Thoughts from the Publisher's Desk
It's a good thing people love to come to Ocean City for Cruisin' weekend. What's unfortunate is every year they arrive in town they find some kind of new construction project to fight.
Sooner or later, these folks are going to stop putting their heads in local beds if they find showing off their hot rods and custom cars is more trouble than its worth. This year the work getting a lot of criticism was the Route 50 resurfacing project, from Herring Creek east to the bridge. Organizer Bob Rothermel said this week many complaints were heard throughout the weekend from event participants.
In some extreme cases, in the past, damage to these valuable vehicles has been reported as a result of the roadwork. In particular, I remember a few years ago when Coastal Highway was being milled and resurfaced, the storm drain covers were elevated inches above the rest of the road's surface, causing a lot of headaches for motorists. In fact, I witnessed an old Ford pop a tire and lose a bumper on one of them in front of the Wawa on 120th Street. I didn't hear any story like that this year, but the fact is a new philosophy has to be adopted when it comes to local road projects.
The old mantra that the orange cones will all be removed and driving restrictions lifted by the Friday before Memorial Day no longer applies, thanks largely to the growth of the Cruisin' event, which is traditionally held the weekend after Springfest. This has been discussed numerous times by city elected officials, but they are essentially at the mercy of the state, which in turn relies on the unpredictable spring weather to complete their jobs. All that being understood, there needs to be a mindset change with the project planners. Rather than shooting for a goal of the Friday before Memorial Day, a more logical target may be the Friday before Springfest.
As expected, the State Department of Education rejected all the Maintenance of Effort waiver requests it was asked to rule on last week. Initially, numerous counties, including Worcester, had filed these requests, which essentially asked the state to allow them to violate a law on the books and fund the public school system below the level it did the previous year. As the individual counties considered budget negotiations, all but three jurisdictions eventually withdrew their requests, finding they could in fact balance their budget while meeting or surpassing last year's public school funding level. Last Friday, the state school board dismissed the requests of Prince George's, Montgomery and Wicomico counties. The board noted it would be unfair to set the precedent of allowing these counties to reduce education funding when 21 other county governments were able to meet the minimum funding threshold. Readers will remember Worcester rescinded its request earlier this month with a couple officials saying they may need the waiver option more next year. This week, the County Commissioners agreed a 4-3 vote to fund the Maintenance of Effort budget, rather than lose about $200,000 in state education funding.
A point made in last week's editorial and related story about the Ocean City budget needs a clarification. In that story, it was detailed how the City Council had lowered the proposed tax rate of 41 cents per $100 of assessed land value to 39.5 cents. According to Solicitor Guy Ayres, it was incorrect on the paper's part to report about $500,000 had been pulled from the city's retiree health insurance account to help reduce the proposed tax rate to a lower level. In budget terms, Ayres said the money proposed to be allocated to retiree health insurance was an 'unfunded liability' and that the council essentially voted to reduce the recommendation made in City Manager Dennis Dare's budget by approximately $500,000. Subsequently, it's misleading to say the money was pulled when it had not yet been allocated. It may be a bit of semantics, but it's worth clarifying nonetheless.