SNOW HILL – Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan was elected chairman of the Local Development Council for Ocean Downs Video Lottery Facility (LDC) by acclamation at the council’s organizational meeting Monday. The committee is comprised of community, business and public safety members from the municipalities as well as the unincorporated areas of Worcester County.
County attorney Sonny Bloxom, who is also the LDC’s attorney, talked about the council’s mandate, which is to make sure the proceeds from the casino are used for the purposes with which the law specified.
The LDC, according to Bloxom, will review plans by the county and the municipalities for funds expenditures. It will not, however, review Ocean Pines’ plans as the home owners association is not under its purview. Ocean Pines is still represented by three members of the LDC to review the county’s responsibilities and the decisions it makes that could affect the HOA.
At Bloxom’s suggestion, the board elected to send a letter to the county and municipalities soliciting the outline of some of the issues the slots revenue will address. Upon receipt of the rough-draft plans the LDC will be able to make recommendations for additions and changes. He reminded the council that their recommendations aren’t binding.
“You’re here to give advice,” he said. “You’re not a regulatory body.”
Since two of the mayors were in attendance they were asked how quickly they could respond on a level.
“We can get back to you almost immediately,” Williams said.
Meehan said that Ocean City would be able to submit the outline of their plan within 30 days of receipt of the letter.
County administrator Gerald Mason said he couldn’t guarantee the commissioners would be able to respond with a plan within 30 days but that the county was also in no hurry to start spending the slots funding. The LDC eventually decided to ask for a response to the request by the next meeting, which is closer to 45 days away.
Bloxom said that in addition to infrastructure, slots funds can also be used to engage in advertising efforts to try and influence people who are visiting the slots parlor and convince them to visit the local towns as well.
As an example, he pointed out that the towns could get involved with the Casino at Ocean Downs in a joint marketing campaign using slots funds.
Ron Taylor, who was appointed to represent the Snow Hill area asked how he and Pocomoke representative could best participate since their towns didn’t get any direct slots funds allocations.
State Sen. Jim Mathias pointed out that one of the LDC’s responsibilities could be to request documentation from the Casino at Ocean Downs regarding employment, making sure that the correct proportion of county residents are employed there as required by the law.
Del. Norman Conway pointed out that the widening and development of Route 589, which is the access road the Casino at Ocean Downs is on, can no longer be considered an issue of convenience and is now one of safety deserving more attention.
“It’s at capacity now,” he said. “Additional impacts make it a safety issue.”
In response to questions about the fact that the law forwards slots funding to Baltimore City and then on to Prince Georges County, Conway said there are revisions in the works that might be able to alter the deal a bit, particularly the aspect that forwards $1 million to Prince Georges County, which opted out of the slots legislation.
Baltimore, he said, received funding as part of a movement to help keep the Triple Crown race at Pimlico in the state.
While he said there will be no changes to the law this year, he said it was likely that the legislature will begin attempting to refine the law beginning next year prompting Williams to ask if it is likely the funding percentages will be affected.
“I think they’re set,” he said, adding that the changes will likely have to do with the administration of the funding.
Ocean Pines Police Chief Dave Massey, who is a council member, volunteered to coordinate with the other chiefs and public safety officials to compose and discuss how to assess and tract slots parlor impacts.
The LDC will meet again 10 a.m. Monday, April 25 at the Worcester County Government Building in Snow Hill.