Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk – September 10, 2021

Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk – September 10, 2021

For the second straight year, Fish Tales in Ocean City will be closing the weekend of the pop-up rally. It will be interesting to see if others follow the lead in the weeks ahead.

On its Facebook page, Fish Tales wrote, “Our employees have been rock stars this summer and deserve a much needed break after this year’s Bike Week! We will be closed Friday, Sept. 24th at 5pm and will reopen on Monday, September 27th at 11am. Let’s show them some much needed love!” Owner Shawn Harman confirmed the intent was two-fold – to give his team a respite as well as to avoid the havoc of the pop-up rally. He told WBOC, “The traffic is so gridlocked during that weekend and there’s a safety issue. I would prefer to not have my staff drive through it.”

During this week’s meeting at City Hall, the Ocean City Mayor and Council were provided an update on the pop-up rally expected to influence life in the resort Sept. 22-26. It was disappointing to hear the intention to get the State of Maryland to declare the week of the rally gathering a highway safety week never came to fruition. The concept was to have heightened patrols around the state to get the message to the car enthusiasts about safety and the laws before they even arrive in Ocean City. It’s the whole concept of making as miserable as possible for those intent on raising hell while here. Mayor Rick Meehan said, “We talked to the state, but they didn’t declare a traffic safety week. We’ve been assured there will be a high visibility presence along the highways in and around Ocean City all week and throughout the Eastern Shore. Delaware has also said they are increasing the visibility presence throughout that week.”

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Worcester Preparatory School Virtual Tour

It’s evident every week government bodies operate differently than private businesses, but it’s nice to know not everyone accepts this fact. Ocean City Councilman John Gehrig is a small business owner. It’s why he objected to the way in which a $49 million bond bill was written. Gehrig specifically was bothered an $11.2 million fire station was listed in the bill as a project to fund, despite the council clearly saying it was too expensive and needed to be cut down significantly to be closer to the $5.5 million estimate.

“I’m just not comfortable with this,” Gehrig said. “I don’t want it to come back that we voted on all of these numbers. It looks like we’re approving an $11.2 million firehouse. I’m fine with the actual bond amount. I just don’t know why we’re voting on something with so many questions. … This makes no sense. We’re putting a number on a firehouse we know we’re never going to build at that cost. We’re voting on something we’re going to do in the future. … As a group, do we have a maximum number for the firehouse? I don’t want to put a blanket high number on something we’re not going to do.”

Though the majority of the council and staff did not see it as a big deal, we agree it’s wrong to put a financial number in writing to a project that will never come to fruition. The cynic in me is wondering just how much the fire station project will be reduced. The logic goes there is still a lot of work to be done to figure out how to reduce the cost estimate. It might be a $7 million project. It might be less but probably more. Whatever remaining funds under the $11.2 million estimate included in the bond bill can simply be transferred to another project such as the Baltimore Avenue corridor work. The idea seems to be approve the total amount and the details will get figured out later. It’s a sloppy way to do business, whether it’s for government or private industry.

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Included in the packet of back-to-school materials for Worcester County public school students was an annual report on the school system. The report was pared down from recent years, and Superintendent of Schools Lou Taylor said there was a reason. In his message, he wrote, “While we are very excited to return to a sense of normalcy this school year, the impact of the pandemic has been far reaching. One of these areas that has been impacted is this document. Much like last year, we were left without many of the facts and figures you have been accustomed to seeing in this publication. …” The report was clearly not as expansive as in years past, but here are some interesting pieces of information to share.

•Student population by race: 65%, white; 19%, black; 8%, hispanic; two or more, 7%; and 2%, Asian.

•Forty-six percent of the 6,700-plus students in the school systems live in homes at or below the poverty line, receiving subsequently free and reduced meals.

•The graduation rate was 95%. Sixty-eight percent of graduates planned to attend a college, university or specialized training school with 29% beginning to work and 3% entering the military.

•The attendance rate was also 95% — elementary, grades 1-5, 95%; middle, grades 6-8, 94%; and high school, 97%.

•The school system budget is funded through three primary sources – the county, 74%; state 17%; and federal, 8%. Budget expenditures by category include instructional programs, 65%; special education, 15%; plant operations, 10%; transportation, 6%; administration, 2%; health and pupil services, 2%; and plant maintenance, 1%.

About The Author: Steven Green

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The writer has been with The Dispatch in various capacities since 1995, including serving as editor and publisher since 2004. His previous titles were managing editor, staff writer, sports editor, sales account manager and copy editor. Growing up in Salisbury before moving to Berlin, Green graduated from Worcester Preparatory School in 1993 and graduated from Loyola University Baltimore in 1997 with degrees in Communications (journalism concentration) and Political Science.