Voices From The Readers – November 29, 2019

Voices From The Readers – November 29, 2019

Thanksgiving Food Drive Helped 360 Families

I would like to thank the members of the Worcester County Bar Association who contributed to the Bar’s Annual Thanksgiving Food Drive. I would also like to thank Sav A Lot and Acme for facilitating delivery of our food.

This year, we were able to provide approximately 360 less fortunate families with a complete Thanksgiving dinner which they could prepare in their own homes. We united once again with Worcester County GOLD and Pocomoke, Snow Hill, Buckingham and Showell elementary schools to identify those families with children to attempt to reach our goal that no one in our County should go hungry on Thanksgiving. I acknowledge that our goal is a lofty one that perhaps will never be completely met. We are proud, however, that as our Thanksgiving Food Drive has grown over the past 20 years, we are getting closer.
Thank you for being our brother’s/sister’s keeper and attempting to take care of our own.
David C. Gaskill

(The writer is a member of the Worcester County Bar Association’s Committee On Charitable Endeavors.)


OC’s Parking System Flawed On Many Fronts


(The following letter was addressed to the Ocean City Police Department’s Records Management Section with copies provided to this publication, Mayor Rick Meehan and Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh.)

I just received a notice that I owe $28.75, $3.75 is for parking on Oct. 22, 2019 and an administrative fee of $25. Is this some type of scam by a third party? If this is a real bill, I have issues with this whole thing. I was just informed by your Records Management Section that the invoice is valid and that I have no recourse in this matter.

If I do not pay by Dec. 5, the amount is 13.3 times the amount of the fine. These penalties are loan shark in nature and make no sense. Mr. Attorney General please check into this case.

I guess you have to be a “local” to know the secret code on what’s to be paid and how to pay for it. You have technology and people to create these parking bills. But, you do not have a good communications program to inform people that they must pay for parking and easily inform them how to do it.

Your Records Management Section responded Nov. 8, 2019 that, “This (administrative) fee is applied to each invoice we send to visitors that do not pay at the time of their visit or do not pay enough. A 30-minute grace period is applied to each visit. Administrative fees cover the costs of providing a bill and are a common practice. The procedures and fees are approved by the Mayor and City Council. Instructions are on the kiosk and walk you through the steps (see attachments in a second e-mail). There is also ample signage in the lot as well as prior to entering the lot (see photos attached).”

I would challenge you to see for yourself on a busy Saturday that the signage is absolutely inadequate. I did not see any parking meters, attendants or no self-service machines on the parking lot anywhere. The parking lot is huge, many football fields in size.

Your system is totally foreign to older people. You expect everyone will have a debit/credit card and/or a smart phone. You also expect everyone to know how the system works from a process perspective. Your Records Management Section provided photo copies of the signage and the self-service machines. I again do not recall seeing any of the images on the photos that day. Older people do not observe and learn things as they did when they were in their 20s. Perhaps, this why I missed this new way of paying for parking.

I recognize my failure to notice a new technology driven way of paying for parking. But, I still have some issues dealing with age discrimination, disabilities and cash payments:

The parking system discriminates against seniors since many cannot easily remember license plate numbers and are forced to walk long distances to pay a small fee.

Note: “First” time senior citizens are forced to return to their cars to get their license numbers since they do not know they needed one in the first place. They are forced to record the numbers since license numbers are difficult to remember. The walk could be over one-half mile in some cases since the lot is so huge, 5 to 6 football fields in size.

The parking system violates the Americans with Disabilities Act since the payment process puts an enormous burden on the payors. How do expect a disabled person to walk back to their car from over 1,000 feet away to get a license number?

The parking system discriminates against first time users since they do not know the complicated process. They are intimidating to first time users, especially senior citizens who are not tech savvy. Some seniors do carry debit/credit cards and/or smart phones.

The parking system discriminates against people who only use cash. In the U.S. most payments, less than $10.00, are for cash.

The administrative fee is onerous and does not fit the crime. Are you in business to collect administrative fees?

Note: The State of Maryland does not charge excessive fees at the Bay Bridge for non-EZPass users. Take a lesson from Hogan’s administration.

You have no back-up processes in place when the system is down. Citizens are automatically guilty when this occurs. I would guess that your downtime is well over 5%.

It sounds like an ill-conceived scheme to raise money. It does nothing to serve and protect the public during non-peak periods.

I am copying your Mayor’s Office and the Maryland’s States Attorney’s Office. I am sure your mayor does not want to upset his law-abiding guests, and I am sure Maryland’s State’s Attorney Office wants your office to comply with Federal and State laws. If you are going to charge for parking, clearly inform citizens first and give them a way to pay for it easily. Make the communications idiot proof. Right now, your business practices and communications are like footnotes to a large contract.

I spent 45 years building payment systems around the world, including the Bank of China’s credit card system. Your system is clearly flawed and discriminates against select citizen segments including seniors, the disabled, cash users and non-locals. It is built around one major theme — let’s penalize our visitors (via high administrative fees) who cannot understand and follow technology driven processes. Your system is not the right application for a large parking lot.

It is a good idea to raise some taxpayer money during the off-season to help the City, But, your execution is this idea is poorly designed, discriminatory and not compliant with the spirit The American Disabilities Act.

I understand that I have no recourse in this matter per the Records Management Section. Accordingly, I am filling formal complaints with the appropriate federal and state authorities. I am requesting certain information under the Freedom of Information Act to prepare my complaints.

Photos of the exact self-service machine locations as of Oct. 19, 2019 since I believe you removed many of them for the off-season to better preserve them.

All applicable signage on Ocean City’s payment practices in and around the entire parking lot as of Oct. 19, 2019.

A signed copy of the technology providers contract with the City to administer this payment solution and quid pro quo financial arrangements between the city and the provider. What does the city pay for such services? Is it a percentage of the bill? Is the service provider responsible for selecting machine locations and signage?

The legislative and/or administrative proceedings that enabled this situation to come into being.

I need a tally by year for each of the past five years of the total number of bills with administrative fees and the aggregate amount of such administrative billings.

I’ll need your system providers downtime records for the past five years.

I request an analysis of what a typical street has in terms of the number of machines vs. the number of parking places, compared to the number of machines and number of parking places on the North O.C. parking lot. I am sure you will find the huge parking does not have enough machines to provide the right level of service.

My objective is really simple. I want justice for all those that had problems trying to be compliant with your new ways of paying for parking. I want you to refund all the administrative fees to everyone and make it easy for citizens to pay their parking fees in the future.

I have paid my bill of $28.75 not because it is the right thing to do but because I know everyone in governance positions in Ocean City does not care about the average visiting guests. If I did not pay, the system would bury me.

I sense you have forced parking enforcement on the police. Free up these valuable resources so they can do more real work and make Ocean City a model for good governance that is fair and works everyone. Let the police fight crime not chase after $3.75 bills. There is a lot drug related, sex trafficking and speeding crimes that need attention.

I am 70 years old and have never seen such ill-conceived governance. Get the Ocean City leadership to change their bad ideas. You only hurt Ocean City’s image and misuse taxpayers dollars.

Gerard Hergenroeder

Millersville, Md.