Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk – May 5, 2017

In the interest of full disclosure, I am a member of the Atlantic General Hospital Foundation Board of Directors. As a result, I am volunteering with a team of hospital staff and administrators and local community professionals and residents raising money for the hospital’s ongoing $10 million Campaign for the Future, which will allow the hospital to complete $35 million in capital projects over the next five years. I say that because it will explain the passion behind my position. It might also discount my views because of a conflict of interest. The latter is a risk I am willing to take.

As it appears after first budget reading, the Town of Ocean City is going to once again snub Atlantic General Hospital’s request for special appropriation funding. This has been the policy for several years now under the reasoning the town contributes through its annual tax contributions to Worcester County, which does in fact give a grant to the hospital ($75,000 the last few years). While that argument has some interesting angles to it, as reported extensively in this week’s article on the concept of “double donation,” this year’s request from the hospital is altogether different.

This year’s request was specifically geared toward the massive capital campaign that will better our community through improved health care services centrally located on the hospital’s campus in Berlin. The campaign is specifically organized for the John H. “Jack” Burbage Regional Cancer Care Center to be built south of the nursing home off Route 113. However, it’s also for upgrades to existing surgical facilities and emergency services, among other improvements. The hospital directly serves Ocean City’s visitors as well as its year-round residents and it fills a critical void by being less than 10 miles from the beach. It’s not being too dramatic to maintain the hospital’s close proximity to Ocean City saves lives. It’s actually a fact proven through tourists’ personal accounts over the years.

While I think the town should support AGH annually with a flat grant, as was the practice for many years, I understand the reasoning expressed this week about city taxpayers essentially already supporting many nonprofits, such as AGH, through the county’s charitable contributions. However, this year is different. This is for a capital campaign. Other municipalities, such as Berlin, have pledged funds and the state, through the governor’s budget and other grants, will most likely offer more than $1 million in funding for the $10 million capital campaign.

The good news is there’s time to make it right in Ocean City. The hospital was seeking a $1 million long-term commitment from the town in its proposal earlier this year. That’s probably too ambitious for the Mayor and Council to swallow, but I think the citizens of Ocean City and visitors to the beach would surely support a five-year pledge of $500,000, or at least $250,000, to help better health care services in our community. It’s worth the investment and should not be lumped into the “double donation” discussion, which the city vowed to revisit this summer. If the city doesn’t feel right committing to the general capital campaign, the pledge could come with a caveat that funding be used only on emergency services, a component that unquestionably directly impacts Ocean City’s visitors and residents.

There’s many different ways to support the effort, and Ocean City needs to be involved.

There were two strange occurrences this week on local beaches.

First, according to our partner Fish In OC, as brothers Steven and Brian Cooper and their dad, Woody, were surf fishing on Assateague last Friday, a juvenile swordfish, which appeared to have sustained damage to its bill, beached itself near them. The group rushed to get the fish back in the ocean and it quickly went on its way. You can see a photo the anglers took of the fish on the newspaper’s Facebook page.

Then, on Tuesday, an apparent juvenile spiny dogfish shark came ashore and was photographed by Laura Powell. The shark — measuring about two feet — was clearly not in the best health and was emaciated. In fact, part of its tail was cut and it was missing an eye. Speculation online after we posted an album of photos was that a school of bluefish, which are abundant in the area currently, may have overwhelmed the undersized, unhealthy shark in shallow water and even caused it to lose the eye.

However, local shark expert Mark Sampson doesn’t think that’s the case.

“I don’t see any scars on his head from a bluefish bite,” Sampson said.   “In the ocean, there are a lot of things feeding. Who knows? It might have always been that way. In the one profile picture I’m looking at, he just looks really skinny. Maybe that’s a result of missing an eye and he’s not able to feed as properly.”

Sampson added, “It’s certainly not a shark that anyone has to worry about. This particular type of shark is quite abundant.”

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.