Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk – January 6, 2023

Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk – January 6, 2023

It was surprising and impressive to see the increasing value of Ocean City’s beach stands.

In today’s world, it would stand to reason the beach stand business would not be what it was once was, considering beach equipment is widely available at dozens of stores in Ocean City as well as big box outlets everywhere. Many beach-goers simply buy their equipment when they arrive in Ocean City and leave it behind after their visit. The equipment is cheaper, but the price represents the quality as well.

After this week’s auction, it would appear the quality of the provided goods at the beach stands and the service provided continues to be valued by visitors to Ocean City. There may not be as many competing parties for the stands, but the dollars the blocks are fetching remains high. On Dec. 7, the city held a public auction for 34 parcels in the south end of town from the Inlet to 24th Street and another three-block parcel from 57-59th streets due to a default from a previous franchise holder. Of the 34 parcels, 14 areas were auctioned because businesses having rights to the other 20 parcels opted to extend for a second, three-year term.

Overall, the 15 parcels auctioned brought the city $418,500, a 24% increase over the previous three-year agreements. Overall, the south-end parcels and the one mid-town parcel will have an annual fiscal year impact of $1 million, according to city records.

A deeper dive into some of the individual parcel auctions confirms the demand remains high. The Inlet beach stand increased 61% to a $82,000 bid from a prior bid of $50,820. Additionally, the 3rd Street parcel jumped by 63%, from 42,900 to $70,000. On the flip side, there were a few parcels that saw lower bids, but by and large beach stands evidently remain viable despite the rising competition.

On New Year’s Day, 959 individuals jumped into the Atlantic Ocean to help raise money for Atlantic General Hospital. In the end, more than $110,000 was donated to the community hospital with more counting to be done. It appears to be the most successful penguin swim in the event’s 29-year history.

It’s been amazing to watch this event grow from 100 swimmers in its first year to 959 this year. This year’s turnout was up 9% from last year and the second highest number of swimmers in the event’s history. It’s a tremendous success story.

I have made the plunge the last two years with my son, as I am involved with the hospital’s foundation. In the past, I was just a spectator and marveled at the spirit and costume creativity of all the participants. The energy and excitement for the event is a sight to behold. I recommend taking in the day at some point even if you don’t take a chilly dip. It’s incredible more than 950 people pay money and donate to the hospital for the right to jump into the ocean on Jan. 1.

Summing up the event, Penguin Swim co-chair Ryan Kirby hit a home run, saying, “This community is incredible with their support of all local charities and civic events. And the AGH Penguin Swim is just one of the many this area supports with all their heart. They, once again, went above and beyond to support the swim financially and with their time.”

Labor issues continue to be a major problem in the area, especially in the law enforcement industry where most police forces in the area are working understaffed.

In Ocean City, Police Chief Ross Buzzuro discussed a gloomy outlook for seasonal cops, reporting 25 applicants (19 in the vetting process) through November, compared to 115 applicants last year (42 being hired). It’s important to note the 25-applicant figure is through November and surely there will be more coming along, but it’s far cry from last year’s 115 total, which was down from previous norms.

Ocean City Councilman Tony DeLuca questioned the chief a bit on the low numbers wondering just how far off pace the department was in recruiting and asking, “Do we have some kind of plan in place if we fall short?” He added, “We’ve seen this in some of our other departments. Maybe it’s better salaries and benefits, or maybe we need to reach out to colleges and universities outside of our zone. Maybe we can sell the quality of life. We just need to have some kind of plan.”

In what just appears to be a sign of the times, Buzzuro defended his department’s recruitment efforts, saying, “we do have a plan and we’re using that … It remains challenging but I don’t want you to think we don’t have a plan in place.”

The chief added, “We’ve been busy recruiting at colleges and universities, and we’ve been looking at salaries and a number of other things. As I’ve reported again and again and again, this is tough environment. It’s hard to get full-time police officers let alone part-time officers … When you include the vetting process just to get them through the door, and see them go through the academy and matriculate into the field, that’s what we’re dealing with right now. It’s a little discouraging, but I’m cautiously optimistic right now.”

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.