It’s disturbing to see the severity of the scheduling problems within the Ocean City Fire Department.
There appears to be a lot of attention being given to the issues, but there’s no easy answer at this point to address the fact many shifts – more than 300 in July and August at this point – are not currently staffed. Experienced emergency service individuals confirmed off the record there’s no precedent for this in recent history. What’s happening is these shifts are eventually being filled but the city is having to pay out overtime to get a majority of them covered. That’s a bad practice.
The paramedics union maintains the shift change away from a 24-hour schedule to a hybrid of 10- and 14-hour shifts is directly to blame for the shortage of personnel and subsequently the problems the department is having filling out its shifts. The impact from the scheduling change was referred to as “not sustainable for our department” and not in the “best interest of our firefighter-paramedics or the citizens we protect.”
In response, the city maintains that is not an accurate picture to paint, referring instead to the fact the department is unexpectedly down nine full-time paramedics – five on medical or family leave, two have retired and two have resigned.
“The largest challenge going into the 2018 season is the untimely absence of up to nine full-time paramedics,” Communications Manager Jessica Waters said. “Additionally, the availability of part-time staff has impacted scheduling. Any reference that the recent schedule challenges are based solely on the new schedule is simply not the full story.”
Clearly there’s a difference of opinion as to the primary reasons behind this problem. There will likely never be an agreement on that matter, but the concern moving forward is to ensure there are enough experienced and reliable crews working the streets in Ocean City, especially during the busy summer months.
The city maintains public safety is not being jeopardized as a result of these staffing troubles. All one can do is hope that’s the case at this point. It would also be nice if the city doesn’t go over budget paying out all the required overtime.
Ocean City Mayor and Council members seemed intent this week on making it clear why they are not in favor of contributing funds to a federal study of the Inlet shoaling issue.
This paper has taken the council to task for calling the chronic shoaling of the Inlet a “county project.” That’s a micro view when the city should be looking at it from a macro perspective. Fishing is a critical industry for Ocean City. If sportfishing and commercial vessels have trouble accessing offshore canyons from their home marinas due to depth concerns, that reflects poorly on Ocean City. The economic impact would be tremendous on Ocean City across several the hospitality industry.
While it’s a debatable point whether the county and resort should share the expense, city officials expanded on their position against funding the Inlet study this week. Along with arguing the West Ocean City harbor is not Ocean City’s concern, council members essentially maintain that 60 cents of any dollar the county spends on anything comes from Ocean City in the way of property and room tax contributions. Therefore, under that reasoning, it was stated that 60 percent of the county’s $300,000 commitment to the local share of the study is already coming from the resort.
“The county has asked Ocean City for $150,000 or $200,000 of the local share, depending on what numbers are used,” Ocean City Councilman John Gehrig said. “The total local share is $300,000, but Ocean City already contributes 60 percent of the county’s revenue. If the total local share is $300,000, Ocean City has already contributed $180,000 of that $300,000 through tax revenue paid to Worcester County. If we agree with the county commissioners and send another $150,000 for the study, our contribution would then be $330,000. The county would actually be getting a profit of $30,000, or 10 percent of the entire local share. In my mind, that leaves a balance of $120,000. I’m kind of okay with splitting that in half. A 50-50 split on that would leave us with an additional contribution of $60,000.”
In the spirit of compromise, I think Gehrig may be on to something with that proposal. As of this week, it did not appear to have the votes, but it could be a logical solution to consider.
Boardwalk Elvis was the original street performer in Ocean City. He began walking the boards with his boom box and kazoo in the early 1970s and did so nightly for about 30 years.
The big difference between him as a performer and the buskers of today is the money was not his goal. In his day, he did it quietly and without overtly asking for money. He was more of an oddity to take note of each visit and watch. He was a diminutive figure who would proudly pose for a photo and maybe even sing a few lyrics in his hushed voice.
Today, Boardwalk Elvis wants everyone to know he has a Facebook page called Boardwalk Elvis Is Alive. His goal, which was stated during the key to the city event last Friday, is to surpass 10,000 followers and he’s currently at 6,178 as of 2 p.m. yesterday. You can find the page by simply typing in the page name in the search bar on Facebook.