Focus Groups Planned For Ocean Pines Survey Process

BERLIN – Focus groups and a community-wide survey are the next steps for the Salisbury University group helping the Ocean Pines Association plan for its future.

At a meeting of the community’s comprehensive planning committee Aug. 6, Memo Diriker and students from Salisbury University’s BEACON program said the Pines project was a week or so behind schedule but was moving along. Diriker said his group was wrapping up a series of phone calls with members of the community and that focus groups would follow.

“What we’re doing right now is exploratory,” he said.

In recent weeks, some residents have expressed concern over the fact that many of the individuals Diriker’s team has called have been board members, staff members and full-time residents. Few non-resident property owners have been called. Diriker explained that that was his intention at this point in the process. He said the calls were simply being made to ensure he and his group understood the community’s history and the documents provided by the association.

“At this stage, we’re not gauging the community’s opinion,” he said. “What we are doing right now is exploratory.”

Diriker said 20 people had been called and he expected to speak to more in the coming week. A summary of the information collected during the calls will be passed to the comprehensive plan committee prior to its Aug. 14 meeting. On that date the committee will decide who to invite to participate in focus groups, which Diriker said were the next step in the study. He said he’d like to see at least two focus groups, one made up of board members, committee members and association employees, and another made of less involved community members.

“The idea of the focus groups is to further understand what we’ve collected in phone calls as a precursor to the survey,” Diriker said.

He said the focus groups would test potential survey questions and clarify local issues for his team.

“It allows us to discover things we didn’t think of,” Diriker said.

Though he originally proposed hosting focus groups by Aug. 21, Diriker said that could be pushed back as the comprehensive planning committee wanted to meet Aug. 14 to discuss the results of the phone calls and who to include in the focus groups.

“We want to get it right,” said Steve Cohen, chairman of the committee. “After five years another month is not a big deal.”

Other committee members agreed and suggested that the goal should be to have questions for the proposed community-wide survey to the Ocean Pines Association Board of Directors by late September. The survey, Diriker said, would be the final step in the process. After it’s complet, his group will write a progress report and submit data to Ocean Pines.

The board of directors hired BEACON in April to help with its capital planning. At that time, Diriker said his students would develop analysis models to help the association during the planning process.