Thursday, August 9, 2012

National Night Out serves as a reminder of staying active

Tuesday, National Night Out, a nationwide crime awareness program, brought hundreds of people to Dr. William Henry Park to mingle with local police in a positive atmosphere. 

While the objective of the event is to advocate crime awareness and prevention, another big statement was made in that the community gathered in an outdoor setting promoting physical activity. And if the basketball courts had anything to say about it, there was much physical activity to be had.

As technology advances, so the amount of time spent outdoors diminishes. Television has kept us glued to the couch for years, and while not all programming is bad, some of today’s most popular shows do little to promote physical activity.

Video games are now in the mainstream, and even devices such as the PlayStation Move, Xbox Kinect and the Nintendo Wii console allow gamers to exercise without leaving the bedroom. While that is a step up from a couch potato, the exercise games do not offer the results a real gym can provide and a little sunlight is good every once in a while.

Smart phones can alienate people even further by sucking them in so much that they sometimes aren’t even aware of the people and activities going on around them.

Obviously, there are positives to all technologies, but the point is it appears we are headed toward a path of seclusion as our lives become more caught up in the digital age.

It is paramount to keep an eye out on events such as National Night Out that bring individuals out to enjoy some fresh air and spend time with their neighbors. 

Not only is it healthy for the body by simply being outdoors, but also to have a fun, family-oriented event that lets people take their mind off things and let loose.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Doing business in the Town is worth the cost


This week the Berlin Mayor and Council postponed a decision on whether to require out-of-town contractors to pay an annual fee for a town license. Comments from both sides pointed out during the discussion that the fee wouldn’t be a real revenue driver and that it would add only a negligible layer of administrative oversight.
Out-of-town contractors already regularly call the Town to see what the fees are, given that the practice is nearly ubiquitous. Debate around the fee, which would almost certainly be an inexpensive one, tended to focus on whether it made the Town seem less business friendly on one side and whether it was equitable to the tax-paying, license-holding businesses in town on the other. But there is another aspect to the argument that was missed and should certainly be at the center of the debate. The argument is about value.
Berlin is a place worth doing business, both in and with, and creating a fee for the privilege of taking part in its continued economic growth is a way of establishing that fact. It will not stymie competition among the businesses that regularly make significant profits from the Town’s growth.
All it would do is let the wider business community know that Berlin takes its contribution to the region’s economic growth seriously and expects participation from those who currently benefit for free. We don’t feel business owners will feel that it is too much to ask.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Open container law is working


Another festival for which the open container laws in Berlin were suspended has passed without incident which is a tribute both to the way these events are run and marketed as well as to the way the Town volunteers and staff conduct themselves.
The Town Council supported the measure if not enthusiastically at least wholeheartedly and has so far been vindicated in their trust in the Town’s patrons. This tepid endorsement is likely one of the most important aspects in ensuring the leeway they have allowed is not taken too far and the fact that the Council was willing to make occasional exceptions not exploited.
Everyone has an equal stake in the events continuing to go well which means everyone is on the lookout to nip potential problems before they become actual problems.
Of course, the other significant element is that Berlin street events are just not attractive to the types of people for whom brawling and other disreputable behavior is common. By maintaining the family atmosphere but not constricting every event to be primarily for children, young families and couples are more encouraged to participate.
Berlin has in recent years begun to establish itself as the alternative to places that are only for kids or only for adults, striking enough balance to redefine itself over the course of less than a decade.
Staying this course will likely secure the Town’s reputation as it continues to evolve slowly and in a positive way. 

Friday, May 4, 2012

Commissioners correct to both bill and appeal

Although it is unfortunate that the Ocean Pines Sanitary Service Area ratepayers will be hit with an additional $15 charge in their next bill, there remains a slim chance that the Worcester County Commissioners may be able to have it reversed.
This week the Commissioners were notified that the Ocean Pines plant missed Maryland Department of the Environment nitrogen removal standards by a fraction and therefor lost the exemption it has been generally granted for pollutant-removal efficiency. Although it happened once before the MDE set the readings aside, saying that the standards were unreasonable given the low water temperature.
Both the Commissioners and the County Staff can be forgiven for expecting that it would again be set aside but since staff changes at the MDE have gone into affect there are apparently new policies being pushed. This is the way of government generally.
The Ocean Pines plant is one of the most efficient in the state so the issue is as much a matter of pride as of money, as it should be. The practical affect of the nitrogen overage, given the water temperature at the time, is nil.
It is important for the Commissioners to at least make the point to MDE that, even if the standards weren’t met, the County did met its responsibility as it regards environmental stewardship. The Commissioners’ decision to press for restoration of the exemption was a good one.

Friday, April 20, 2012

OPA Board should end the automatic increase



The OPA Board of Directors did what everyone knew they eventually would by authorizing spending elsewhere a pot of money earmarked to be used to shore-up structural deficits, now turning what they claimed at the time would be a short-term funding mechanism into a semi-permanent increase.
The Directors surmised the only way to pay the IRS, should they eventually lose their suit, would be to take the $4 per member per year assessment increase being collected for  five years and use it to foot the tax bill.
While it is a relatively small amount per member and provides a better option than a special assessment, especially when the amount could top $1 million, once the IRS is paid off the board should at least revisit continuing the increase indefinitely.
When the Directors originally passed the increase they assured the membership, many of whom were skeptical at best about the Board’s ability to leave any lump sum untouched, that those revenues would be exclusively for the stated purpose.
They have now elected to use money they said they wouldn’t and extend the increase for as long as it takes to satisfy any taxes owed along with what is needed for structural deficits.
Without rules restricting they way the Board spends these funds there is no guarantee they will ever be limited to their intended use and within a few short minutes, as seen this week, can be used for whatever purpose the Board of Directors wishes.


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

OPA should make sure its worth it


When the Ocean Pines Association Board announced that they would move forward and proceed in the next step in their suit against the IRS, it may have been a little difficult to swallow for some. There was more than a little concern that the decision was based primarily in Board’s overconfidence in either their interpretation of the law or, worse, plain willfulness.
It was a relief, then, to hear they were actually holding off on the final decision until they had a better sense of the cost.
Doing the math on whether or not it would make more sense to continue to run up legal fees or just cut the losses makes sense on many levels. The most important aspect of this decision is, for the first time apparently, OPA will have a reasonable accounting of potential losses should they be unsuccessful in their suit.
It is irksome that it has taken OPA this long to determine an accurate figure, but the upside is the membership will at least be able to have good numbers with which to critique the decision.
Although the OPA hasn’t included this possible loss in any budgets since the onset of the IRS notice, it is worth noting should they decide to go forward, that there still remains a possibility the Association could prevail before the full panel of judges.
If they do, then all the money they’ve already invested would have been well spent.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Burbage project worth OPA’s endorsement


It is always difficult when for the improvement of a community some residents are asked to be inconvenienced, if even a bit.  However living in a community almost always entails some inconveniences. In that vein, as part of seeing the bigger picture, the Ocean Pines Board of Directors as well as the Worcester County Commissioners and Planning Commissioners should support the move to allow a medical complex to be built along Route 589.
The only thing downside to the project is that there will be a few more cars traveling along King Richard Road and this will make some of the people on that street unhappy.
Space doesn’t allow for a comprehensive list of the upsides but the creation of jobs, the additional egress from Ocean Pines and the convenience for the rest of the community as well as the rest of that part of the county alone are reason enough to allow this project to go through.
In asking the OPA Board for a letter of endorsement this week Jack Burbage, who will develop the project, was open both to criticism of the design and suggestions about the aesthetics. He expects to present the Planning Commission with an updated traffic study showing the anticipated volume that originally hampered the project was inaccurate and he wishes the complex to become a commercial, dues paying member of Ocean Pines. Endorsing the proposed medical complex is the correct thing to do at all levels of government.