Ocean City Today

County grants to towns up, but fire/EMS money down

By Brian Gilliland | May 10, 2018

(May 11, 2018) While Ocean City didn’t get everything it asked for in its fiscal 2019 budget request, it did end up getting close to what it did last year from the county, as the Worcester County Commissioners evaluated the spending plan in total for the first time in public this week.

On the plus side, the county increased the resort’s unrestricted grant by more than $121,000, or five percent, which is more than 10 times what the other municipalities in Worcester are set to receive.

The county did not agree, however, to pay the $300,000 cost of adding bollards, short sturdy posts often made of concrete, to the Boardwalk to prevent unauthorized vehicle access.

Commissioner Jim Bunting made the motion to remove the funding, though Ocean City Commissioner Joe Mitrecic objected.

“I’d like to caution that for some reason something happened on a busy night, and I hate putting it out there, but the damage to the town and county wouldn’t be close to $300,000,” he said.

The vote was 5-2, with Mitrecic and commissioner Bud Church against.

The county also kept its tourism marketing budget level in fiscal year 2019, without the $100,000 in additional funding the city requested.

With the loss of the bollard funding, Ocean City is set to receive a bit less than it did last year, with a total of about $21.9 million of the $22.4 million it requested. Funding was about $22 million last year.

Ocean Pines asked for about $1.44 million, and received about $1.26 million, which is about what it got last year. Police funding was increased by about $10,000, while all other areas remained on par with last year.

The same held true for Berlin, which did see an increase in its unrestricted grant of $10,000, while all other funding areas remained about the same. It had asked for a total of $2.078 million, and it received $2.088 million, according to the plan.

Snow Hill requested a total of $1.884 million, but will receive about $1.63 million according to the current budget. Most of that increase was because of a request to have the county pave Coulbourne Road, which used to be a county road. This sparked a long discussion between the commissioners about the county accepting responsibility for funding infrastructure projects.

In the end, the commissioners agreed, by a 4-3 vote, to fund half the project’s projected cost of almost $127,000. Commissioners Diana Purnell, Ted Elder, Joe Mitrecic and Bud Church voted for the measure.

The opposite held true for Pocomoke City, which like Snow Hill requested help with its own infrastructure project — replacing water lines that had been supplying residents of the Pocomoke Heights area with dirty, foul smelling water for decades.

The town had asked for $55,000 toward the project, but lost the vote to zero out the funding on a motion from Bunting 4-3, with Commissioners Merrill Lockfaw, Mitrecic and Church opposed.

In total, the town is expected to get about $1.63 million from the county.

The primary area of concern for the commissioners during the discussions was the flat or even shrinking values of county and state fire grants to provide emergency services.

The formula used to determine how much each company should get is based on the volume of runs the department makes, while their costs for equipment and supplies are either fixed or growing. The county is considering granting each fire company an additional $4,000 to offset the meager gains or small losses provided for in the current budget.

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