Ocean City News in Brief

OCEAN CITY—In the brief this week, the city’s water and wastewater rates will rise over the next five years, the 3rd annual air show pens more performers but gets nixed on a new idea, and some new faces were sworn in to serve on the Board of Elections for this fall’s municipal elections.

Water and Wastewater Rates on the Rise

The Mayor and City Council approved an incremental rate raise for water and wastewater over the next five years, to compensate for rising operational costs in a 6-1 vote (councilman Joe Hall in opposition) on Tuesday.

City Finance Administrator Martha Lucey outlined her plan to the Mayor and Council at Tuesday’s work session that would see a 4.2 percent increase in rates for 2011, a 2.6 percent increase in 2012, a little more than 3 percent increases in both 2013 and 2014, and a 1.5 percent increase in 2015.

This incremental raise, which some on the council contested to be too high in the first year, was prudent according to Lucey, because the town didn’t institute any change in rates last year, when in hindsight, she says the town probably should have.

“Since we didn’t raise the rates last year, we think that the 4 percent raise next year is actually quite reasonable”, said Lucey.

Councilman Joe Hall, however, contested that the 4 percent increase next year is simply too much for the public to endure.

“I’m just not ready to give a 4 percent increase because times are still tough for everyone and I’d rather you guys come back and pitch a 2 percent raise over the next 5 years instead, or something much more gradual”, said Hall.

In fact, the rates for water and wastewater have actually been static for the last two years, as per the recommendation of a feasibility study that was done in 2007.  Lucey said that continuing to freeze the rates is no longer doable and doing so would deplete the reserve funds.

According to the proposed changes, the average household quarterly combined (water, wastewater) charges would jump from $158.05 to $164.80 in 2011, and would get as high as $184.75 by 2015.

“We are custodians of the infrastructures that people, tourists, and residents have come to expect and deserve in Ocean City, said Mayor Rick Meehan, “we can’t live without good water and wastewater systems and I am in support of this.”

Jeep Sponsorship at Air Show Shot Down By Council

Despite asking for a national sponsor for the 3rd annual Air Show, the Mayor and Council shot down an opportunity to score a big one, citing that there was already too much going on that weekend, and not enough space to accommodate the aforementioned sponsor.

OC Air Show event organizer Brian Lilley came before the council to update them on the list of performers that have been penned in for June’s highly anticipated aerial event in the resort, but he encountered a bit of turbulence from the Council when he pitched an idea to have Jeep automobiles conduct an off-road product tour on the beach during the airshow weekend.

Essentially, Jeep had expressed a desire for a 300-foot x 300-foot plot of beach in order to allow spectators to test drive the vehicles over man-made obstacles and off-road type situations.

The only area that special events director John Sullivan could find to fit such a space was on Dorchester Street, which would be neighboring a huge youth soccer tournament slated for that same weekend in early June.

The council was skeptical about the whole idea from safety to even being able to make it work.

“There’s going to be 600 kids playing soccer right next to this space, and even though I don’t think that it’s very likely that someone would lose control of one of these vehicles while test driving them on the beach, it could happen, and I don’t want to take that chance”, said Council President Joe Mitrecic.

In addition, Sullivan pointed to the fact that there are five special events slated for that weekend throughout town, and noted that manpower would be limited to handle the hundreds of thousands of guests that will be filling the town and the Boardwalk that weekend.

“I know we were looking for a big sponsor to come in an be apart of the Air Show, but I just don’t think that this is the answer for this year, said Mayor Rick Meehan, “that is a big chunk of space, and there is so much that is already going to be going on throughout town, so I am concerned that this could be biting off more than we can chew.”

New Board of Elections Members Sworn In

In anticipation for this fall’s municipal elections, in which Councilmen President Joe Mitrecic, and council members Lloyd Martin and Margaret Pillas are up for re-election, Mayor Rick Meehan swore in five civilians to help with the election process this fall.

Those sworn in on Tuesday to the city’s Board of Elections include Amy Rothermel, Barbara Schmitt, Jamie Albright, Vicki Barrett, and Debbie Cook.

Pillas will reportedly not run for re-election in October, which means that at least one member of the voting seven will change. Filing deadlines for potential candidates is in September, and the regular election is slated for October 19th. Voter turnout has been at an all time low for the past two municipal elections and the council recently voted against moving the date of the municipal election to coincide with national election dates.