Committee Looking To Enhance Berlin Offerings

BERLIN — After falling off the radar for a few years, Berlin’s Arts and Entertainment Committee (AEC) is back sporting a new look and has an ambitious list of goals to add entertainment options to town as well as plans to enhance Berlin’s traditional 2nd Friday Art Strolls.

The committee is tired of sitting on the sidelines, member Robin Tomaselli told the Mayor and Council Monday.

“For the last several years, the Arts and Entertainment Committee has been somewhat inactive,” said Tomaselli, co-owner of Baked Deserts Café.

But starting in the spring, the group has been meeting regularly and has decided to “re-brand,” by adopting a new, stylized anchor for their logo along with the accompanying motto “Anchored in the Arts.” They also developed a list of future projects they would like to see take place in town.

“We’ve been meeting weekly ever since [this spring] with a simple mission in mind: to bring everything arts and entertainment to Berlin,” Tomaselli said. “And this includes expanding our funding sources to organizing free family movies in town to hopes of even building a skate park and a community saltwater pool.”

Hitting every demographic and age group is important to giving Berlin a successful entertainment booster, added AEC member and Re:Fresh Media Creative Director Austin Widdowson.

“Every part of the community should be part of this from children to the elderly,” he said.

One way to reach that broad level of appeal is with free public movies, Widdowson continued. AEC would like to host one such movie in conjunction with the town’s upcoming Peach Festival on Saturday, Aug. 3.

“We’d like to do the first Movie on Main Street that day and we’d like to do James and the Giant Peach, which is a G-rated movie,” he said.

Hoping to make Movies on Main Street an ongoing event, Widdowson said that AEC will be looking to find funding for a projector.

“There is a significant amount of money that goes into buying a projector, especially a quality one that would last long enough that we could do this multiple times,” he said. “So we’ve come up with a couple possible solutions like crowdsourcing or a Kickstarter campaign to maybe have the community donate money towards what we’re trying to accomplish.”

Besides new entertainment options, Tomaselli said that AEC is looking to enhance the arts in town as well.

“Our second immediate objective was to focus on enhancing 2nd Friday Art Strolls, particularly for this season, mainly to encourage town merchants to participate and remain open during 2nd Friday Art Strolls, to include artists on the streets and to improve the quantity and quality of arts and entertainment in Berlin,” she said.

AEC will be reaching out through social media to help facilitate this, especially with its Facebook page, Berlin MD Arts and Entertainment. Even their new logo includes a light bulb on the anchor to subtly encourage merchants to leave their lights on later and to participate in the art strolls.

“While some of the new [AEC] projects may seem a bit lofty, I’m thrilled they are meeting and moving 2nd Friday Art Strolls into a new and exciting direction,” said Michael Day, director of Economic and Community Development.

Councilwoman Lisa Hall told Tomaselli that she is glad to see the AEC actively “working together again” to improve the town, while Mayor Gee Williams said that “the idea of having special attractions that may vary from art stroll to art stroll is a very shrewd way to go.”

New District Plan Worries Berlin

BERLIN — With re-districting in Worcester County approaching, the town of Berlin is preparing to add a new district, but the Mayor and Council will only lend support to the current re-districting plan if a polling place is added in Berlin for the town’s new western district.

Currently, Berlin is divided into two voting districts at the county level. The town is part of the central District 2, which is the designated majority minority district. A piece of Berlin also belongs to District 3, often referred to as the Sinepuxent district. When the county goes through its re-districting process this year, the map will change so that a portion of Berlin also falls into western District 4.

This will have both pros and cons, according to Mayor Gee Williams. One downside of the change is that Berlin’s votes at the county level will be slightly dispersed.

“In Districts 3 and 4, there will be fewer voters from the town of Berlin voting for those two commissioners because they’re both split,” he noted.

The silver lining is the town will now be represented by three different County Commissioners, so that while two won’t be as dependent on winning over Berlin, all three will have some stake in gaining the town’s approval.

“I’m sure it’s possible, but I don’t think it’s probable, that someone would be likely to win and not campaign and not receive any votes at all from either the Sinepuxent district or the western district,” said the mayor.

As far as geographical divisions go, Williams outlined how the new map will look for the town.

“The corporate limits of the town of Berlin, east of US 113, would be in the central district … everything from US 113 west to Main Street would then remain in the Sinepuxent district as it currently is. And then everything that is immediately west of Main Street would then become part of the western district,” he said.

This will represent a bit of a shakeup for the town, though Williams noted that District 2, the majority minority district, would see the least level of change. The purpose of all of the re-districting is to compensate for how the county has grown from 2000 to 2010, with population reaching 51,548, a 5,005 or 10.8 percent increase from 2000, according to Census data.

One change that Williams viewed as clearly negative is how spread out polling places will be in Berlin. Besides determining County Commissioners, the districts also serve to organize where residents vote in other elections such as choosing state representatives. While District 2 will continue to use Stephen Decatur Middle School for polling and District 3 will continue on at Berlin Intermediate School, Williams was disappointed District 4 will not have a polling place in town.

“I see that as a significant disadvantage. I think the closest polling place that currently exists is the Showell fire hall,” he said.

Williams acknowledged that there are several criteria that a facility must meet before it can be designated a polling site, including easy access for the disabled. But he was confident locations would be available in Berlin for voters in the western district. He suggested the council request a polling location in town or nearby for District 4 and only vote to support the county plan if that request is granted. The council unanimously agreed.

The town plans on submitting comments as part of the upcoming series of public hearings on re-districting scheduled for next week. The first will be held Tuesday, July 30 at 7 p.m. Snow Hill at the Government Center, the next will be Wednesday, July 31 at 7 p.m. in Pocomoke City at Pocomoke High School and the final will be Thursday, Aug. 1 at 7 p.m. in Berlin at Stephen Decatur Middle School.

Pharmaceutical Company Launches Major Expansion

SALISBURY — Shovels officially met ground last Friday as Jubilant Cadista Pharmaceuticals (JCP) Inc. broke ground on a new expansion to their Salisbury facility that will more than double its size and add 200 to 300 new jobs within the next five years.

JCP has continued to grow steadily in Salisbury since 2005 when Jubilant Life Sciences Limited acquired control of the company.

“When our parent company, Jubilant Life Sciences Limited, acquired a majority stake in this company eight years ago, there were about 30 people working here,” said Scott Delaney, CEO of Jubilant Cadista. “Today, nearly 300 employees help to produce 14 product families at this facility. The site expansion will allow us to grow and accommodate our plans of doubling the number of products over the next two years. During the next several years, the addition of these and possibly more products currently in the pipeline will open opportunities for the addition of up to 200 or more jobs.”

JCP specializes in generics, which means that the company “develops, manufactures, markets and distributes generic pharmaceuticals products” across the country, according to a release from Jubilant. While generics are chemically equivalent to brand name drugs, they are generally much more affordable.

Production of the generics requires a varied staff with all levels of education and experience, a perfect formula for Salisbury, according to Mayor Jim Ireton.

“That is exactly the kind of organization that we need to attract and keep in the city,” he said at the groundbreaking Friday.

The influx of new jobs is expected to begin this year, with 40 to 60 new positions anticipated in 2013. Roughly 50 more will likely be added every year for the next several. The 96,720-square-foot expansion will include production, packaging, warehouse and distribution space and a new main office location. Once completed in late-2014, the final facility, which serves as Jubilant’s headquarters in the U.S., will be 186,720 square feet.

“This kind of growth could not, and cannot, happen without tremendous support from our parent company and the encouragement of the city of Salisbury, Wicomico County and the state of Maryland,” said Delaney.

It’s a win-win for Cadista and Salisbury, remarked Ireton, with the business and the city both growing together.

“Our citizens are excited for Cadista as they break ground for this expansion. As Salisbury begins to grow in this economic recovery, we can point to this international corporation as an example of what can be done on Maryland’s Eastern Shore,” said the mayor. “My staff is committed to seeing Cadista through this expansion as a partner to business. I am excited to say that Salisbury continues to be the commercial, industrial and residential hub of Delmarva, and as we work to be the best place in Maryland to do business, we can point to the success of Cadista as a spectacular achievement.”

This growth is all part of a trend, Ireton continued, with the city seeing a 775-percent increase in the estimated cost of construction in the last two years as well as a 145-percent boost in revenue brought in through permitting. The goal is to make Salisbury “the best place in Maryland to start and to grow a business,” said Ireton.

The growth being seen in Salisbury is reflective of the state of Maryland as a whole, according to Dominick Murray, the Maryland Secretary of the Department of Business and Economics. Jubilant is a prime example of the type of intelligent development that the state is eager to see bloom, he said.

“Maryland is a global leader in the life sciences, home to world-class research institutions and hundreds of companies performing critical, life-saving work every day,” said Murray. “We are proud to count Jubilant Cadista among the core of our robust and growing life sciences community, and could not be more thrilled by the successes the company has had in Salisbury. We wish Jubilant Cadista and its employees continued success as they undertake the impressive expansion effort they began here today.”

Murray added that the state is poised to have a strong next few years, stating that Maryland is number one in entrepreneurial spirit and one of the next “boom states,” according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

“I’ve got a message to you from the governor that the whole state of Maryland is the place to do business. You guys typify it here,” he said.

Besides the jobs created in the pharmaceutical industry by the expansion, the construction field has benefitted as well. Local companies Gillis Gilkerson and AWB Engineers, both located in Salisbury, are handling the construction and the architecture of the project, respectively.

“This is a project in size and scope that underscores what can happen in Salisbury when opportunity meets commitment,” said Dwight Miller, president of Gillis Gilkerson. “It’s been the start of a wonderful partnership and we are thrilled that Cadista has selected Salisbury and Wicomico County to call home.”

Worcester Students’ Test Scores Surpass Md. Average

SNOW HILL — Contrary to sagging statewide results, test scores are holding steading among Worcester County Public Schools (WCPS) as educators prepare to convert to the new, federal Common Core Curriculum (CCC) next year.

While Maryland has seen a dip in overall scores with CCC approaching, Worcester results remain largely unchanged thanks to the school system’s focused approach to education, according to Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jerry Wilson.

“During times of transition, educators must utilize the accountability measures of the past, while transitioning to the higher expectations of the future,” Wilson said. “Our sustained excellence on the MSA [Maryland State Assessment] shows that our effective and dedicated staff is committed to high expectations for each student’s achievement and continuous improvement. Teachers continue to be focused on meeting the needs of each individual child.”

MSA results in Worcester came in well over the state average in math and reading in multiple grade levels. Results for grades 3-5 had WCPS students scoring 95.3 percent proficient or advanced in reading, nearly nine points above the 86.4 percent state average. The pattern held for math, with Worcester showing 94.5 percent proficient or advanced to the state’s 83.9 percent.

Grades 6-8 continued the trend with Worcester scoring 93.6 percent and 92.3 percent proficient or advanced in reading and mathematics, respectively. In the same categories, the state averages were 83.4 percent and 72.2 percent.

The numbers sync up with what has been going on for the last decade. The county has seen huge increases at both the elementary and middle school groupings. Proficient or advanced reading scores at the elementary level reading spiked from 77.9 percent in 2004 to 95.3 percent this year, with math scores going from 80.1 percent to 94.4 percent in the same time period. The gains evidenced in WCPS middle school students are even more apparent. In reading, the jump was from 69.8 percent to 93.6 percent in a decade, with mathematics increasing from 62.7 percent to 93.6 percent.

The scores for Worcester are all in line with last year’s results, noted Wilson, with a few negligible peaks and valleys. Though not yet confirmed, early information suggests that Worcester this year met its Annual Measurable Objective (AMO), a benchmark to gauge academic progress.

“This year we had some improvements and some areas where we declined. But overall, these were very small increases and declines,” Wilson said. “The results continue to be outstanding in Worcester County, and we’re very pleased to see that, in spite of the fact that we’re moving towards the implementation of the Common Core standards, our students continue to perform high on the MSA.”

Wilson attributed Worcester holding the line in test scores while the state fell back slightly to several factors, not the least of which being “the high-caliber of teaching that is taking place every day in our classrooms.”

At the state level, Superintendent of Schools Lillian Lowery acknowledged the dip and said that Maryland expects to go through a “transition period” that will likely carry over into next year.

“Maryland schools have been implementing the Common Core State Standards in reading and mathematics, but new assessments aligned to the curriculum will not be ready for use until the 2014-2015 school year. This misalignment will certainly affect our scores this year and next,” she said.

In the 2014-2015 school year, MSA will be removed and replaced with the PARCC assessment, which was developed specifically to coordinate with Common Core. Despite the “misalignment,” the drop in state scores was relatively minor. Elementary school reading fell from 88.2 percent to 86.4 percent, while math declined 87.7 percent to 83.9 percent. In middle school grades, reading actually improved from 82.1 percent to 83.4 percent, though math saw a loss of 76.2 percent to 72.2 percent.

Once CCC is in full-swing and the PARCC is in place, Lowery expects Maryland to emerge better than ever in education.

“The Common Core is designed to prepare students for life beyond high school, and the difficulty of the assessments will rise accordingly,” she said. “Results from the new assessments will provide students, parents, and teachers with much more information about where the students are, and reveal a clearer path to their futures. The governor, the general assembly, and MSDE (Maryland State Department of Education) will continue to make certain that Maryland teachers and students have the support necessary to successfully make this transition.”

Wilson also expects Worcester to hit the ground running with the implementation of Common Core over the next school year.

 “We are facing the future with confidence, knowing that our students demonstrate high success rates using the current standards, curricula, and accountability system,” Wilson said. “We believe that the time is right to increase rigor in our educational programs.”

Resort Farmers Market Working On 21st Season

OCEAN CITY — The Ocean City Farmers Market, nicknamed “Shore Fresh,” is marking its 21st year in the resort this summer and continues to stick to its rules of fresh and local, with vendors only allowed to sell what they grow themselves.

“This is our 21st year. We’ve been established for quite a while,” said Market Master Paul Wood.

Wood has been with the OC Farmers Market since it was founded and said that the same is true for several of the other vendors as well. Located at 142nd Street and Coastal Highway in the Phillips Seafood Restaurant parking lot, the OC market features seven vendors who focus on fruit, vegetables and other produce.

Though smaller and more specialized than some other area farmers markets, Wood explained the market has found its niche in having strict standards about what can be sold, making up for quantity with quality.

“You’re buying products that are produced locally by the farmer that produces it,” he said. “We’re not buying anything in from any place else. It’s Eastern Shore grown.”

Having crossed the two-decade mark, Wood is satisfied with how the market operates today and doesn’t forecast any major changes in the near future. Business remains strong, though he admitted that the shifty weather has gotten the market off to a slower start this summer. Between the periods of mild temperatures and the days of heavy rainfall, this summer has made being a famer even more of a challenge than usual.

But the market is still going strong, said Wood. It helps that many of the vendors also participate in other area markets, like the one held in Berlin. This allows a lot of cross-promotion, noted Wood.

He also made a point to give credit to Phillips for allowing the vendors to operate out of their parking lot for so many years.

“Phillips has been very good to us to allow us to use their parking lot at very little cost at all for the last 21 years,” he said.

While the market harmonizes well right now, Wood did say that in the years ahead, should any of the current vendors leave, an effort might be made to find new vendors that offer more diversity in terms of what kinds of products they sell. But any vendors will still only be allowed to sell what they create themselves, Wood promised.

The OC Farmers Market runs four days a week during the summer on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. It operates from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on each of those days.

County Holds Off Support For New Erosion, Sediment Law

SNOW HILL — Due to lingering questions that need to be answered by the state, Worcester County Commissioners were unable to vote on whether to adopt new erosion and sediment control measures this week.

At the end of the work session Tuesday, the commissioners decided to wait and see what changes the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) makes to the bill before the county is ready to vote on whether to adopt it.

According to Commissioner Virgil Shockley, a farmer, the main problem with the bill is that it’s more of the same coming out of Annapolis and is just the latest in a stream of constant regulations. It doesn’t make sense, continued Shockley, to weigh Worcester down any further as the county has always been a prime example of how development and conservation can work together.

“I guess I could really understand it if we had been a ‘bad county’ doing certain things,” he said. “But we are, in the eyes of the state, the leaders in just about everything.”

Commissioner Louise Gulyas felt the same and asked why the state feels the need to interfere with what Worcester is already doing with sediment and erosion control.

“And since we have become the poster county for the state in handling our own development and agriculture in the right manner, why does the state seem to think that we can’t do it anymore?” she asked. “Why are you making it so difficult for the farmers? I just don’t get it.”

The state’s Bill 13-1 as it stands would be similar to what the county already has on the books, but with a few alterations. One of the most noticeable differences is the maximum fine for a violation is doubled in the bill from the current $5,000 per day cap to $10,000 per day. MDE representative Maria Warburton pointed out to the commission that while the increase may seem drastic, the number is more of a deterrent and rarely if ever will a $10,000 per day fine be imposed. There are other recourses outside of financial penalties, she added.

“You have stop work orders. You can holdup permits for other projects. There are a numerous number of things that you can do before you go to a fine,” said Warburton.

But Shockley was skeptical about the need to increase the maximum fine if it was just for show.

“That scares a lot of people. Whether you’re ever going to use it or not, it scares a lot of people,” he told Warburton.

“If you never use something, why double it?” he asked later.

Commission President Bud Church was also doubtful that Annapolis would ever give into the temptation to exercise the full power of its fines

“The state today, if they can fine you $10,000, they’re going to fine you $10,000. It’s a money grab time,” he said.

Another change will be the addition of a three-step approval process for projects that would affect sediment or erosion. This could be a headache for people, admitted Ed Tudor, director of Development Review and Permitting for the county. However, in response to an earlier question by Commissioner Jim Bunting, Tudor noted that projects that only had “minor earth disturbances” could fall under a preset standard plan that would remove many of the hoops and inconvenience.

“While this is a new requirement and could very well be burdensome in some cases, there is already a provision in the Bill to address that situation … NR 1-206(d) allows the District to adopt a standard erosion and sediment control plan for activities with minor earth disturbances such as those of concern to Commissioner Bunting,” wrote Tudor in a memo.

There are other changes as well, but Shockley stated that it was hard to get a bead on the bill when it sometimes feels like MDE isn’t sure what direction to go. The bills are often published, he said, and then brought to officials at the county level for feedback “after the fact.”

One current point of contention is with the status of exemptions for agricultural structures. While exemptions for agricultural structures were originally in Bill 13-1, they were later removed, Tudor explained. But now MDE is considering re-introducing those exemptions. Tudor recommended that the commissioners hold off on any vote on the bill until a “final resolution to the inconsistency issue in regard to agricultural structures,” is made by MDE.

The commissioners agreed and Shockley expects the bill to return to the body in the fall. Wherever MDE lands on tweaks to Bill 13-1, however, Shockley added that he is becoming increasingly frustrated with the slippery slope of new regulations coming from Annapolis and that he sees that sentiment reflected in his constituents. Mounting regulations cause distrust among county residents, he continued, and that distrust makes every bill a little bit harder to adopt.

“For every action, there is a reaction. The law of physics does apply to politics,” said Shockley.

Free Wi-Fi Access Discussed For Downtown Salisbury

SALISBURY — The availability of free Wi-Fi in downtown Salisbury took another step towards reality last week as the City Council discussed working with Maryland Broadband Cooperative for the service as well as looking to add a new position in their IT Department to manage the Wi-Fi and other needs.

Exactly how much area the Wi-Fi could come to encompass is flexible, though Councilwoman Terry Cohen asked that the council be careful when considering where to add coverage.

Initially, the city planned on working through Comcast, its normal Internet provider, to supply free Wi-Fi downtown. But the city is still in negotiations with Comcast for a service agreement and could be at the table with them for months. IT Director Brad Garrett told the council that in the interest of making Wi-Fi available as soon as possible, he spoke with other service providers and found one that would suit the city well in the interim.

“I did come up with an operative out of Cambridge,” he said. “Maryland Broadband Cooperative (MBC); they’re non-profit and they’re offering the services to us at-cost.”

Using MBC, the city can expect to save about $3,000 per year compared to early estimates. Garrett was also able to mitigate hardware and software costs for the operation drastically, which led several council members to praise his efficiency. An added bonus with using MBC, said Garrett, is that there is no contract and the city can move the Wi-Fi to Comcast depending on how the service agreement works out.

“We can cancel the contract with the Maryland Broadband Cooperative with no fees and no penalties,” he said.

Council President Jake Day said that he was impressed with how things are working out but wanted to make sure Wi-Fi quality wouldn’t have to be sacrificed.

“The only questions that I have are on speed, reliability and volume,” he told Garrett. “Do we know that it’s going to be reliable and fast?”

All quality through MBC would be comparable to what the city would have with Comcast, promised Garrett.

Councilmembers Tim Spies and Laura Mitchell both asked about how wide the Wi-Fi net could be cast. Mitchell nodded to areas like the zoo or park which she felt would be great for Wi-Fi.

“What better lunch then to be able to sit in the park and have a working lunch?” she asked.

The Wi-Fi could easily be expanded, replied Garrett, but should probably start small downtown. While it could grow, Cohen advised the council to be careful in how they expand the service.

“I don’t want to be dismissive of those who have health concerns about it, given that studies are coming in now that are talking about exposure to cell phone towers and Wi-Fi,” she said.

Cohen clarified that she didn’t necessarily believe that exposure to Wi-Fi could negatively impact one’s health, but she did feel it would be unfair for the council to ignore any residents who might feel that way, especially when talking about putting Wi-Fi in parks.

“There are people who have a natural expectation that going to a park is a natural experience, so before anything should proceed in that direction I would just like us to be respectful of that,” she said.

Any concerns will be heard and weighed, said Day, though he was under the impression that Wi-Fi had been deemed safe.

“My understanding was that those concerns had been addressed by the medical community as non-founded,” he said, “but I’m not a medical professional so I can’t and shouldn’t speak to that.”

Day requested that Garrett do some research on it before the council visits the issue again and that individual councilmembers conduct their own investigation into the subject.

With Wi-Fi on the track forward, Garrett revisited his earlier request to expand his department with the addition of a Network Administrator that would manage Wi-Fi and assist with other IT operations. The new position would carry a salary of $38,463 as well as another roughly $20,000 annually in benefit costs.

But about a third of the total cost could be made up for by reducing funding to a local vendor that currently handles many of the responsibilities that the administrator would. After those savings are factored in, Garrett told the council that the new position would have an annual price tag of $38,617. And though the vendor funding would be greatly diminished, Garrett explained that a few thousand dollars would be left in the account for any rainy day emergencies that required outside assistance.

The council agreed to consider a budget amendment to pay for the position at an upcoming legislative session. Day said that he was excited for the potential of free Wi-Fi in Salisbury since the start-up costs were only moderate and the service should be easy to expand without draining the city’s coffers.

“This is scalable … making an investment of a dollar that can grow significantly,” he remarked.

Zoo Funds Lined Up For New Health Building

SALISBURY – Different sources of funding have been aligned to move forward with the construction of a new Animal Health Building at the Salisbury Zoo.

First on the Salisbury City Council’s agenda regarding the project was a resolution to accept a donation from the Delmarva Zoological Society (DZS) and Zoo Commission as well as to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the DZS for the new facility.

According to Acting Director of Public Works Amanda Pollack, the DZS has raised $600,000 for the new Animal Health Building, a critical project for the zoo to be eligible for the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Accreditation.

 “I wanted to take a moment to thank the Delmarva Zoological Society,” Councilwoman Terry Cohen said prior to the council voting unanimously to approve the resolution. “They worked hard to raise these funds … they went out and raised as much money as they could, and they have committed quite a large sum to this building.”

The last item on the agenda was an ordinance on first reading to reallocate a bond to be dedicated to the zoo’s Animal Health Building project to cover a shortfall in funding.

Pollack explained, to maintain AZA accreditation, the Salisbury Zoological Park is required to build an Animal Health Building with animal holding areas, a surgery room, necropsy room, and an office area. The project was recently redesigned to comply with all AZA requirements and the new 2012 Energy Code. As a result of these changes, the cost to construct this building increased from the time when it was first bid.

Pollack furthered, the bid of the apparent low bidder was $2,317,000. Public Works and Internal Services-Procurement Division met with the prior two lowest responsive bidders to discuss possible value engineering options.

The final price from the apparent low bidder is $1,907,000. Currently, $1,656,095 of funding is available for the project, creating a shortfall of $250,905 over the recommended best and final price.

Public Works recommended the council utilize unused bond funds from other projects to fund the Animal Health Building and identified the Waverly Drive Storm Drain project, which was completed under budget by $539,000.

Cohen said at some point the city is going to have to take a stand and simply ask how much more can it afford when it comes to additional requirements.

“The USDA already regulates cities, and there is a certain level of safeguards for the animal’s right there, so if the AZA comes back to us we have to say, what we can afford to do,” she said. “We all want better treatment for the animals and everybody’s community effort over the last few years has been phenomenal…but in order to make these things happen it has to be something we can afford.”

Councilwoman Laura Mitchell also recognized the DZA for raising the funds the council asked.

“This was a situation where it has to be contracted now to get it done in time … I am really glad that this discussion began during budget meetings to look at what was sitting in old bonds that we are paying interest on and not using,” she said. “It is just one of those situations where we have money left in this bond because we came in under budget. Sometimes you get lucky like that and other times it comes in over budget.”

The council voted unanimously to approve the ordinance in first reading to use the remainder of a 2008 General Obligation Bond to cover the shortfall in funding for the project.

Public Alerted Of Rabies Surge; OC Bank Robbed, Suspect Sought

OCEAN CITY – With confirmed rabid cases is on the rise, including the most recent cases taking place in Ocean City last week, law enforcement and health agencies are urging citizens to report any kind of animal aggressive behavior.

Last week Ocean City Police Capt. Kevin Kirstein addressed a room of Worcester County public safety officials warning the mix of agencies there has been an uptick in confirmed rabies cases in the area.

“The police department is getting ready to take a much more aggressive tone towards how we are handling these incidents,” Kirstein said. “Please don’t take any chances. If you don’t know anything about rabies, it is in mammals only. Fish, reptiles, and birds can’t get it. Anything that has hair, including human beings can get it. It is 100 percent fatal in humans if you wait until the signs of the disease appear … if you have any potential contact with make sure you contact the health department. Better safe than sorry. We are on par to exceed 2009, which was our highest year ever, so it is critical.”

According to Worcester County Health Department (WCHD) Rabies Coordinator Janet Tull, as of Tuesday there has been 21 laboratory confirmed rabid cases in Worcester County. All confirmed animals were rabid raccoons, except for two foxes.

The last two cases occurred last Thursday when a dog was attacked off 94th Street and the raccoon escaped. About eight hours later, an aggressive raccoon was captured in the same area and destroyed. Animals can only be tested for rabies if destroyed. They are then sent for testing in Baltimore and that raccoon was confirmed to have carried rabies.

The other case occurred on the same day when an aggressive raccoon was captured on Route 50 in West Ocean City, was destroyed, sent for testing and confirmed to carry rabies as well.

Until 2009, there were minimal confirmed rabid cases in Worcester. Somewhere in the 10 to 15 range, Tull said. In 2009, there were 52 confirmed rabid cases.

“There is always a rise and fall with this disease, a movement, a migration from one area to the other. While we may have no more rabies in the raccoon population in Ocean City than we do out in the western more rural parts of the county, there is just more opportunity for contact. That is where the concern comes in,” Tull said. “In highly populated areas, there is much more of an opportunity for contact to occur to either our pets or to the people. So, when you know there is rabies in the population it is certainly worth noting but we are not trying to make people overly afraid, but aware. Report if you see overly aggressive animals, or raccoons, don’t let it pass by.”

Wild animals that are most susceptible to rabies are bats, raccoons, foxes, skunks, groundhogs, feral cats, opossums and muskrats. Rabid wild animals may display unusual behavior such as wandering in the daytime when usually only seen at night or approaching humans or pets. Cats are the most common domestic animal to become infected with rabies, especially those kept outdoors and unvaccinated.

Citizens should immediately report any wildlife acting suspiciously to Ocean City police, specifically those animals that are showing aggressive or threatening behavior. Signs that an animal may be rabid include but are not limited to fearfulness, aggression, excessive drooling, difficulty swallowing, staggering and seizures.

To minimize risk of rabies exposure to your family and pets, the health recommends vaccinating pets and keeping those vaccinations current. Rabies vaccinations (shots) have limited time of protection, so citizens should verify that their pets are currently protected.

Do not feed pets outdoors. Pet food, even the odor of it, in empty containers and on the ground draws wildlife. While looking for food is normal behavior for raccoons and foxes, particularly in the spring when there are young to be fed, these animals may return to areas they frequent if they become rabid.

Secure trash cans and dumpster lids for the same reason outlined above. Wild animals forage for food and minimizing food sources will discourage wildlife from coming to your property.

Remove strays from the community. Stray cats are of particular concern, as they are competing for food with wildlife and have more opportunity for exposure to rabid wildlife, such as raccoons. Many of the fights with raccoons go unwitnessed, and are only noted after the cat becomes rabid. Cats are the most frequently identified rabid domestic animal.

Citizens are strongly urged to report any suspicious animals that are susceptible to rabies to Ocean City police at 410-723-6600.

“We clearly don’t want people frightened. It is just that it is a disease of wild life, primarily raccoons, but any warm blooded animal can get it. That is why it is so critically important that we take steps to minimize risk…people need to know what to do,” Tull said. ““We really want people to have the tools to make good decisions. The police department is cooperating with us to try to minimize risk … we are all working together within public safety and public health.”

Cross-Country Journey Ends In OC, Raises $100K For Sarcoma Cancer Research


OCEAN CITY – An emotional, six-month journey ended Saturday for the Miles 2 Give team, which capped off its cross-country run in Ocean City and raised almost $100,000 for Sarcoma Cancer research.

Early on Saturday morning Landon Cooper, Ryan Priest and John McKay started running about 10 miles out to end at the Atlantic Ocean off N. Division Street. A group of friends, family and fans joined the three at the Route 50 Bridge coming into the resort to finish their amazing journey. Upon arriving to the Atlantic Ocean, Cooper, Priest and McKay put their arms over each other’s shoulders and fell into the cold water ending their mission.

It all began on Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14, 2013 when the Miles 2 Give (M2G) team began their journey at the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, and 157 days later they had run 3,187 miles across country.

Cooper, 34, is the founder of M2G. The M2G tour, “Pursuit to Give & Inspire”, will donate funding raised to Sarcoma Foundation of America to create the “Ashley Davis Grant.”

On Nov. 28, 2009, Cooper’s good friend, Ashley Davis, was diagnosed with Ewings Sarcoma Cancer. Through many promising ups and downs, she eventually lost her battle and died on April 6, 2011 at the age of 23.

Along the way, the M2G team visited schools, hospitals, hosted events/fundraisers and met with town locals to raise awareness. Cooper had set the goal to raise $100,000 for Sarcoma Cancer research in partnership with Sarcoma Foundation of America, who will distribute all the funding raised as a 501c3 organization, and that goal has been accomplished.

Cooper began as the sole runner on the M2G team while the others supported him for the M2G Winnebago documenting the entire journey along the way until Tour Director Ryan Priest and Videographer John McKay joined the run to support Cooper and the cause. They would run anywhere from a marathon up to 40 miles every day.

“We have been through things that are beyond any story, any movie or any imagination and all of those things have been parallel … to everybody’s fight we have dedicated this tour,” Cooper said on Saturday. “Across this country there have been many moments you have never seen. There have been many pictures and videos that you have never seen. There have been so many moments of tears, random prayer circles, Starbucks and gas stations. Everything about this tour has never been about us, it is about who we do it for, and everything about this tour has been such a symbol that this was never in our hands.”

Cooper furthered the many families M2G had met along the way will never be forgotten, and they will be forever grateful to every stranger and police officer who knocked on their RV’s door in the middle of the night to check on them, and to the farmers who sang them a song to lift their spirits, and to those who shared their stories of loss.

“At the end of the day, we have all experienced loss somehow some way. We either react to it or respond to it. We chose to respond. That response has created almost $100,000 for Sarcoma Cancer research,” Cooper said. “This disease is so rare and scientists are still trying to figure out what exactly Sarcoma is, as are we. We are learning directly from those who are carrying this awful disease. We are learning from those families who have lost members … we went to every door across the country to hear the stories of the Sarcoma warrior families because of that we hold many truths but it is nothing that we will ever boast about but something we will always honor.”

Priest recalled running along the loneliest highway in America, Hwy. 50 in Nevada, conquering the Rocky Mountains, running through tornadoes, lightning storms, corn and cattle fields, the midlands, his home town in Chicago, over the Appalachians, and through the country’s capital, Washington D.C.

“And we are here in Ocean City, Md., and this is absolutely amazing,” he said. “It has been such an honor to be part of this journey.”

McKay had joined M2G just the night before takeoff back in February and met Cooper and Priest for the first time that day.

“We know there have been other hands guiding us this entire time. We felt the love. We have not been alone on that bus one night this entire journey. We feel so honored to have been able to meet all the great folks we have met and spend time at a lot of the hospitals we went to, stay over at folks houses and to have dinner with people that were just random and met on the side of the road or folks who have been following us online. It is a really, really special thing for all of us,” he said.

The ceremony was ended by everyone connecting hands in one last prayer circle.

“I want to give a dear thank you to the lovely city of Ocean City for opening your doors and hearts to three strangers that look like total hippies right now, so thank you Ocean City,” Cooper said.