Ocean City Today

Surprise charges for bench dedicated eight years ago

Fallston family still not sure if they will pay Ocean City more than $1,100 to repair
By Greg Ellison | May 11, 2017
Photo by: Greg Ellison The owners of this dedicated bench were surprised to receive a letter from Ocean City asking them to either pay more than $1,100 for repairs or take personal possession of the bench or plaque.

(May 12, 2017) When Brian King bought a “Boardwalk Dedicated Bench” eight years ago to honor deceased family members, he wasn’t anticipating any additional expenses.

That’s why the Fallston resident was surprised to receive a letter in March from Ocean City asking for more than $1,100 to cover repair costs for the bench.

“It was a shock,” he said. “It came completely out of the blue.”

In September 2008, King paid $1,370 dollars for a bench and plaque dedicated to his in-laws in front of the Ocean Mecca Hotel on the Boardwalk at 23rd Street.

“That’s where my wife’s family would go on vacation when they were kids,” he said.

City Manger Doug Miller said after nearly a decade of exposure to the sun and salt air, a number of the dedicated benches gracing the Boardwalk require attention.

“The first grouping of benches started to deteriorate,” he said.

Councilman Dennis Dare said the bench program was started more than a decade ago during his tenure as city manager. At that time, the city undertook an effort to remodel the Boardwalk, which included new light poles and trashcans.

“We really didn’t stop and think one of these days those benches are going to be dilapidated,” he said.

Miller explained that after examining the topic for nearly a year Mayor Rick Meehan and the City Council created three options for bench owners, including the opportunity to reclaim and take possession of the benches.

In some instances, the letters have been retuned as undeliverable, in which case Miller said the city would assume the owners have no interest in retaining their benches. The final alternative would allow a dedicated bench to remain in its current location but not without being spruced up a bit.

“They can pay our costs to put on a special coating,” he said. “The bench isn’t going to last forever.”

Dare said refurbishing benches is quite involved.

“In order to do it right, you have to take it apart and replace the recycled lumber,” he said. “It’s almost just as cheap to buy a new one as refurbish one.”

Admitting the decision was not easy for the council to reach, Dare questioned how long Ocean City is obligated to maintain previously dedicated benches.

“For eternity or some finite time? There has to be closure to it,” he said.

He also noted bench owners who aren’t interested in re-claiming their seat can ask the city to return the dedication plaque.

After receiving the letter informing him of the associated costs to maintain the bench, King wonders why his original paperwork failed to mention the possibility of future maintenance costs.

“I got a letter at the beginning of March saying when 10 years is up, this is what’s going to happen,” he said. “If they had said that in the beginning, I’d be fine.”

Thinking back, King recalls his excitement upon discovering the dedicated benches nearly a decade ago.

“I though it was a great idea,” he said. “I got home and I couldn’t wait to call.”

At this point, King has yet to decide which option to pursue, noting the emotional attachment for his family.

“At the end of the day, I want my wife to still enjoy it,” he said.

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