Ocean City News In Brief
OCEAN CITY -In 'the brief' this week, the town of Ocean City could be playfully punned as a 'work' in progress. Town officials saw firsthand how a reverse auction works, chose to post how the meetings are supposed to work, one official vowed to make the convention center expansion 'work' and watched many folks become annoyed when construction crews stop working.
Botched Permit Process Stalls Jamestown Project
Ocean City Public Works Director Hal Adkins told The Dispatch this week he voluntarily stopped activity on the Jamestown Road repaving project three weeks ago after the permit to do the work unknowingly expired.
Adkins said via email that, 'the town thought it was operating under the coverage of a state •€˜general' permit for similar roadway activity, and in all actuality, the general permit at the state level expired on Dec. 31, 2008 and had yet to be renewed at the state level.'
Despite the oversight of the permit expiration, Adkins said that the issue has been resolved on all levels and construction resumed yesterday at 7:30 a.m.
The capital improvement project, which is funded with bond money is 'replacing 2,200 lineal feet of sewer main and then repaving', according to Adkins.
'It is still my intention to wrap the project up in mid-May as was originally projected,' he said.
'If You Build It, I'll Fill It,'Says OC Tourism Director
Mike Noah, tourism director of Ocean City, thanked the Mayor and City Council members in attendance at last week's Tourism Commission meeting for approving the $10.4 million upgrade to the Roland E. Powell Convention Center and vowed to make the improvements a success.
'I told you in 1995 when you improved the building then that if you build it, I'll fill it, and I'll say it again this time around, as we are obviously very excited about this decision,' said Noah.
As for the current structure, Noah reported that the convention center's business is 'doing very well,' despite the rough economic times, citing that only one event could be potentially impacted, but noted that the group, 'hasn't fully made up their mind what they are going to do yet.'
Noah said that things are looking very good for the years to come, and with the approval of the expanded building, things are looking up for the convention center.
'Recently, we've signed some of our current customers to three-year extensions,' said Noah, 'but we realize that in order to make the performing arts center work, we've got a lot of research to do in the next 20-24 months.'
Reverse Auction Sees OC Get Lower Electric Rates
In an online auction that was best described as 'eBay in reverse,' City Engineer Terry McGean oversaw the process that waged electrical suppliers against each other for the right to get a two-year contract to supply the town's energy starting in July 2010.
Currently, Ocean City pays 11.5 cents per kilowatt-hour for electricity, according to McGean, but after Tuesday morning's auction that saw three suppliers actively bid for the electric gig, Ocean City's rate was lowered to 8.9 cents per kilowatt-hour, as they awarded a two-year contract to Direct Energy.
Originally, the bid was awarded to two companies, as Direct Energy was awarded the town's large electrical accounts and Washington Gas and Energy was awarded the small accounts, but less than an hour after the council was briefed on the process and awarded the contracts to both companies, McGean returned to the room to inform council that Washington Gas and Energy had pulled their bid off the table.
Direct Energy picked up the smaller accounts as well and gave a standard rate, which in the end, cost the town of Ocean City about $10,000 more than the original plan to go with both companies.
Either way, McGean said that going through this process and getting such a low rate will save the town approximately $228,000 per year.
Mitrecic To Post Council Meeting Rules, Guidelines
In an effort to encourage free speech rather than thwart it as recent naysayers might have suggested, Council President Joe Mitrecic asked the council to allow him to post a list of guidelines outside meeting rooms, explaining when citizens could speak and what they were required to say before doing so (state name and address and wait until called upon), in order to ease any apprehension people might have about speaking in front of the Mayor and City Council.
'This is an important document, said Councilwoman Margaret Pillas. 'This isn't meant to limit anyone's free speech, the hope is to clear up the process for everyone.'
Mitrecic has been criticized in the past for not letting some members of the public speak, but those who regularly attend meetings or watch them on television would contest the Mitrecic is welcoming from comments from the public at the specified times in the meeting.
Perhaps this move is an 'extended olive branch' from Mitrecic saying that public uproar is fine, as long as you say your name and address and speak clearly into the microphone.