(March 15, 2013) The Ocean City Council discussed the following matters during its March 12, 2013 session:
OCDC expands programs
Council heard a report from Ocean City Development Corporation Executive Director Glenn Irwin and OCDC President Bob Givarz on the organization’s ongoing and expanded initiatives to back redevelopment and reinvestment in the resort’s downtown area.
OCDC’s signature initiative – the Façade Renovation Program – is still going strong. The program offers to pay one-third of the cost, up to $5,000, for those looking to renovate the exteriors of dilapidated downtown structures.
Once spurred to action, Irwin noted, most participants actually put more into their projects than originally planned, resulting in twice the leverage ratio – six to one – of public-to-private dollars. This has resulted in 134 façades completed to date, and more than $4.7 million in investment.
“We have more façade projects completed through the Community Legacy Program [the state grant that funds OCDC] than any other city in Maryland, including Baltimore,” Irwin said.
The group’s newest initiative – the Business Assistance Program – will offer subsidies for interior renovations to businesses looking to establish themselves in vacant downtown properties, and will be run in a manner similar to the façade program. Several businesses have expressed interest, and one has already applied, Irwin said.
OCDC will also be expanding its downtown concerts, both at the bayside Sunset Park, which holds an event every Thursday, starting June 11, as well as on Somerset Plaza, where OCDC hosts car club receptions throughout the summer.
“They’ve asked us to have a music event each time they’re there, so we’re actually doubling the amount of music we have,” Irwin said.
Summer camps grow
The city’s Parks and Recreation Director, Tom Shuster, informed council this week that he is planning to expand the city’s summer camp offerings to include beach volleyball, drama, and standup paddle-boarding, as well as extending the offerings for surfing, fishing, and visual arts.
“With the art camp in particular, we want to note that we’ve grown from a one-week camp at Northside Park to a four-week camp at the Ocean City Center for the Arts,” Shuster said about the newly completed facility. “We’re happy to have a location like that for the camp.”
Mayor Rick Meehan said that the camps are key, he believes, to driving consistent visitorship.
“I know there are families that plan their summer vacations around these,” he said.
Shuster also reported that this year’s 23rd iteration of Springfest is shaping up to be highly popular, based on the number of tickets sold for the event’s three evening concerts. A total of 610 seats are already booked for Beatlemania on Thursday, May 2. Friday’s Justin Moore concert has already sold 1,072, and Saturday’s headliner, Foreigner, has already sold 1,683.
“We’ve got less than 100 tickets left to sell, so if you know someone who wants to get into the Foreigner concert, let them know,” Shuster said.
Emergency Services Director Joe Theobald briefed council on the city’s experience at the recent Integrated Emergency Management Course conducted by FEMA at the federal Emergency Management Institute in Emmitsburg, Md.
“It costs about $100,000 for them to design the course specifically to us, and to fly experts in from around the nation,” Theobald said.
Sixty-seven people attended the course, including city staff as well as those from surrounding jurisdictions and support groups that work with the city in emergencies, typically weather-related.
“It’s about solving problems together when the time comes,” Theobald said.
As a result of the training and collaborative effort, Theobald said he was planning to complete a revised Emergency Operations Plan before the council prior to the start of the summer season.
The plan will include considerably more detail on the city’s reconstruction, Theobald said, in case the resort were ever to sustain extensive damage such as that seen in New York and New Jersey during Hurricane Sandy.
“After the fact is not the time to sit there are decide what you want Ocean City to look like after a catastrophe,” Theobald said.
Mayor Rick Meehan, who attended the training course, said the realism was remarkable.