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


OPA to seek referendum on Y.C. first

OCEAN PINES — The Ocean Pines Association board of directors elected this week to set aside potential plans to rebuild or rehabilitate the Country Club in favor of a plan that could have a new Yacht Club open for business as early as next spring.
Faced with growing opposition to the notion of doing both buildings at once and even objections about replacing either building at all, the directors elected to take the safer and what they believe is the easier route and begin by trying to get a referendum to replace the Yacht Club.
The decision to direct General Manager Bob Thompson to begin the work in earnest follows months of planning, research and negotiation and nearly failed as some board members wanted additional input before setting Thompson to the task.
The question of repairing or replacing both the Yacht and Country Club has been a contentious one in recent years as the issue continually resurfaces. Thompson’s recent “concept” plans combined with the continued deterioration of both buildings has brought the issue to a head.
Tasked with researching the possibilities, Thompson, with help from several community volunteers, enumerated the problems and the minimum replacement costs for both buildings as well as the minimum repair costs.
The directors who expressed concern did so generally because they were afraid that the project would spin out of their control and that they wouldn’t have enough input into the final product. Before taking the project to referendum, they reasoned, they should have the opportunity for input in the rest of the process.
Thompson assured the directors that this was not the last they would hear of the project before it was offered for referendum and outlined both his plan and his methodology in an effort to assuage their concerns.
Taking them back through the process Thompson explained both the logistical and operational changes that have already begun to inform the next phase of the plan.
When Thompson began holding public meetings about the Yacht Club he received an avalanche of commentary from OPA members regarding what they liked and didn’t like about the proposal. 
It was developed around what Thompson called the “campus concept” and involved major changes to the area around the Yacht Club, the facility’s look as well as its use.
According to the original concept the Ycht Club would be torn down and rebuilt further from the water and better oriented to take advantage of the view of Ocean City. The original plan called for better access to the area from the Mumford’s Landing Pool and incorporation of the Marina offices to better attract boaters.
The concept also called for an open dining area under the Yacht Club with one floor of banquet catering and overflow dining area above. 
The plan also called for it to be a seasonal facility, given that one of the biggest financial drags on the club’s operational budget were the tremendous losses the club took by remaining open all year. 
Community input convinced Thompson to better accommodate indoor dining on the first floor and plan to keep the facility open year-round.
After convincing the board to set aside the plans for redevelopment of the Country Club, Thompson told them that he wished their permission to go forward with the design-build concept for the Yacht Club only.
His plan is to begin soliciting bids via issuing a scope of work immediately and return to the board with plans developed in conjunction with both the advisory group responsible for the concept plan and actual numbers provided by the contractors.
Once potential bidders begin responding to the scope of work, Thompson said both he and the board will have a much more accurate notion of the total anticipated cost of the project. Thompson said he believed the initial expenses would be available for the board’s consideration by March 11.
Thompson’s own estimate was that the OPA would have to spend about $2.5 million for the new structure, plus tear-down and furnishings. He expected to take $1.5 of which from the reserves and borrow the rest. 
The estimate was likely conservative but as bids come in the board will have a better idea about how much the building will likely to cost. 
More importantly, the will know what number to put on the referendum, which was the fact that made Thompson’s plan more appealing to some of the directors.
Once narrowed, the OPA will request bids for the project setting a due date of April 30. Thompson, volunteers and staff will review and level the bids before bringing them to the board of directors for input and further decision.
Leveling bids requires a line by line review of the costs to make sure that, as Thompson out it, “We’re comparing apples to apples.”
Thompson said he expects the board will be able to vote on a contract and a plan by May 30 and have the project go out for referendum June 15. In response to questions about the haste with which he is proceeding, Thompson said that it would be critical to know where the Association stood on the question of replacing the Yacht Club.
Should the referendum pass, plans will have to be made for the Yacht Club being taken off line. 
Should the referendum fail, a new plan for dealing with the current problems at the Yacht Club will have to be conceived and plans about how to get through the winter initiated.
Although he was initially skeptical about the proposal, Board Member Dan Stachurski threw his support behind it based on the fact that it would go to referendum. 
He said that the OPA residents should have a look and the final say at the proposal and the board shouldn’t stand in their way.
Board Member Dave Stevens objected to the process and as well as the motion to proceed and stood as the only director in opposition in the 6-1 vote.