Ocean City News In Brief

 OCEAN CITY — In the brief this week, Winterfest took a hit from the so-called blizzard of 2009, while the town got the go-ahead from the Mayor and City Council to add some new “lighting” to the Boardwalk.

New Digital Message Boards To Appear On Boardwalk

After Mayor Rick Meehan brought the idea to the City Council in September, the town went forward and got the necessary Homeland Security Grant (for approximately $30,000) that would enable the town to construct two new variable message boards on the Ocean City Boardwalk this summer.

The signs, which will resemble the digital message boards on state roads, will be erected on nine-foot concrete poles and placed at two strategic locations on the Boardwalk, which should provide timely updates on town events, warnings or upcoming events.

“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.”

More than likely, the boards will be constructed near N. Division Street and 9th Street, as there are already network connections available at those two streets, according to City Engineer Terry McGean.

“The signs are approximately two feet high and six feet long and we will be having a concrete company design the poles so that everything looks sharp and uniform,” said McGean.

Town officials stress that the signs will only be used to promote town events, advise tourists to matters of public safety and to notify them to untimely changes for town scheduled events.

“The perfect example where these signs would have been helpful is a few years ago when we had to change the time of the 4th of July Fireworks,” said Council President Joe Mitrecic.

Meehan said that in a time when information is seemingly streamlined at a rapid rate, the town needs to be able to notify its residents and visitors of current events in a similar fashion.

“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. “We feel that the more information the public has, the better off we are in all circumstances.”

Winterfest Takes Revenue Hit Due To Weekend Storm

In theory, the Winterfest of Lights would benefit from a winter wonderland of sorts, but Recreation and Parks Department Director Tom Shuster said the reality is quite the contrary.

Last weekend’s blizzard that blanketed much of the Mid-Atlantic region under a feet of snow, or more, may not have reared its ugly head quite as profoundly here in the resort area, but Shuster said that the weather was bad enough on Saturday to force the Winterfest of Lights to close, essentially costing the town thousands of dollars in potential revenue.

“Usually, on a Saturday night, we bring in anywhere between $10,000 and $20,000,” said Shuster. “We had been going at a much better pace than last season, up until last Saturday.”

Shuster also noted that since the storm forced locals and those already in the area to stay home, it certainly stopped many visitors who traditionally have taken advantage of Ocean City’s “drive-to” geographics.

“The day-trip destination visitors were certainly under traveler distress, so we probably came back to earth as far as where our revenue compared to last year is,” said Shuster. “As with any business, you need customers to make money and the customers obviously had nothing to do other than to stay home.”

The final weeks of Winterfest are usually pretty strong, according to Shuster, who hinted that he remains confident that the annual holiday light extravaganza will post ahead of last years’ numbers.

Pilot Service Starts Slow

Public Works Director Hal Adkins said that the recently created Med-Trn service has started very slow, but he said, “that’s to be expected this time of year.”

After months of deliberation and planning, the Med-Trn service, which is essentially a door-to-door transport for Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) eligible elderly and handicapped residents of Ocean City to doctors’ offices in Berlin, has only had a handful of riders since it was launched on Dec. 11.

“We have made one round trip for two users,” said Transportation Superintendent George Thornes; “We have been receiving a few phone calls a week asking about the service, however.”

Adkins said that the low number of riders is a bit deceiving as there is always a decrease in the amount of doctors’ visits because of the holidays.

“This is the time of year when people are focusing on the holidays, and some doctors’ offices are either closing or people just are simply pushing their appointments back until the first of the year,” said Adkins. “I think that coupled with how new the service is, is the reason for the low number of riders so far.”

Adkins says that he expects rider-ship to spike after the New Year.