Hourly Parking Fees Increased

OCEAN CITY – The Mayor and City Council voted to approve a list of ordinances on final reading Tuesday as well as introduced an ordinance that states the maximum amount to be achieved during this year’s bond sale.

The City Council voted 5-2, with Council members Joe Hall and Margaret Pillas opposed, to approve an ordinance raising parking fees covered by the Cale Meter System throughout the downtown area from the current $1 per hour (25 cents per 15 minutes) to $1.50 per hour (25 cents per 10 minutes). The new rates will be in effect from Friday to Sunday from April 1 to May 24 and seven days a week from May 25 through Sept. 3.

The weekend rates, Friday through Sunday, would go back into effect from Sept. 4 to Oct. 14. Exceptions to the shoulder season rules would be the Thursdays before Springfest and the Cruisin’ event in the spring, and the Thursdays before Sunfest and the Cruisin’ event in the fall.

The new $1.50 per hour rate will be in effect for metered street parking from 7 a.m. to midnight and 24 hours a day at the various municipal lots. However, the Inlet parking lot will remain under its current rate schedule at $1.50 per hour during the offseason and $2.50 per hour during the height of the summer season. The metered parking rate increase is expected to produce around $500,000 in additional revenue annually.

 “I am going to be voting against this until the town has a policy that addresses paid parking fairly throughout the town,” Joe Hall said.

Here’s some other bullet points from this week’s meeting:

City Purchases Property

The council made its final vote of 5-1-1, with Councilman Joe Hall abstaining and Councilwoman Margaret Pillas opposed, to authorize the purchase of property located at 105 Dorcester Street.

According to the ordinance, the council has created a program that purchases properties, after consideration of recommendations from the Ocean City Development Corporation (OCDC), which properties are to be utilized for the development, redevelopment and revitalization of areas within the corporate limits of Ocean City. The funding source to purchase the property derives from revenues generated from the Inlet parking lot.

Rental Change OK’d

The council voted unanimously to approve an ordinance to amend a section of the chapter titled, Entitled Environment, to require that a noise permit control number be displayed on the front door of rental properties.

The ordinance states that no real property situated within the corporate limits of Ocean City shall be used to provide shelter on a temporary basis unless a permit for such use shall have been issues by the Noise Control Board and the permit control number shall be displayed on the front door of the property.

“I do believe the stickers are going to be a challenge,” Joe Hall said. “I think they have proved challenging in the past. They get defaced, they get peeled off, and they aren’t there. I think that at some point in time a database of addresses identifying the properties through their address should be adequate through all of the computerization that we have but I am willing to go with it and let that be a challenge in the future.”

Bond Ceiling Raised

An ordinance to authorize the council to issue and sell general obligation municipal purpose and refunding bonds not to exceed a maximum of $34.7 million reached the table in first reading.

Last week council decided to include 12 previously approved capital projects totaling $12,732,680 in the bond issuance and rounded the number off at $20 million to include funding for the reconstruction of St. Louis Avenue and Fire Department projects.

City Solicitor Guy Ayres explained that the bond ordinance will be for a refinance of existing debt, or prior bonds, and for capital improvement to be constructed from the list of potential capital projects.

“We have done this before and it does save a substantial amount of money for the taxpayers by reducing the interest rate they pay on existing bonds,” Ayres said. “It also includes the amount for the wish list of capital projects…that allows up to the date of sale to reduce the amount of the sale by taking off certain projects that you have decided through the process not to do. So the fact that it is a hefty number, $34.7 million, but does not mean that the town will be in debt of $34.7 million.

Chief Chris Laramore asked the council to include an additional $3.5 million for the reconstruction of Fire Station 4. He explained that it is a project that was started in 2001 and was funded in 2005 following a study that Ocean City paid $40,000 for that predicted the increase of the citizenry and tourism in the north end of town.

Mayor Rick Meehan recommended removing the new art league building that was included in the previously approved list decreasing the total by $600,000 and that it be funded by the fund balance instead.

The council voted 6-1, Councilman Brent Ashley opposed, to approve a ceiling amount of $37.6 million to be included in the ordinance. Next the council voted 5-2, Councilwoman Margaret Pillas and Ashley opposed, to remove the art league building from the bond issuance and the project be allocated through the unrestricted fund balance.