There is much weighing on Ocean City’s current petition for declaratory judgment against Worcester County seeking judicial relief on the tax differential issue. It could be months before a decision is rendered.
First, there is a tremendous amount of money – as much as $10 million in some reports — on the line for the county and the city. Consequently, it will have a major impact on city and county property owners. If the decision goes Ocean City’s way, there’s a good chance property taxes will be going up for non-Ocean City properties and would go down in the resort.
Secondly, if the ruling goes for the county, there appears to be casual discussions taking place among Ocean City officials about the possibility of securing its own zip code, which would clearly differentiate where the tax revenue comes from and where it doesn’t. The zip code quest is unlikely to be successful and city officials have acknowledged that in the past. Nonetheless, Ocean City appears to be exploring all options on this front.
It’s been clear for several months relations between the city and county will remain strained until the court issues a ruling, which could be months away.
County Commissioner Joe Mitrecic, who represents Ocean City, touched on the growing divide between the two governments this week while explaining his opposition to the county’s $190 million budget. Mitrecic specifically addressed a $100,000 increase in tourism funding from Ocean City that was summarily rejected. According to Mitrecic, the $100,000 request stemmed from the additional $300,000 the county is forecasted to receive through additional room tax this year, thanks to new hotels on and near the island.
“That is not coming from Stockton or Snow Hill or Pocomoke,” Mitrecic said. “It’s directly attributed to the new development along the Route 50 corridor. I believe any of us would jump at the chance to take a $100,000 investment and get three times that in return. My fellow commissioners couldn’t wait to say no. Now Ocean City will probably look into getting a separate zip code and market that in the future.”
Mitrecic warned his commissioners there could be major consequences for the county if Ocean City is victorious in court on the differential issue.
“I’m afraid they will not come for a piece of the over $7 million but all of it,” he said. “You all will have to explain to your constituents why their tax bill is going up four, five, six cents. Ladies and gentlemen, you cannot blame Ocean City this time, you will have no one to blame but yourselves.”
The massive thresher shark, weighing 644.9 pounds, caught during last weekend’s Mako Mania tournament will not rewrite the record books after all. State rules indicate the fish does not qualify as a record because it was shot during the process of being secured. The shark was so large angler Nick Skidmore and the crew of the Fish Ful Thinking had to pull the beast back to Bahia Marina.
A statement released this week by the DNR confirmed what many thought around the docks. It would be ineligible for the state record.
“After careful consideration, the Department of Natural Resources Fishing and Boating Services has carefully made the decision to disqualify Nick Skidmore’s 644.9 thresher shark,” the statement said. “Under the department’s State Records Rules and Procedures and Official Fish Maryland Rules, fish that have been snagged, shot, gaffed*, speared, scaled, or mutilated are not eligible. (*Gaffing is illegal in the Chesapeake Bay, but is allowed for securing and boating fish in ocean waters. Gaffing (including use of detachable “flying gaffs”) is a common and accepted method of boating fish for ocean and offshore fishing). The current 642-pound thresher shark record held by Brent Applegit still stands.”
This week’s meeting over the Berlin Fire Company’s independent report had a little bit of everything except solid attendance.
For about five years, tensions between Berlin and its fire company have been running high. The disagreements run deep, but I think the end is near. By the end I am referring to some sort of meeting of the minds on how to create a fair and equitable funding mechanism for the BFC. My guess is the result will be one nobody is thrilled with in the end, but that’s often how these sorts of contentious issues are settled. There’s a compromise that neither side is pleased with but can live with for the great good.
My hope is quick action is taken here to get a reasonable funding formula in place. While there’s an ocean of interesting information included in this study, which I have read, the key information that has come out of this BFC report has to do with service calls. Of all the service provided by the BFC, 57 percent of the calls originated within municipal limits as compared to 27 percent of the budget being funded by the town. There is a fairness to be addressed there.
Leaving out all the politics associated with recent goings on, BFC President David Fitzgerald is right when he says, “We need to concentrate on the key point made that supported the fire company’s position indicating Berlin Fire Company is underfunded for the level of fire, rescue, and emergency medical services we provide …”