In Monday evening’s meeting, members of the Ocean City Council voted unanimously not to reschedule the previously postponed Independence Day fireworks displays. The $55,000 show, which would have taken place on the Beach at North Division Street and Northside Park will instead return in 2021. A deposit of $13,750 was put down with Celebration Fireworks for the 2020 show, but will be carried over to Independence Day festivities next summer.
Before The Vote
Special Event Superintendent Frank Miller spoke before the mayor and council and proposed several dates for rescheduling the July 4th displays. Before announcing the proposals, he said that the goal is to show the health department that tourists can be responsible and added that fireworks would be a “very nice patriotic experience”. Among the proposals were August 14th, which coincides with the rescheduled OC Air Show on August 15th and 16th. Labor Day weekend was also mentioned as a possibility. An additional option included expanding the New Year’s Eve display. Miller explained that currently, no one is contracted to produce the New Year’s Eve show.
Councilmember Dennis Dare, the sole member of the council still working from home, kicked off the discussion to hold off on the fireworks until next year. Councilmember Matt James agreed with Dare.
Next, Councilmember John Gehrig said, “it feels like we are just doing fireworks to do them”. As Gehrig continued to elaborate, Miller chimed in with news from Celebration Fireworks. The company said it would be willing to carry over the deposit for Independence Day 2020 to next summer and also produce the New Year’s Eve show. With this news, Councilmember Gehrig made a motion to take up Celebration Fireworks on their offer and Councilmember Mark Paddack seconded the motion. No other members of the council contested this motion, despite other proposals to hold the fireworks later this summer.
Officials in Ocean Pines have rescheduled their fireworks for Saturday, September 5th.
The latest data from the Maryland Department of Health shows that Worcester County has a COVID-19 positivity rate of 3.11%, which is below the statewide rate of 4.51%. The state reported 272 new cases today, which is the lowest since March 22. With 297 confirmed cases, Worcester County is ranked 17th out of Maryland’s 24 jurisdictions.
Free tests are available in Worcester County at the West Ocean City Park and Ride on Mondays and Wednesdays from 8:30 a.m. from 12:00 p.m. Testing is by appointment only and you must bring your ID. 9.2% of the Worcester County population has been tested for COVID-19.
City Manager Doug Miller praised the new testing site and called it “highly effective”. Miller added that Governor Larry Hogan wants the convention center to serve as an additional testing site, but Miller feels that the current site is adequate. Officials will be meeting with the health department to further discuss the matter.
Presentation of First White Marlin Catch Award Check
Tonight’s meeting began on a lighter note, as the annual prize for the first white marlin catch was awarded. “Ocean City is the white marlin capital of the world, and this catch signifies the beginning of the fishing season.”, said Mayor Rick Meehan. Carl Sauer and the Reel Escape took home a $5,000 prize! When asked about his fishing experience, Sauer chuckled and stated, “This was my first fish ever offshore!”.
Department of Recreation and Parks
Members of the Department of Recreation and Parks also were present as Mayor Meehan issued a proclamation deeming July Recreation and Parks Month. “Recreation and parks departments are integral and vitally important to maintaining the quality of life in our towns. We have the best department and are very proud of the work they have done.”, said Meehan.
Recreation Superintendent Kate Gaddis thanked the mayor for his compliments and discussed camps, which are in full swing, although they look a bit different due to the pandemic. Outdoor camps include a new firefighters camp along with kayaking, boys lacrosse, and more. Adult fitness classes have also resumed. The department will be holding a showcase later in July.
Remarks from Delegate Wayne Hartman
Wayne Hartman, who represents district 38-C in the Maryland House of Delegates spoke before the mayor and council with an update on the legislative session that abruptly came to a close in March. Hartman discussed his opposition to the $30 billion Kirwan education bill, which was passed by the house and then vetoed by the governor. He also mentioned several tax hikes that were shut down, including taxes on digital downloads, tobacco, and pool and lawn services. An interesting piece of legislation that passed allows dogs in courtrooms to comfort child witnesses.
Since the pandemic began, Hartman and other delegates have been working to serve those seeking unemployment benefits. Now, most of the claims have been processed. Hartman predicts that the economic ramifications from the coronavirus will remain as long as 2024.
Approval of Special Events
A new event, Defend the Dunes Flag Football will be heading to Ocean City on August 22nd and 23rd. This flag football tournament will be held between Wicomico and North Division Streets between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. Click here for more information.
Several other private events were approved by the council. The request for the Park Place Jewelers Treasure Hunt at the Beach, which will be held on October 3rd and 4th was approved along with the request for Making Strides Against Breast Cancer event on October 24th. The request for the 2021 and 2022 Beach Volleyball Series dates was also approved.
Items from the City Solicitor
Ordinance 2020-06 to amend Chapter 106 Entitled Waterways was approved. This allows shoreline construction to “extend up to 20% of the width of the waterway, not to exceed 50 feet, provided that a 40-foot-wide navigable channel is maintained.”
Resolution 2020-08 was also passed. The ordinance “authorizes the sale of miscellaneous equipment and vehicles as coordinated with various Town departments.”
Bringing positive news to the Ocean City Council, Rebecca and Larry Yates discussed displays of support for law enforcement in Ocean City. Rebecca Yates described a video she took of the Hogs and Heroes event, which showcases hundreds of motorcycles and other vehicles riding in support of law enforcement. Her video took off on Facebook, reaching 102,000 views and receiving 600 comments. She also delivered a certificate and flag to Mayor Meehan, which came from Yates’ friend who worked with the Capitol Police Department. The certificate honored 122 years of dedicated service from the Ocean City Police Department and the flag will be delivered to Chief Ross Buzzuro. Mayor Meehan was thrilled to see the patriotic display.
After, several members of the public pleaded to the city council to partner with Brian’s Christmas Songbook, an organization that provides music and entertainment for children, while also shining a light on the dangerous drug epidemic facing America. The organization is hoping to travel “across the bridge” and represent Ocean City with charity concerts for at-risk children during the holiday season. Each speaker presented heartfelt and meaningful messages, describing the power of music and how it can both change and save lives. Councilmembers James and Paddack were compelled by the speeches and are committed to working with the organizers. If this dialogue continues, the council should vote on a partnership with Brian’s Christmas Songbook soon.
The Ocean City Mayor and Council will hold their next regular meeting on July 20th at 6 p.m. at City Hall. You can also watch the meetings live by clicking here.