OCEAN PINES – Candidates in this summer’s Ocean Pines Association election shared their views in a virtual forum this week.
Incumbents Colette Horn and Doug Parks and newcomer Stuart Lakernick voiced their opinions on the recovery from COVID-19, cell phone coverage and golf among other topics in Wednesday evening’s forum. Steve Habeger, chairman of the community’s elections committee, reminded members they’d be receiving ballots next month. Voters will fill two seats.
“Our goal is to mail ballots to eligible voters the week of July 6 and all ballots must be received by 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 5,” he said. “Ballots can be dropped in the ballot box, which will be located in the lobby of the administration building, or mailed back using the business reply envelope that will be in your materials that you’re sent.”
The first question candidates were asked to respond to related to managing the community in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Parks said the key was adhering to state and federal mandates. He said that while people wanted to move out of the lockdown phase, it was critical that any risks were minimized and safety was paramount.
“It’s a delicate balance,” he said.
Lakernick said he thought his experience as a doctor would be a benefit to the community as it recovered from the health situation.
“I want to open things up like anybody else but we need to do it smart,” he said. “We need to wear face coverings we need to have social distancing.”
Horn agreed that adhering to government mandates was important.
“The other thing the board needs to do is set a positive example for observing those mandates,” she said. “We’re the public face of the association. We need to be the people that show that we wear masks, we do social distancing, we have faith in the safety of our amenities with observance of the guidelines and the mandates that are put in place.”
Candidates were also asked how they’d approach management of the association’s golf course. Parks, citing two previous unsuccessful attempts at outsourcing management of the course, said he thought the right model was currently in place.
“The current in-house management of that amenity is well served by the current staff,” he said.
Lakernick said he thought the brand new clubhouse at the course would be a key to its future success.
“Marketing, marketing, marketing,” he said, adding that staff should promote use of the new building and also encourage outside play. “I don’t know that we’re ever going to turn a profit on the golf course but we could definitely lose less.”
Horn agreed with Parks’ view of current management.
“I’m really proud of our golf team I think they’re doing a great job,” she said.
When asked to share thoughts on whether the amenities should pay for themselves, Horn said that user fees should cover their costs to the extent possible. She said the association should strive to deliver the best service possible with the least amount of subsidy required.
“I think the important thing is to balance the quality and the access to the amenities with the cost,” she said.
Lakernick echoed her concern about quality but suggested more emphasis be put on fees paid by non-residents.
“I know this may not be popular but outside folks using our amenities pay for them also,” he said. “We need to increase some of the fees for some of the outsiders that come in so we can help subsidize it, off put some of the costs.”
Parks referenced the resolution that mandated that the association run its amenities in “a business-like manner.” He agreed that the board should perhaps look at increasing fees for outsiders.
“Maybe we should have that as an item,” he said.
When asked how they’d improve cell phone service in the Pines, candidates agreed another cell tower was needed.
“We need more towers but nobody wants them in their backyard,” Lakernick said, adding that community WiFi in public areas could benefit residents.
Parks said community WiFi was a good idea and the board was already working to do that.
“We don’t know the coverage areas but it’s certainly something that could be a potential contingency should we not be able to have another tower,” he said. “Unless we get another tower I don’t know what other options we have.”
Horn agreed, saying, “Another cell tower is probably going to be the solution we’re going to have to look at.”
To view the video of this week’s candidate forum, visit www.oceanpines.org.