Debate Ensues After Fall Cruisin Event Review

OCEAN CITY — A review of the fall Endless Summer Cruisin this week triggered a contentious debate about whether the event should be renewed at this time and an even larger debate about council meeting procedure.

During Monday’s Mayor and Council meeting, TEAM Productions’ Bob Rothermel, who produces the spring and fall Cruisin events, presented a review of the Endless Summer event in October. The presentation is a requirement of the memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the town of Ocean City and the promoter. The MOU outlines each party’s responsibilities in the fall Cruisin event and making a post-event presentation to the Mayor and Council is one of requirements for the promoter stated in the MOU.

“From the event perspective, everything went smoothly at the Inlet and the convention center,” Rothermel said. “We had close to perfect weather with sunny skies and temperatures in the 70s on all three days.”

Rothermel said the Endless Summer Cruisin event had 2,130 registered participants from 18 different states. He said the check-in dates revealed the registered participants were arriving early and making an extended weekend out of the event. For example, 924 registered participants checked in on the Wednesday before the event, with another 867 checking in on Thursday.

Rothermel also outlined some of the direct financial contributions of the event to the town. For example, TEAM Productions paid the town over $22,000 for the rental of the convention center and nearly $20,000 more for the rental of the Inlet parking lot.  In addition, $8,250 was paid to the town in trailer permits. The overall amount of direct fees paid to the town by the promoter came in at nearly $52,000.

Rothermel pointed out those were only the direct fees and did not include the substantial room, food and amusement taxes collected during the extended weekend event.

Rothermel said the fall Endless Summer Cruisin’ event for 2018 already had 900 registered participants nearly a year out. He referenced the town’s special task force appointed to explore solutions to some of the motorized special events including his spring and fall events.

“The task force had its first meeting and we’re happy to be a part of it,” he said. “I thought it was a very positive day.”

Under the terms of the MOU, the town provides a date-hold for the promoter for the event for an additional three years and the successful completion of the requirements of the MOU triggers a one-year renewal for the following year. Councilman John Gehrig said Monday’s formal presentation satisfied the requirements of the MOU and essentially made a motion to extend the fall Cruisin event for 2018.

“The promoter has met all of the terms of the MOU and I think we need to honor the existing MOU and extend the event for another year,” he said. “Given the recent events, it’s the will of the City Council that we acknowledge the promoter has met the terms of the MOU and we extend the event to 2018.”

However, while Gehrig’s colleagues on the council did not show any inclination not to renew the fall Cruisin event for 2018, some voiced concern Monday’s presentation was not the time or place for approving the renewal. Councilman Dennis Dare said that approval would come after a review of the MOU and its requirements at a later date. Dare said he was taken aback somewhat by Gehrig’s motion to renew the event.

“It wasn’t on the agenda,” he said. “I didn’t review it with this motion in mind. I think it’s out of order to even have this motion.”

Councilman Matt James said there was no reason to believe the fall Cruisin event would not be renewed, but agreed the renewal probably didn’t need to be made in the form of a motion because the MOU includes language for an automatic renewal.

“I don’t know if the motion needs to be made,” he said. “I think Mr. Rothermel has recognized the desire of the community to make this event even more successful. I think the event is going to get even better with some of the suggestions he has made.”

Mayor Rick Meehan pointed out the formal post-event presentation was a requirement of the MOU and that the purpose on Monday was to merely acknowledge that the promoter had made the presentation.

“It is a requirement of the MOU that they come in and make a report on the event,” he said. “I think we need to acknowledge that they did make the presentation and his report meets the requirements of the MOU.”

However, Gehrig remained adamant the presentation met the requirements of the MOU and stood by his motion to renew the fall Cruisin event for 2018 on Monday.

“Why do we grant a three-year date hold and why do we include an automatic one-year extension if we’re not going to honor it?” he said. “I agree the motion probably doesn’t need to be made. I think the promoter has shown he does not have any material breach for termination of the event, but we have an MOU. Do we even know what’s on our own agenda? Clearly, we don’t.”

When other councilmembers continued to point out it was never the intention to automatically renew the fall Cruisin event on Monday, Gehrig called into question their collective preparation for the meeting.

“I can’t help you guys prepare,” he said. “We’re talking about an event and that event has an MOU that triggers an extension. The reason he is here tonight with this presentation is because of the MOU.”

James reiterated it was not the council’s collective intent not to renew the fall Cruisin event for 2018. He pointed out it would likely be renewed at a later date because the promoter had met all of the requirements of the MOU and has shown a willingness to work with the task force to improve some of the activities not associated with the formal, sanctioned event.

“I don’t think we’ve discussed terminating anything,” he said. “He’s met his obligations and there has been no discussion about us not honoring our obligations. I could be wrong, but I just assume what is in the MOU will go through. I don’t think it would just automatically end.”

James said Rothermel and TEAM Productions are part of the task force and have shown a willingness to make improvements going forward.

“If you’re talking about some of the issues brought before us, I think Mr. Rothermel has come up with some ideas and I think as a group and as a community we can work together to make this event even better,” he said.

For his part, Councilman Wayne Hartman took exception to Gehrig’s notion the council as a body was not prepared for the meeting and was not prepared to vote on his motion to automatically extend the event. Hartman said the event would likely be renewed per the requirements of the MOU at a later date and not because of a spur of the moment motion to do so on Monday.

“I think we’re all prepared for the meeting,” he said. “We prepare for what is in the packet. I don’t have a crystal ball to know what everybody is going to do. Right now, if I brought up Baltimore Avenue and it isn’t on the agenda, I’m not going to say you weren’t prepared for it. To sit here and say we aren’t prepared is disrespectful. We are all prepared for what is on the agenda tonight.”

Gehrig’s motion died for lack of a second. The Mayor and Council took in the promoter’s presentation on the fall event, which satisfied one of the conditions of the MOU, and will likely approve an extension of the event for 2018 and beyond.

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.