Ocean City News In Brief

Amber Alert Nothing But A Hoax

It seems that virtually everyone who has a mobile phone in the Ocean City area was alerted via text message or through social networking sites like Facebook or Twitter on Wednesday about an alleged child abduction in the area.

According to police, however, both the amber alert and the abduction is a complete hoax and was nothing more than part of either a sick practical joke or perhaps some sort of social experiment.

Officer Michael Levy of the Ocean City Police Department said his agency would be conducting an investigation to see where the message originated from, perhaps seeking criminal prosecution.

The message started circulating throughout Ocean City early on Wednesday and as the afternoon wore on, there were many people who claimed to have received the alert a number of times from a number of people.

According to reports, the message stated: “Amber Alert 3-year-old girl from OC taken by man in a newer silver truck NJ plate 72B381.  Keep it going.”

As per About.com under the heading “urban legends”, this same text message has circulated throughout various parts of the United States before, and in Maryland, this is the second time a mass hoax text message has run rampant as a similar message was sent last February throughout Maryland.

The only difference in this message to the previous ones, according to About.com, is that the age of the girl the message claims to have been taken is three-years-old rather than seven-years-of-age in previous posts throughout the country.

The message reportedly started in Utah last February, and by the time authorities had figured out that it was a hoax a few days later, the message had spread all the way to Wisconsin, according to About.com.

It appears that the social experiment is trying to gauge just how quickly information spreads on social networking sites and with the usage of newer technologies such as text messaging.

Now that it has hit the Eastern Shore, it seems that the hoax has made it’s way across the entire country as states as far west as California have reportedly fallen prey to the hoax.

Amber Alerts for such incidents can credibly be checked on the Amber Alerts page of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children website.

Town Won’t Hire Full-Time Building Inspector Opening

Add one more job opening to a list of many at City Hall.

Already in the midst of a hiring freeze which leaves the town of Ocean City with more than 30 unfilled positions, town officials debated what to do with a new vacancy as Building Inspector Bob Trice officially resigned on July 14.

Despite major construction projects being way down from previous years, coupled with the fact that Ocean City has a chief building official in Kevin Brown who does a majority of the major inspections anyway, the council moved to contract the position on a short-term basis rather than hiring a full time employee who would require a benefits package and a salary.

Although the city could have filled the vacancy with another full-time employee, the council voted 6-1, with Councilman Doug Cymek in opposition, to hold off on a full time hire for the position as they continue to be conservative with cash, while perhaps talking about some change as well.

“We agree that we need two people in the field for inspections and two people on the plans, but I know we may not have hit the bottom of this recession and I would hate to put a full time employee on in the town of Ocean City and a year from now, have to let him go,” said Council President Joe Mitrecic. “In addition, there are council members who want to talk about benefits packages for employees and this would put another full time employee added to the mix.”

Some on the council have expressed a concern for the town’s very generous benefits package, citing that perhaps in a time of fiscal crisis, the package could be tweaked and trimmed much like the town’s budget.

Although City Manager Dennis Dare said that the vacancy is not a “critical” one, he noted that the town is still granting just as many permits as prior years, and only having one building inspector reduces the “level of service that we offer our visitors and residents.”

“Contract employees will be here until they get a better offer, and we have to make an investment in training,” said Dare. “I guess it’s a bit of a roll of the dice, and I’m a bit of a traditionalist, but that’s why we get the caliber of people who want to come work for us full time: because of the benefits package.”

Still, all but Cymek thought that hiring a part-time contract employee would be prudent, at the very least for the short term.

I think it’s a good idea and there’s a ton of people out there that are itching for the work, said Councilman Jim Hall.

“Let’s put them on for a year and see what happens,” he said.