It was reported a couple months ago that Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan had penned a letter to the County Commissioners, offering to accept a 3-percent cut in county grant money for the next fiscal year. At the time, it seemed Ocean City was trying to be a team player in following the county’s mandate that all departments cut spending by 3 percent. However, most folks in the know felt the county would go beyond that 3-percent cut with its municipal grants. That’s exactly what may be happening, as the city was told by an official in Snow Hill the county would likely slice 10 percent of the resort’s grant money from last year. That means Ocean City would get about $200,000 less, leaving some folks with a bitter taste. Council President Joe Mitrecic made his opinion on the possible county grant reduction pretty clear as well as another matter that directly impacts his household. “The problem I have with it is that they are balancing their budget on the school children of Worcester County and by making cuts to the area’s municipalities,” said the father of two public school students and husband of an elementary school teacher.
After a jury ruled recently in favor of the former executive director in his breach of contract case, awarding him $60,000, the Greater Ocean City Chamber of Commerce had a decision to make. It essentially came down to one question before the organization’s Board of Directors: Does the chamber lick its wounds and move on or refuse to give up and fight?
Clearly, it was revealed this week the chamber is not willing to accept last month’s defeat. In a surprising move, the chamber has decided to seek $500,000 in a counter claim for a variety of reasons, including an assertion the chamber “has suffered substantial business losses as well as damages to its reputation and standing within the community it serves” as a result of former director Dan Barufaldi’s actions during his employment and perhaps even after he moved on to another chamber in Maryland.
The local chamber is clearly trying to defend itself here in the wake of what it believes was a terrible decision by the jury. It does seem to me the jury was clearly confused by the facts of the case and erred in ruling for Barufaldi. That’s a debatable point, of course, but what’s unquestioned is the chamber has made a bold and potentially expensive move in continuing this saga. It will be months before it’s unknown whether the decision was wise for the organization.
When I first heard about the plan to take Mr. Ocean City, also known as Rodney the Lifeguard, on tour to area metropolises, I thought it was pretty smart to exploit the face of the town’s new marketing campaign as much as possible. After reading this week’s story, I still think it’s a good thing. However, I also think it’s a bit desperate, but, in this case, I do not think there’s anything wrong with that. Surely, setting a lifeguard chair in commercial districts in Baltimore, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. and parading Rodney around as a reminder to visit Ocean City is a bit odd, but I like it. At least it’s creative and proves an outside-the-box approach to advertising the town. Sure, it seems desperate and obvious, but maybe that’s its genius. It’s certainly going to get passersby in those cities talking about Ocean City and that’s never a bad thing.
Along the same lines, whether that Rodney tactic brings anyone to Ocean City may never be quantified, it does seems the town’s new website is doing just that. It was reported this week about 170 trips were planned and booked at the town’s new website in the first four days. That’s remarkable, considering it was just launched. It’s known that far exceeds last year for the same time period because the former website did not have that capability. Check out the site when you get a chance – www.ococean.com. It’s been getting largely positive reviews by most people who care.