Electronic Welcome Sign Panels To Be Replaced

OCEAN CITY – After being down for nearly a year, the welcoming variable message sign near the entrance to Ocean City at Route 90 is getting replacement panels.

City Manager Terry McGean explained the electronic panels on the sign at 61st Street near the Tennis Center have not functioned since last summer. McGean said the manufacturer has been out multiple times to try to repair the panels to no avail and he was recommending replacing the panels at this time.

“The variable message panels at the Tennis Center welcome sign began to fail last summer, and by the end of the summer, the sign was inoperable,” he said. “The vendor tried to repair the panels, but the electronics were so corroded that they were unable to salvage them.”

The cost of replacing the monochrome sign panels similar to what was there is about $41,000. Replacing the sign with color panels would be about $45,000. McGean said the additional expense would be worth it because of the quality of the new panels.

“We need to replace the sign panels,” he said. “They were originally installed in 2006, so we got decent life out of them. I think the $4,000 is worth it. This is an unbudgeted item, but there is excess parking revenue over what was budgeted to cover the cost.”

McGean explained the price could be reduced because the town participates in a purchasing co-op.

“We have one bid from one vendor through the purchasing co-op. We use one manufacturer for all VMS signs, so we don’t have 50 different software packages,” he said. “The purchasing co-op bids it out and we buy directly from them without going through the whole bid process.”

McGean explained how the purchasing co-op works.

“The way the co-op works is, a school or some other government entity bids out the same thing,” he said. “We can essentially purchase the same thing at the same price. I’m happy to see if we can get a better price, but typically we have not been able to do that.”

Council Secretary Tony DeLuca said replacing and upgrading the welcome sign at the Tennis Center at 61st Street was important because of its location.

“I think the price is reasonable,” he said. “That sign has been out for going on a year? This is one of the major entrances to Ocean City. Those reader signs should never be blank and should never be out of date. It’s an important sign at the entrance to the town.”

Council President Matt James agreed with that assessment.

“I know what it cost last year to replace something similar,” he said. “I think given the situation, we need to do the replacement.”

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.