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


Question of fees good one

As the topic of adjusting or adding fees for nonmembers surfaced in the most recent Ocean Pines Association board meeting, the point to  think about is that charging nonmembers a higher price for access to recreational facilities can be a tricky business.
That’s because it’s a balancing act with three pivot points: fairness, revenue and marketing.
Both Ocean Pines and Ocean City have tiered fee structures for many of their offerings, having one charge for residents or members and a higher fee for nonresidents and nonmembers.
That’s only fair, since these facilities were created for use by the constituencies of the governing bodies, that is to say the taxpayers and members who pay the bulk of the construction and operational costs.
Letting others in for the same basic rate when they aren’t bearing that financial responsibility would be unfair to those who do.
The question, however, is what that rate ought to be and how dependent these operations are on revenue generated by nonmembers and nonresidents to make their budgets.
If a particular offering doesn’t need to draw from outside populations to succeed financially, or nonmember or nonresident use is marginal, the fee can be whatever the governing group decides.
But, if attracting people from other communities helps cover the budget, makes small programs worthwhile or provides a healthy boost to the community treasury, the governing authority wouldn’t want to discourage outside participation by charging too much.
In that regard, setting the prices for these various services and programs is no different than establishing prices for any retail item. Charge what the market will bear, but extend wholesale prices to the best customers, who would be the people who paid at the outset to make the product available.
There is nothing wrong with adjusting rates and prices every year, as long as they reflect the customers’ willingness and ability to pay.