Friday, November 21–Summer Camp Shuttle On Chopping Block In OC

OCEAN CITY – The bus might not be stopping for Camp Horizon campers next summer.

As part of a citywide trend aimed at cutting costs, members of the Recreation and Parks sub-committee along with the City Manager Dennis Dare recommended to eliminate the free bus shuttle service that transports some of Camp Horizon’s 150 weekly summer campers from its Ocean City Elementary school location to their homes in Ocean City.

Last year, the bus service averaged 43 riders per week over the course of the seven-week sessions to and from Ocean City’s “premier summer camp”, incurring about $16,000 in expenses on the town, mostly for bus and driver fees.

The proposal, as presented by Recreation Superintendent Kate Gaddis, stated, “The time has come for the city to no longer take on the expense of offering this service. This past summer, in addition to the hourly rate we paid the bus drivers and the rate per mile, we had to pay a fuel surcharge fee due to the high gas prices, and every year this service gets more and more expensive to offer.”

Though this decision may not affect the majority of Ocean City residents, it is predicted that it will be extremely unpopular for the families that depend on the bus service to carry their children to and from Camp Horizon.

“There’s probably going to be some uproar, and obviously people are going to be upset that they will have to drive their kids there, but [the free bus shuttle] was a luxury that we can’t provide anymore”, said Gaddis.

To offset the sting of this decision, the committee hopes to offer a “before-and-after-care” program for campers, which would enable parents to drop their kids off an hour earlier at 8 a.m. and pick them up an hour later at 5 p.m.

“We recognize the impact that this decision may have and we want to offer an alternative for families,” Ocean City Recreation and Parks Director Tom Shuster said. “We are taking a ‘change this but add that’ mentality to still provide a cost effective way to get the kids to camp.”

The weekly registration fee for Ocean City residents who take part in Camp Horizon is $90 per child and non-residents pay $115 each, and the before-and-after-care cost could add $10 per week to the cost to those who decide to use it.

“If you look at the cost we are proposing for before-and-after-care, that comes out to a dollar an hour and that’s very reasonable”, said Gaddis.

Camp Horizon, according to the proposal, was never intended to “make a profit or even break even”, but the cuts are being made because the town of Ocean City foots 100 percent of the bill for this shuttle, as the expense is not included in camp registration fees.

It should also be noted, that of all the summer camps offered throughout Ocean City, Camp Horizon was the only one that offered a bus service of any kind.

“If it costs us a few hundred dollars a week for this service and the kids are only paying $90 a week, we’ve got things upside down here”, said City Council President Joe Mitrecic, who serves on the committee.

The Camp Horizon bus service used two buses, one for uptown residents and one for downtown, and included a paid town staff member to sit on each bus to monitor the children’s safety. The savings earned on cutting this service would be about $16,000 for fiscal year 2010 and the projected “before-and-after-care” revenue is listed at approximately $2,200.

“There are going to be other cuts like this, and we need to prepare ourselves that these cuts, though necessary, are going to upset some people,” said City Manager Dennis Dare.