Task Force To Weigh Ocean Pines Facility Fees

OCEAN PINES — In response to concerns voiced by residents, a task force created by Ocean Pines Association management is investigating fee schedules for the community use of association facilities.

Following complaints from several local groups regarding the fees charged for rental of facilities like the community center, Ocean Pines Association General Manager Bob Thompson has a task force looking into the issue. That announcement, made at the Jan. 29 meeting of the association’s board of directors, drew criticism from some.

Dave Stevens, president of the board, said input from a committee created by the general manager — a committee that did not meet in public — was not the same as input from the community.

“That is unacceptable,” Stevens said. “To do my job I need input from the community. We are not going to accept something that comes from you without getting input from the community.”

The issue, which was not on the meeting agenda, came up after Ocean Pines resident Anna Foultz, founder of the non-profit group Star Charities, told the board her group had been charged $450 to use the gym at the community center for a fundraiser and hadn’t even been able to use it for the entire day. She said when she arrived to decorate for the event she was told by staff that she was unable because her group couldn’t use the space until 2 p.m.

“They treated us mean,” she said.

Thompson told the board Foultz’s group was charged significantly less than outlined in the association’s existing guidelines.

“They should have been charged more,” he said, adding that the group had wanted to come in early to decorate and use the kitchen before the allotted time.

Board members asked whether non-profit organizations like Foultz’s could use the community’s amenities for free. Carol Ludwig, a member of Thompson’s task force, said her group was looking into that. She said members were trying to find viable ways for facilities to accommodate both paid programs and those hosted by community groups.

“We have good usage of this building,” Ludwig said. “We need to take care of this building. Parks and Recreation has a budget and they’re tasked with trying to get programs in here for our residents at low costs. There is a clash if Parks and Recreation is under the gun to bring in a profit. It’s difficult for them if someone is not paying and they get premium time.”

Thompson said he reached out to Ludwig and a handful of other residents to help him come up with a way to address the problem.

“We’re kicking around pros and cons trying to come up with the best possible solution,” he said, adding that he would make a recommendation to the board when the research was complete.

Stevens said the board would still need community input in addition to that.

“When something does come to the board, we’ll know nothing except what’s in front of us,” he said.

Resident Joe Reynolds criticized the fact that Thompson’s group met in private.

“I’ve been opposed to these private committees because under Maryland law all committees of the association are open to the membership,” he said.

According to Reynolds, the problem with Thompson’s task force was that he appointed who he wanted to serve on it and would get the information he wanted from them.

“No one else in the community is able to sit in on these meetings,” he said. “This is not right.”