Ocean City was thrown an unfortunate, and inexcusable, curve ball when it was told within two weeks of the 4th of July the contracted vendor could not provide fireworks on the holiday. A lack of staff was cited, but the real answer is likely the vendor had to prioritize, found a different entity wishing to pay more and ditched Ocean City. I do not believe for a minute the holiday snuck up on the vendor, who could not make it work. Litigation might follow. In the meantime, Ocean City should end the three-year contract early for breach.
Tourism and special events people tried to make the best of the situation by planning fireworks on July 3 and July 5. The July 3 Sundaes in the Park event was wonderful with a record crowd enjoying live music and the fireworks display. It could be an event worthy of expanding on in future years as a pre-Independence Day celebration. Ocean City long held two fireworks displays on the Fourth of July, but I think the idea of having back-to-back festivities on July 3 and 4 in separate areas of town merits further conversation.
While the north-end celebration was a homer, it was a bad call to hold fireworks on July 5, a quiet day in Ocean City. Traffic leaving Ocean City throughout the day was heavy and it was a clearly a travel day. I was on the Boardwalk that night. The crowds were light even before the rain. Due to the weather, including a tornado warning, the crowds were minimal for the fireworks on July 5. Even if the weather was ideal, the crowds would have been light, however. Though hindsight makes everything clear, a better plan would have been to have fireworks on July 2 downtown and the north-end display on July 3. Desperate times call for hasty measures, and the city probably did not have the luxury of making that request.
All in all, Ocean City made the best of a terrible situation, but three straight years without fireworks on the Fourth of July is unacceptable and cannot happen again.
Tensions are running high on the proposed sports complex. The latest example came at this week’s government in Snow Hill. The two Worcester County Commissioners who typically say the least in public meetings are easily Ted Elder and Diana Purnell. At this week’s meeting on the topic of the sports complex process, Elder, who was elected back in 2014 in District 4 and is seeking re-election this month, and Purnell, elected in 2014 and seeking re-election for District 2, expressed themselves clearly. The normally reserved Purnell went off on the petition group and targeted her fellow commissioners who oppose the sports complex in her comments.
“One of the most embarrassing and disgusting things about the referendum, you had people come to a Memorial Day parade in the middle of a black community with a cardboard placard on their back. They walked through, talked to people about the sports complex, and they made it sound like their taxes are going to go up and you shouldn’t have this,” she said. “… they rode up in there, gathering up names from people whose kids will be a part of the complex – the whole thing is your taxes are going to go up. The truth of the matter is the taxes are not going to go up. … one of the organizers finally went up and asked why they were taking names from people who will benefit from this. That was pretty disgusting … For eight years I have supported things in you all’s district. Some of them I were not too happy about supporting but we need to do what we needed to do. I tell you what, I am really ticked off that you had people come into our community, a community that has not asked this county for one red dime to do major projects that would bring in sustainable economic development, not one. Then walk through with a cardboard placard … that to me is disgraceful. I would never do that to either one of you.”
Purnell was talking directly to Commissioners Chip Bertino and Jimmy Bunting – the two most outspoken opponents to the current sports complex proposal. Bertino adamantly denied being involved in that aspect of the petition process. Purnell interrupted him saying, “don’t tell me you don’t have anything to do with it, Chip, because you’ve been carrying the water … we supposed to be working together as a county commission for the entire county… When I sit up here, I vote for things for this county, not for race or anything else. We got to see the county grow. For me, whether we get it or not, it’s the attitude for us as commissioners and working together. Berlin is our district, Ted, and we need to also work for our district. The growth in our district. … I was ticked guys running through the crowd with a placard on his back … I’m disappointed, but that might not mean nothing …”
Elder took exception to Purnell’s comments, specifically referring to his perception – shared by many others including Berlin Councilwoman Shaneka Nichols – most people in her district do not want the sports complex.
“I spoke to people on Flower Street who were against having that there because of the traffic and the ingress and egress. They were worried it’s too much already … to accuse me of anything else or cast aspersions of anything else is wrong. I did not go out there with any placards on my back,” Elder said. “I didn’t go out there and get any signatures. I voted the way I feel I should vote for the good of the county. That’s what I believe. If you have something wrong with the way I voted with my heart, that’s your problem, not mine. I’m going to tell you straight up the people I talk to down there around your area did not want that sports complex.”
As the conversation delved further into racism, Mitrecic interjected, saying, “This has gone way too far.”