Church, Maykrantz Talk Issues At West OC Forum

Church, Maykrantz Talk Issues At West OC Forum

WEST OCEAN CITY — Incumbent Worcester County Commissioner Bud Church shared the stage with Michael Maykrantz, the challenger for Church’s District 3 seat, last week for a candidate forum hosted by the West Ocean City Alliance at the Lion’s Den on Airport Road.

Church and Maykrantz squared off on issues like recycling, fire safety in West Ocean City, wind energy and county zoning.

Democrat Maykrantz and Republican Church both held a number of shared ideas for improving and protecting West Ocean City. Both favor the installations of more sidewalks in the district, though Church, a 12-year veteran of the commission, wasn’t sure how affordable the project will be for the near future.

“We don’t have the money. I’d love to have sidewalks,” he said, noting that besides paving and widening costs there would be some serious expenses just in laying underground lines.

As the owner of a real estate firm, Church told the audience that he has learned to be frugal and to never jump into a project without knowing the cost. He doesn’t like the idea of leaning on new taxes to finance many proposed projects since he believes that attempting to tax the county out of a recession is akin to “a man standing in a bucket trying to lift himself up.”

Maykrantz, a career firefighter with Ocean City, said that he was also mindful of expenses but sees a real need for sidewalks in West Ocean City. During his time as a firefighter and EMT, Maykrantz has seen more than a few accidents involving pedestrians and, while he agreed with Church that budgeting will be important, he feels that sidewalks need to be high on the project priority list.

“West Ocean City has grown to the point where it’s not just another unincorporated area in Worcester County, it is a community now and we need the infrastructure,” said Maykrantz. “Sidewalks are a basic part of the infrastructure.”

The commissioner and the candidate likewise both favored more fire protection and emergency safety in West Ocean City though they differed over the cost. Adding fire hydrants to the area would make it easier for responders to fight blazes but would also necessitate the county extending water services into West Ocean City.

The commissioners tried that nearly a decade ago, Church reminded the audience, but met with a resounding “no” from residents.

“It was the most contentious, violent, vile meeting that I have ever attended in my life. We had to call in deputy sheriffs for that meeting,” he said.

If the feeling has changed and county water is more palatable to West Ocean City, Church said that he’d be willing to introduce a referendum vote to that regard if enough interest was shown. Maykrantz believes the interest might be there and said that he would definitely support the addition of fire hydrants to the area if county water was extended.

The pair was also in accord on the issue of having a full-time ambulance hosted in West Ocean City. However, Church again underlined the expense of such an action which, according to a study done by Ocean City, could cost $1.5 million. Maykrantz has done his own study, however, and believes that with just the labor costs a full-time crew could be kept in West Ocean City for about $500,000.

The price was one point where Church and Maykrantz remained strictly opposed, with Church stating that Maykrantz did not take all of the realistic costs into his price while Maykrantz felt that the study done by Ocean City included a lot of figures that could be cut or reduced.

West Ocean City is currently covered by Ocean City for fire and EMS. The average response time cited by Maykrantz was about 10 minutes, while Church said that it is closer to 6 minutes.

“We’ve got to put the resources where the emergencies are,” said Maykrantz.

Some form of recycling is something that Church and Maykrantz both would like to see. Maykrantz would at least like to see a dedicated recycling drop-off point conveniently located in West Ocean City. Recycling is important, he continued, and something that he thinks residents will get behind if given the option.

“We should be doing recycling, we absolutely should,” agreed Church.

However, the cost of such a program worried the commissioner, who pointed out that the county’s landfill is already losing money every year following Ocean City pulling out of the program not long ago. Recycling would add more costs to a program that is already in the red.

Renewable energy seemed worth investigation, according to the pair. Church was a bit concerned about the aesthetics of something like a wind farm off the coast and said that he would want to do some more research before supporting wind.

“I think I would prefer solar over wind offshore,” he said.

Any kind of offshore wind would be so far offshore to be unnoticeable, said Maykrantz. He was in favor of looking at both solar and wind wherever feasible but promised that he would research the pros and cons of any development before getting behind it.

On county zoning, Maykrantz’ philosophy is that sprawl should be avoided as much as possible. “Smart growth” should be encouraged wherever possible, he said, with new construction aimed at areas that already have infrastructure in place when possible. Without giving the project a yay or nay, Maykrantz noted that the proposed mixed residential and commercial use development planned for Seahawk Road in Berlin would at least avoid sprawl.

As far as county zoning goes, Church has no major complaints with what is in place now and would make few if any changes to the county Comprehensive Plan. The proposed development at Seahawk Road is something that the commissioner said he could support but that everything is dependent on whether the town of Berlin moves to annex that property in, which seems likely.

One unique policy that Maykrantz proposed is dedicating 10 percent of the money the county receives from slots revenue to only West Ocean City projects. The area has come into its own as an independent community and should see some of the revenue sharing from slots that is currently enjoyed by Ocean Pines, Ocean City and Berlin, he argued.

Church didn’t see the need to dedicate a fixed percentage to West Ocean City, however, as the county uses the funds received for whatever project is the most in need in Worcester. He also pointed out that much of the slots revenue fund gets funneled into education, which is vital for West Ocean City and the county in general and any money dedicated out from there would have to be found elsewhere.

When asked to pitch themselves to potential voters, Church stressed his experience and connections while Maykrantz pointed to his own passion and vision.

“I’ve done it for 12 years. I know the ins and I know the outs. I know the people. I get things done, I get things accomplished. I’m a Type-A personality. I research,” Church said.

Maykrantz responded, “I can’t replace his experience. I don’t have his experience, I don’t have his money, I don’t have his political ties, but I do have a vision and I have passion for this community and I’ve been involved in this community for a long time.”