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Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette Logo Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette


OPA, Sandpiper inching closer to inking new deal

(Oct 8, 2015) Following a closed session last Thursday, the Ocean Pines Association board of directors could be nearing an agreement with Sandpiper Energy following what one director described as “at least three years of negotiations.”
Sandpiper has already converted propane lines in several communities in Worcester County into natural gas, including Berlin and West Ocean City, and had hoped to do the same in Ocean Pines.
Talks stalled last year when several members of the board were directly participating in the discussions. Then, in June, the board voted to allow General Manager Bob Thompson to take the lead in the talks.
At the time, Thompson said he was “excited about the opportunity to take over the lead role in an important endeavor for the Ocean Pines Association and its members.”
Originally, the board gave Thompson a small window – until July – to get a deal done. That deadline apparently was extended several times, and now Thompson is not working under any specific timetable.
Hints that both sides were at an impasse surfaced during a Nov. 22 meeting, when then board President Dave Stevens voiced his displeasure with the negotiations.
“We’re not making any progress,” he said at the time, adding, “There is no real negotiation.”
Ocean Pines was seeking a franchise fee, similar to its agreement with Mediacom, and other expenses.
Following last week’s approximately two-and-a-half hour closed meeting, board President Pat Renaud told the Gazette a franchise fees was probably off the table.
“That’s just not going to happen I don’t think,” Renaud said.
As for the turnover agreement, Renaud hinted that was still “sort of” in play.
“We still have a few issues that we want to try to get resolved and Bob’s going to go back and try to talk to [Sandpiper],” he said. “I think we’re getting closer.
“I won’t say [the board will sign a contract] the next time because I can’t predict what someone is going to say, but there are about three or four of us that are generally for [the agreement] the way it is, and there are about another three that say, ‘well, yeah, but I want to look at this,’” Renaud continued. “We’re at that point now.”
Renaud reiterated that Thompson would remain the lead negotiator.
“I didn’t want to have any board members going at all,” he said. “[Thompson] was negotiating with one fellow over there and that seems to have worked out much, much better than having everybody putting their two cents in at the same time.
“Bob’s done a great job,” Renaud added. “I think everyone is going to see that.”
Renaud did not offer a timeline, although he repeatedly suggested the board was close to an up or down vote.
“I think it will eventually come down to a call for a vote and if we have enough to carry it, that will be it,” he said.