Ocean City Council News Briefs

OCEAN CITY – In “the briefs” this week, ideas seemed to come from all directions. One idea was trying to get to the front of the line, while another was hoping to address the need to help get folks out of dodge in an emergency. The other had something to do with flying under the radar, or at the very least, keeping them on the radar screen.

Berlin Performing Arts Center Snubbed Again

With the big story of the week being the approved expansion of the Ocean City Convention Center, which will include the installation of a 1,200-fixed seat performing arts center, the group hoping to get aid from the County Commissioners to renovate the old Cannery in Berlin into a 300-seat cultural arts center was told it was not on the list for requested stimulus aid.

Louise Gulyas, president of the Worcester County Commissioners said that this was not the year to deal with the cultural arts center and noted that her group had already sent the list to Annapolis and the Berlin Performing Arts Center was not on it.

“If it were on the list, it would be at the bottom,” said Gulyas, “as we have bigger concerns now.”

Local Realtor Peck Miller has spearheaded the group trying to bring a cultural arts center to Berlin for several years and remains confident that despite the commissioners’ recent decision, coupled with their denial of funding to the group last year, that the center will eventually become a reality.

“We aren’t going to give up on this thing, and we think it can be a hub for the community,” said Miller. “Not only will it create jobs, and be a great educational tool for the area’s fine schools, it will be a great venue for local groups to put on performances as well as regional and national acts.”

The entire project could be completed for between $2.2 and $2.5 million, but Miller said that the project could be started almost immediately with grassroots money from the private sector.

“We are as shovel ready on this project as you could ever be,” said Miller. “We have all the designs in place, and all that we need except for a little seed money to get us up and running.”

The County Commissioners told the group that there was no money available to help fund the project last year, but Miller hopes he can prove the merits of the project.

“If this goes in, the demand to come to Berlin would increase, and as the demand for people to come into a town like Berlin goes up, so will property values and tax revenues,” he said.

It should be noted that timing might play a large role in all of this, as Miller’s group came before the commissioners and asked for funding last year after the commissioners announced they would not be supporting any new projects.

New Airport Runway Lights Gain Support

The council decided on Tuesday that the installation of a PAPI, or Precision Approach Path Indicator, system at the Ocean City Municipal Airport was worth the little bit of money that needed to come from the general fund to supplement what wasn’t covered in by the grant given by the Maryland Aviation Administration.

The MAA has awarded Ocean City a $39,100 grant to help pay the portion of a 50/50 split of the total cost of the project, which will essentially allow for a more efficient lighting system for incoming planes that need to gauge their approach into the town’s airport.

The PAPI is a used piece of equipment that came from Westminster airport, and contains four lights, two at each end of the runway, and shows pilots if they are on proper approach altitudes based on the PAPI lights.

“If a pilot sees two red and two white lights, then they are on the proper approach path,” said Airport Manager George Goodrow. “If they see all red lights, they are too low, and if they see all white lights, they are too high.”

According to Goodrow, the PAPI lights give both horizontal and vertical guidance to pilots in their approach to the runway.

The council rubberstamped the plan in a 5-0 vote (with Joe Mitrecic out and Jim Hall out of the room) to grant the additional $2,200 from the general fund to pay for the town’s portion of the expense, and also approved Public Works Director Hal Adkins to grant an engineering contract to URS, inc, who is the town’s aviation consultant.

When asked why this was a 50/50 project rather than the usual split which see the Federal Aviation Administration pick up to 95 percent of the bill on local airport projects, Adkins said, “this is not a fundable program from the FAA, I don’t recall specifics, but I remember that part specifically.”

New AM Station Will Air Emergency Information

Emergency Services Director Joe Theobald was granted permission to move forward and use a homeland security grant totaling $28,465 to purchase a mobile emergency broadcast system (FCC licensed AM radio) in order to have a new way that the public can be informed in case of an emergency.

“This is just another means for the public to have an informational piece and if we educate the public that it is there, it should continue to operate flawlessly,” Theobald said.

The station would be similar to what you see advertised on state highways and will have the capabilities to operate from a fixed or mobile site 24 hours a day.