Here are some predictions for how I see 2009 developing locally and elsewhere:
— Due to bureaucratic delays and other practical obstacles, not one slot machine will be operated at any of the state’s select sites. That will happen in 2010.
— After making some minor tweaks to the proposal on the table, the Ocean City Council will approve in a 4-3 vote a $5 million upgrade of the Roland E. Powell Convention Center.
— Berlin will vote to annex the Tyson poultry plant property, linking the move to the need for private funding for wastewater plant improvements.
— Ocean City, Berlin and Worcester County will keep the same property tax rate as last year, while Maryland will increase the same levy.
— No formal action will take place on a proposed wind farm off Ocean City’s coast.
— The liquor tax will be raised by the Md. General Assembly to help address a huge revenue shortfall.
— By year’s end, figures will show a minor rebound in the local real estate market with condo and home sales showing an improvement over 2008.
— Berlin electric rates will decrease significantly from last year, thanks largely to a change in the way the “PSA” is calculated.
— Unleaded gasoline prices will remain below $2 all year.
— Berlin will agree to televise its regular meetings on public access channel.
— The county will end up having to pay $1.1 million in damages in the ongoing legal proceedings involving a lawsuit between the school board and a building contractor.
— Reports will surface within the Obama administration about insubordination among his inner circle with specific accusations aimed at Vice President Joe Biden, who is unable to say all the right things at all the right times.
— The State Highway Administration will announce the only viable and realistic option after an extensive review to improve the Route 50 Bridge is rehabilitation of the current span. Finances will be the main reason, but practical concerns, such as land acquisition, also drive the decision.
— Ground will be broken on the new Route 50 surface road extending from Holly Grove Road west to Seahawk Road.
— Through major reductions elsewhere, the Worcester County Board of Education will meet the County Commissioners’ request to cut its budget by 3 percent, while still giving teachers and administrators their annual raises and increasing the starting teacher salaries.
— Bankruptcy filings by notable business owners in the region will make news.
— In a move to help balance its budget, Ocean City will increase the parking rate at the Inlet lot.
— As a way to continue cutting costs, Ocean City will reduce the number of days the annual Winterfest of Lights operates with it opening closer to Christmas than usual.
— 2009 will close with no action taken on a downtown parking garage in Ocean City.
— Rather than let them file bankruptcy like other failing businesses must, the U.S. government agrees to give the big three auto companies hundreds of millions of interest-free dollars to stay in business and not lay off thousands of employees.
— In the first quarter of the new year, each American who filed a tax return in 2008 will receive a $600 check from the federal government as a stimulus package initiative. Joint filers will receive $1,200.
— The state proposes to increase the fare to cross the eastbound Chesapeake Bay Bridge from $2.50 to $3 as a way to help address its huge budget deficit. It passes the Senate but fails to pass the House in the waning hours of the legislative session.
— The state legislature will ban handheld cell phone use in vehicles.
— Ocean City’s newly redesigned website will not be up and running by Memorial Day weekend and will run slightly over budget.
— The Indianapolis Colts will defeat the Carolina Panthers in the Super Bowl.