Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk

The smoking discussion at City Hall this week was an interesting one and it divided the council in a way that I can’t recall seeing since the last election shifted the power.

While still their typically soft spoken selves, Councilman Doug Cymek and Council President Lloyd Martin were critical of their colleagues’ approach toward enacting smoking restrictions on the beach during this week’s meeting. Both refused to vote for a plan with a host of unresolved concerns and uncertainties regarding implementation and enforcement.

As a result, Cymek and Martin voted against the city’s plan, which calls for staff returning by September to the council with details on ways to restrict smoking on the beach, approving the ordinance by the end of September and starting the new policy by May of 2015.

“I am not a smoker but I am respective of smokers’ rights. I am trying to figure out a way how we can delineate the beach to provide an area that would provide a buffer between smokers and non-smokers. I still haven’t resolved that in my mind how we would do that,” Cymek said. “I have a problem voting for legislation before the big plan is decided in how we are going to do this, so I would like to see more conversation and public comment. We are not in a position to move an ordinance forward today.”

What will be interesting to see is come September whether Cymek and Martin, who each seemed to generally support new restrictions on smoking on the beach, vote for the ordinance that carries out the measure. My prediction is they will vote for it once all the details are presented.

Ocean City made the right personnel decision when it selected Susan Petito as its next Recreation and Parks director.

As a matter of fact, I remember feeling Petito was slighted 16 years ago when she was not tapped to be Tom Perlozzo’s replacement as head of the department. After all, she had been the Assistant Director of Recreation and Parks for many years at that point. Instead, the town hired a then outsider, Tom Shuster, for the job and by all accounts did a fine job at the helm. During Shuster’s entire tenure, Petito worked as assistant director.

It seemed like a no-brainer to promote Petito to the director’s spot, but the city felt the need to conduct a national search once again for the position. The result was an initial field of about 100 candidates, including at least two other current city employees according to sources.

Despite the feeling that was an unnecessary search, it was great to see Petito’s time had come because her knowledge, dedication and experience with the department are unmatched. The city definitely got this decision right even if it was a bit of a circuitous route.

There’s a lot to like about the proposed plans for “Tyson’s Park” off Old. Ocean City Blvd. However, one thing not to like is the name the project is going by currently. Most likely that was just something conjured up by the individual(s) who funded the design plans, but that name will never be truly considered I am told.

This plan is one big hypothetical at this point. It has never been reviewed by the Mayor and Council or the town’s Park Commission and there will undoubtedly be a long and thorough process ahead with feasibility studies needing to be conducted. Additionally, major grants and state funds will likely be needed for the purchase of the property, which has been largely dormant since the poultry giant closed up shop more than a decade ago.

It’s basically nothing more than a dream at this point, but it’s one with an exciting potential. It was welcome news to hear the Berlin Mayor and Council will evaluate the site, which is basically a triangle from Route 50 to Route 113 to Old Ocean City Blvd., and its future uses in depth after the budget is ironed out.

“I certainly think it would be a much better use of the land for the benefit of the community then going back to some commercial use …,” said Mayor Gee Williams this week. “As soon as we get this budget squared away for the immediate fiscal year then I think that, along with other projects, we can move them to the front of the line, in terms of getting input and finding out what would be necessary and what are the possibilities and what are the procedures that would be tied into something like that.”

I don’t get out in the field much to cover breaking news anymore, but the house fire in Berlin two weeks ago reminded me what a tremendous high it is to be on the scene of an active emergency.

If you have ever been on the scene of an active fire, you understand it can be a hectic and scary environment. Before I arrived on the scene, I had already gotten word there was an active fire with two entrapments. By the time I got there, a 6-year-old girl had already been removed from the burning home by first arriving police officers who exemplified tremendous courage.

About five minutes later, amid dense smoke and flames, firefighters removed a woman from the burning home via a ladder. She was quickly tended to at the base of the ladder before being removed on a stretcher to a local hospital. She was later treated further at a hospital across the bay.

All too often political issues and differences cloud the reality of what emergency responders truly provide communities. They keep us safe and do it often in heroic fashion.

I got a healthy dose of inspiration that night from watching the Berlin Police and Berlin Fire Company and their professionalism was nothing short of impressive.