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Thompson shoots straight with OPA members

OCEAN PINES — Before taking questions at this week’s town hall-style meeting, General Manager Bob Thompson set the tone by dealing directly with what were likely the most divisive issues currently facing the community, especially the assessment increases and the facilities advisory committee.

When discussing his support for the facilities advisory committee — people selected by Thompson to help him compile a master facilities plan — he stated his positions clearly without being particularly defensive about criticism.

In an effort to answer the conspiracy theorists who believe the group is undertaking some sort of coup, Thompson explained that the committee members are essentially providing free answers to his questions and research. The same information could be purchased from consultants and the like, but this free expertise is from trusted sources.

“There’s no secret, there’s no black magic,” he said. “It’s about me trying to get smarter.”

While he appreciates the advice, he was clear that he took nothing at face value, turning away plans and ideas he doesn’t feel fit with the overall vision for Ocean Pines. Any advice he uses in presentation is the result of critical analysis, not merely blind repetition of others’ ideas.

After laying out his reasons for believing the committee necessary, he made the case for why he believed it was permissible under HOA rules.

As to the assessment increases, Thompson said that while there is a plan to continue the increases into the next two years, each member of the board of directors can decide whether to keep or dispense with the increase.

He used a chart to demonstrate that OPA members generally pay less in assessments than property owners living in the other municipalities. Because of their low tax rate, however, Ocean City residents tend to pay less in tax for a $200,000 house than OPA members, providing they don’t have their own HOA fees to contend with.

He also told the audience that he expects to make a presentation at the next OPA board meeting that will help the directors make the decision on the proposal to add a dog park to the subdivision.

Thompson fended off a number of questions about the Yacht Club operations, especially as they related to the fence separating the dining area from the pool deck. While several members worried that the cost of having a certified pool operator on at all times while the pool deck was used for a service area, Thompson said that the cost of the labor should more than be covered by sales. Otherwise, he said, the OPA shouldn’t be in the business.

“We’re just looking at new things,” he said in defense of opening the deck area for diners. “We’re trying to look at things differently.”

There has also been some confusion recently over whether the bar should be evacuated in case of lightning and thunder. The policy Thompson hopes to begin enforcing would clear the deck area in the event of thunder and lightning. Up until recently, there had been some discrepancy over whether those rules applied.

Citing safety concerns, Thompson said diners and people at the bar would be ushered inside if a storm forced a pool closure, but would remain open if it was merely raining.

“If you want to stand out there in the rain,” he said. “Be my guest.”

Complaints about the conditions and cleanliness of the Beach Club have fallen off sharply this year, according to Thompson, but he acknowledged that there is an occasional complaint.

Rather than have several Ocean Pines-based staff members responsible for different aspects of the Beach Club operations, Thompson said one employee has been empowered to make onsite decisions when it comes to keeping the place clean and organized.

He also said the OPA now has a service contract with a company to make sure the drains do not become clogged with sand. This perennial problem has been solved in the past by having emergency technicians deal with floods as they occur. Not only is the contract less expensive, he said, but it also helps to keep the dressing and shower rooms that much more grime free.