The Worcester County Commissioners voted 4-3 this week to try and sell the synthetic ice rink – purchased in 2019 for $70,000 – on govdeals.com. The county had been in recent months hedging on whether to simply donate the rink to a local organization or another town or to try and sell it. A Request for Proposal process to sell it yielded no bidders.
There is nothing special about this small rink, but I think the county should have made the best of the situation by either keeping it and allowing others to use it for a fee or simply on request or donated it to a local nonprofit organization or a town to get some usage out of it at special events. The funding received for a used rink on a website will not be significant. This rink, like many others of late, seems to be mired in politics at the county level.
It’s been interesting to watch a voting block form in Snow Hill. Veteran Commissioners Chip Bertino and Jim Bunting, allies on many issues over the years, have found support in new Commissioners Caryn Abbott and Eric Fiori. Former Commission President Joe Mitrecic is often now aligned with Commissioners Ted Elder and Diana Purnell on issues. This 4-3 division played out on the synthetic rink decision and could well be the split on many future decisions. In fact, it would not surprise me if a 4-3 vote decides the budget next month.
On the rink matter, Mitrecic’s frustration with current affairs was obvious. “At least if we give it to someone in the county, the county taxpayers still get to reap the benefits of having it,” he said. Elder added, “You’ve got the money already invested. The best thing you could do with that ice rink is to let the rec and parks continue what they were doing. They just did get started on marketing it and finding out what works.” Bertino, however, said, “I think the taxpayers should recoup some funding for the cost of this ice rink.” Abbott added, “I believe the taxpayers deserve to recoup as much money as they can from the investment.”
Growing up in this area, the Wills name was synonymous with acting and performing in Ocean City. It was a family affair at the Parker Playhouse with William and Sue Wills leading the way with their three children involved in most performances. Many of us who have lived here a while followed the career of Jennifer Hope Wills and specifically when she was cast as the female lead in the “Phantom of the Opera” on Broadway. It was fun to catch up with Wills this week on her thoughts about attending the show’s final Broadway show last Sunday 13 years after she last performed as Christine Daaé. It was an obvious story to write as Wills now lives in Berlin, but when I saw on Facebook her father flew up from Florida to attend the finale with her it was a must. The full story is in the paper, but here’s an excerpt on the experience Wills shared with her father.
“From getting in line at 4:30 in the morning for standing room tickets at the back of the theatre back in 1988 to having complimentary prime seats in the second-row center being surrounded by past Phantoms and Christines in 2023 was a dream come true and being able to share that dream with my father who planted that seed was utter perfection,” she said. “Sitting there next to [my father] as he was entranced, thrilled and moved to sobs with every moment as if it was his first time was priceless but, when my picture and name shone on the big screen above Andrew Lloyd Webber’s head and he beamed with pride, I felt humble gratitude for the gift that was given to me, the gift of getting to be one of the lucky few who got to take part in bringing ‘The Music of the Night’ into the hearts of many.”
There were two interesting developments seen elsewhere in Maryland this week when it comes to fire and emergency medical services. Soaring operational costs, waning volunteerism and astronomical capital expenses have teamed to create a host of headaches for fire companies everywhere as well as the governments that in most cases help provide support through funding. Consequently, massive changes are being seen in the way fire companies are doing business. In recent years, many knowledgeable folks in fire and EMS have been predicting in the near future ambulance service will be absorbed by governments due to increased pressures associated with managing the fleet of vehicles as well as the paramedics.
In Washington County, the Board of County Commissioners agreed this week to take over ambulance service for some towns and to transition to a countywide billing service. A press release read, “A countywide billing service will establish uniform billing rates and billing processes throughout the County, which will also relieve the burden of billing services from the volunteer corporations.” To date, five of the eight volunteer fire companies in Washington County have agreed to give up the EMS side of operations and let the government operate it.
Closer to home, the City of Salisbury made some waves this week with a proposed fire and life safety fee for residences and businesses within the Salisbury Fire District. The fees, which would be collected annually on the city property tax bill, range from $50 for an apartment unit to $300 for all residential and commercial properties. A press release from Salisbury reads, “The proposed Fire and Life Safety Fee would increase funding to the Salisbury Fire Department by a total of over $4.5 million, and allow the Department to ensure that the apparatus, equipment, and stations are the most up to date and are maintained in proper working order to best serve the residents of the Salisbury Fire District.”