OC Eyes 14-Percent Increase For Fire Protection Funding

SNOW HILL – Ocean City asked for the least county funds of
any of the municipalities when town representatives went before the County
Commissioners this week with their budget requests.

Ocean City made specific requests totaling $989,000.

“If you look at our requests, they pretty much parallel
last year’s,” Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan told the commissioners.

The town would like an increase in public safety and
emergency services funding, including an increase in ambulance reimbursement
from $10,000 to $15,000.

“We’ve requested the increase because the cost of
ambulances have gone up considerably,” said Meehan.

The resort hired six emergency medical technicians last
year, and plans to hire six more.

Ocean City would also like a 14-percent increase in the
fire protection grant, to $254,000, to reflect the 14 percent of fire calls
that originate in West Ocean City, outside of the town borders.

Ocean City called for $300,000 in tourism advertising
dollars, the same as in fiscal year 2007, and $50,000 to generate more
off-season convention center business.

The town also wants $100,000 in matching funds for the
West Ocean City Park and Ride shuttle, $85,000 for the Ocean City Airport, and
$150,000 for street paving.

The Recreation and Parks Department and the Ocean City
Development Corporation (OCDC) each need $100,000, according to Ocean City’s
request letter.

Meehan used his time at the podium to lobby for Worcester
County’s agreement to a funding plan for the downtown parking garage Ocean City
hopes to build.

“It’s essential we move forward with that project,” said
Meehan. “If we’re going to actually have the model block come to fruition, the
parking garage is essential.”

Meehan said the town, and the OCDC, are diligently working
on the model block, as an attraction in the middle of downtown Ocean City. The
resort owns most of the properties on the selected block, and hopes to purchase
the remaining properties.

“It is essential we have your partnership in a TIF program
to finance this garage,” Meehan said. A TIF, or tax increment financing,
program would funnel half of any tax revenue increase in the garage area
towards paying for the structure.

Meehan said town’s partnership with Worcester County on
beach replenishment has been an example of how a successful team effort can
benefit the entire county.