OC Council News In Brief

OCEAN CITY – Monday night’s inclement weather caused many to “play it safe” and stay home from the weekly City Council meeting at City Hall, perhaps waiting for the broadcast on local cable access television rather than venturing out into the storm that helped kick off the month of March.

For those who stayed home, here’s a recap of the meeting.

Comcast To Raise Rates

In these financial times with just enough money in the bank to stay home and watch television comes news this week that even watching the idiot box is going to get more expensive, as Comcast announced a 4.5-percent raise in its rate structure.

“The reason for the increase is mainly the cost of doing business in this challenging economic environment has gone up, especially our healthcare, operating costs and our programming costs,” said R. Thomas Worley, Comast’s area director of governmental relations.

The increase will essentially equate to about a $6 to $8 dollar increase in the customer’s monthly bill (starting March 1), depending on what package you have with the local cable TV monopoly holder.

“We spend $6 billion a year nationally on programming costs and usually we pass those increases along to the customer with no markup,” said Worley, “but we know it’s a challenging time for us and more importantly, our customers.”

Low cost options have been made available to help customers that are hurting, according to Worley, who emphasized that despite the rate hike, customer service will be the biggest focus for the company.

“We’ve hired over 15,000 customer service representatives and technicians in the last two years, rolled out smart devices and laptops to our field technicians to improve on-time reliability and developed new customer care technologies to help improve troubleshooting and repairs,” said Worley.

Council Votes To Go With

Two They Already Know

The City Council voted 5-1, with Joe Hall in opposition and Margaret Pillas absent, to hire two financial advisors to oversee the bond acquisition process for the upcoming Roland E. Powell Convention Center expansion and renovation.

Though City Manager Dennis Dare said the bond acquisition “isn’t going to be taking place in the next week or anything,” the council voted to grant him the permission to hire Sam Ketterman and Kristen Franceschi of the Davenport and Piper Rudick firms, respectively, to help the town decide the right time in this economic market to borrow the funds needed to do this project.

“They are experts”, said Dare, “and we need that type of expertise to move forward in the best way.” 

The bonds will not be purchased at the very least until the Maryland Stadium Authority (MSA), who is the town’s 50-50 partner in the convention center’s new and previous expansions, gets final approval from the state’s Board of Public Works for its $4.1 million contribution to the project.

Dare said that both Ketterman and Franceschi’s firms are “knowledgeable and familiar with the MSA, the legislation concerning the food tax, and all other provisions associated with this project.”

Dare called this hiring of the two financial consultants, who have worked with the town of Ocean City during the 1995 acquisition of bonds to renovate the convention center and in 2004 when some of the town’s bonds were refinanced, merely “the first step” in the process.

‘Play it Safe’ Hoping

For A Banner Year

As Ocean City’s Play it Safe program enters it’s 20th year, the record numbers of graduating seniors from all over the country who have enjoyed the cost free and, more importantly, alcohol free events that the program holds each June is not the only reason the group is pausing to take a bow.

“This is great cause for celebration as it is very unusual for programs like this to be sustained for more than five years,” said Donna Greenwood, chairwoman of the OC Drug and Alcohol Abuse Prevention Committee and the Play it Safe spokesperson. “We are still here, we are going strong, and we are getting better than ever.”

The council unanimously granted Greenwood and the Play it Safe group the usage of town property and $2,434 to hold four events in late May and early June.

The events approved Monday were a 3-on-3 basketball tournament, a karaoke on the beach event, a volleyball, and tennis tournament for high school seniors to enjoy while they are at the beach during their senior weeks.

The program hosted a record 13,185 kids during last year’s events and if the hits on the website are any indication, (812,789 hits on www.playitsafeoceancity.com in the past 11 months) the 20th anniversary of its birth could be its largest showing yet.

Greenwood thanked the Mayor and City Council for their continued support and also extended her gratitude to the hundreds of local businesses that help the program in one way or another each year.

“I’m sure this year we are going to have large crowds of kids once again,” said Mayor Rick Meehan “and there’s an awful lot of parents outside of Ocean City that are very thankful for the job that you do.”