OCEAN CITY – Resort officials this week agreed to continue an advertising program on the new Boardwalk trams.
On Monday, the Ocean City Mayor and Council opted to continue with an advertising program that would require town staff to transfer advertising panels from the old tram coaches to the new tram coaches and to replace broken panel lighting.
Public Works Director Hal Adkins presented the Mayor and Council with recommendations and options for the advertising program. He said the town could continue with the program at a one-time cost of $54,000, or it could discontinue the program altogether.
“Staff is recommending as the new coaches get delivered in the winter months that we transfer the panels from the old coaches to the new ones and continue with the advertising program for the coming summer season in 2019,” he said.
Adkins said it would cost $27,752 to fix the panel lighting and $26,344 to transfer the advertising panels if the council chose to continue the program.
“In consultation with the budget manager, I am led to believe that the transportation department’s fund balance has sufficient funding available to do so,” he said. “So we are not asking the Mayor and City Council to appropriate additional funds out of your larger fund balance.”
Adkins noted that the town used Vector Media to sell advertising space on the Boardwalk trams and that staff needed a timely decision in order to advertise in the 2019 summer season.
“We are desiring a decision tonight from the council because it is now time to sell,” he said. “It is actually three to four weeks beyond when we would have liked to start. And Vector Media has a number of people trying to re-up for the next summer season.”
Councilman Tony DeLuca pointed out the advertising program produced $81,000 a year in revenue for the town. Despite the one-time expense of transferring the panels and fixing the lights, he said the town would still make $27,000 in the 2019 season.
“Since it’s a one-time charge, for the 2020 budget we will be back to the $81,000,” he said.
Councilman John Gehrig questioned if the town should take the opportunity to explore other advertising options on the Boardwalk trams instead of the traditional panels.
“Is it worth using what we have or is there anything new to consider?” he said.
Adkins pointed out the current advertising panels had been in use for nearly three years and were in “excellent condition.” He added that the seasonal nature of the Boardwalk trams did not justify the cost associated with newer technology such as LED signage.
“I don’t feel it would be a logical decision or affordable to invest those kinds of dollars in a very seasonally oriented application of the trams,” he said.
While a motion was made to accept the recommendation, Councilman Dennis Dare said he opposes the continuation of the advertising program.
“I’ve voted against this in the past and I will uphold that tradition this evening,” he said.
Dare argued the advertising panels were unattractive and took advertising funds away from other transportation operations such as the municipal bus fleet. He also noted that many of the advertising spaces were sold to out-of-town businesses.
“The original concept was to allow the Boardwalk businesses to advertise to the patrons on the Boardwalk,” he said, “and we have not had that happen.”
However, Adkins said the Boardwalk businesses had several opportunities to purchase advertising space on the Boardwalk trams. Last summer, for example, he said 16 panels were not sold.
“There is space available, even if all those that were there last summer re-upped …,” he said. “They had the opportunity from day one.”
Mayor Rick Meehan agreed, noting that a representative from Vector Media had reached out to several Boardwalk businesses.
“We asked them specifically to reach out to Boardwalk businesses and to make contact with them and to do so again this year,” he said.
DeLuca added that many businesses declined to purchase advertising space for various reasons.
“It was really mixed,” he said. “It was everything you could think of.”
After further discussion, the council voted 5-1, with Dare opposed and Council President Lloyd Martin absent, to transfer the advertising panels, replace the panel lighting and to continue with the advertising program.