Ocean City officials are not giving up on finding enough Boardwalk tram operators to accommodate more deployments this summer.
This week, members of the town’s Transportation Committee continued discussions about how to attract people to the positions, including offering overtime pay to other department employees at their regular wage levels, rather than the tram payscale, and performing more robust and targeted recruitment efforts.
Interim Transportation Manager Steve Bartlett said the number of tram drivers and conductors are way down, with just 11 drivers and nine conductors employed as of Tuesday morning. Ideally, he has said he would like 22 of each.
Recently, officials offered a deal to all other city employees to collect overtime pay if they pick up tram shifts, but no one jumped on the offer. He said he believed employees were not quick to sign up because they would be paid at the overtime tram and conductor rates, not their regular rates. However some committee members said they do not believe all employees were aware of the offer.
Councilman Mark Paddock, who sits on the Transportation Committee, said Tuesday that he recently spoke with Beach Patrol employees who had no idea that was a possibility and believes other employees were not aware either.
Mayor Rick Meehan suggested making more concerted efforts to let all employees know about the proposition.
“I really think we need to go back to other departments,” he said. “I’m getting the feeling that it wasn’t really offered to Beach Patrol.”
He added that they do not need that many people and believes that if they try a little harder to make sure people know of the offer they could achieve their goal.
“If you go to all the staff and you generate five or six or seven people it makes a significant difference,” he said.
Committee members also suggested offering overtime pay at the employees’ regular rates, most of which are higher than those of tram operators. Currently, tram drivers make $12.65 an hour and conductors make $11.75. The overtime rates at time-and-a-half are almost $19 an hour for drivers and a little more than $17 for conductors.
City Manager Doug Miller said he would have to look into whether that would be possible. There were also some concerns about morale among the existing tram employees, because even though they would also be offered overtime it would be at their current rates, and some other employees could make more performing the same job.
In any case, committee members agreed something needs done and an update is needed before the committee’s next meeting in a month.
“We’ve got to do something different,” said Councilman and Transportation Committee member Tony DeLuca. “The trams are one of the few things that is successful at bringing in revenue, income. We walked in here, [employment] is down, it’s only going to get busier … If we always do what we always do we’ll always get what we always got. We need to do something different.”
To help get the most out of the trams that do run, Meehan suggested better targeting the deployment times. Currently, five trams run on most days and Meehan said the schedule should be set so that two trams begin driving at noon and the remainder start their shifts at 3 p.m.
Committee members also agreed to discontinue a promotional deal that offers $4 passes for unlimited rides because, on the heels of covid, there are not always trams running.
Along with the trams, buses are driving in full force along the roads of the resort, creating the need for new vehicles.
Public Works Director Hal Adkins said three articulated, or tandem, buses — which are larger and have the ability to accommodate about twice the capacity of regular buses — are set for delivery at the end of June.
He also said outside funding is included in next year’s budget to buy two more of the larger buses but they will need a state match of $320,000.
“We are building the ‘artic’ fleet, as you can see,” Adkins said.