When the new Worcester County Commissioners are sworn in this December, it appears the majority vote will not be for the sports complex site as presented currently. It’s important to note the county this week removed about $11 million in project development funds from a proposed bond bill due to the referendum.
We are now in a hypothetical scenario on the project. If county voters say in November they do not want the county to finance the development of the sports complex, a new vote will need to take place in Snow Hill among the new slate of commissioners as to how to pay for the development of the complex. The county has not identified a funding source for the $11 million property acquisition, but it’s been said in public meeting the dollars are available.
The current group of commissioners have seven meetings left together. The majority (by a 4-3 margin) supports the sports complex being developed on the current site under review. Some big moves were made this week with the decision to fund an access study for the sports complex off Route 50. The concept being it was a step in the process before asking the state to approve an entrance/exit off the highway. Additionally, it was learned this week there were no major environmental issues on the site to prevent it from moving ahead.
All the while the current purchase contract on the property is facing a fall expiration. With so many questions at this point, the county should extend the contract on the site acquisition by several months to allow for the questions to be answered.
Meanwhile, Ocean City continues to be conspicuously silent on the sports complex front. Long supportive of diving further into the sports tourism industry, resort officials, with the exception of Ocean City Councilman John Gehrig and Tourism and Business Development Director Tom Perlozzo, have been silent throughout the petition drive. The last official comments of support from Ocean City came during the April hearing.
This is a critical time for the sports complex. At its simplest, ardent complex supporter Bud Church will be replaced by Eric Fiori in District 3. Fiori said during his campaign he would not have voted for the complex if he were commissioner in April. He said, “I would love to extend the contract date to answer the due diligence questions that were not addressed in the hasty decision to write such a massive property contract with taxpayer dollars. I would vote against until my list of questions were answered. A very expensive property that cannot be used for its intended use would not only be a tax burden for us, but for our children.”
All things considered today, a contract extension seems like an obvious next step in the process.