Friday, February 27–Resort Pulls Plug On Inlet Lights

OCEAN CITY – The Winterfest of Lights will be dark on one end of town this year in Ocean City.

At Tuesday’s Recreation and Parks Committee meeting, plans were laid out to remove the lights and decorations at the Inlet parking lot this year, saving the town upwards of $30,000.

The trimming of the Inlet lights saves the town $25,000 with the additional $5,000 saved by the decision to not decorate the lampposts on Baltimore Avenue with Christmas wreaths as they have in years past.

Council President Joe Mitrecic, who sits on the Recreation and Parks Committee, said that the decision is one that should have little impact, other than an aesthetic one.

“This is just good business sense”, said Mitrecic. “In December, there’s really no businesses that are open with the exception of a few, and I don’t really think that we are effecting anyone’s business if we take this out of there.”

As the town continues to find ways to cut even more costs than the approximated $2.5 million already hacked from the bottom line, the downtown Christmas decorations became the latest town amenity to fall victim to the citywide “belt tightening.”

According to Bruce Gibbs, superintendent of the Public Works Maintenance Division, the Inlet lighting displays feature over 100 decorations and tens of thousands of little twinkle lights, but in recent months, both Gibbs and City Manager Dennis Dare hinted the combination of the need to cut costs, and lack of manpower (due to the citywide hiring freeze) needed to properly conduct the annual Winterfest of Lights was necessitating a need for change.

“If we continue to cut back on the number of employees that the town has, we are going to have to cut back on the number of decorations that we have in the Winterfest of Lights,” said Dare. “It’s just that simple.”

The 25-foot Christmas trees that sit along Coastal Highway will continue to be showcased as those were paid for by the private sector, and, according to Special Events Director John Sullivan, “as long as they remain in good condition, we will put them up.”

The town made a little more than $34,000 at the Winterfest of Lights last year, which ran from Nov. 20-Jan. 2.  In comparison, only $3,833 of that total was brought in from the donations box at the Inlet parking lot.

Still, Councilman Jim Hall, who is the committee’s chairperson, hinted there could be a plan to light up one of the smaller areas of downtown so the entire downtown doesn’t lack the illuminated “Christmas spirit.”

“Let’s pull away from the Inlet parking lot because it’s so big,” said Hall, “but maybe we should put our time and money towards lighting up a little park downtown.”