OCEAN CITY — The Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association (OCHMRA) is looking for a new home as its current office space at the town’s convention center is needed for other purposes.
In a letter dated May 9, OCHMRA President Chris Trimper broached the relocation issue with the Mayor and Council and requested formal communication with the city on the need for the association to move its offices out of the convention center.
“While we’ve known we’ve been on a month-to-month lease for some time, we find it a little surprising that our office space was not considered in the planning phases,” the letter reads. “We understand from the Convention Center Director and our Executive Director that we will need to find new office space, however, we wish to hear directly from the city leaders on this matter.”
In his letter, which was also signed by 16 OCHMRA Board members, Trimper requested confirmation from the city on three specific issues — whether the OCHMRA will continue to be responsible for the lodging extension of the resort’s tourism phone line, if it will continue to operate the help desk at the visitor center inside the Roland E. Powell Convention Center and whether it can continue to hold meetings in the convention center board room. The OCHMRA has reportedly been promised nothing will change on either of those fronts.
The OCHMRA has leased space at the convention center since 1984. Currently, the space, which consists of three offices and some storage area, is leased for $834 a month, plus telephone expenses.
Mayor Rick Meehan said the OCHMRA was made aware of the likelihood of its space being needed over a year ago. Meehan said the OCHMRA has been permitted to stay through August, but it’s planning to move sooner than that.
“I believe their executive director has been aware of this for at least a year,” the mayor said. “They are our partner, and at this point in time that’s a city building and it worked out for a long period of time and things have changed and we are moving forward. There was plenty of notice given, and I guess now this is going to be another battle. It’s unfortunate.”
Meehan said he was surprised to see the letter from Trimper because he believes the OCHMRA already has a site in mind to move into and has been planning to relocate for some time.
City Engineer Terry McGean said the association offices on the mezzanine will be needed to replace lost storage space and office areas associated with the addition of the performing arts auditorium at the convention center.
OCHMRA Executive Director Susan Jones confirmed her group has known about the need to move, but she said the Board of Directors wanted to hear from the Mayor and Council rather than just through her and city staff.
“We are not trying to be controversial. We have had a mutually beneficial relationship with the city tourism dating back to the ‘70s. Our point in sending that letter was the Board wanted direct clarification from the city leaders as to the next step,” Jones said. “The Board wanted to hear from the Mayor and Council on this decision.”
Jones plans to move the association office within the month to a new 650-square-foot office in mid-town Ocean City. She said the rent is a little bit higher than the current space, but she does not expect it to cause a financial hardship for the OCHMRA.
“We have a tentative agreement on a space that should become our home by the end of June,” Jones said. “It’s not as cheap but it’s close. We are not too concerned about that at this point, and we really think this will be a great move for us and help us further brand ourselves in a unique way.”