Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk – April 21, 2017

It was interesting to note the concerns expressed by Ocean City Councilman Tony DeLuca regarding upcoming budgets in the resort.

According to DeLuca, “ugly decisions” over the “very, very difficult” will be facing the Mayor and Council in future years.

“We have to talk about the things we don’t want to talk about,” he said. “We have to talk about the room tax, we have to talk about parking meters and we have to talk about increasing trams. When we go over to the expense side, we need to talk about West Ocean City and the EMS service and what does that really cost our taxpayers. We need to continue to talk about tax differential. … “What can we do to decrease expenditures? … The strategic plan is coming up in July and we need to have these conversations because it gets tougher and tougher every year.”

Although they didn’t make their umbrage obvious, it seemed to me DeLuca’s comments struck a nerve with the two most senior elected officials in Ocean City — Council President Lloyd Martin and Mayor Rick Meehan.

Martin said, “We’re going to have all of those conversations, but it’s going to take some time. It’s not going to be just one day. If it was that easy, we’d have it done already.”

Meehan wanted to clarify what DeLuca was referring to is already happening at City Hall.

“I don’t want everybody to think that all of the things Tony talked about we didn’t do this year. What we try to do every year is maximize revenue and decrease costs and we were able to do that again this year with this budget,” he said. “This is a service industry. We do what you’re talking about every single year. What you’re asking is to try to project out into the future and I think that’s something we’re all going to be working on.”

It almost sounds silly to even state it, but getting around tiny Berlin these days can be challenging. Compared to metropolitan areas or Ocean City in the summer, traffic is not a major issue, but when you add thin streets, unaware pedestrians, motorists unfamiliar with the area, road construction, a blocked street because of politics and school buses, there’s a congestion issue in Berlin at certain periods.

That’s why the concerns are so prevalent when it comes to the town’s possible annexation of land along Broad Street out to the Bay Club property, which has been proposed to be transformed into a campground with a possible water park amenity. Understandably so, residents and businesses in town are worried about campers coming through the town’s downtown cure on their way to the campground. They do not agree with the developer’s assertion that the campground will not result in tremendous traffic problems for the town of Berlin. From the people I have spoken with, they think it’s asinine to predict traffic from the campground will have less of an impact on berlin than the existing golf course.

As of now, the Town of Berlin has requested the special exception request for a campground at the golf course site be postponed before the Worcester County Board of Zoning Appeals to give the town more time to weigh the possibilities.

“We don’t want to do anything to artificially hold up the process but I do think making sure we have a clear understanding of its impact would be the proper and prudent thing to do.  We’re being open and candid about the fact that this is a potential development we have a high degree of interest in,” Mayor Gee Williams said. “I think we need to find some common ground here.”

It’s good news to hear the town is being deliberate with this matter because in my opinion the majority of residents in Berlin do not want to see the town annex this property or see it to be transformed into a campground. At the visioning workshops several years ago discussing the town’s future, the message was clear from residents. There was no interest in seeing the town’s boundaries grow in any direction or see the town undergo any sort of huge population boom.

It’s still 18 months out, but there looks like there could be at least one rematch on the Worcester County Commission front.

Former County Commissioner Virgil Shockley was unseated in 2014 in District 4 after 16 years of service by Ted Elder, who won the seat in his third attempt. Elder defeated Shockley by 200 votes after previously losing to him by 90 votes in 2010 and 500-plus votes in 2006.

Shockley confirmed what many in his district have known for several months this year. He will be filing to regain his seat in the November 2018 election.

Reached this week, it was clear the fire for public service and local government still burns strong within Shockley. In fact, he already knows what issues he will run on. He wants to address head-on Elder’s claims that he was not conservative enough when it came to county government spending. He calls those accusations laughable. Secondly, he wants to see his goal of broadband being accessible throughout the county and lower shore reached. Thirdly, he said it’s time for a major renovation or reconstruction of Buckingham Elementary School in Berlin.

If Elder seeks re-election, 2018 will mark the fourth time the two have faced off in District 4.

About The Author: Steven Green

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The writer has been with The Dispatch in various capacities since 1995, including serving as editor and publisher since 2004. His previous titles were managing editor, staff writer, sports editor, sales account manager and copy editor. Growing up in Salisbury before moving to Berlin, Green graduated from Worcester Preparatory School in 1993 and graduated from Loyola University Baltimore in 1997 with degrees in Communications (journalism concentration) and Political Science.