Voices From The Readers – October 23, 2020

Voices From The Readers – October 23, 2020

Wind Farm Explained

Editor:

After observing Energy Awareness Month this October, I want to thank the many Lower Shore residents who have asked me questions this year about Ørsted’s Skipjack Wind Farm.

I’d like to answer a few of those questions here, especially those focused on the local economy and environment.

I have often been asked whether offshore wind can coexist with tourism. The answer is yes. The University of Delaware recently released a study showing that 90% of local beachgoers say wind turbines 20 miles offshore would not detract from their beach experience. Ten percent said turbines would improve their experience. Additionally, a University of Rhode Island study found tourism thrived after our Block Island Wind Farm went into operation near Block Island, Rhode Island in 2017.

Clean energy opponents falsely claim that an N.C. State study shows projects like Skipjack could harm coastal tourism. In reality, the study found that for projects further than 8 miles offshore – i.e. projects like Skipjack – “the visual impacts diminish substantially for many survey respondents and it is unlikely the turbines would negatively impact coastal vacation property markets.”

Another question I often hear is whether the Skipjack Wind Farm will really benefit the Lower Shore. It has big economic and clean energy benefits. Ørsted is committed to investing $200 million and creating 1,400 jobs in Maryland and on the Shore. We will open a facility in the Ocean City region to operate and maintain Skipjack’s wind turbines, creating good local jobs.

Salisbury-based ARCON has already created the Mid-Atlantic’s first offshore wind jobs training center focused on training welding and fabrication workers.

We held the Skipjack Wind Farm’s first supplier day earlier this year for local businesses to learn how to compete for offshore wind business. As COVID-19 restrictions ease, we will hold more in-person events for businesses and residents.

Ørsted believes firmly in limiting potential impacts that developing wind farms may have on nature. It’s one reason Corporate Knights named Ørsted the world’s most sustainable company this year.

By developing Skipjack nearly 20 miles offshore, we reduce proximity to navigating birds. We deploy observers and underwater hydrophones to monitor for marine mammals, follow agency guidance and pause construction if animals are nearby. Horseshoe crabs will be protected by avoiding nearshore construction during spawning season.

Skipjack will undergo a federal review led by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, with input from U.S. Fish & Wildlife and other agencies. We only secure permits to build Skipjack after questions about radar, public health and wildlife are satisfied. Learn more at boem.gov.

With just 12 turbines, the Skipjack Wind Farm will generate enough renewable energy to power 35,000 homes in the Delmarva region. Our region has a chance to play a significant role in building a new American industry that will create jobs, provide new opportunities for local businesses, and help to fight the effects of climate change. We are now, as we have always been, committed to working with local residents to realize this project and its benefits for the Lower Shore.

We welcome constructive feedback from Lower Shore residents and look forward to being a good neighbor. Learn more about the Skipjack Wind Farm at skipjackwindfarm.com or contact me at skipjack@orsted.com.

Brady Walker

(The writer is Mid-Atlantic Market Manager at Ørsted, developer of the Skipjack Wind Farm.)

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Time For Change Part II

Editor:

This is the second of a three-part opinion piece, the intent of which is to share information and my opinion on what would be best for the Town of Ocean City over the next decade and to discuss financial caution during an uncertain pandemic. One significant change is getting the city out of the business of advertising for the hotels. Judging by the crowd that came this summer I think it’s fair to say advertising is not bringing families and children which was its intent. The coming election promises to be the most exciting election in over a decade. Let’s take a look at the three young musketeers vying to represent us and that offer Ocean City generational change.

I am in the midst of vetting three new young council aspirants Nick Eastman (25) the youngest, Peter Buas (29) and Daniel Hagen (34). I have completely vetted Danial Hagen, who has convinced me he is a young Vince Gisriel and I support him completely. He is a future dissenting voice. I don’t know about you, but I am so tired of 7-0 votes by the council members. Dan has no money and takes care of his handicapped wife and two-year-old son. Wanting to even the playing field I paid for his signs. He has also met with Vince Gisriel on a number of occasions.

I have also partially vetted Peter Buas, a lawyer, whose father like Matt James has significant assets in town as well as hotels. The true sleeper of the group might be the youngest 25-year-old Nick Eastman, fresh from a criminology degree from West Virginia University. In any case all three would be the clear way to bring change. All three of these council candidates are running on a transparency platform.

Frank Knight, member Mary Knight’s husband, has been at every meeting that I have been at for over 10 years and has been complicit with every decision of mismanagement the mayor, council and his wife have made. Frank is not an agent of change, he is merely a shill for the mayor and his wife. If Frank wants to call me this week and convince me otherwise, he has my number. It would be a mistake to put him on the council. Voting for Frank would solidify the mayor’s control and extend the mismanagement of the town for four more years.

The last 20 years of mismanagement has turned Ocean City south of 32nd Street into an Economic Opportunity Zone. Another 10 years of mismanagement risks the same fate for north Ocean City. We don’t want that.

Getting rid of city sponsored advertising and lowering the room tax will lower the price of hotel room rates and be the first important step to getting the families and kids back. Ironically getting families back is what the advertising has claimed to do but failed at for two decades.

I have listed five ideas below. Should we embark on this change we should stop all additional borrowing by the city until the council gets a handle on its waste and mismanagement. I notice the reserve is up to $23 million.

Getting the city out of the advertising business would give the hotels approximately $5 million in reduced room tax plus an additional $60,000 on $100,000,000 of appraised hotel value from the property tax reduction, allowing the hotels to lower rates and incidentally do their own advertising. The town would be out of the business of advertising for the hotels. Something the town has not done a good job of anyway. Examples of possible savings for the town below to cover the approximate $1.5 million shortfall from implementing the above plan are:

  1. Stop event sponsorship except Springfest, the Air Show and Sunfest saving over $1 in police overtime, stop funding tourism advisory board and Rothermel’s $300,000 a year for fireworks and events.
  2. Adjusting the out of season bus routes (Jennie Knapp and Tony Christ 2016) savings of $900,000-$1.4M annually. Wasteful to run hourly buses in winter with approval of MTA. Tired of seeing empty buses.
  3. Still paying for West Ocean City EMT’s (Jeanie Knapp and Tony Christ 2016) annual savings of $800,000- $1.2M.
  4. From January to March require an unpaid mentoring program by police for four weeks for local high school males with absentee fathers saving over $1 million in winter pay.
  5. Start to rationalize the golf course, airport, OCDC, the convention center all of which are negative annual outflows for the city.

The reduction in property tax would give second homeowners and residents some relief and invite higher property values inviting higher future property values and bring more tax at the lower rate.

In this Saturday’s WSJ, Williams and Trabert have a fascinating article titled “The Alternate to a Bailout for Fiscally Mismanaged States.” The first thing that struck me was the states that spend $5,000 or more per resident charge the highest taxes and are the most in debt, California, New York, Connecticut, Wisconsin and Maryland to name a few. While states that spend and tax the least are not in financial difficulty and have no need for a federal bailout. Florida, Texas and New Hampshire spend $2,327, $2,585 and $2,773 per citizen. Williams and Trabert make the points that “if Andrew Como in New York spent like Florida he would save $56.7 billion a year and he could stop threatening to cut services unless he gets $60 billion of Federal funding … If Gov. Jay Pritzker trimmed his spending to match Texas, he would save his taxpayers $22.3 billion for Illinois tax payers and if Gavin Newsome in California matched New Hampshire per person spending he would save $64.6 billion a year for California Taxpayers.” For example, “Kansas spent $33 million on advertising, $44 million on cell phones and $23 million on dues and subscriptions and $419 million on other dues and fees.” Should we be responsible for these states exorbitant spending? Maybe a lesson for Ocean City.

The political class’s past 20 years of mismanagement in Ocean City became profoundly apparent when in December 2018 everything property south of 32nd Street was placed in an Economic Opportunity Zone, like downtown Baltimore for example. If we continue under the entrenched current mismanagement, which wrongly focuses on making us a year-round city, then I believe within another 10 years or so north Ocean City will be declared an Economic Opportunity Zone too.

Next week in the final op-ed of Time for Change we will discuss the two incumbents running for reelection, Deluca and Gehrig as well as giving updates on the three musketeers.

Tony Christ

Falls Church, Va.

Ocean City