“He was able to grab my right side,” she said at that time. “He grabbed me and said ‘you’re not going anywhere’ and I said ‘you watch me.’ That’s what I did.”

Truitt was outside and on fire and attempting to take her burning clothes off when help arrived.
“I was outside and I started to take my clothes off when the fire company finally showed up,” she said. “They said ‘come on, get in the ambulance’ and I walked to the ambulance and that’s when they started cutting the rest of my clothes off. They said ‘Dana, we don’t know how you’re doing it honey, but you’re talking and can you tell us what happened and everything. I was telling them what was going on.”
Truitt did not wake up until nine days later in the hospital suffering from third-degree burns, and over this past weekend she was released to return home over a month after the fire.

Reached on Monday, Truitt was in good spirits and happy to be home in Ocean City. Although she has not fully recovered, she hopes to attend the fundraiser on Friday for at least an hour or so.

“I am healing up fine. The doctors keep saying how happy they are with the way my face and arm are healing,’ Truitt said. “It is just wonderful that everybody has come together for somebody that they don’t even know to help and support them. I am so grateful … if it wasn’t for Spiro and Marianne I don’t think I would be this far.”

Tickets for the Dana Truitt Fundraiser are $20 in advance or $25 at the door. Tickets can be purchased 12417 Ocean Gateway #C24, at Greene Turtle North on 116th St., at the Madison Beach Motel on 9 North Baltimore Avenue, or call Buas at 443-497-0524 or Jessica Lynch at 410-726-0736.

Donations are welcome at OCRooms.com through the website’s donation link on the main page. The method of payment on the website is through PayPal.

An account has been opened in her name at the Bank of Ocean City titled the Dana Truitt Donation Fund. Donations can be made at any Bank of Ocean City branch or by mail to the Dana Truitt Donation Fund, C/O Bank of Ocean City, P.O. Box 150, Ocean City, Md. 21843.


Ocean City Sets Key Comfort Station Project Deadline; City Engineer: ‘It’s A Shame It Had To Get To This Point”

The Caroline Street Comfort Station is pictured this fall. The project began last December and was originally expected to be completed in time for last summer. Photo by Chris Parypa Photography

OCEAN CITY – The Town of Ocean City is at its wits end with the delay of the Caroline Street Comfort Station completion as the contractor is warned its performance bond will be called if the project is not substantially complete by the end of the week.
On Monday evening, City Manager David Recor presented an update of the Town of Ocean City’s Strategic Plan and the progress of the plan’s action items during the past year. One of those action items was the reconstruction and completion of the Caroline Street Comfort Station on the Boardwalk. As of Monday, more than a year after demolition of the former structure and construction was initiated, the project is not finished, despite earlier deadlines of Memorial Day weekend and then subsequent proposed completion dates passing.
“As you are all aware, it is significantly behind schedule due to weather delays and contractor performance,” Recor said. “I have spoken with the city engineer and we are prepared to and will call the bond this Friday.”
On Tuesday, City Engineer Terry McGean confirmed he has advised the contractor, Black Diamond Builders, if the Caroline Street Comfort Station is not substantially complete by Friday he will formally request the contractor’s bond company take over and complete the project.
“They seem to have gotten the message,” McGean said. “A lot of things that have been dragging on are now getting done, so we will make the final determination of whether we bring in the bonding company or not.”
McGean explained when the town bids and contracts a project over $100,000 the contractor is required to supply a performance bond and payment bond, which both act as a form of insurance. A payment bond guarantees the subcontractors are paid and the performance bond guarantees the project gets built. If a project’s performance bond is called, the contractor is taken off the project, and the bond company brings in its own construction crew to finish the project.
The town is under a $938,000 contract with Black Diamond Builders to construct the Caroline Street Comfort Station. The project is being funded by a bond that was issued at the same time as the bond to reconstruct the Boardwalk, which was completed last spring.
The old underground restrooms at Caroline Street and the Boardwalk were demolished last December and the construction of the new, state-of-the-art facility complete with a performing arts stage began shortly thereafter with a projected finish date in May before the arrival of the summer season. However, a wet spring and some poor decisions slowed the construction process, and it became apparent the new facility would not be completed for the start of the summer season.
When poor weather continued through much of June, further slowing the construction of the new facility, the city contracted with a private waste disposal company to provide temporary restrooms for Boardwalk visitors on a site immediately adjacent to the construction site and just behind the Fireman’s Memorial on North Division Street.
At the end of August, the new Caroline Street Comfort Station was given a month to be completed. At that time the contractor had already entered into its penalty phase for missing the deadline.
On Tuesday, McGean reported about 95 percent of the comfort station has been completed but the last 5 percent has been stalled over the past couple of months.
“The two restrooms have basically been usable and pretty much substantially complete since Oct. 18 but … all this work was still left to be done since October and it still wasn’t, so my patience finally reached its end,” McGean said.
McGean gave the contractor a check list of items to be completed by Friday that included foot showers installed, completion of the electrical closet on the stage, dressing room completed, railings installed and signage on the building.
As of Tuesday, the foot showers and electrical closet were completed and the contractor was on site installing the railings and signage, and working on the dressing room.
“I am optimistic by Friday they will have those things completed,” McGean said.
Once the project is substantially completed, all there is left is the “punch list”, such as paint touch ups and other minor adjustments.
“They will have only so many days to complete the punch list while we are still withholding about $100,000 in payment, and then there is the whole liquidated damages issue,” McGean said.
McGean explained if a project is not completed within the timeframe stated in the contract liquidated damages is assessed at $1,000 every day the project is delayed.
“The purpose of that charge is to cover our expenses to the town that have occurred as a result of the delay in the project, such as the port-a-potty rentals, the additional time to pay the architect, potential lost revenue, for example we lost the use of the stage and were not able to put on any acts during the summer,” McGean said. “It is meant to keep the town whole, and they [Black Diamond] are in excess of about $100,000 right now.”
In McGean’s career, he has never gotten to the point of coming close to pulling a project’s performance bond.
“It is a shame it had to get to this point,” McGean said. “Calling in the bond company is a last resort. Usually once that happens it is difficult for a contractor to get bonded again, which makes it difficult for them to work on any sort of large project. Hopefully, they have gotten the message. I am certainly seeing more progress in this past week then I have seen in the last two months.”