Commissioner Hosts Town Hall Meeting

BERLIN — At a well-attended town hall held on Sept. 29, at the Ocean Pines Library, Worcester County Commissioner Chip Bertino covered a wide range of topics from senior care to development announcements.

Bertino was joined by Worcester County Commissioner Jim Bunting, Worcester County Superintendent of Schools, Lou Taylor and Shea Wise from the Worcester County Commission on Aging.

Bertino updated attendees of new goings-on in the Ocean Pines community. Commissioner Bertino announced the opening of the Ross Dress for Less, IHOP and Michaels stores in the Ocean Landings Shopping Center west of Home Depot as well as the potential site plans for two new retail and restaurant pad sites near Taylor Bank that were recently presented to the county.

Bertino went on to further update the attendees about the progress of the Macky and Pam Stansell House of Coastal Hospice, whose new location at The Pointe is about 70% completed in light of unexpected challenges. He also discussed the approval of the third building of the Ocean Pines Medical Center, construction of which should begin soon.

There are several charity initiatives that Bertino, with a little help from local philanthropist Anna Foultz, announced to community members. A Hurricane Florence relief effort is still underway through Oct. 12 in Ocean Pines. Non-perishable food donations and toiletries can be dropped off at several locations, including the Ocean Pines Community Center and the Sports Core Pool. The Ocean Pines Monster Bash also happens this month. The event benefiting Wounded Warriors will be held at the Ocean Pines Community Center on Oct. 13. Tickets are $15. The Wings and Wheels event, previously postponed due to inclement weather, will be held on Oct. 27 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at the Ocean City Airport. Adult tickets are $5 and proceeds will benefit the OC Aviation Association and the restoration of the Huey Helicopter Memorial.

Shea Wise, a representative from the Worcester County Commission on Aging, was also in attendance to speak with Ocean Pines residents about a new program called “Community for Life.” This state pilot program, currently only available in Worcester County to Ocean Pines North and South Gate residents aged 65 or older, is being implemented in an effort, as Wise described, “to keep people aging in place and living in their homes.”

This new service has no income qualification outside of a $300 annual program fee and offers services to seniors such as group grocery store trips, transportation to medical and hair appointments, handyman services, as well as twice weekly phone check-ins. Though “Community for Life” is currently unavailable to non-Ocean Pines residents due to funding limitations, the program is looking to be expanded to other Worcester County areas in about 18 months. More information can be found at the “Community for Life” page on the Maryland Department of Aging website or by phone at 410-251-0140.

Worcester County Commissioner Jim Bunting was also present at the town hall to address storage and staging for the Ocean Pines bulkhead project. Bunting, who is serving his second term, had little to report due to a lack of formal request for investigation placed by Ocean Pines officials.

Worcester County Superintendent of Schools Lou Taylor gave a report to Ocean Pines residents, touting high PARCC test scores across the board, as well as descriptions of copious scholarship offers for the graduating seniors of Worcester County Public Schools for the 2018 school year. Taylor discussed his passion for education, the cultivation of citizens and the importance of keeping an eye toward career and college readiness when approaching education.

The meeting was capped with, perhaps, some of the most exciting news. Taylor as well as Bertino spoke about the ground-breaking for the construction of the new Showell Elementary School building that occurred on Sept. 25.

The current Showell Elementary School building, built in 1976, underwent a feasibility study back in 2014 to determine whether inadequacies in the building were to be renovated or replaced. The building as it stands currently doesn’t have enough classrooms to house all of the students, leaving 280 fourth graders to be bussed to Berlin Intermediate School where they are presently being taught in trailers. The new 97,000-square-foot school will be on the same property along Route 589 behind the current school building and will have 42 classrooms – enough to contain all pre-kindergarten to fourth grade students inside the building.