Ocean City —
Ocean City Council on June 14 approved an ordinance eliminating five parking spaces for police vehicles across from the police station on Central Avenue.
City Solicitor Dorothy McCrosson said the traffic ordinance is a “housekeeping ordinance” deleting the mention of four-way stop intersections at 10th Street and Central Avenue and 14th Street and Central Avenue, which are governed by traffic lights. The ordinance adds Fifth Street and West Avenue as streets governed by traffic lights.
A second part of the ordinance removes five spots on the west side of Central Avenue across from the police station from a list of areas designated for city employee parking.
McCrosson said the changes make the ordinance consistent with a parking meter ordinance council approved last month which the count of parking in metered spots on the west side of Central Avenue was increased to reflect the addition of meters between Eighth Street and Ninth Street on Central Avenue.
“Formerly those spots were set aside for parking for the use of the police department,” said McCrosson, who added Ocean City Police Chief Chad Callahan said removing the parking spaces would not displace any police department vehicles. “There’s room on the site for department vehicles, however some police officers’ personal vehicles will have to be parked off of city property in one of the local lots.”
She said despite the change, police officers could still get to their official vehicles quickly.
Former councilwoman Alice Wolf asked council to reconsider the parking section of the ordinance, adding when she served on council, that governing body initially approved the ordinance creating those parking spots for police detectives’ vehicles.
“It is designed not only for the safety of not only our officers but also the citizens of Ocean City,” Wolf said.
Councilman Tony Wilson said he agreed with Wolf and spoke to Police Benevolent Association (PBA) members and heard their concerns.
“They’ve made it very clear to me that those spaces are critical for some of their operations,” Wilson said.
Councilman Keith Hartzell said those parking spaces should be allotted for the police department. He said he was reluctant to change the previous council’s vote without additional information.
McCrosson said a mix of personal vehicles and official police department vehicles currently occupy those parking spaces. She said the ordinance would only displace personal vehicles.
“Some police officers will be asked to park their personal vehicles elsewhere, but all of the detective cars and patrol cars can be accommodated at the police department in immediate proximity to the building,” McCrosson said.
Council Vice President Karen Bergman wanted Callahan to personally answer council’s questions whether eliminating the parking spaces affects public safety.
Mayor Jay Gillian said he removed his parking space when he became mayor and asked city employees to park their cars not in the municipal lot behind City Hall, but in the transportation center lot a few blocks away.
“I did get a little push back from City Hall and the police department. People think they are entitled to a parking spot. I can understand that,” Gillian said. “I’m not very popular right now at City Hall and the police department because they have to walk to the transportation center.”
The mayor said there was “not a public safety issue” with the change, and echoed the police could reach their official vehicles in the event of an emergency.
The second reading and public hearing for the ordinance will be at 7 p.m. Thursday, June 28 in city hall.