For years, many Worcester County Sheriff’s deputies have worked off-duty security details at local bars in the summer months as a means to increase their pay.
It’s become such a popular thing a Memorandum of Understanding was created two years ago between the county and three resort businesses – Seacrets, the Casino at Ocean Downs and Purnell Properties (owner of three resort motels). The accord outlined the arrangement that allowed deputies to be paid $75 per hour for security patrols.
In a matter of days, these types of details went from being completely prohibited on Tuesday to being fully restored on Wednesday. As happens so often these days, word spread on Facebook about Sheriff Reggie Mason’s decision to stop these secondary employment opportunities, which bring in extra money for the deputies while not on the clock with the county. Most social media commenters claimed the move was political with the election next week. I am not buying that, but I do think the decision was entirely too rash and a result of the sheriff being upset.
Mason, who is in the last year of second term as sheriff, took to his personal Facebook page this week to explain the situation.
“I want to take time to address the issue of Secondary Employment in this office. I have always wanted my deputies to have some extra cash in their pockets to help support their families, allowing them to work at certain business,” Mason said. “The current supervisor in charge of this detail gets no money. He has a sign-up sheet for the deputies to place their name and dates they will work. This supervisor has made many contacts with me about deputies backing out on this assignment and he has to find another deputy to fill in. This is very unfair to him on his time.”
In addition to the staffing issue, sources indicate the change was initially handed down after Mason was blindsided and learned his deputies were much more involved in maintaining peace and order at the local businesses than he initially believed. Mason’s online statement Wednesday confirms that to a degree.
“This work detail was for deputies to be in a room to guard money. I did not know they were working the front entrance until one of my deputies got hurt. He was out of work, other deputies had to fill in and be paid overtime,” Mason said. “Not knowing we were being used as bouncers upset me. I do not want my deputies getting hurt while working secondary employment, I worry enough about them on duty. This office is facing manpower issues with retirements, deputies hurt. Shortage in Court Security and our Schools have forced us to pull Road Patrol Deputies, CET Drug Unit, Lieutenants off their assignments to make sure our Courts and Schools are getting full coverage. This morning I had time to cool off (A Marine Corps Thing) to meet … about this detail, how can we make this work for our deputies to continue to bring in some extra cash for their families. After much discussion it was decided to make some changes and return this assignment to a Lieutenant.”
To retrofit all dune crossovers in Ocean City with the handicap walkways currently being used at 94th Street and 130th Street, for example, would cost about $1.53 million (at a cost of $7,500 each over 204 dune crossovers).
That sort of price tag will come with indigestion understandably. It’s not a realistic option at this time, but I think Ocean City’s plan of working with DNR to test two products to ease beach access for handicap individuals (and maybe also for families using wheeled devices to haul their gear) is smart.
After the summer, the idea is to review the products and the expenses and decide which is the best fit in Ocean City to utilize at nine handicap access points.
Whatever product is chosen, the hope here is it doesn’t get overly hot in the summer sun.