By Greg Ellison
Three-day session reviews operating accounts, capital projects, reserve balances
(Jan. 16, 2020) Although it’s a work in progress, the Ocean Pines Association’s budget for next fiscal year came slightly more into focus last week following a three-day presentation to the budget and finance committee.
General Manager John Viola closed the committee session last Wednesday by noting the committee had reviewed every operating profit and loss statement and reserve accounts breakdowns.
“We presented all the work plans and supported all our numbers,” he said. “Capital projects were also presented and supported.”
During the examination of the package, the committee’s conclusions led to some slight changes in previous estimates for assessment fees.
“We will re-calculate the assessment based upon the guidance and the reallocations we have presented,” he said. “The adjustment will probably add $2 to $3 on the proposed assessment of $978.”
After department presentations on Monday Jan. 6, the budget session reconvened the next day with Public Works Director Eddie Wells reviewing general maintenance and other departmental financial requirements.
Besides presenting a detailed list of immediate maintenance needs, Wells also pinpointed a number of short-term cost savings.
Wells noted that the outside decking at the Ocean Pines Beach Club appears to be sound despite its age.
“We just spent $15,000 or $20,000 putting a sealer on it last year [but] it does need to be replaced,” he said.
For the immediate time, Wells said another coating of paint should suffice for one more summer. Future structural upgrades could include installing low-maintenance vinyl siding, he said.
Wells also said public works is facing staffing challenges.
“I have four fulltime positions we’re trying to fill,” he said.
Ocean Pines Marina Manager Ron Fisher proposed a 4 percent increase in slip fees based on recent market research.
“Our competitors are significantly higher than we are,” he said.
The new rates for property owners and residents, if approved, would raise the cost for vessels: under 26 feet from $1,800 to $1,872, over 26 feet and under 40 feet from $2,450 to $2,548 and over 40 feet from $3,455 to $3,594.
Non-residents pay an additional 10 percent.
Recreation and Parks Program Supervisor Debbie Donahue said the department’s primary project proposal would be to replace outdated playground equipment at Bainbridge and Robin Hood parks.
“It probably can be done for [just] under $100,000,” she said.
Looking to the future, Donahue said recreation operations continue to need more space than the community center provides.
“Honestly, the building itself is not big enough,” she said. “One gym for what we do is really not enough.”
Viola said the new golf club house being built should help alleviate the situation.
When completed, the clubhouse, which has intended uses beyond golf, will include a general-purpose room.
“It will be used for multi-function purposes and will help to free up the Assateague room,” he said.
Police Chief Dave Massey said maintaining adequate staffing in his department has become more challenging than at any point during his 16-year tenure.
“I was four officers down at one point,” he said.
Massey said the continual turnover has involved numerous officers departing for other law enforcement agencies on the shore and not across the bridge.
“I lost a 13-year veteran and two supervisors,” he said.
Massey said police presence figures are calculated nationally at a rate of two officers on duty per 1,000 population. Current census data estimates that Ocean Pines has 12,000 residents, which would mean, under that equation, 12 officers.
“We probably don’t need that number because of low property and violent crimes,” he said.
While able to operate efficiently with a 16-member patrol staff, Massey said any number below that mark is less than optimal.
To help with retention efforts, Massey proposed instating a 401K match of 5 percent, which had been established at 3 percent until being dropped in recent years, while also providing a portion of the cost.
“I did some changes to my budget and found $14,000 in savings,” he said. “I’ve cut back to the bone to do this.”
Viola agreed in principal, while noting the cost was not currently included in the proposed budget.
During the final day of presentations to the budget and finance committee Director of Amenities and Operational Logistics Colby Phillips, once again proposed building an additional room totaling 200 square feet at the Sports Core Pool, with initial rough estimates around $200,000.
“Private parties have taken off for facility rentals,” she said.
Phillips expressed confidence in the associated business plan despite the proposal failing to gain traction for the last three years.
Viola suggested that the abundance of projects on tap for the pending fiscal year would mean delaying that Sports Core addition, but he did propose depositing $100,000 in the recently established new capital reserve to pay for the work when it does take place.
Viola also tossed out several capital outlays related to golf operations, including a $40,000 awning to provide shade for a 14-foot wide wrap-around deck at the yet-to-be completed clubhouse building.
Additional golf course proposals included a video simulator for club fittings at a cost of $20,000 and a green rebuild area for $15,000 to provide replacement sod when needed.
“Growing this ourselves … will save us money when something happens,” Viola said. “We had something like this in the past.”
Turning attention to improvements at White Horse Park, Phillips said the soon to be demolished craft building area could provide room for up to 28 more parking spaces in the administration building parking lot.
Phillips also mentioned replacing the park entrance sign with a similar, but brighter, wooden structure, as well as potentially relocating the under-utilized bocce ball court in White Horse to the
Phillips also proposed a $50 per year increase in bulkhead rates, with replacement costs rising to $335 per linear foot.
“If we continue with the [current] $465 rate … it would take 61 years to pay off bulkheads which need to be replaced every 30 years,” she said.