Ocean City News In Brief

Wheelchair-Bound Busker Gets Council Exception

Robert Peaslee, a handicapped street performer who recently asked to have an exception from the town ordinance, which bans any amplification by buskers, was unanimously granted that exception Monday night by City Council.

“I went to the Boardwalk and listened to Mr. Peaslee recently,” said Councilman Doug Cymek, “and he was really having a tough time projecting his voice so anyone could hear him. It was visibly taking a lot out of him so I would hope that we would grant him an exception.”

Peaslee will be allowed to use up to an eight-watt amplifier to project his voice while he plays on the Boardwalk from the confines of his wheelchair. The only caveat that council did ask for was a physician’s note from Peaslee.

Councilwoman Margaret Pillas said that she also listened to Peaslee on the Boardwalk and noted that this was a case of a “gentleman that needed some amplification.”

The town may protect itself from an onslaught of other “exception” based cases from street performers by asking City Solicitor Guy Ayres to write into the ordinance that the exception would be allowed under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Woman Leaves $200K To Mounted Unit

Ocean City received a $200,000 donation from the estate of Virginia H. Murray to be used for the mounted horse units of the Ocean City Police Department. Ironically, the money could be used to finally train Shadow, a horse that was bought with money that was also generously donated to the town.

Murray’s last will and testament specifically noted that the money was to be used for the mounted horse units, and she also donated to Atlantic General Hospital and the Ocean City Volunteer Fire Company as well.

“What a generous gift and I hope it’s used to train Shadow,” said Councilwoman Margaret Pillas, “and thank you to Ms. Murray’s spirit, wherever she is.”

Former Councilmen Honored

Former Ocean City Councilman Hank Westfall received a key to the city from Council President Joe Mitrecic on Monday for his service to the town as he nears his retirement.

Westfall served on the Ocean City council from 1990 to 1994 and was a 13-year member of the Board of Zoning Appeals.

In addition, former Councilman Jay Hancock, who was unseated in the October election after four years on the council, received a painting as a token of appreciation from the town for not only his years on the council, but also for his 30-plus years of service in the Ocean City Police Department.

Website Shows Strong Numbers

Despite only being up and running since the early part of May, the town’s new website has produced some staggering numbers as it has doubled its overall traffic to the site through the month of June and increased traffic to a number of notable areas.

Tourism Director Deb Travers told the tourism commission last week that through July 1 there has been 2.1 million page views on the website, which is almost double the 1.2 million from last year. In addition to the overall numbers, the accommodations pages have seen a 24-percent increase in traffic, and unique visitors, which describes people who spend a substantial amount of time on the site, has increased by 37 percent.

“We are really pleased with the numbers so far,” said Travers, who has been closely tracking the numbers with the help of MGH Advertising since the May 7 launch. “Some properties have told us that they’ve seen a 60-percent increase in traffic to their sites directly from the hyperlink coming from our site.”

Travers also noted that users of the site are finding information easily, evident by the amount of pages they are viewing, as average time spent on the site is up 25 percent.

“They are finding things very easily and organically, which means that they aren’t being led there with visual promotions or advertisements,” said Travers. “The whole point of redesigning the site was to have a stronger call to action and make it easier to navigate, so it’s been a success so far.”

Travers also told the commission that competing resorts have called to question her on the merits of social networking sites and has been praised for both the Rodney campaign and the new website.

Somerset Street Sees Spike In Foot Traffic

When Ocean City Development Corporation sought to make Somerset Street a pedestrian-only plaza, it hoped for more foot traffic and to create a very aesthetically pleasing area for families to enjoy. What they didn’t anticipate, however, was the street becoming a drop-off and pick-up point for local businesses’ shuttle buses, which had to find a new location to transport people from to their off-island businesses after the Greyhound bus station was torn down in recent months.

“We are seeing more foot traffic than ever before on Somerset Street,” said OCDC Executive Director Glenn Irwin. “Shuttles from Frontier Town, Castaway’s campground, and I believe the Francis Scott Key resort in West Ocean City have all been picking up customers and dropping them off at Somerset Street and I think the merchants on the street are very pleased.”