By Jack Chavez, Staff Writer
(Sept. 26, 2022) Saturday meetings of the Ocean Pines Board of Directors are back and here to stay for the foreseeable future.
About 30 people in person and another 50 online attended the 9 a.m. meeting in the Assateague Room in the Ocean Pines Community Center, a healthy-sized turnout that satisfied some of the directors.
“I thought the Saturday meeting was a rousing success,” said Director Stuart Lakernick, who made the motion in August to shift the meetings from Wednesdays. “The coffee and donuts (on hand) gave us a chance to meet everybody in our town and (makes this an inclusive process) where everybody becomes more personable. I think that’s what the movement of this new board will do.”
Calls for moving the meetings from Wednesday to Saturday have been growing around Ocean Pines for months. Perhaps the most common refrain was the difficulty Wednesday meetings posed for residents who work during the week.
There were some protests against the permanent Saturday move.
Former Director Amy Peck argued for an alternating schedule, in which the meetings would take place on Wednesday in one month and shift to Saturday in the following month. She listed a few reasons why she felt the Saturday-only route was a detriment to the community and association
“(Our way) would not be taking 12 Saturdays from our staff,” she said. “(It would have been for) the staff who don’t want to show up for Saturday meetings. A lot of the staff don’t live in Ocean Pines and they travel here for these meetings. There are extra childcare expenses. It would have been looking out for the employees, and I don’t think (disregarding their feelings) is fair.”
Peck also stressed that the association’s financials don’t come out until the 13th business day of the month, meaning that the bulk of this board’s remaining meetings would occur before they have those numbers to report.
The next 10 meetings are set for the third Saturday of each month. Only two of them will occur before the 13th business day of that month.
“The public is going to be a month behind hearing the actual financials,” Peck said.
Peck also said she is led to believe by data she had seen that Wednesday meetings drew more attendance.
Director Rick Farr explained that it’s more than just attendance, but also engagement.
“We had good conversations with them and it’s something that we’ll continue doing because we want to make sure we still have the engagement of the board as well as the association members,” Farr said. “If (association members) have any issues or questions, they can come ask us. We’re going to continue to do this because we feel on Saturdays we’re going to get more engagement. You have people who come into town who are part-time residents who now get to participate in person, whereas in the middle of the week they haven’t been able to (unless it’s through Microsoft Teams). So we’re looking to increase the volume of actual participants who come out here and join us live.”
Farr added that he believes the location may change to the Ocean Pines Golf clubhouse.
Board meeting times and locations have changed often over the years and community turnout has fluctuated just as much. The approximately 80 people total people in attendance is a sizable shift from earlier years — sometimes the association struggled to attract even a half-dozen participants if there wasn’t a polarizing topic on the agenda.
“I’ve seen the attendance (in the past) and it’s commensurate with the issues at hand,” OPA President Doug Parks said. “If there’s a very contentious issue, you’re probably going to get more people and it’s been proven. And, when things are going okay, you’re not going to get as much attendance and quite frankly, when I see a meeting that’s not attended by a whole lot of people, that sends a message that things seem to be going right.”
Parks added that he thought he’d see more people in attendance, but understands the importance of the hybrid format, and he doesn’t see the meetings switching back to Wednesday anytime soon.
“I see no need for it,” he said. “I think it’s the consistency of having it on a Saturday. One of the items we were talking about, we were saying we’ll have one on Wednesday, one on Saturday (and alternate) and after discussing it with my colleagues, the idea was that consistency was the best way to go this year.”