Ocean City News In Brief

OCEAN CITY — In the brief this week, taxis underwent the annual inspection process, the city manager is set to offer another round of cost cutting measures and a bus pilot program is set to go before the Mayor and Council for word on its future.

Taxis Get Inspected, Meters Tweaked

This week, the Ocean City Police Department conducted its annual inspections of the 175 vehicles that have acquired medallions in order to operate on the roads of the resort this year.

In the process, police officials set the meters to charge the new fees, which raises the initial fee from $3 to $3.20 and the per mile fee from $2 to $2.20.

Councilman Doug Cymek, who personally checked out the taxi inspection process, said that other than one or two minor instances, the process has been rather smooth.

“I was rather impressed with what I saw this week,” said Cymek. “They are very tight in making sure that the meters are calibrated just right to ensure that no one is getting overcharged. I think we’ve also seen an improvement in the quality of the cars that will be on the road this year.”

Cymek said he rode along with Officer Hugh Bean, who handles the inspection process, on a few of the test rides where inspectors ensure that the meter is only charging after a mile has been traveled.

“It’s pretty spot on,” said Cymek. “I also liked that the meters also restrict anyone from hitting the ‘add dollar’ button more than four times.”

The rates are officially supposed to begin on April 1, but with the meters recalibrated, it appears the new rates will be immediate for those riding in a cab.

Town Phone Privileges Could Be Targeted

City Manager Dennis Dare is scheduled to come before the Mayor and City Council on Tuesday to propose another round of cost-cutting measures and revenue enhancement ideas. One of the bullet points on his list will be targeting the town-issued cell phones.

Dare says that cell phones have become an essential part of not only daily life, but also in operating business as well, but he says that in many cases, the dozens of cell phones that the town has issued to employees and council members, are often a duplication of service.

“Most employees that have cell phones issued to them also have a personal one,” said Dare. “So they are then walking around with two cell phones. On Tuesday, I will be proposing the city offer employees $20 a month for them to give us their personal phone number and turn in their city cell phone.”

The city also hands out Sprint cards for wireless connection and laptops to selected city employees and the Mayor and City Council.

Susan Childs, internal auditor for the town of Ocean City, said on Thursday, however, that all but three members of the council have turned in their laptops and wireless cards.

“Basically, those cards and laptops are used for the police officers, beach patrolmen, building inspectors, and pretty much anyone that needs to be linked up to the town’s system or grid so to speak,” said Childs. “All but three of the council members have turned theirs in because they use their own.”

Dare said that changing the phone policy for the town won’t be the most lucrative cost saving the town does this year, but he hints that as the town travels down all possible avenues seeking further items to cut, this could be a valuable savings.

“This way, they would carry only one phone, the city would subsidize it slightly and the cost of any additional calls is nominal,” he said. “The city saves the full cost of a monthly service and the replacement costs. It will not be a big number but it does represent all the ways we are looking to become more and more efficient.

ADA Pilot Program Up For Council Review

The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) door-to-door bus service that has been carting elderly and handicapped residents of Ocean City to and from Berlin since last fall for medical visits, is up for review at the Mayor and City Council’s work session on Tuesday, but some town officials are hinting that the service has been a success and expect the council to continue the service.

Local resident Bob Melvin battled the town and the county for almost two years to get the same door to door service in Ocean City that other ADA eligible residents received in the other incorporated municipalities of Worcester County have been receiving for years, and was eventually successful in his quest to get Shore Transit to hand over some of it’s grant money to the town of Ocean City to conduct the service.

Since last December, the service has run three days a week (Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday) for a fee of $5 each way.

Public Works Director Hal Adkins, who has been tracking the progress of the pilot program, said he thinks the council might give the nod to continue the service.

“Although it started out as a loser money wise, we are actually turning a profit right now when you compare the cost to run versus the revenues. It’s my guess that they could find it in their means to continue the program at least through the summer, if not for a full fiscal year,” Adkins said.