Voices From The Readers

Voices From The Readers

Former City Manager
Answers Councilman

In a recent letter to the editor, Councilmember Brent Ashley asked the question, “…if the city is able to provide all services and function efficiently for $6 million less and with over 100 fewer employees, why was the $6 million being spent in the first place and why did the city provide salaries and benefits so long for so many extra employees at the taxpayers’ expense?”

I would like to answer his question.

First of all, it should be clarified that the $6 million in cost savings was not accomplished simply by reducing the number of employees by 100, since the costs associated with 100 employees would actually be less than $500,000. Rather, the savings resulted from the more than 100 cost-cutting measures that were mostly brought forward by town employees and approved by the then Mayor and City Council.

While Councilmember Ashley states that “years of bloated budgets and excessive hiring” led to recent financial reforms, I look back and see a community that grew and transformed into the town we have now. Our employee population grew because we greatly expanded the convention center, doubled the size of Northside Park and increased our recreational opportunities. We acquired the Wastewater Treatment Plant and collection facilities from Worcester County and assured the town the control of a basic infrastructure. We built Eagle’s Landing Golf Course and grew our Special Events Department into a premier organization that offers events daily during the season and many weekends year-round.

Our Public Safety personnel increased from 158 employees in 1997 to 200 in 2012 to keep pace with the growth in property and number of lives for the police, fire and emergency medical personnel to protect.

So, one could say that the growth in the number of employees was “excessive,” but I would say it was responsible and needed to accommodate a growing Ocean City over the last 20 years.

We were able to reduce the number of employees by making conscious decisions in what we did and how we did it.

The biggest reduction in our workforce was in the Public Works Department, where the decision was made to transition from a department that was manned and equipped to perform major infrastructure construction projects to a department that is now right-sized so employees can perform routine maintenance and repairs of our infrastructure. When major work is needed, we now contract out for it. With the build-out of the town, our major infrastructure is in place, and it was time to transition to a smaller work force that is needed more for maintaining that infrastructure than for large construction projects.

Also in Public Works, we abandoned sending our solid waste to the landfill and instead converted to a waste-to-energy solution: After the metal recyclables are removed, our solid waste is now incinerated to create electricity. This process allowed for the elimination of an entire department of employees, vehicles and equipment, saving in excess of $1 million a year.

We reduced services, and that allowed for fewer personnel and related cost savings. For example, we reduced our off-season solid waste collection from twice per week to once per week. We reduced bus service in the off-season. We saved $250,000 by bidding the town’s electricity. We offered new employee health insurance options, thus reducing health insurance costs for both the town and the employees.

The right-sizing of our workforce was enabled largely due to the retirement incentive program offered to about 74 employees. A total of 38 employees participated in the program, and it allowed us to move many other employees around from position to position and from department to department. We were able to save their jobs while benefiting from their experience and knowledge in a more productive structure. Many employees took on additional responsibilities as the town worked to right-size.

I trust the above answers the question and gives the public a better insight into how the town transitioned during the downturn in the economy.

Dennis Dare
Ocean City

All For Smoke-Free Beach
Smokeless beaches will be a sensitive issue during our local elections.
Ocean City voters deserve to know where each candidate stands on this issue.

I have always supported the change to remove smoke from our public beaches and will not “flip-flop” or play both sides of the fence on this issue.

Sean Rox
Ocean City

Assateague Not Place
For Transmission Line

Regarding your story, “Offshore Wind Transmission Line May Cross Assateague,” on Aug. 3, it should be noted that Assateague Coastal Trust developed a position statement in support of Offshore Wind Energy in 2009 and has been monitoring how and where the transmission lines will come ashore since the 2010 Maryland Legislative session when we raised concerns with our state elected officials regarding SB282 Off–Shore Wind Generation – Qualified Submerged Renewable Energy Lines.

We wrote to then Md. Delegate Jim Mathias and Md. Delegate Norm Conway asking them to submit an amendment that would exempt Assateague Island from this bill. ACT explained that Assateague Island is meant to be enjoyed and protected for the natural and pristine state it is in today and energy transmission infrastructure is not in keeping with that goal. They both denied ACT’s request. During a 2010 Mathias/Conway town hall meeting in Berlin, I asked them again about SB282 and was told it was their opinion the island should be accessible to these transmission lines and accompanying infrastructure “for the safety and economic benefit of the region.”

I can only wonder why, given the number of miles of coastline these lines could cross, the one area free of development continues to be in the cross hairs? ACT and our members, having spent the past 40 years advocating for the protection of the island’s natural resources, stand firm in the belief that the economic impacts from the millions of people who visit that island, precisely because it is maintained as free of man-made infrastructure as possible, far outweighs any political motive to use Assateague Island for anything other than the preservation of a natural area for all to enjoy in its natural state.

Kathy Phillips
(The writer is the executive director of the Assateague Coastal Trust.)

Smoking Not Problem
OC Needs To Examine

Here we go again. I know second-hand smoke is bad as I am a smoker. Everyone writes about smoking but the biggest problem in Ocean City is never talked about.

What the classic cars do to your air quality is and it’s off the charts. They will not ban them for one reason and everyone knows why — money. So, if it comes to health or money, guess who wins, of course money.

Do your own test. Get behind the cars at a red light, you better turn off your air and close the windows. So if I can put up with the cars you can put up with a smoker.

John Shipley
Ocean City

Vote Yes To Rebuild
Pines Yacht Club
To build or keep repairing the Ocean Pines Yacht Club is the question.

The present club is forty years old with structural deficiencies. There’s money to pay for a new yacht club and we now have a new manager and a chef, who are upgrading the food with homemade soups, sauces and salad dressings along with improved grades of meat. A lot of people just want cheap when they eat out, but not me. I want good quality food and am willing to pay for it.

The setting is lovely and the proposed design is beautiful. Is it too grandiose? I’m sure some will think so and in that case the issue can be addressed.

Remember the old adage "you get what you pay for." I urge everyone to think about the pros and cons so we don’t go through what we went through when voting for a new community center. You can’t keep patching old buildings, so eventually they have to be rebuilt. The longer we wait the more it will cost.

With good management and consistently good food and service, there’s no reason why the yacht club can’t be successful. Vote yes to rebuild.

Ann Lutz
Ocean Pines

Thanks To Family

I would like to thank the Moore family of Berlin, especially their son and his friend Damien who swiftly came to my aide. I had suddenly become ill while shopping on Saturday, Aug. 4 (later to find out it was Vertigo) and this wonderful family stayed with me to assure that I was alright.

Thank you.
Pauline Blasena

Honoring Bertha

(The following letter was addressed to Bertha Ortiz, a long-time local coach who passed away recently.) 
Thank you. Thank you for your kindness, thank you for your caring, thank you for your passion, thank you for your inspiration, thank you for your unconditional love.

Bertha, thanks for being such an outstanding role model for my kids and so many others. Thanks for teaching Pierce and Colton how to be better volleyball players, but more, importantly, thanks for teaching them how to be better people. Like so many others, Pierce and Colton loved you so much. So did I. We will miss you, but will hold in our hearts memories that cannot be replicated.

Bertha you touched so many lives and because of that your touch will be passed on by these individuals for generations to come. Again, Bertha, thank you. Rest in peace, Coach. I’ll see you on the other side.
Drew Haugh

Ocean City