OC Program Helps Lifeguards With Upfront Housing Costs

OCEAN CITY — A seasonal housing payment plan subsidized upfront by the resort for some Ocean City Beach Patrol staffers has allowed the department to retain employees and remain competitive in the market.

An overview of the Beach Patrol’s fiscal year 2019 budget during a work session last week revealed the town assists many returning staffers with securing seasonal housing and helping with some upfront costs in order to retain the brightest and best.

“We pay deposits and scout out accommodations,” said Budget Manager Jennie Knapp. “They pay it back through payroll deductions over the course of the year.”

Ocean City Emergency Services Director Joe Theobald told the Mayor and Council the program helps returning staffers by funding some of the costs of paying security deposits and front-loaded rent payments at a time when they have not yet resumed working for the beach patrol.

“That helps tremendously,” he said. “They come down here and find a place to live with the expectations of security deposits and full payments before they even start to work. They probably wouldn’t be able to work here if we didn’t have this program in place.”

Ocean City Beach Patrol Captain Butch Arbin said there is a significant lag time for many returning guards between when they arrive in the resort and when they start earning money.

“Our guards will be expected to pay around $3,000 by May 1,” he said. “They won’t get their first beach patrol paycheck until almost two months after that. Can you imagine an 18-20-year-old having to throw down $3,000 by May 1? They come here and pay for food and whatever else without getting a paycheck for almost two months.”

Arbin said the program generally isn’t offered to first-season lifeguards because they don’t have a track record with the department.

“It doesn’t help our first-year guards because we don’t have a history with them,” he said. “We don’t know at that point if they are going to be a success. It helps our returning guards and it has made a big difference. Housing continues to be a real challenge for use because housing continues to go up and the number of seasonal rentals continues to go down each year.”

For some, the program is a difference-maker to remain with the beach patrol, or seek employment elsewhere, or even come to Ocean City for the summer at all, according to Arbin.

“We try to make sure nobody chooses not to work here because they can’t find housing,” he said. “It’s so critical and it’s such a big benefit. Some would choose not to come back to Ocean City if is wasn’t for this program.”

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.