Slight Assessment Drop Proposed In Ocean Pines

OCEAN PINES – Homeowners in Ocean Pines could see a slight decrease in their annual assessment this year.

As proposed, the Ocean Pines Association (OPA) budget for the coming year includes an assessment of $981 — $5 less than last year’s rate. During a board review of the spending plan Wednesday, no substantial changes were made.

“This year’s effort in preparation and creating the draft budget was outstanding…,” said Doug Parks, OPA president. “Kudos to all involved in getting us to this point.”

The board met Wednesday for a detailed overview of the $14.5 million proposed budget with General Manager John Viola and various department heads. The board and members of the association’s Budget and Finance Advisory Committee received the proposed budget in mid-December and met earlier this month to review it.

“It was prepared based upon B and F (Budget and Finance) and board guidance utilizing a bottom’s up approach,” Viola said. “Every department head was involved in their budgets.”

The proposed overall budget includes total revenues of $14,505,683 and expenditures of the same.

Viola noted that the budget, incorporating recommendations from the association’s compensation study, did include a 2% cost-of-living adjustment and a 1.25% merit pool for employees.

The association’s marketing staff highlighted efforts to focus on print advertising and eliminate approaches that didn’t prove fruitful in the past. The new website being launched in March is also expected to be more cost effective.

Management from the Ocean Pines Marina told the board there was a 4% increase in slip fees in the budget.

“We’re substantially below other marinas,” said Ron Fisher, manager of the marina.

He added that his department would see some higher costs in contracted services related to cleaning the restrooms and providing security.

“We’ve found that necessary because the yacht club is so busy,” he said, adding that there were issues with boats parking where they shouldn’t and children playing where they shouldn’t. “Security’s been very effective.”

Debbie Donahue, supervisor for Ocean Pines Recreation and Parks, outlined plans for new playground equipment at Bainbridge Park and Robin Hood Park. She also hopes to improve the aesthetics of the White Horse Park entrance and reconfigure the parking area. The area currently occupied by the old craft building will become parking spaces, as other spaces will be lost with the addition that’s currently underway at the police station.

Donahue said those changes prompted her to make the entrance more attractive.

“If we’re going to redo all the buildings and make everything inside look nice you want that entranceway to look nice as well,” she said.

Donahue told the board a key change in her department’s event schedule was the addition of the Celtic Festival. The 30th annual Chesapeake Celtic Festival will be held June 6 and 7 at White Horse Park. The event has historically been held at Furnace Town.

“They’re not able to go back there this year so they’ve chosen us,” Donahue said.

Much of the board’s discussion Wednesday focused on Ocean Pines’ golf operation. As Golf Director John Malinowski was going over plans to ramp up promotion efforts to highlight the course’s improved condition and brand new clubhouse, he asked the board to consider reducing the member rate for non-residents. Currently, they pay 30% more than residents pay to use the course. He said the course had gained some members when the Bay Club closed last year and could probably bring in some more new members this year, particularly if the rate was attractive. He suggested offering non-residents the same member rate Ocean Pines homeowners paid.

“I’m not saying we’re going to get anybody but now’s the right time,” he said.

Director Tom Janasek said he supported the idea but proposed making the non-resident rate $100 higher than the resident rate, so homeowners would still be getting a better deal than non-homeowners.

Director Larry Perrone said he thought that was too drastic of a price cut and suggested offering nonresidents memberships at 10% more than residents paid.

“The buzz is out there,” he said. “The course is going to sell itself.”

The board informally agreed to that proposal.

Malinowski said he expected the golf operation to see some revenue associated with its new launch monitor and simulator.

“It’ll pay for itself,” Viola added. “It’ll get people in that clubhouse.”

Dave VanGasbeck, president of the Ocean Pines Volunteer Fire Department, outlined his department’s equipment needs for the coming year and highlighted a new initiative to promote firefighter retention. Working with Viola, the department has developed a plan to give the firefighters who are Pines homeowners a holiday this year on their assessment.

“It’s a tool to incentivize volunteers…,” VanGasbeck said, adding that Ocean Pines struggled to find suitable volunteers because of its population, which includes a large percentage of senior citizens and second homeowners. “It’s very difficult to recruit.”

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.