OCEAN CITY — There was some semblance of normalcy in council chambers during this week’s work session, but City Hall has not yet fully opened to the public.
Throughout the pandemic, Ocean City Mayor and Council meetings volleyed between a virtual Zoom format to in-person with strict limitations. For the last several months, council meetings have been held in-person, albeit with the elected officials and staff socially distanced and public seating significantly reduced.
For the first time on Tuesday, the elected officials were all seated at the dais in their regular positions and the chairs were restored to their original number and layout. At the close of the meeting, Mayor Rick Meehan questioned if it was now time to restore normal access to City Hall.
“It’s nice to see us back in here with everyone in their regular places up here at the dais,” he said. “Consistent with that, I was hoping today we can open up City Hall.”
City Manager Doug Miller said there was never a time City Hall was completely closed to the public. Throughout the pandemic, most city business was conducted by appointment and there was limited public access to the facility.
“First off, not to say anything disparaging about our colleagues in the municipal government business, but we have never closed this building to providing city services,” he said. “That was not the case throughout the region, se we are gradually opening up the building.”
Miller explained the town was not yet at the point to allow full access, although it was moving in that direction.
“As of now, we allow people in to do business in person,” he said. “We are a little reluctant to open up the building for general walk-ins to use the restrooms, etc. We are still under guidance from the health officer, for example, not to energize the water fountains. … We would like to use the month of June to gradually allow people to come in if they have bona-fide business with the town. Then, we’ll assess toward the end of the month if we just open it up.”
Meehan urged a restoration of access to City Hall offices.
“This is a time of year when we have a lot of condo owners coming down and they come to City Hall to pay bills or get bus passes and the like,” he said. “They’ll be allowed to come in and do those kinds of things. A lot of things are open. Our recreation and parks facilities are open, and I’d like to get this building open.”