Some background, by Joe Reynolds, on news coverage after the public hearing:
A front page story in the September 20, 2007 edition of the Bayside Gazette presents a perfect example of poor journalism. The story is a news story that includes coverage of a Worcester County Commissioners meeting, including a Public Hearing on a water interconnect between the Ocean Pines service area and the GlenRiddle service area.
The blurb for the article is immediately identifiable as in error and misleading. It states, "Water/sewer connection coming for Ocean Pines and GlenRiddle." The county public hearing was for a water connection only. There was no discussion of connecting the two sewage treatment service areas, and sewage was certainly not the subject of the public hearing.
As it turned out, I was the only individual, other than county staff, to provide testimony during the public hearing. In the Gazette news article, written by staff writer Tony Russo, he had this to say about my comments to the commissioners: "Worcester County resident Joe Reynolds charged the connection was politically motivated during his protestations." Russo told readers nothing of substance from my comments. One might reasonably wonder why.
So, what did I actually say to the commissioners? Russo's news coverage is silent. He provides no news coverage of what I said; he simply characterizes my complete presentation as "protestations."
I began my presentation by saying I believed the commissioners would approve the connection. At no time did I state the connection should not be made. I did suggest some issues the commissioners consider before voting on the connection.
I expressed my disappointment that the Ocean Pines Association Board of Directors had never even discussed the connection, and had not even seen fit to have anyone from OPA attend the Public Hearing.
I pointed out my concern that the connection to GlenRiddle might just be the first step in eventually connecting the Ocean Pines water service to West Ocean City and beyond, something the county's own expert suggested to the commissioners some months ago.
I pointed out my concern for maintaining the high quality and relatively low cost of water in Ocean Pines if the high quality aquifer supplying Ocean Pines was drawn down extensively all year in the event water from the aquifer was taken to serve GlenRiddle and points east and south in the future. Unlike Ocean Pines, GlenRiddle's water supply is loaded with iron, requiring very expensive treatment.
I pointed out that John Ross, the county's assistant Public Works Director had stated water usage was down in Ocean Pines this year, in spite of a severe drought, and suggested the county make sure the high quality aquifer that holds the Pines drinking water not be endangered by pumping water from the aquifer to other areas around the county.
I asked the commissioners to make sure the cost for the water connection was divided equitably between the two service areas.
These and other comments were offered in a calm, reasonable tone. County employee Sandy Coyman made the initial presentation of the case for making the water connection. Russo did not tell Gazette readers that Coyman later publicly characterized my presentation as making "very valid points" and that I expressed "obviously very legitimate concerns."
Now, as Russo's statement that I "charged the connection was politically motivated."
At one point in my presentation I did say, "I am not confident that some of these issues are not political in nature, but I'm not going to go there."
Russo chose to ignore the totality of my presentation and concentrate on what he characterized as a charge of political motivation.
A good reporter might have later asked me what I meant. Had Russo asked I would have explained.
While the commissioners say the connection is only for emergencies and system maintenance, this provides no guarantees to the rate papers of Ocean Pines that water service from the Ocean Pines area aquifer to GlenRiddle or even West Ocean City will not be initiated in the future, to the ultimate detriment of the service and quality of water now available in Ocean Pines. Anyone who thinks the commissioners may not change their mind, in the short or long term, is a fool. History shows the commissioners can promise one thing and later remove that promise for political reasons.
Consider the situation when the county government took over the Ocean Pines service area from the former quasi-private Sanitary Commission about 12 years ago. At that time the county commissioners promised to hold a non-binding referendum in the Ocean Pines service area before undertaking any expansion of water and sewer service outside the Ocean Pines subdivision. The promise proved to be hollow. A later group of county commissioners withdrew the promise. Why? Obviously the commissioners did not want to deal with the potential political consequences of ignoring a referendum, even if it was non-binding.The commissioners wanted to eliminate any true citizen input.
It should also be noted that on conclusion of the public hearing, Commissioner Bud Church, representing West Ocean City and other areas including GlenRiddle, immediately made a motion to approve the connection.
However, no one need wonder if my complaints about the quality of the journalism in the Gazette are justified or not. As it turns out there is complete video coverage of my presentation to the commissioners. View it and make up your own mind as to the quality of news coverage offered by the Gazette to its readers in this instance.