How Others See It
The alarming situation at Trimper's on Ocean City's famous boardwalk is an example of primal pontification at its finest. In all the posturing, finger pointing and the wringing of tax collector hands, no workable solution has been proposed or put on any table by anyone.
What the town of Ocean City and Worcester County Commissioners may need is parked right across the street from the County Courthouse. His name is Jerry Redden.
In his official capacity as the Director of Worcester County's Economic Development Department, Redden is both a perceptive negotiator and legendary broker of deals. In his personal life, he is both rural and from one of the oldest families on the Eastern Shore. Key elements in understanding the nature of the problem.
Redden's most recent coup was the coupling of the derelict county property in Snow Hill called Aluglass. Its thousands of square feet sat aging, empty and costing taxpayers' money to maintain. While many decried the 'sweet-heart deal' that new owner, Matt Odachowski of Royal Plus got on the property, it was what negotiators would call 'the perfect deal for all the parties.' Royal Plus took possession of a building suitable to their size needs at no cost to them, but a structure that required nearly a million dollars in retrofit to be useable. The county, in return, was able to take a costly, non-income producing property, worth no more than $ 750,000, off their rolls. They proposed and received an aggressive completion date for repairs to and occupation of the building. The feather in Redden's cap was the economic impact the deal brought to the tiny burg of Snow Hill. Redden required and Odachowski granted that Royal Plus would maintain a work force of a guaranteed number of local Snow Hill employees at pay rates much higher than the rest of the shore. A caveat to the contract was that the company would maintain that number of locals employed for a minimum of five years.
While a small minority of Snow Hill was squeamish about Odachowski's brother's plans to build his new development, Summerfield at Snow Hill, town residents can take comfort in the fact that all those yellow, blue and white trucks puttering up and down the highways will be Worcester and Snow Hill neighbors with better incomes and job proximity.
While the matters of Trimper's carry no real similarities to the brokered Aluglass deal, the answers to the problems lie in the same actions.
Trimper's has anchored the Boardwalk and Ocean City since the Windsor Resort was there with its Pier Ballroom and wooden Ferris wheel. Granville Trimper's extended family has grown up on those properties and kept the allure of the Boardwalk what it remains to this day.
Numerous other Boardwalk stores and entertainment venues will feel cheated if Trimper's garnishes an individual tax relief for their property. Nevertheless, those same shops and amusements should thank their lucky stars that Trimper's is where it is and that they are anywhere close to it.
Make no mistake about it: Trimper's and the cluster on the Boardwalk that exists because of Trimper's makes the memorable Ocean City that everyone in Ocean City attempts to project and sell. Trimper's defines family value.
As Jerry Redden once pointed out to me, Ocean City is the 'cash cow' that feeds the coffers of Worcester County schools and services. It is also the singular reason that so much hospitality money from the Eastern Shore flies away to Annapolis every year.
If any reader, resident or business operator thinks that the Boardwalk, Trimper's, and the beautiful sand and water beside them aren't what drives the tourist cash to Ocean City, they must have their heads stuck firmly up the foundation piers of yet another new and unnecessary condo project.
The issues that plague the Trimper family within their own ranks cannot be solved by committee and assuredly not by either the city or the state. An arbitrator who represents all that varied reasoning must come to the table on their behalf. Sitting there, too, should be those who understand the vital needs and unique history of Ocean City. Representative Jim Mathias. Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan. Worcester County Tourism Director Lisa Challenger. And a member of the County Commissioners who is pro-Ocean City. Louise Gulyas lives right down the street from City Hall, within sight of the Boardwalk.
The knowledge and talent to bring the Trimper's amusement dilemma to a thriving and successful resolution lives and works right here. Perhaps Ocean City's former sunshine-mayor, Jim Mathias, could be the one to physically park the proper people's shoes under the conference table. I'm sure everyone would promise to neither look nor comment on his absence of socks with his penny-loafers.
Some Trimpers just want the money liquidation would deliver. Those who built and work it want to see it survive and thrive, with still-reasonable ticket costs. I say give them an uncluttered, complete tax exemption for any parcel of Boardwalk property they own. Tell Annapolis to get over it. Find a way to allow the family members that want money to take some home.
However, in true Jerry Redden Economics Department fashion, nail down those concessions that would guarantee both continuation of and local employment for those invaluable amusements.
Call in the troops. Get the job done. We already have the people available who can make this happen.
Trimper's is the single, most family-friendly entity that Ocean City has ever offered.
Lose that central, circus experience and you lose Ocean City. It's really just that simple.
The demise of Trimper's would be death by collective omission.
Nobody wants to face a future in our families-first resort, where a Boardwalk-bound child sporting a drippy ice cream cone would have to mutter, 'Daddy, show me where the rides and the popcorn used to be!'
Frederick Clifford Cropper