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Utility Explains Pole Project, Addresses OC Council Concerns

Utility

OCEAN CITY – Delmarva Power and Light (DP&L) officials came before the Mayor and Council this week to address concerns over the changes being made to the utility poles along Coastal Highway.
Last month Ocean City Council members echoed concerns being heard in the community over the aesthetics of the new utility poles DP&L has installed on Coastal Highway. The council asked for DP&L Senior Public Affairs Manager Jim Smith to come before the council to give an update.
“They are forever changing the look of the Town of Ocean City,” Councilman Joe Mitrecic said at that time.
On Tuesday afternoon, Smith attended the Mayor and City Council’s work session. He reminded the council he had come before them on several occasions to inform the town of the replacement of utility poles from 41st to 85th streets in what is referred to as the Maridel to Ocean Bay Project.
DP&L has also held public meetings to apprise residents on the project as well as submitted several press releases and advertisements throughout the recent past.
According to DP&L, the $5 million project is being built in coordination with PJM Interconnection through its Regional Transmission Expansion Plan (RTEP). PJM Interconnection is a regional transmission organization that coordinates the movement of wholesale electricity in all or parts of Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and Washington, D.C.
The RTEP process identifies areas where system improvements need to occur in order to ensure electric reliability now and in the future.
The project began in October as DP&L began to rebuild a 69-kilovolt transmission line along Coastal Highway between the Maridel substation on 41st Street and the Ocean Bay substation on 85th Street. A total of 90 wooden poles will be replaced, most of which are more than 40 years old, with galvanized steel poles that require less maintenance and are built to withstand winds of up to 120 mph.
About 45 of these poles, which currently stand 65-feet tall, will be replaced with 90-foot tall poles to ensure maximum safety clearance around nearby buildings.
The project is targeted for completion in February. All post-project cleanup work will be finalized by April.
“The pole height is increasing to 90-feet and that is something we have been very upfront about from the beginning. We have transmission rebuilds going on across the entire peninsula and in most cases if not all the pole heights are going up. We are using more modernized heavier conductor electric lines that require a sturdier structure,” Smith said. “We are transitioning from wood transmission poles to steel, either a weathered type of steel, which is brownish rusted look, or galvanized steel like we are using here. We elected to go with galvanized here because we thought it would fit in better with the scape of Ocean City.”
Smith furthered eight- to nine-foot arms extending off the 90-foot poles will reach out over Coastal Highway, enhancing safety for residents who reside in the project area so closely to the highway.
“I know the diameter of the poles was a concern in the midst of construction,” Smith said. “They are built into the ground with vibratory caissons that we are using to put them in, and some folks thought the caissons going into the ground were the diameter of the poles but the pole diameter is almost the same of what exists. They are about two feet, which is pretty narrow for 90 foot tall poles.”
Smith added DP&L has been working closely with the State Highway Administration in placing the poles in the sidewalks making sure to achieve a five-foot clearance of walking space in as many pole locations as possible.
“This is a big project and I know it doesn’t look the best right now … but we have finished pulling the transmission wire today, so much of the transmission is going to be done. We still have some temporary wooden transmission on the north end of the project we will be changing out at the first of the year. In the January to February time frame, we are going to be working on the shorter poles or the distribution poles that serve our customers. Our hope is no later than the first of April we are going to be cleaned up and out of here,” Smith said.
What is currently being seen is what Smith referred to as “double pole”, which is where the new and old transmission poles continue to stand next to each other.
“Of course, the old ones are going to go away. They contain the distribution lines and that is why they have to stay until the end of our construction,” Smith said. “I think it is going to be sleeker better look than what we had, and from a safety point I think it is going to be shot in the arm to get the wires away from the buildings along Coastal Highway.”
Councilman Dennis Dare thanked DP&L for their outreach and investment in Ocean City’s community.
“I understand we need to have it done,” Mitrecic concluded. “Whether we like it or not it needs to be done for safety and future security.”

Promoter Forced To Pull Plug On Proposed OC Beach Music Fest

File Photo by Chris Parypa

OCEAN CITY – What was feared for High Tide Music Festival came true this week as Founders Entertainment announced the cancelation of the event until further notice.

Tom Russell of Founders Entertainment approached the Mayor and City Council on Monday evening saying he wished it was on better terms.

Russell began by stating, over the past two and half years the company had spent thousands of hours and considerable resources trying to pull off a first-class music festival on Ocean City’s beautiful beach.

At first, Founders Entertainment’s goal was to bring an eclectic line-up of different kinds of music to the Ocean City with genres covering rock, indie, folk and more but the plan was thrown a curve ball with the emergence of the Firefly Festival nearby in Dover, Del, which presented the same type of talent over a multi-day format.

“Being a small business, and wanting to make the best business decision possible we decided not to compete with this new and nearby event but rather pivot to a new style event, a country music festival,” Russell said. “While this pivot allowed us not to compete with the nearby Firefly and came with its own load of challenges, including competition with national promoters, radio stations, local amphitheaters and more, we tried at great length to overcome these challenges by forming alliances with influential organizations, but ultimately we have been unable to procure a first-class music festival talent that we feel would result in the success of this event. The very last thing we would want to do is bring a second-rate festival to Ocean City and to sustain losses that could damage or possibly cripple our business.”

Russell furthered canceling High Tide Music Festival was a tough decision because so much hard work had gone into making the event a success in Ocean City.

“It is with a very heavy heart that I must inform you that we are no longer able to achieve our goal of bringing a music festival to Ocean City’s beach in 2014. On behalf of my business partners and my company I would like to apologize to not be able to fulfill on our end of the deal … we sincerely hope one day to be back here, and we know it may be a challenge to gain your support and trust but we would love nothing more than to make our dream a reality. We truly love this town and the beach you all have so very much, and we truly, truly hope to get an opportunity to appear back in front of council in the future with a more feasible and obtainable business model.”

Council President Lloyd Martin thanked Russell for being forth right.

“We were hoping it would happen,” Martin said. “I know everyone was looking forward to it but competition is tough out there and we understand that.”

Councilman Brent Ashley had his doubts of whether the event was going to happen but acknowledged Russell’s strength in coming before the council.

“I would like to congratulate you for being man enough to stand up here and telling us exactly what the situation was. I know it is not easy to stand up there and do what you just did,” Ashley said.

Mayor Rick Meehan agreed with Russell and hopes to see Founders Entertainment return to Ocean City.

“Keep doing what you’re doing and I wish you a lot of success,” Mayor Meehan said. “I do hope, as you just stated, that you are back here one day when you are ready to move forward and put on what you envisioned to put on a great event in Ocean City. We look forward to having you back here in Ocean City.”

A couple of weeks ago, High Tide Music Festival was scheduled to be brought before the Mayor and City Council but Russell was absent. At that time, the Mayor and City Council expressed impatience with the event.

The High Tide Music Festival was first proposed in October of 2011 when it was presented to be held on June 2-3, 2012 on the beach in downtown Ocean City. It was to consist of four stages and aimed to target talent such as Paul Simon, Tom Petty, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Mumford and Sons, Florence & The Machine, Adele and more.

In March of 2012, Russell returned to the Mayor and City Council asking for a date postponement to June1-2, 2013 after having trouble scheduling targeted talent. Then, in November 2012, Russell requested the event become a three-day series of live country music on the beach with a targeted date of summer of 2014.

Russell presented the High Tide Music Festival as a two-stage music festival on the beach set for May 31-June 2, 2014. The event was estimated to bring in 20,000-25,000 attendees per day. Along with the music, the festival would include art, craft vendors, sponsor activations, and food and beverage concessions that include beer and wine.

Founders Entertainment also estimated a $20 million economic impact to Ocean City. At first Russell proposed Ocean City would receive a $1 per two-day ticket sold. However when the event changed to a country music festival he then proposed 7.5 percent of all food and beverage concessions from the promoter’s share of the revenue after taxes and expenses, and $1 per every three-day admission ticket sold, 66 cents per every two-day admission ticket sold, and 33 cents per every one-day admission ticket sold.

 

Council Seeks Tweaks To New OCBP Home Design

A rendering of the proposed design for the new Ocean City Beach Patrol headquarters downtown is shown. Rendering by Becker Morgan

OCEAN CITY – The new Ocean City Beach Patrol (OCBP) headquarters’ preliminary design was presented on Tuesday afternoon with Mayor and Council requesting a few minor tweaks before approval.
The new OCBP home was presented as a three-story building with the entrance facing the corner of Talbot Street and Philadelphia Avenue. The building represents a traditional Ocean City aesthetic as laid out by Ocean City Development Corporation’s (OCDC) Downtown Design Standards.
In August, the Mayor and City Council voted to add the construction of a new OCBP facility to a bond issuance that will go to the market by the end of the year. The facility has a maximum price tag of $2 million. Prior to the council’s approval this year, the project had been left on the drawing board for some time.
The OCBP currently occupies three buildings on Dorchester Street that were formerly used to serve as the old Ocean City Police Department and District Court facilities. In 1993, the buildings were deemed unsuitable for the OCPD and District Court and they vacated the property moving into the new Public Safety Building on 65th Street.
The dilapidating facility was never meant to be a permanent home for the beach patrol. Examination of the existing buildings revealed significant issues, such as numerous ADA violations, nonfunctioning sprinkler systems, asbestos siding, cracks in exterior masonry walls and all buildings’ first floors are below the FEMA Base Flood Elevation.
OCDC and city staff had recommended the new headquarters be located across the street from its existing location on three parcels purchased by the OCDC between Talbot and Dorchester streets that currently stands as a gravel parking lot next to OCDC’s office.
The council accepted OCDC’s proposal of a land swamp of OCDC parking lots in the Dorchester/Talbot streets block for the city-owned lots where the existing headquarters stands in the Dorchester/Somerset streets block. Once the existing facility is demolished, those lots will then become temporary parking lots instead.
In addition, the OCDC will pay 35-percent of the cost of the new OCBP building and site improvements over the 20-year bond life, not to exceed $2 million. These assisted funds would come from the Inlet Parking Lot fund, which is a dedicated funding source established a decade ago to fund downtown revitalization projects by OCDC.
City Engineer Terry McGean this week presented the facility’s conceptual design, which was created by Becker Morgan Group.
“Quite a bit of effort has gone into this on a staff level in meeting with the architect. The first design go around we had 3,000 square feet larger then what we’re showing now, so there was quite a bit of an effort to get it down to where it needed to be,” McGean said.
The first floor will enter into a lobby that will serve as a directory towards the second and third floor with access to a stair tower and elevator. There is an outdoor entrance to a second stair tower on the opposite side of the building.
The majority of the first floor serves as OCPD bicycle storage, which the current facility is also used for, as well as a restroom and office space for OCPD’s bike patrol division. Also a garage for OCBP vehicles, such as ATVs and Jet Skis, and a work shop is included.
A separate room is included in the first floor to store and dispense radios. A section is included for OCPB dry storage, such as buoys and umbrellas, uniform storage, a laundry room and an office for the employee responsible for dispensing uniforms and equipment, which can be quite the undertaking with over 200 Surf Rescue Technicians (SRT) in the OCBP.
The second floor includes a work room, office space, storage and male and female locker rooms, which is an improvement from the current facility that holds a restroom with one sink, one toilet and one shower for the entire OCBP.
The largest space on the second floor is a combined 1,100-square-foot classroom and multipurpose space to be used for training and/or physical activities. A partition wall was added to be able to divide the space if needed.
The third floor will serve as the administrative area and will enter into a receptionist area that is joined by the dispatch area.
The rendering of the exterior of the headquarters reflects red roofs, white siding with columns and a covered wrap around roof on the second floor. The lines of the building are similar to the Ocean City Life Saving Station Museum.
McGean concluded all the user space is a total of 10,000 square feet that is less then what was originally proposed. However, the building cost is estimated to be higher than what was originally proposed, with the total coming in near $2 million not leaving much leeway.
‘We have reduced the amount of contingency we are carrying,” McGean said.
Ocean City follows a 5-percent building contingency and a 15-percent planning contingency that has been reduced to 10 percent because the advancements already made in the design process, which will leave some wiggle room for additional costs.
“For me we have to remember the beach patrol is our number one good will ambassadors. I think they touch more of our tourists than anyone else in town does. They have operated in terrible conditions for years, so I want to see them have a first-class facility and if we have to go a little above that’s ok,” Councilman Brent Ashley said.
While he said the building is beautiful, Councilman Joe Mitrecic said the covered porches are driving up the price tag.
“Also this building is going to be 98 percent empty nine months a year, so although staff has made great strides in bringing it in where they think it should be space wise I am still concerned it is too big then what it should be,” Mitrecic said.
Recreation and Parks Director Tom Shuster interjected the department is already in discussions in how the multi-purpose room can be used throughout the off-season.
McGean added between OCPD and OCBP there is about 3,000 square feet of storage the building will also be used for throughout the off-season.
Councilwoman Margaret Pillas pointed out that while the OCBP could go with a building without covered porches, the design follows OCDC guidelines.
“I look at it in a different way. I saw it as another anchored building for downtown … it enhances the downtown for people entering into town,” Pillas said.
McGean agreed OCDC Downtown Design Standards calls for covered porches.
“We do want to follow what we make everyone else do,” he said.
Mayor Rick Meehan agreed the town supports OCDCs guidelines that are used for residential and commercial properties in the downtown and the same should be used on public buildings.
Councilman Dennis Dare listed several concerns over an abundance of entrance and exit points throughout the building regarding security, the lobby being too large to be used only as a directory and the elevation of the first floor should be further elevated above base flood elevation to avoid flooding during a storm surge in the downtown.
“I think the first floor needs some more work,” Dare said.
McGean explained the number of exterior doors was included to have the building be as efficient as possible. McGean furthered a city-wide controlled access will be added to the building where access is granted in certain doors with an employee ID card.
“Height wise we will get what we can,” McGean said. “If you raise the entire building an additional two feet you wind up with losing area around the building because you have to put in ramps to access the elevator lobby but we will raise it up as much as we can from ground level.”
McGean concluded the 245-square-foot lobby along with other concerns will be “taken to heart”.
“The lobby is quite intimidating, especially to walk in and not have anybody there” Council Secretary Mary Knight said.
McGean reassured the council the conceptual design can be tweaked.
“I hear you loud and clear,” he said.
There was no action taken. The design will be revised to address council concerns and return for approval.

Council Seeks Tweaks To New OC Beach Patrol Headquarters Design

Rendering by Becker Morgan

OCEAN CITY – The new Ocean City Beach Patrol (OCBP) headquarters’ preliminary design was presented on Tuesday afternoon with Mayor and Council requesting a few minor tweaks before approval.

The new OCBP home was presented as a three-story building with the entrance facing the corner of Talbot Street and Philadelphia Avenue. The building represents a traditional Ocean City aesthetic as laid out by Ocean City Development Corporation’s (OCDC) Downtown Design Standards.

In August, the Mayor and City Council voted to add the construction of a new OCBP facility to a bond issuance that will go to the market by the end of the year. The facility has a maximum price tag of $2 million. Prior to the council’s approval this year, the project had been left on the drawing board for some time.

The OCBP currently occupies three buildings on Dorchester Street that were formerly used to serve as the old Ocean City Police Department and District Court facilities. In 1993, the buildings were deemed unsuitable for the OCPD and District Court and they vacated the property moving into the new Public Safety Building on 65th Street.

The dilapidating facility was never meant to be a permanent home for the beach patrol. Examination of the existing buildings revealed significant issues, such as numerous ADA violations, nonfunctioning sprinkler systems, asbestos siding, cracks in exterior masonry walls and all buildings’ first floors are below the FEMA Base Flood Elevation.

OCDC and city staff had recommended the new headquarters be located across the street from its existing location on three parcels purchased by the OCDC between Talbot and Dorchester streets that currently stands as a gravel parking lot next to OCDC’s office.

The council accepted OCDC’s proposal of a land swamp of OCDC parking lots in the Dorchester/Talbot streets block for the city-owned lots where the existing headquarters stands in the Dorchester/Somerset streets block. Once the existing facility is demolished, those lots will then become temporary parking lots instead.

In addition, the OCDC will pay 35-percent of the cost of the new OCBP building and site improvements over the 20-year bond life, not to exceed $2 million. These assisted funds would come from the Inlet Parking Lot fund, which is a dedicated funding source established a decade ago to fund downtown revitalization projects by OCDC.

City Engineer Terry McGean this week presented the facility’s conceptual design, which was created by Becker Morgan Group.

“Quite a bit of effort has gone into this on a staff level in meeting with the architect. The first design go around we had 3,000 square feet larger then what we’re showing now, so there was quite a bit of an effort to get it down to where it needed to be,” McGean said.

The first floor will enter into a lobby that will serve as a directory towards the second and third floor with access to a stair tower and elevator. There is an outdoor entrance to a second stair tower on the opposite side of the building.

The majority of the first floor serves as OCPD bicycle storage, which the current facility is also used for, as well as a restroom and office space for OCPD’s bike patrol division. Also a garage for OCBP vehicles, such as ATVs and Jet Skis, and a work shop is included.

A separate room is included in the first floor to store and dispense radios. A section is included for OCPB dry storage, such as buoys and umbrellas, uniform storage, a laundry room and an office for the employee responsible for dispensing uniforms and equipment, which can be quite the undertaking with over 200 Surf Rescue Technicians (SRT) in the OCBP.

The second floor includes a work room, office space, storage and male and female locker rooms, which is an improvement from the current facility that holds a restroom with one sink, one toilet and one shower for the entire OCBP.

The largest space on the second floor is a combined 1,100-square-foot classroom and multipurpose space to be used for training and/or physical activities. A partition wall was added to be able to divide the space if needed.

The third floor will serve as the administrative area and will enter into a receptionist area that is joined by the dispatch area.

The rendering of the exterior of the headquarters reflects red roofs, white siding with columns and a covered wrap around roof on the second floor. The lines of the building are similar to the Ocean City Life Saving Station Museum.

McGean concluded all the user space is a total of 10,000 square feet that is less then what was originally proposed. However, the building cost is estimated to be higher than what was originally proposed, with the total coming in near $2 million not leaving much leeway.

‘We have reduced the amount of contingency we are carrying,” McGean said.

Ocean City follows a 5-percent building contingency and a 15-percent planning contingency that has been reduced to 10 percent because the advancements already made in the design process, which will leave some wiggle room for additional costs.

“For me we have to remember the beach patrol is our number one good will ambassadors. I think they touch more of our tourists than anyone else in town does. They have operated in terrible conditions for years, so I want to see them have a first-class facility and if we have to go a little above that’s ok,” Councilman Brent Ashley said.

While he said the building is beautiful, Councilman Joe Mitrecic said the covered porches are driving up the price tag.

“Also this building is going to be 98 percent empty nine months a year, so although staff has made great strides in bringing it in where they think it should be space wise I am still concerned it is too big then what it should be,” Mitrecic said.

Recreation and Parks Director Tom Shuster interjected the department is already in discussions in how the multi-purpose room can be used throughout the off-season.

McGean added between OCPD and OCBP there is about 3,000 square feet of storage the building will also be used for throughout the off-season.

Councilwoman Margaret Pillas pointed out that while the OCBP could go with a building without covered porches, the design follows OCDC guidelines.

“I look at it in a different way. I saw it as another anchored building for downtown … it enhances the downtown for people entering into town,” Pillas said.

McGean agreed OCDC Downtown Design Standards calls for covered porches.

“We do want to follow what we make everyone else do,” he said.

Mayor Rick Meehan agreed the town supports OCDCs guidelines that are used for residential and commercial properties in the downtown and the same should be used on public buildings.

Councilman Dennis Dare listed several concerns over an abundance of entrance and exit points throughout the building regarding security, the lobby being too large to be used only as a directory and the elevation of the first floor should be further elevated above base flood elevation to avoid flooding during a storm surge in the downtown.

“I think the first floor needs some more work,” Dare said.

McGean explained the number of exterior doors was included to have the building be as efficient as possible. McGean furthered a city-wide controlled access will be added to the building where access is granted in certain doors with an employee ID card.

“Height wise we will get what we can,” McGean said. “If you raise the entire building an additional two feet you wind up with losing area around the building because you have to put in ramps to access the elevator lobby but we will raise it up as much as we can from ground level.”

McGean concluded the 245-square-foot lobby along with other concerns will be “taken to heart”.

“The lobby is quite intimidating, especially to walk in and not have anybody there” Council Secretary Mary Knight said.

McGean reassured the council the conceptual design can be tweaked.

“I hear you loud and clear,” he said.

There was no action taken. The design will be revised to address council concerns and return for approval.

Ocean City Performing Arts Center Petition ‘Discontinued’

Ocean

OCEAN CITY – A petition opposing the new Performing Arts Center (PAC) addition to the convention center was discontinued this week by a local citizens group amid claims the town has not disclosed relevant information about future bookings at the facility.
Tony Christ, spokesperson for the Ocean City Taxpayers for Social Justice (OCTSJ), last month received approval for a petition singling out an $8.5 million bond to fund the new Performing Arts Center (PAC) at the Roland E. Powell Convention Center. The PAC is part of a $12.7 bond ordinance. The remaining $4.23 million of the ordinance is dedicated to a roof for the Public Safety Building, a roof for the Service Center Building, a new beach patrol headquarters and an effluent disinfection system at the Wastewater Treatment Plant. All the projects will amortize over a period of 10 years.
The PAC project is under contract between the Town of Ocean City and the Maryland Stadium Authority (MSA), which is paying $5.7 million of the auditorium’s costs. The two-story, 1,200-seat auditorium is currently under construction under the auspices of contractor Whiting Turner.
The town is going to the bond market by the end of the year. In the meantime, Ocean City’s portion of the PAC is being paid for out of fund balance that will be reimbursed by the bond, which will ultimately be paid off by the food and beverage tax.
The local sales tax of .5 percent on food and beverage purchases in Ocean City is imposed for the purpose of paying the principal and interest on bonds issued to finance the construction, reconstruction, repair, renovation and equipment of the convention center.
By charter, a petition for referendum has 40 days to circulate and must obtain at least 40 percent of the number of voters, who voted in the last election or 1,226 signatures in this case. If the required signatures are verified, the bond ordinance pertaining to the PAC can be placed on the next ballot.
According to City Solicitor Guy Ayres the petition was approved Oct. 11 and the deadline was Wednesday, Nov. 20. Christ is asserting the deadline is Dec. 1 due to Ayres’ delay in contemplating the approval of the petition, and if it comes down to it he will take the town to court over the misconception of the deadline.
Christ sent Ayres a letter on Tuesday stating, “OCTSJ believes the City has failed to disclose to the citizens of Ocean City the known losses of existing Conventioneer business due to reduction in exhibition space resulting from the construction of the PAC. This loss could result in a significant unannounced revenue decline in fiscal year 2015.”
The letter furthers, “We respectfully request that the city promptly disclose to the people of Ocean City the extent of losses of Convention business owing to the loss of exhibit Hall C reducing Exhibiters space from 63,410 sq. ft. to 45,770 sq. ft. We respectfully request disclosure that Epic Cheerleaders … has canceled their three year contract and have only signed up for one year [February, March and April of 2014] … We respectfully request full disclosure of others that are believed to have informed the City that they will not return. Those losses may not be as large as Epic Cheerleaders; however that could represent significant additional revenue loss.”
The letter concludes, “OCTSJ has discontinued its petition solicitation until the people of Ocean City receive full disclosure. In accord with Section C-411 of the Ocean City Charter, which only allows for reductions of the 40 day solicitation period when the petitioners fail to submit a timely petition, we will resume our remaining days after the City has fully disclosed the status of all Conventioneers so the people in Ocean City can know the truth.”
Ayres responded to Christ on Wednesday morning, writing, “Your statement that you are suspending the petition drive is your decision to make for whatever reason you want to ascribe, however it does not suspend or extend the deadline for submission. If attempted to be filed after the deadline it will not be accepted.”
On Wednesday afternoon, City Clerk Kelly Allmond responded to Christ’s requests and said the facts do not support his claims.
“In fact, the City has never possessed a three-year contract with Epic. Furthermore, the City does not possess any documentation from Epic, or any other user, that states their intent not to return to the Roland E. Powell Convention Center as a result of the changes.”
A hard copy of the email submitted by Epic Cheerleaders disclosing the cancelation of a three-year contract could not been obtained by The Dispatch this week. Christ claims he has lost the document. However, he said City Manager David Recor submitted the email to OCTSJ member Herb Pawlukewicz, who in turn sent it to Christ.
“I have never sent an email to Herb Pawlukewicz,” Recor said on Wednesday afternoon.
Recor furthered it would be impossible to send such an email since a three-year contract with Epic Cheerleaders does not exist.
At the conclusion of the Mayor and City Council legislative session on Monday evening, Christ voiced most of the assertions stated in the letter submitted on Tuesday addressed to Ayres.
Convention Center Director Larry Noccolino was in attendance to address Christ’s concerns. Noccolino started by stating he has no knowledge of a three-year contract being canceled with Epic Cheerleaders.
“I do know we have just received a one-year contract [with Epic Cheerleaders] with intention of signing 2015 and 2016 as soon as we can get that out to them,” Noccolino said. “They are very excited about moving into the PAC and I can tell you why. We met with them just this past spring, in May, with the mayor, city manager, architects and construction manager. We made some revisions to the PAC, not only to appease Epic Cheerleaders but also to appease Star Power [talent competition], Trinity Motivation [BWW Management Operating Committee conference], and another group.”
Noccolino added he has already spoken to no less than 20 other groups that have expressed interesting in coming Ocean City. The Town of Ocean City has also committed to hosting a number of shows in the new PAC, such as the Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra to play a series of concerts.

OC Views Route 90 Dualization As Higher Priority Than 50 Bridge; State Says City Needs To Address Issue With County First

1 90

OCEAN CITY – During an update with the State Highway Administration this week, resort officials asked for consideration in prioritizing the dualization of Route 90 ahead of the reconstruction of the Route 50 Bridge.

Tuesday afternoon marked the bi-annual meeting between the Town of Ocean City and the Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) where SHA District Engineer Donnie Drewer and Assistant District Engineer Ken Cimino discussed the Route 90 and Route 50 bridges along with other maintenance and repairs on Coastal Highway.

Drewer began with the Route 90 bridge and the town’s request to dualize the secondary entrance into Ocean City to help alleviate traffic.

“I know you had sent a letter to the administrator referencing dualizing the Route 90 Bridge. Where that is in the hierarchy I really am not sure, but I do know that in order for it to get more attention it needs to be included in the Worcester County priority letter,” he said. “Right now Route 113 is their [Worcester County Commissioners’] first priority, Route 589 is their second priority and Route 50 Bridge is their third priority. So what you need to do is get Route 90 in that pecking order.”

Mayor Rick Meehan asserted he had submitted a letter to the Worcester County prioritizing the dualization of the Route 90 bridge prior to reconstruction of the Route 50 bridge on behalf of Ocean City, and the letter was included in the County Commissioners’ Nov. 5 agenda packet when the commissioners had a discussion with SHA over the Annual Consolidated Transportation Program.

The letter dated June 18, 2013 states, “This letter, and supporting documentation, is offered in an effort to highlight a concern of Ocean City relative to long range planning and the effects the replacement of the US50 bridge will have on overall accessibility to Ocean City. Based on recent Studies and Alternative Analysis, the eventual replacement of the US50 bridge has the potential (and reality) of causing severe traffic congestion issues, for multiple summer seasons, for those who chose to visit Ocean City as their vacation destination.”

The letter furthers, “It is with this stated that we truly feel it far more prudent to compete the dualization of the entire MD90 corridor, from US50 to MD528 (Coastal Highway), prior to replacement of the US50 bridge. With the right of way already in place, a major time consuming hurdle on such a project is a non-issue and should position the state to expedite the project.”

Drewer responded he would look into the matter and get back to the mayor, and continued to report inspections were conducted on the Route 90 Bridge this past spring, and as a result there were no constructional deficiencies discovered.

Drewer acknowledged the town’s concerns over Route 90 bridge parapet walls becoming unsightly and needing to be either power washed or repainted.

“It is against policy to tear the walls down, and as far as power washing is concerned with that bridge being as long as it is we really couldn’t power wash it and survive environmentally because we would have to catch all the water after we power wash,” Drewer said. “So it is kind of a no-win situation because I don’t think we would ever be able to get a permit to do that, so hopefully we can come up with some other ways we can attack the problem.”

The Route 50 Bridge is on a two-year inspection schedule, Drewer said, and the last inspection revealed no major problems. The study for a new Route 50 Bridge has been completed and a parallel drawbridge with a 30-foot clearance has been selected and the design has been approved.

“A couple years ago, we completed a decking replacement and it was estimated the existing bridge has 20 years of service left, so the question is when will the new bridge be in place … we are going to keep the existing bridge in as good of a condition as long as we can, and then we will have to have a plan in place to replace the Route 50 bridge,” Drewer said.

Additionally, during this week’s meeting, a list of maintenance and repairs to Coastal Highway that will be completed before next summer was submitted, including the majority of the remaining depressed center median sections with wooden bollards for pedestrian crossing will be removed from the Delaware line to 9th Street this winter and spring. The town has been asking for the median crossings to be removed for years to encourage pedestrians to cross the highway at marked crosswalks.

Cimino acknowledged complaints were received last summer regarding the signal timing at the 94th Street intersection causing traffic congestion between 94th and 120th streets. As a result, the signal timing for north and southbound traffic was adjusted to give a longer length of timing for the main line, which seemed to relieve some of the congestion.

“We are going to go with that this year and make adjustments as needed along that corridor,” Cimino said.

Both Councilman Dennis Dare and Councilman Joe Mitrecic voiced ongoing concerns over the signal timing at 94th Street.

“The 94th Street light is horrendous. We have cuing on all sides at 120th Street and it doesn’t do what happens at 94th Street, so something needs to happen more stringently there because you can sit at that light at 94th Street for five to six minutes at a time,” Mitrecic said. “The other problem is the turning lane signal is so short only four or five cars can go, so then we have cars piling up into the main lane waiting to move into the turning lane.”

Cimino reassured the 94th Street signal timing is a work in progress and will continue to be studied with adjustments to be made as warranted.

‘I agree with you there is a happy medium but that happy medium is not going to happen overnight,” Cimino said. “We need to identify exactly what the problem is and recognize alternatives. We want traffic to move. We don’t want frustrated drivers.”

Council Secretary Mary Knight asked about SHA’s plans to eliminate the intersection in front of Wal-Mart and Home Depot on Route 50.

After the new signal was put in at the Samuel Bowen Blvd., a service road that is expected to ultimately run parallel to Route 50 from Holly Grover Road to Seahawk Road, SHA studied both intersections of Samuel Bowen Blvd. and the existing intersection in front of the shopping complex for a year.

“We determined that the majority of the traffic was now using the new Samuel Bowen Blvd. and the connector road to the Ocean Landing property. So, we are in the process right now of making a request to the Office of Traffic and Safety to have the existing signal in front of the Home Depot and Wal-Mart removed,” Cimino said.

Knight also questioned the larger circumference of the new Delmarva Power poles being replaced on Coastal Hwy., and if SHA foresees any kind of problems, such as the poles being closer to edge of the sidewalk and interfering with the buses.

Drewer responded he would look into the issue and follow up.

Mitrecic also questioned how the poles’ larger circumference will interfere with ADA sidewalk requirements.

“We just spent all this money making the sidewalks ADA accessible through town, and now Delmarva has come and put these huge poles in the middle of our sidewalks again,” he said.

Drewer responded there are 94 poles being replaced and all but six meet SHA’s ADA requirements and Delmarva Power has requested a waiver to address the issue.

Petitioners, Council Continue Arts Center Debate; Supporters Request Current Petition Be Dropped

OCEAN CITY – An intense battle, rooted in allegations of misconceptions, continues to play out in Ocean City over a petition opposing the bond to fund the new Performing Arts Center (PAC) addition at the Roland E. Powell Convention Center.
Tony Christ, spokesperson for the Ocean City Taxpayers for Social Justice (OCTSJ), last month received approval for a petition singling out an $8.5 million bond to fund the new PAC. 
The PAC is part of a $12.7 bond ordinance. The remaining $4.23 million of the ordinance is dedicated to a roof for the Public Safety Building, a roof for the Service Center Building, a new beach patrol headquarters and an effluent disinfection system at the Wastewater Treatment Plant. All the projects will amortize over a period of 10 years.
The PAC project is under contract between the Town of Ocean City and the Maryland Stadium Authority (MSA), which is paying $5.7 million of the auditorium’s costs. The two-story, 1,200-seat auditorium is currently under construction under the auspices of contractor Whiting Turner.
The town is going to the bond market by the end of the year. In the meantime, Ocean City’s portion of the PAC is being paid for out of fund balance that will be reimbursed by the bond, which will ultimately be paid off by the food and beverage tax.
The local sales tax of .5 percent on food and beverage purchases in Ocean City is imposed for the purpose of paying the principal and interest on bonds issued to finance the construction, reconstruction, repair, renovation and equipment of the convention center.
By charter, a petition for referendum has 40 days to circulate and must obtain at least 40 percent of the number of voters, who voted in the last election or 1,226 signatures in this case. The petition’s deadline is Nov. 20. If the required signatures are verified, the bond ordinance pertaining to the PAC can be placed on the next ballot.
For the past couple of weeks, Christ has been up against city officials and PAC supporters as they have been out to clarify what they believe is misinformation being spread by Christ and petitioners.
Last Thursday Christ had submitted an email to City Solicitor Guy Ayres that he was considering announcing the retraction of the petition this week. However, Christ was not in attendance at Monday’s meeting.
Despite Christ’s absence, OCTSJ supporters Herb Pawlukewicz and Ellie Diegelmann were present to further interrogate the Mayor and City Council over the PAC and its funding.
Pawlukewicz questioned the Mayor and City Council over who authorized the PAC construction to begin prior to the bond sale.
City Engineer Terry McGean explained the floor-to-ceiling demising wall that separates the relatively new bay-front ballroom on the second floor from the construction work in the performing arts center was the first step in the project because it will prevent upcoming events at the convention center from being disrupted.
On April 2, following several meetings with MSA, Whiting Turner and convention center staff decided on the window from Oct. 20 to Nov. 12 to begin construction.
“It is always our number one goal when we work on the convention center not to disrupt or cancel any existing events, so very early on we had to establish a three-week window within the building where there were no events in the ballroom so that we could construct that wall,” McGean said. “We had to develop this schedule ahead of time for the contactor so that they could have their staff and subcontractors ready to go and for the sale staff knows not to put any new events into that room.”
Diegelmann said it is not the PAC petitioners are against. They are against the portion of the bond ordinance that states, “The City shall levy and collect ad valorem taxes upon all taxable property within the City … to pay the principle of and interest on the Convention Center portion of the Bonds in any fiscal year.”
She said, “So, if it is not costing the taxpayers one red dime let’s just eliminate clauses like that and there will not be any controversy or divisiveness. You can build the center all you want just don’t make us pay for it.”
Mayor Rick Meehan explained in order for Ocean City to go to the bond market seeking a low-interest rate the language to pledge the full faith and credit of the Town of Ocean City should be included.
“If, in fact, it was worded differently and became a revenue bond, and approved as a revenue bond the interest rate would be higher,” he said. “Since the money [food and beverage tax] is there and the money has proven it will be there, why would we pay a higher interest rate?”
Next Diegelmann brought up Christ’s alternative reasoning behind the petition that the PAC is causing the convention center to lose space and will no longer be able to hold its historically large events, such as the State of Maryland Fireman’s Association memorial service and the cheerleading convention.
Meehan clarified the first phase of the convention center that was completed last year included an expansion of a bay-front ballroom, and replaced all exhibit space that will be taken up by the PAC. The PAC is an addition to the square footage the convention center consisted of before the expansion project began.
According to the mayor, Christ’s statement that the firemen’s memorial service will no longer be able to be held at the convention center due to loss in space is false based on the fact the new ballroom can hold up to 1,896 people and the largest group the convention center has held is 1,720.
“I think it is all subject to interpretation. I am not going to sit here and dispute it with you,” Diegelmann said. “After reading all of the controversy around this…the divisiveness over this has just sickened me … no matter what happens we will lose.”
Meehan furthered the food and beverage tax was established in the 1990’s during the first expansion of the convention center by the State of Maryland. The state established the restrictiveness of the food and beverage tax to only be spent on bond indebtedness related to construction at the convention center to avoid any ambiguity. Currently Ocean City’s food and beverage account stands at over $7 million.
“Since you assume nobody is telling you the correct information, it becomes more difficult,” the mayor said to Diegelmann. “What I am saying is it is a fact the food tax money is there and it will continue to be there but it can only be used to offset and pay the bond indebtedness. You cannot just take it and pay the contractor. It can only be used by state statute to pay the bond indebtedness.”
Diegelmann accused the Mayor and City Council of steamrolling by beginning construction before going to the bond market.
“That is a cliché, and if you want to run things with misinformation that is okay,” the mayor said. “This has been voted on and approved unanimously five different times by two different councils … it wasn’t done with smoke and mirrors. It was done right here in this council chamber, and it was done with everybody’s complete knowledge of what it is going on.”
Council Secretary Mary Knight, who spent the weekend researching to clarify misconceptions advertised by Christ, stated the convention center will be gaining 9.5 percent more space to exhibit area.
Knight added Christ’s assertion the PAC will be just as large as Stephen Decatur High School’s auditorium is false. Stephen Decatur’s auditorium seats 600 and the PAC will seat 1,200 which is the same amount of seating at Virginia Beach’s PAC.
“When the State of Maryland conducted the economic study, they didn’t use just pretend numbers. They looked at other resort areas like ourselves and took actual numbers of their economic impact,” Knight said. “In Ocean City they are expecting $3 million in economic impact. In the State of Maryland they are expecting $300,000 in additional taxes and Worcester County is expecting an additional $70,000. So, all of this negative that is out there, nobody is looking at the actual study and the actual numbers.”
Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra Vice President Marlene Ott was the first to approach the Mayor and City Council on Monday and thank them for growing Worcester County’s cultural atmosphere.
“A lot of times we think of Ocean City as a tourist attraction for those who come here but the improvements that you are doing at the convention center, especially the 1,200-seat professional theatre, will benefit the entire county,” Ott said.
Area resident Nicole Hills, who homeschools her 6-year old son, thanked the Mayor and City Council for bringing a cultural experience to Ocean City that she would otherwise have to drive to Salisbury, Washington D.C. or Philadelphia for.
“I have to say if two different councils agreed on this five times then it should probably just be the law of the land,” Hills said. “There will always be those people who don’t like change … but where would we be if Ocean City was still a dirt road … People need to read the economic report, and if you don’t have time to read the report then you certainly shouldn’t have the time to come before the council and complain. You need to read everything before you question the people who are doing this to benefit the entire town.”
Ocean City Cultural Arts Advisory Board Co-Chair Patti Miller has worked over 10 years to bring a PAC to Ocean City.
“It is a really wonderful and important entity to Ocean City for all of the future children, families, and for our own growth,” Miller said. “What saddens me is with all of the correct information … compiled over the last 10 years, with that many facts and information, just to prove a point that the people are the boss and government is not, is sad. This is going to be the best thing that happened to Ocean City in many years. I hope that common sense prevails, and I hope that Mr. Christ will retract his petition because it doesn’t make sense when you do know the facts. There are facts to be read, and misinformation is not right to be disseminated out by petitioners who do not understand the facts.”

Petitioners, Council Continue Performing Arts Center Debate; Supporters Request Petition Be Dropped

Construction on the new performing arts center addition at the convention center is pictured last month. Photo by Shawn Soper

OCEAN CITY – An intense battle, rooted in allegations of misconceptions, continues to play out in Ocean City over a petition opposing the bond to fund the new Performing Arts Center (PAC) addition at the Roland E. Powell Convention Center.

Tony Christ, spokesperson for the Ocean City Taxpayers for Social Justice (OCTSJ), last month received approval for a petition singling out an $8.5 million bond to fund the new PAC.
The PAC is part of a $12.7 bond ordinance. The remaining $4.23 million of the ordinance is dedicated to a roof for the Public Safety Building, a roof for the Service Center Building, a new beach patrol headquarters and an effluent disinfection system at the Wastewater Treatment Plant. All the projects will amortize over a period of 10 years.
The PAC project is under contract between the Town of Ocean City and the Maryland Stadium Authority (MSA), which is paying $5.7 million of the auditorium’s costs. The two-story, 1,200-seat auditorium is currently under construction under the auspices of contractor Whiting Turner.

The town is going to the bond market by the end of the year. In the meantime, Ocean City’s portion of the PAC is being paid for out of fund balance that will be reimbursed by the bond, which will ultimately be paid off by the food and beverage tax.
The local sales tax of .5 percent on food and beverage purchases in Ocean City is imposed for the purpose of paying the principal and interest on bonds issued to finance the construction, reconstruction, repair, renovation and equipment of the convention center.
By charter, a petition for referendum has 40 days to circulate and must obtain at least 40 percent of the number of voters, who voted in the last election or 1,226 signatures in this case. The petition’s deadline is Nov. 20. If the required signatures are verified, the bond ordinance pertaining to the PAC can be placed on the next ballot.

For the past couple of weeks, Christ has been up against city officials and PAC supporters as they have been out to clarify what they believe is misinformation being spread by Christ and petitioners.

Last Thursday Christ had submitted an email to City Solicitor Guy Ayres that he was considering announcing the retraction of the petition this week. However, Christ was not in attendance at Monday’s meeting and did not return an email yesterday as of Wednesday morning.

Despite Christ’s absence, OCTSJ supporters Herb Pawlukewicz and Ellie Diegelmann were present to further interrogate the Mayor and City Council over the PAC and its funding.

Pawlukewicz questioned the Mayor and City Council over who authorized the PAC construction to begin prior to the bond sale.

City Engineer Terry McGean explained the floor-to-ceiling demising wall that separates the relatively new bay-front ballroom on the second floor from the construction work in the performing arts center was the first step in the project because it will prevent upcoming events at the convention center from being disrupted.

On April 2, following several meetings with MSA, Whiting Turner and convention center staff decided on the window from Oct. 20 to Nov. 12 to begin construction.

“It is always our number one goal when we work on the convention center not to disrupt or cancel any existing events, so very early on we had to establish a three-week window within the building where there were no events in the ballroom so that we could construct that wall,” McGean said. “We had to develop this schedule ahead of time for the contactor so that they could have their staff and subcontractors ready to go and for the sale staff knows not to put any new events into that room.”

Diegelmann said it is not the PAC petitioners are against. They are against the portion of the bond ordinance that states, “The City shall levy and collect ad valorem taxes upon all taxable property within the City … to pay the principle of and interest on the Convention Center portion of the Bonds in any fiscal year.”

She said, “So, if it is not costing the taxpayers one red dime let’s just eliminate clauses like that and there will not be any controversy or divisiveness. You can build the center all you want just don’t make us pay for it.”

Mayor Rick Meehan explained in order for Ocean City to go to the bond market seeking a low-interest rate the language to pledge the full faith and credit of the Town of Ocean City should be included.

“If, in fact, it was worded differently and became a revenue bond, and approved as a revenue bond the interest rate would be higher,” he said. “Since the money [food and beverage tax] is there and the money has proven it will be there, why would we pay a higher interest rate?”

Next Diegelmann brought up Christ’s alternative reasoning behind the petition that the PAC is causing the convention center to lose space and will no longer be able to hold its historically large events, such as the State of Maryland Fireman’s Association memorial service and the cheerleading convention.

Meehan clarified the first phase of the convention center that was completed last year included an expansion of a bay-front ballroom, and replaced all exhibit space that will be taken up by the PAC. The PAC is an addition to the square footage the convention center consisted of before the expansion project began.

According to the mayor, Christ’s statement that the firemen’s memorial service will no longer be able to be held at the convention center due to loss in space is false based on the fact the new ballroom can hold up to 1,896 people and the largest group the convention center has held is 1,720.

“I think it is all subject to interpretation. I am not going to sit here and dispute it with you,” Diegelmann said. “After reading all of the controversy around this…the divisiveness over this has just sickened me … no matter what happens we will lose.”

Meehan furthered the food and beverage tax was established in the 1990’s during the first expansion of the convention center by the State of Maryland. The state established the restrictiveness of the food and beverage tax to only be spent on bond indebtedness related to construction at the convention center to avoid any ambiguity. Currently Ocean City’s food and beverage account stands at over $7 million.

“Since you assume nobody is telling you the correct information, it becomes more difficult,” the mayor said to Diegelmann. “What I am saying is it is a fact the food tax money is there and it will continue to be there but it can only be used to offset and pay the bond indebtedness. You cannot just take it and pay the contractor. It can only be used by state statute to pay the bond indebtedness.”

Diegelmann accused the Mayor and City Council of steamrolling by beginning construction before going to the bond market.

“That is a cliché, and if you want to run things with misinformation that is okay,” the mayor said. “This has been voted on and approved unanimously five different times by two different councils … it wasn’t done with smoke and mirrors. It was done right here in this council chamber, and it was done with everybody’s complete knowledge of what it is going on.”

Council Secretary Mary Knight, who spent the weekend researching to clarify misconceptions advertised by Christ, stated the convention center will be gaining 9.5 percent more space to exhibit area.

Knight added Christ’s assertion the PAC will be just as large as Stephen Decatur High School’s auditorium is false. Stephen Decatur’s auditorium seats 600 and the PAC will seat 1,200 which is the same amount of seating at Virginia Beach’s PAC.

“When the State of Maryland conducted the economic study, they didn’t use just pretend numbers. They looked at other resort areas like ourselves and took actual numbers of their economic impact,” Knight said. “In Ocean City they are expecting $3 million in economic impact. In the State of Maryland they are expecting $300,000 in additional taxes and Worcester County is expecting an additional $70,000. So, all of this negative that is out there, nobody is looking at the actual study and the actual numbers.”

Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra Vice President Marlene Ott was the first to approach the Mayor and City Council on Monday and thank them for growing Worcester County’s cultural atmosphere.

“A lot of times we think of Ocean City as a tourist attraction for those who come here but the improvements that you are doing at the convention center, especially the 1,200-seat professional theatre, will benefit the entire county,” Ott said.

Area resident Nicole Hills, who homeschools her 6-year old son, thanked the Mayor and City Council for bringing a cultural experience to Ocean City that she would otherwise have to drive to Salisbury, Washington D.C. or Philadelphia for.

“I have to say if two different councils agreed on this five times then it should probably just be the law of the land,” Hills said. “There will always be those people who don’t like change … but where would we be if Ocean City was still a dirt road … People need to read the economic report, and if you don’t have time to read the report then you certainly shouldn’t have the time to come before the council and complain. You need to read everything before you question the people who are doing this to benefit the entire town.”

Ocean City Cultural Arts Advisory Board Co-Chair Patti Miller has worked over 10 years to bring a PAC to Ocean City.

“It is a really wonderful and important entity to Ocean City for all of the future children, families, and for our own growth,” Miller said. “What saddens me is with all of the correct information … compiled over the last 10 years, with that many facts and information, just to prove a point that the people are the boss and government is not, is sad. This is going to be the best thing that happened to Ocean City in many years. I hope that common sense prevails, and I hope that Mr. Christ will retract his petition because it doesn’t make sense when you do know the facts. There are facts to be read, and misinformation is not right to be disseminated out by petitioners who do not understand the facts.”

 

 

 

 

Sides Continue Performing Arts Center Debate; Supporters Maintain Petitioners Using Scare Tactics

Sides

OCEAN CITY – Amid allegations petitioners are using scare tactics and untruths to gain signatures, city officials are warning the public to do their homework and ask questions of those opposing the new Performing Arts Center.
Tony Christ, spokesperson for the Ocean City Taxpayers for Social Justice (OCTSJ), received approval last week for a petition singling out opposition against an $8.5 million bond to fund the new Performing Arts Center (PAC) at the Roland E. Powell Convention Center.
The PAC is part of a $12.7 bond ordinance. The remaining $4.23 million of the ordinance is dedicated to a roof for the Public Safety Building, a roof for the Service Center Building, a new beach patrol headquarters and an effluent disinfection system at the Wastewater Treatment Plant. All the projects will amortize over a period of 10 years.
The PAC project is under contract between the Town of Ocean City and the Maryland Stadium Authority (MSA), who is paying $5.7 million of the auditorium’s costs.
The two-story, 1,200-seat auditorium is currently under construction under the auspices on Whiting Turner. Construction began prior to the bond sale because there was a window of opportunity to divide the second-floor ballroom from the project without interfering with convention center tenants and their scheduled events.
The town is going to the bond market by the end of the year. In the meantime, Ocean City’s portion of the PAC is being paid for out of fund balance that will be reimbursed by the bond, which will ultimately be paid off by the food and beverage tax.
The local sales tax of .5 percent on food and beverages is imposed for the purpose of paying the principal and interest on bonds issued to finance the construction, reconstruction, repair, renovation and equipment of the convention center.
By charter, a petition for referendum has 40 days to circulate and must obtain at least 40 percent of the number of voters, who voted in the last election, or 1,226 signatures in this case. The petition’s deadline is Nov. 20. If the required signatures are verified, the bond ordinance pertaining to the PAC can be placed on the next ballot.
On Tuesday, Mayor Rick Meehan acknowledged the petition is already making a mark as the town postponed going to the bond market from Nov. 21 to Dec. 5, due to the petition’s deadline.
“If the petition is successful in gaining the appropriate amount of signatures, that will basically put a halt to the section [of the bond] pertaining to the PAC, and we will have to change the terms of the bond and it takes us 24 hours to do that,” the mayor said.
After crunching some numbers, City Engineer Terry McGean came to the conclusion if the PAC project were cancelled at this time expenditures to date plus the cost to restore current construction work back to original condition would be $2.8 million.
According to McGean, if the project were to be suspended for a limited time, the cost would be $3,600 per day of delay plus a minimum of $30,000 to remobilize sub-contractors. A delay beyond three months means there is no guarantee that subcontractors would honor their bid prices and delay costs would be considerably higher.
Petitioner Herb Pawlukewicz has hit the streets in the residential neighborhood of Caine Woods in north Ocean City. As of Tuesday, he said he has been to over 60 homes and has collected about 35 signatures. Those not signing are reasoning they need more information.
“I say [to taxpayers] I am circulating a petition on the PAC at the convention center, and our concern is that if … the food and beverage tax defaults, it falls on the Ocean City taxpayer’s backs,” he said.
Last week Meehan pointed out the local food and beverage tax has been on the rise annually. He added the only way the tax would default is if Ocean City’s economy came to a halt and no food and beverages were consumed in the resort.
When the unrealistic chance of the food and beverage tax defaulting was brought to Pawlukewicz’s attention, he responded, “I just let them [taxpayers] sign the petition off what they know. I don’t say anything.”
For the residents who request more information before signing, Christ has prepared literature titled, “The Loss of Freedom”, to share.
According to this document, the PAC would disturb some of Ocean City’s biggest present users of the convention center, including the State of Maryland Fireman’s Association and the cheerleaders conventions, and risk losing their business.
Last week, Meehan stated the Fireman’s Association is not against the PAC project, and the association has submitted a letter of support of the project. Attempts to reach association officials for confirmation were unsuccessful this week.
However, in March, The Dispatch reported Tina Galdieri, managing partner of Epic Brands, which organizes the annual cheerleading events in Ocean City, confirmed the cheerleading convention intends to return to Ocean City in 2014, despite the facility’s construction.
Christ furthered, over the last week the town government has misused its position of service to scare the public by stating signing the petition would cost the city millions and taxes will increase.
“Don’t worry if it happens before the election, we can petition that too, and at the election you can remind the politicians whom they work for by voting them out,” he said.
Christ concluded, “Although we have elections and we grant the right to govern to our elected officials, we Americans have always reserved the right, through referendum, to remind our elected officials who the boss is … We Americans can choose when, at any time, we wish to exercise our right to collect signatures to put any lawful item on the ballot.  It is up to elected officials to respect this hallowed right, not to obstruct it or bulldoze it … When government brazenly ignores this right and recklessly spends the public’s money before the loan is approved by the people, it should be of great concern to all.”
Meehan has titled Christ an, “obstructionist”, who claims he is out to protect the taxpayers when in reality if the petition is successful it will cost the taxpayers.
“They are working against the taxpayers,” he said. “If they sign this petition, which could stop the construction, they would then be liable for the construction because the food and beverage tax can only be used for bond indebtedness that relates to construction.”
Christ made a point in mentioning in one of his emails to the media that he is financing this campaign on his own, including nearly $1,000 paid to an attorney to draft the petition language.
“Please understand that neither I or OCTSJ is related to either group in that we believe both groups [former and past council majorities] are culpable for current conditions,” Christ said. “We will join in with ideas we consider in the best interest of the residents of Ocean City. We are issue driven not personality drive.
Meehan looked back to all the construction that has taken place at the convention center, especially the expansion in the 1990s, and how all costs have been covered by the food and beverage tax, not the taxpayers.
The mayor also recalled the expansion of Northside Park in the 1980’s that was also funded by a bond that was petitioned. The petition was successful and the project came to a stop, however the referendum was soundly defeated. But due to the delay the taxpayers ended up having to pay an extra $400,000 for additional costs.
The town along with an appointed community committee, comprised of local citizens and business people, did its homework before voting to move forward with the project, including a Crossroads economic study resulting in justification of the expense. According to the mayor, not only will there be no expense to the taxpayers but additional revenue will derive from the auditorium that benefits the taxpayer.
The PAC project has been voted unanimously on five times by two different councils. On Nov. 7, 2011, the Mayor and City Council voted unanimously to request state funding between 25 percent and 50 percent of the cost for construction of the auditorium. On July 16, 2012, there was an unanimous vote to enter into an agreement with the MSA for construction of the convention center auditorium with the city funding $8.3 million and the state funding $5.7 million. On Sept. 17, 2012, another unanimous vote was recorded to expend an amount not to exceed $8.3 million for the auditorium to be reimbursed through a future bond sale. All three votes were of the former council led by former Council President Jim Hall, who Christ mentioned in an email to the media is “supposed to help” in the cause.
Under the current Mayor and City Council, on Dec, 17, 2012 a final design of the auditorium was presented. There was no vote taken but no objections to proceed. On Oct. 7, an unanimous vote was made to include $8.3 million for the convention center auditorium in the bond sale.

Petition Effort Seeks To Stop Arts Center; Proponents Launch Campaign To Educate Public

Bond

OCEAN CITY – Proponents of the performing arts center in Ocean City are taking a stand against Tony Christ and the Ocean City Taxpayers for Social Justice group that has organized a petition opposing the convention center’s new auditorium.
A few weeks ago, the Mayor and City Council approved the sale of bonds to finance the Roland E. Powell Convention Center Performing Arts Center (PAC) and other capital projects in its final reading.
The convention center’s new auditorium portion of the bond is in the amount of $8.47 million. The remaining $4.23 million is dedicated to a roof for the Public Safety Building, a roof for the Service Center Building, a new Beach Patrol headquarters, and an effluent disinfection system at the Wastewater Treatment Plant. All the projects will amortize over a period of 10 years.

On Wednesday evening, Christ received permission from Solicitor Guy Ayres to petition the performing arts facility alone, rather than the entire bond ordinance as originally sought. Christ wrote in an email to Ayres that he feared people would not sign the petition if the beach patrol headquarters was included in the petition effort.
The PAC project is being completed through a partnership with the Town of Ocean City and the Maryland Stadium Authority (MSA), which is paying $5.7 million of the auditorium’s costs.
The town is going to the bond market by the end of the year. In the meantime, Ocean City’s portion of the PAC is being paid for out of fund balance that will be reimbursed by the bond, which will be ultimately be paid off by the food and beverage tax.
This local sales tax of .5 percent on food and beverages is imposed for the purpose of paying the principal and interest on bonds issued to finance the construction, reconstruction, repair, renovation and equipment of the convention center.
A couple of weeks ago, Christ, spokesperson for the Ocean City Taxpayers for Social Justice, submitted a petition for referendum to City Solicitor Guy Ayres against the convention center auditorium’s $8.5 million portion of the bond ordinance to have the language approved.
At that time, Christ reasoned the newspaper disclosure of the indebtedness did not disclose the voters will be assessed additional real estate taxes annually should the food and beverage tax come short of the debt.
Christ furthered, however the ordinance states, “The City shall levy and collect ad valorem taxes upon all taxable property within the City … to pay the principle of and interest on the Convention Center portion of the Bonds in any fiscal year.”
The petition was denied five times by Ayres due to confusing language, according to emails shared by Christ with the media. At this point, Christ hired former Salisbury Solicitor Paul Wilber whose opinion was to petition the entire bond ordinance instead of singling out the PAC that was causing the confusing language.
“Each circulator would have a full copy of the Bond Ordinance for a voter to review.  A circulator can explain that the referendum petition is caused by the portion of the Bond Ordinance which relates to the $8.5 million expenditure for the convention center auditorium,” Wilbur submitted.
On Tuesday morning, Christ announced the petition for referendum that includes all capital projects listed in the bond ordinance had received approval.
By Charter a petition for referendum has 40 days to circulate, and at least 40 percent of the number of voters, who voted in the last election, or 1,226 signatures in this case, is required to be collected in order for the petition to be successful to have the bond ordinance placed on the next ballot.
According to Ayres, there is no provision in the charter to extend the time period for rejected petitions, therefore petition circulators lost 11 days of soliciting time while the petition was going through the approval process. The bond ordinance petition is due on Nov. 20.
Christ’s most recent reasoning behind opposing the bond ordinance is the town’s failure to disclose information of the PAC to current convention center clients, such as one of the facility’s largest tenants the State of Maryland Fireman’s Association, that conducts a memorial service that attracts over 3,000 visitors but the PAC will only seat 1,200.
“Stephen Decatur has a bigger auditorium with more seating. A 1,200-seat center will not attract name entertainers that in turn will attract sufficient people to pay. If it were 2,500 seats, things might be different,” Christ submitted.
By Wednesday, the news of Christ’s bond ordinance petition had spread and a few city officials began warning the public against signing the petition through social media.
Councilman Doug Cymek posted on Facebook, “In the very near future, you may be asked to sign a referendum petition by a group known as Ocean City Taxpayers for Social Justice led by Tony Christ. Please be extremely cautious and become familiar with all the facts of the issue prior to placing your signature on the petition … the truth of the matter is Christ and his local advisor which happens to be a large hotelier apparently are not against what he refers to as the ‘Fine Arts Center.’ As late as yesterday, Christ published a statement stating if the new auditorium were 2,500 seats that would be a different matter. If that is the case than what is really behind his petition?”
Mayor Rick Meehan said signing the bond ordinance petition could cost the taxpayers of Ocean City millions of dollars. The PAC project has been approved and has received five unanimous votes by two different councils to move forward.
The town along with an appointed community committee, comprised of local citizens and business people, did its homework before voting to move forward with the project as economic studies have been conducted resulting in justification of the expense. According to the mayor, not only will there be no expense to the taxpayers but additional revenue will derive from the auditorium that benefits the taxpayer.
“The funding of this project has already been approved,” the mayor said. “The purpose of the bond issue is to reimburse the City for the funding that has been approved, and the convention center project is being completed at no cost to the Ocean City taxpayer. Our portion of the bond indebtedness is paid off entirely by the food and beverage tax. The food and beverage tax will not run out, and it has been increasing yearly. If there is no food and beverage tax collected that mean there is no business done in Ocean City at all. That is a scare tactic.”
Expenses will occur for Ocean City’s taxpayers if the auditorium is delayed or stopped, Meehan said, as the project’s design is completed, construction started this week and there is a contract to uphold with the State of Maryland.
“We are obligated to complete the project,” the mayor said.
Meehan furthered, Ocean City has full support of the State of Maryland Fireman’s Association to proceed with the PAC project, contrary to what Christ maintains.
“We have a letter from them supporting the project. Their main assembly does not take place in the auditorium. It will still take place in the main ballroom,” he said. “Anytime you have a construction project there will be concerns and complaints to be mitigated. The director of the convention center, Mr. Noccolino, has done a very good job with working with all of our tenants to make sure through the construction process any concerns they have are mitigated.”
The mayor pointed out this may be history repeating itself. In the 1990’s an expansion of Northside Park was approved and was also funded by a bond issue. The bond issue was taken to referendum to stop the expenditure. The referendum was soundly defeated and the town was able to move forward with construction but it cost the Town an additional hundreds of thousands of dollars because of delays.
“That is the same situation we are facing now, and I don’t think there is anybody that looks back now that would be able to imagine what Northside Park would be like if we hadn’t done that expansion,” the mayor said.
The Citizens For Ocean City group, which was organized in September 2011 following then-City Manager Dennis Dare’s dismissal by a former council, has publically advertised its opposition to Christ and the bond ordinance petition. The group stated, “The performing arts facility will add another amenity to Ocean City; another reason for people to move here and to visit. It will fill hotels and restaurants and benefit shops and residents, especially in the off season. It will expand the Convention Center’s marketability beyond conventions, offering a place to showcase local community talent in addition to national Arts and Entertainment, and it costs the taxpayers nothing.”
Additionally, an online petition at change.org to encourage people to not sign the bond ordinance petition and express their backing of the ordinance was created yesterday and had 50 supporters as of 6 this morning.