Saturday, November 19, 2011
An Update on Current Matters
As you'll recall the City spent $2.1 million for the boardwalk lot purchase in June over our strenuous objections that we were paying too much. Initially described as 40 to 50 parking spaces it turned out to be 40. The new boardwalk lot is adjacent to an existing Ocean City Parking lot. The fence was taken down between the two lots so the ticket machine could be used for both lots. Just one problem - the ticket machine is on the passenger side of the car when you enter the lot. Consequently, people park their car, then go back to pay for their ticket and put their ticket on their windshield. People park closest to the ticket machine (on the old lot) and hence the boardwalk lot which is closer to the boardwalk gets less use. One would think if you paid $2.1 for a parking lot you would spend $2000 for a properly located ticket machine. The purchase took place in June and the purchaser in August bought the Steel Pier in Atlantic City for $4 million. The purchaser previously was a tenant to the Trump bankruptcy which owned amongst other things the Steel Pier. The purchaser didn't wait for the bankruptcy court auction but purchased the Pier prior to the auction. In a large commercial purchase it is important to understand the dynamics in the transaction. Let's remember the boardwalk lot which had been approved for development was under appeal. The seller was stuck without being able to build on the property. As it turns out he used his sale of the boardwalk lot to Ocean City to help purchase the Steel Pier property. Rather than walking away with a $1.5 million offer for the boardwalk lot purchase the City bid it up because it didn't want to or didn't understand the dynamics of the seller. Ocean City got snookered and we as taxpayers overpaid.
The fire chief was given a graceful exit in October. The problem is many of the Lieutenants who are in line to replace him also were allegedly involved in putting in for overtime when they purchased goods and services with their overtime pay. City Council refuses to fund the Ethics Board to inquire.
With all union contracts expiring on December 31 Mayor Gillian recently announced the new contracts would have to reflect the realties of the economic climate of 2012. He didn't say that meant no increases or a 1% or 2% increase. The Mayor needs to look no further then some on Council are still getting free medical benefits. Part time public elected officials getting free medical benefits. Does that reflect 2012?
The hot topic of the day seems to be the discussion of replacing some firemen with EMT's who make substantially less. This is the Hartzell/Ping proposal. At the November FIT meeting we invited the Union leaders of the fire department to speak about the fire department. It was a good meeting. It was informative and polite communication.
We asked them to come back on Friday, January 6 to list the 10 most common calls and the manpower and equipment needed to properly address these public safety events.
In closing we have tried and I think succeeded in making our monthly meetings more interesting. With only a few exceptions, we have guest speakers every month. We find that asking the firemen for information, for example, and having them return for follow-up is like a workshop. We feel Council has been quite delinquent in their duties this year because they have had only 1 or 2 workshops the entire year. Quite frankly they are lazy. Our December 2 meeting will have Marcia Shallcross and Harry Bassford as our guests with the topic of the direction of Ocean City downtown. Harry is one of the owners of Stainton's which is changing the configuration of its street level to 30 to 40 small 300 sq ft tenants. Marcia, of course, is head of the downtown merchants.
I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving and a very Merry and safe Christmas holiday.