Resort Staff Scrambling As Summer Season Approaches
OCEAN CITY - With weather reaching highs in the 70's this past week, many locals have probably noticed town employees scattered throughout the resort working on various tasks. As the weeks before the summer season dwindle away, every aspect of the town is looking to finish up preparations for what everyone hopes to be another successful year.
Just because some have just begun to take notice of the hard-working employees taking advantage of the optimal weather conditions does not mean city staff has not been hard at it for quite a while.
According to Hal Adkins, director of the town's Department of Public Works, efforts to prepare the town begin during the winter.
'Weeks and weeks is the simplest answer,' he said in regards to how long it takes overall. 'The minute we take down Winterfest we start our spring cleanup.'
This includes a large variety of tasks that will be finished around mid-May and Adkins said these include painting curbs, re-striping parking lots and roads, grooming the beach, putting back parking meters and signs, sprucing up comfort stations, de-winterizing other various facilities and more.
This time of year also means the town will bring closure to some of its construction projects taking place around the resort.
Locals and visitors easily see these types of things being completed but there are plenty of other things going on behind the scenes, one of which is preparing the bus and shuttle services, Adkins said.
Service levels start being ramped up around Springfest as the ridership increases and the filling of approximately 100 bus driver positions takes place as well. This process takes time, according to Adkins, because of the huge fluctuation in the amount of buses that run from winter to summer.
'There is massive interviewing, hiring and training because most don't come here looking for bus driving as a job,' he explained. 'Some don't have the licensing so we help them with all of that.'
The transportation services aren't the only ones who bulk up their staff. After a long summer day, there is a lot of clean up to be done before the next day starts and that's where the maintenance division comes in. These workers range from facility cleaners and booth workers to the street and boardwalk cleaners who make up what Adkins dubs the 'silent workforce' who work the wee hours of the morning to ensure a clean town at sunrise. Adkins said he roughly estimates their numbers reach approximately 1,000 employees during the season.
Being a seasonal resort, Adkins went on to say how it does present challenges at times for different areas of the town such as the roadway division. In other areas that don't rely heavily on summer revenue, they are able to focus on completing their work from April through November when weather conditions are at their best.
'We can't do that, that window of opportunity for us is the day after Labor Day and that starts closing and slams shut Memorial Day weekend,' he said. 'So not only are they working in a nine-month window, but it's during the worst time of year for weather.'
As for the most recent string of pleasant days, Adkins said it plays as a double-edged sword because it lets them get things done, but at the same time, those individuals with cabin fever who like to come early only increase traffic around the resort, slowing down the town's efforts.
And as April showers bring May flowers, it becomes the job of the Recreation and Parks division to make sure those flowers stay presentable throughout the duration of the season.
According to Tom Shuster, director of the Recreation and Parks division, preparations begin toward the end of winter and more toward spring when staff starts to de-winterize and prepare the use of the facilities of parks and other recreational areas for the season.
The next few weeks will be a busy time, Shuster said, as employees work to setup Springfest and the tennis center for the beginning of May.
'When Springfest ends, we have the task of cleaning up after a big party,' he said. 'Then we move into a more routine type of maintenance such as the usual upkeep of grass and other landscaping.'
Since the Recreation and Parks Department is responsible for all the green infrastructures around the resort, some don't realize how much of an effort that takes or what some of those things involve, such as the upkeep of all those trees and shrubs that line the middle of Coastal Highway.
'The median improvements we have to do requires a substantial amount of effort,' Shuster said.
The division only takes on a few extra employees to assist in summer duties, and Shuster attributes this to the fact that they stay busy throughout all four seasons with different kinds of upkeep.
As for if the town is ready for the summer crowd, Shuster said his division is in pretty good shape with the next push aiming to ready the beach.Adkins added, 'At this point, we will be in a comfortable position on about May 15 or so.'