(June 12, 2019) The Ocean Pines Board, General Manager John Viola and members of the Budget and Finance Committee during the next budget process will review the $90 dredging differential fee collected from waterfront homeowners.
Viola, Association President Doug Parks, Operations Director Colby Phillips, Budget and Finance Committee Chairman Larry Perrone and Assistant Treasurer Gene Ringsdorf on Wednesday met with two concerned citizens to discuss the issue. Public Works Director Eddie Wells and Public Works Operations Manager Nobie Violante were also consulted on the matter.
Richard Marchesiello and his wife, Pat, said they were worried the funds, collected for roughly the last 20 years, were not being used for the intended purpose.
According to Ringsdorf, the dredging differential was originally $50, but it gradually increased and has remained $90 for some time. He said about $500,000 in total was collected during the last two decades and that money went into the bulkhead reserve, which currently totals about $2.5 million.
Perrone said the funds have largely been used for “spot dredging,” or dredging as needed rather than operating on a schedule, and he noted Ocean Pines is responsible for maintaining its canals, which also includes upkeep of signage and other items in the waterways.
The dredging work is done by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, a national agency that since 1890 has been charged with regulating activities in the nation’s waterways. The passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972 greatly broadened this role by giving the Army Corps authority over dredging, among other areas.
According to Phillips, dredging requests are passed on from Ocean Pines lot owners to the Army Corps, which has the final say on work performed. She said requests so far this year, if approved, would total about $55,000. Apparently, no work was done last year.
Marchesiello estimated about $145,000 each year is collected from 1,600 waterfront lot owners, meaning it appears much more is collected than used. He suggested once a reserve is established and it is determined how much funds are needed each year, collections can then either be reduced or possibly even eliminated.
Viola vowed that both the collections amount and fund level would be evaluated during the next budget process, and he asked Marchesiello to be a part of that discussion.
Marchesiello said he had written letters “well over a year ago” that had been ignored, but praised the current action, and especially Phillips for taking a lead on answering his questions.
“This time, it was addressed and very promptly,” he said. “I appreciate this and I’m impressed.”
“The reason you’re seeing the responsiveness that you are now is because the board and the staff and committees are working very closely,” Perrone said. “We’ve got a lot of people with a lot of talent in this community and John’s [Viola] tapping into that.”
“This discussion is an example of picking something up that may have been lost over time,” he said. “This will now actually be discussed during the next budget coming up, so that’s a positive.”