By Dan Moffett

    Ocean Ridge is 86 years old, essentially built-out and with a population that has stayed largely stable through the past two decades.
    But this doesn’t mean the town can avoid growing pains.
    Town commissioners are finding that out as they begin to put together the budget for fiscal 2018.
    Increased traffic to the beach from across the bridge has brought calls for more police presence and road improvements. A surge in home renovation and new construction has exposed a need for more administrative staffing. More police, more building and more office activity are bringing complaints about the town’s outdated computer systems.
    These were some of the problems the Town Commission confronted at its first budget workshop on May 22. It will be July until commissioners get hard numbers on taxable values from the county Property Appraiser’s Office and make detailed decisions on spending and property tax rates.
    Until then, here are some of the issues commissioners are considering:
    • Adding two police officers to help deal with growing numbers of beachgoers from outside the town. Police Chief Hal Hutchins told commissioners it will cost roughly $156,000 in salaries and benefits for the two hires. Hutchins said the department also needs another dispatcher, at a cost of about $47,000.
    The chief said it would take about $27,500 to provide Tasers for all his officers and $50,000 to equip them with body cameras. “I’m bringing up everything you’ve asked for,” Hutchins told commissioners.
    • Town Manager Jamie Titcomb is proposing to add a full-time position to the administrative staff to handle increasing requests for building permits and do code inspections. Revenues from permits are on track to double from five years ago to about $400,000 annually. Titcomb said the increasing revenue warrants overhauling the staff to add a full-time building inspector and a part-time clerk. He said providing services in-house, rather than hiring outside contractors, would be more efficient and less costly. With some reassignments of existing staff, the overhaul could cost around $200,000.
    “The intent is to enhance service and get you more bang for the buck,” Titcomb said.
    • Both Titcomb and Hutchins said the town needs to upgrade its information technology systems. Titcomb told commissioners that last year the administration’s accounting software crashed, zapping data and complicating what was a torturous budget process that dragged on for five months. Titcomb said the town had to hire a specialist to retrieve the lost data. The cost of new software and upgrading the system is undetermined.
    Hutchins said his officers need to upgrade laptops, operating systems and office computers. He recommended spending $27,000 annually for three years to bring the department up to speed.
    • Town Clerk Tracey Stevens told commissioners the town is receiving about $9,000 a month from the penny sales tax increase that voters approved in November. The law requires that the money be spent on infrastructure, which is generally defined as installed devices or constructed improvements that are designed to last at least five years.
    Commissioner Steve Coz has proposed using the money for traffic calming devices, and Commissioner Don MaGruder suggested using it to rebuild the Woolbright Road detention/retention pond.

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