Ocean City News In Brief

OCEAN CITY — In the brief this week, the town continued its rightsizing efforts, the police department announced it’s getting ready to turn on a new “red light” and an emergency response training session was announced.

Departments Restructured

Several town departments are about to get a little more crowded as City Hall announced this week that a handful of town departments were being restructured and reorganized in the name of “right sizing.”

The Building Inspections division, which previously operated out of the Planning and Zoning Department, and the Information Technology division, which was its own department, have been placed under the Engineering Division’s umbrella, while the Purchasing Department and the town’s webmaster will be moved to new proverbial homes as well.

Several months ago, the town reorganized the Public Works Department by consolidating divisions and reducing upper management staffers and, according to City Manager Dennis Dare, this is a similar move that will hopefully increase efficiency and save money.

“We still face a severe budget shortfall for the upcoming fiscal year and we must right size our workforce to face these challenges," Dare said. "We will continue to seek more efficiency in our operations by consolidating services and cross-training personnel where necessary.”

Dare also noted that in the next few weeks the town should get an idea of how many of the town’s 84 full-time employees will take advantage of a one-time-only retirement incentive that is estimated to potentially save the city upwards of $1 million.

Dare said that all of these steps are being taken to help address the town’s anticipated budgetary shortfall over the next several years.

“I have no idea how the budget process is going to go this year, but I know it won’t be much easier than last year,” said Dare.

The town instituted a hiring freeze over a year ago, which has resulted in 54 vacant jobs, or 9 percent of the municipal government’s workforce.

Salary increases were also eliminated this year and other reductions in the town’s expenses have been initiated and capital projects delayed, which reduced the General Fund 2010 budget over $5 million less than in 2009.

Police Readying Vehicles

For In-Car Cameras

Last November, the council approved the purchase of nine (six marked, three unmarked) police vehicles to the tune of $207,000 or roughly $23,000 per car for the Ocean City Police Department, hoping the new in-car Panasonic cameras purchased with Homeland Security grant money would be installed into those cars before the summer season.

Chief Bernadette DiPino said that those cars will in fact be ready to go for the summer season and are awaiting a technician to come and physically install the new technology into the new police cruisers.

“We have everything sitting here and we are going to have them ready to go by the time the season starts,” said DiPino.

In addition to the usual filming capabilities, the system can also retrieve wireless video footage, eliminating the need to have to pull video from a videocassette or DVD. Essentially, in using a wireless hotspot in the parking lot, video data would upload automatically from the device’s hard drive in the vehicle to a mainframe server at police headquarters on 65th Street.

Councilman Jim Hall commented at this week’s Police Commission meeting that getting cameras in some of the town’s police cruisers is long overdue.

“I think it’s about time we catch up with the times and get cameras in police cars,” said Councilman Jim Hall. “I saw on ‘60 Minutes’ the other night that they have cameras you can put on an officer’s lapel, so if that’s the newest technology, we are way behind, because we don’t even have cameras in the cars yet.”

Emergency Course Offered

Citizens can make a difference for their families by enrolling in the Community Emergency Response Training courses planned to begin in April at the Ocean City Public Safety Building.

Community Emergency Response Training (CERT) is designed to help citizens help themselves and their families in the event of a catastrophic disaster. Due to the fact that emergency services personnel will not be able to help everyone immediately following a disaster, CERT is a free training course that aims to provide citizens with basic information for preparedness and techniques when dealing with emergencies. Training covers basic skills including CPR/AED, first aid, recognizing natural and manmade hazards in our local communities, disaster preparedness such as emergency plans and disaster supply kits, hazardous material emergencies and basic fire suppression.

CERT courses are being offered by the Ocean City Emergency Services Department. Classes begin Wednesday, April 14 at 6:45 p.m. and will run each Wednesday evening for seven weeks, ending on May 19. To register or for more information, call 410-289-8967 or e-mail [email protected].