Meehan Details Slots Development Board’s Role

OCEAN CITY – Addressing numerous uncertainties with the process, Mayor Rick Meehan explained this week the process in which the Ocean Downs revenue dedicated to local impact grants will be allocated.

Meehan was recently appointed as chairman of the Local Development Board, which will help local municipalities and the county by making recommendations on how to designate the revenue generated from the casino at Ocean Downs.

Meehan said a little over a week ago the board held its first meeting. The meeting was organized by the County Commissioners and directed by county attorney Sonny Bloxom. Senator Jim Mathias and Delegate Norman Conway were also in attendance.

The board reviewed its responsibilities and took two actions. First, the board appointed Meehan as chairman and decided to send a letter to the county and government agencies asking for their requests in what they would like the revenue to be allocated towards.

Their requests will be returned to the board within 45 days following their discussions. The board also recommended government agencies hold public hearings on the matter.

“And then we finally approve a plan but it’s interesting because even though we approve a plan as a local development committee that doesn’t actually mean that the government agency has to strictly follow that either,” Meehan said. “It is to try to establish some guidelines on how the money will be used.”

Meehan said the revenue can only be used toward certain purposes, including infrastructure improvements and police enforcement.

During the board’s meeting, Ocean Pines Police Chief Dave Massy was asked if he could conduct a meeting with the Berlin, Ocean Pines and Ocean City police departments and the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office to discuss the necessity for increased police enforcement as they see required for the operations of Ocean Downs.

“He will report back to us to see if they anticipate additional expenditures for things such as traffic detail or patrols,” Meehan said. “So that we can take that into consideration as we look at what the different municipalities in the county plan to spend that revenue on because there may be associated law enforcement costs that would probably be a good place to designate some of that money to be spent.”

According to Meehan, the Ocean City Council would likely discuss infrastructure and law enforcement as main topics to allocate their portion of the casino’s revenue towards. For example, he mentioned funds could be used to assist the costs associated with the renovation of the Boardwalk.

The casino’s revenue is disbursed as follows: 48.5 percent toward the Education Trust Fund, 33 percent is the casino’s share, 7 percent goes into a horse racing purse account, 2.5 percent toward the race tracks facility renewal account, 2 percent toward the Maryland Lottery, 1.5 percent toward small minority and women owned businesses and 5.5 percent toward local impact grants.

“We get 5.5 percent — 60 percent goes to Worcester County, of which 10 percent goes to Ocean Pines, 20 percent goes to Ocean City, and 10 percent goes to Berlin,” Meehan said.

In February, alone Ocean Downs generated a little over $172,000 in local impact grants. Meehan added that 18 percent of the 5.5 percent goes to Baltimore City after July 1, 2011 and eventually $1 million of that goes to Prince George’s County.

Meehan said the board will meet again in April to review the local requests and review the police department’s suggestions.

“To see if there any suggestions we have there as to extra funding that should be allocated to law enforcement in order to make sure that we have smooth transition at the slots especially as we move closer towards the summer season,” he said.