Resort To Pursue Grant Money For Boardwalk Signs

OCEAN CITY — There could be two new displays on the Boardwalk in the near future, and if they become a reality, they will each stand about nine feet tall.

On Tuesday, in perhaps an attempt to try to keep up with the up-to-the-minute world of information, or to simply capitalize on some available funding, Mayor Rick Meehan brought to the City Council’s attention the possibility for the town to use Homeland Security Grant money to install two Variable Message Boards (VMB’s) at separate locations on the Boardwalk.

“We’ve been looking for ways to better get the information out there, and sometimes it is difficult to get information to the public,” said Meehan, “and we feel that the more information the public has, the better off we are in all circumstances.”

Although the council didn’t vote to install the estimated $30,000 digital message boards, voting rather to advise staff to attempt to acquire grant money, they did vote to start the Request for Proposal (RFP) process contingent on the grant money being allotted to the town.

Meehan stressed that the boards would be used to display vital public information near the comfort stations at Caroline Street and 9th Street, where there is already electrical boxes installed to accommodate such digital message boards.

“We want to be able to put up what is going on, like if there are rip currents, or explain why the beach is being cleared,” said Meehan. “We want to just let everyone on the Boardwalk realize what is happening.”

Meehan also noted that when the signs weren’t being used to notify the public of safety concerns, it would be an informative medium for town events, such as when concerts begin or if fireworks displays were changed or even cancelled.  Meehan said that the signs could also help control crowds more efficiently.

“I think it’s a great idea,” said Councilman Doug Cymek. “Let’s get some bids and see if we can get the money for these things.”

There is no timeline to when this project could begin or even get approved for that matter, as all seems to be contingent upon the town getting the grant money from the Federal government.

Simply put, the council seems uninterested in pursuing these signs on their own dime.

“According to [Acting Convention Center Director] Wayne Prior, the money is available and I hope we get it and we can move forward with this,” said Meehan.

Councilman Jim Hall quipped that he hoped that the town of Ocean City does more with its digital message boards than the similar ones used on one of the main arteries into the resort.

“I hope we do a better job at putting something on these signs than they do on Route 50, said Hall, “I’ve seen them lit two times, and the rest of the time, they just seem to say test, test, test.”

Meehan said that the town already knows what it wants to be on the boards and said that a written policy for the operation of the boards will be set into stone, should the money be available and the town chooses to move forward.  That policy would clearly define who would change the content, and as previously mentioned, what is allowable content.

The council has long fought both side-by-side and at times head on with Boardwalk merchants about outdoor display guidelines as well as the overall look of the Boardwalk.

Some so-called purists could take umbrage with nine-foot digital signs on the Boardwalk, but Meehan stressed that the change that might come is a good one for the future.

“I think it would serve Ocean City well,” said Meehan. “In this day and age, to get information out to people in a timely manner is not only important, but I think it will be greatly appreciated.