BERLIN – Questions regarding the food truck proposed by Ocean Pines Association management dominated a public hearing on the homeowner’s association’s budget this week.
On Saturday, Ocean Pines Association (OPA) General Manager Bob Thompson hosted a public hearing on the coming year’s proposed $11 million budget. When it came to questions from the residents in attendance, the $55,000 food truck came up again and again.
“We’ve been taking bullets about this all week,” Thompson said.
Though he didn’t include it in his main presentation to the public, upon being asked he explained that he’d proposed purchasing a food truck to operate primarily at the Yacht Club. The idea, he said, was in response to the news from the Worcester County Health Department that the facility could no longer offer the “grab and go” food they’d been making on the Yacht Club’s outdoor grill.
“The only way we’re allowed to do it is if we build a permanent station,” Thompson said.
Rather than do that, he opted to include money in the proposed budget for the purchase of a food truck. The truck, he pointed out, could sell snacks and quick food items to patrons at the Yacht Club not interested in sitting down for a formal meal. It could also visit other events and amenities in the Pines, such as the concerts in the park and Big Truck Day.
The menu, he said, would include an array of easy-to-prepare items, ranging from fried shrimp to paninis.
“It’s anything but a hotdog truck,” he said.
Resident Tom Janasek asked why the association wouldn’t just contract with an existing area food truck. He pointed out that OPA could charge the truck a fee to come and have the service available to residents and not incur any costs of its own.
“That way we don’t have to worry about it,” he said. “We can make it an income stream rather than an outlay of funds.”
Thompson said his team had considered that but thought that having the association buy its own truck was a better option. He said the association was well aware of the associated food and staff costs because of its existing food and beverage operations at places like the Ocean Pines Beach Club. He added that the board of directors would have the final decision on whether or not to include the food truck in the budget.
Resident Doris Lloyd asked whether the purchase of a food truck would prevent the local Kiwanis Club from selling hotdogs at the summer concerts in the park.
Thompson replied that the Kiwanis had stopped selling snacks at the concerts. He added that while the association worked to support its community groups, it couldn’t ask for too much from them.
“We can’t ask the Kiwanis to sit for hours at the pool all summer,” he said.
Resident Joe Reynolds said the suggestion of buying a food truck to primarily serve the Yacht Club pointed to a larger issue — the fact that the recently built $4.75 million facility even needed any additions.
“It’s obvious we did not give proper planning to the expenditure of $5 million,” Reynolds said. “I think it’s disappointing and the failure of management to properly handle the facility. I have little faith in allowing this management to spend $3,4,5 million on other projects.”
Aside from the discussion regarding the potential food truck, Thompson’s meeting on the budget primarily touched on the highlights of the document, which the board is expected to vote on in late February. As proposed, the budget includes revenues of $11,130,999 and expenses of $10,915,944. Thompson said his staff had been developing the plan since September, working to cut costs so the impact to residents would be minimal. He said the assessment increase originally proposed, $67, had been decreased.
“Every year it’s much higher than you end up seeing,” Thompson said. “From there we pare it down.”
As currently proposed, the basic assessment for homeowners is set to be $941. That is $20 higher than what property owners paid last year. Thompson pointed out that the annual charge funded everything from emergency services to amenities in the community. It also enables the association to offer special events like Big Truck Day and concerts in the park.
“We all don’t use all of them but this is where part of your assessments go,” he said. “It’s something we don’t think about. We’re paying for a lot of things to give a lot of enjoyment.”
Thompson said this year, staff also created a capital facilities plan to go with the budget. Projects identified include the renovation of the bathrooms at the Ocean Pines Beach Club, road work, bridge repair and improvements at the Sports Core pool. Thompson said the budget also included funding for studies of the country club and police station, as work is being considered for both in the near future. A draft of the budget can be viewed on the association’s website, www.oceanpines.org.