July and August are critical months for all summer resorts, particularly Ocean City, which needs warm, dry weather to be prosperous. Since this summer was one of the hottest and parched in recent history, July was thought to be a solid month for the resort as was August. I looked at some of the numbers used as a barometer to gauge success this week. Here’s a quick snapshot:
— Demoflush: July crowd totals were up 1.6 percent and August crowds up 1 percent over July and August of last year, according to wastewater flows calculated by the Ocean City Tourism Department. Through the first eight months of the year, demoflush is down .4 percent from 2009, with 6,164,665 people recorded in 2009 through August compared to 6,138,070 in 2010 for the same time period.
— Room Tax Revenue: For July, the latest available figures, a 10-percent increase was reported, from $3,097,717 in July of 2009 to $3,400,068 in July 2010. Through July, revenue is up 6 percent in 2010 over the same time period in 2009. This is a solid improvement and some officials are saying an enhanced emphasis on value and package deals is to credit along with the increased investment in advertising.
— Food Tax: It was stagnant for the month of July, disappointing many tourism folks who figured a strong June, when food tax jumped 11 percent, would carry through to July. Amazingly enough, only $100 separated this July from July of 2009. In July of 2009, $255,120 was collected compared to $255,238 in July 2010. This would seem to confirm what many are saying at the beach – the people are here but they are not spending at the same clip as they once did.
— Real Estate: Settlements for resort condominiums plummeted 28 percent in August compared to August of last year. However, overall, the Ocean City condominium picture looks solid year to date, as total active listings are down 11 percent, contracts are up 7 percent and settlements are on pace for a 8-percent surge. For August, the average sale price was 92 percent of the listing price.
Resort single-family home settlements were even in August at 11, while contracts increased 33 percent. Overall, listings are down 3 percent and settlements are up 4 percent. For August, the average single-family home was on the market for 336 days and sold for 91 percent of the listing price.
For what it’s worth, regarding Worcester single-family homes, 48 settlements took place in August, compared to 46 in August of 2009. Overall, county single-family home settlements are up 21 percent and listings are down 9 percent.
Homicides in Worcester County are rare, particularly in the northern portion. That’s why this week’s incident involving a mother being run over by her son off Carey Road near Berlin is particularly troubling. The suspect was in court yesterday morning and seemed quite gabby for someone who is looking at a potential life sentence in prison. The man repeatedly told the judge the incident was a tragic accident and that he did not intentionally to run over his mother at least two times, as was reported in police documents. That’s a defense that should be interesting to see play out at trial because it’s extremely difficult to accept at this point.
Although the Primary Election will be held Tuesday, Sept. 14, voters can now let their voices be heard through a mechanism, coincidentally enough, called “early voting”. I am particularly interested in trying out this new system, which will hopefully boost turnout rates across the state. I like it because I find the politicking at the polls during elections to be annoying, and I try to avoid it all costs. Early voting was a controversial decision for the state legislature, as many questioned its merits and wondered about accuracy. Other states have been using early voting for years, and issues have been few and far between. The county’s early voting site is the Gull Creek Senior Living Community off Route 113. Early voting is allowed from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. on Sept. 3-4 and 6-9.