“Somebody is going to die,” several residents and an Ocean City councilman said Monday of what might happen should there ever be a repeat of the havoc-causing modified car rally in the resort two weekends ago.
How to prevent that from happening, however, remains undetermined at Monday night’s council meeting, where a roomful of angry residents as well as participants in the unsanctioned modified car event held forth during the public comments portion of the session.
Although the discussion was not on the agenda, the event, known colloquially, if erroneously, as H2Oi was clearly on audience members’ minds.
“To quote E. Stanley Jones,” said Wilmington, Delaware resident Nigel James, a defender of the loosely organized car rally, “‘A rattlesnake, if cornered, will become so angry it will bite itself.’”
James said the city should not attempt to push participants away with harsher penalties, but should reach out to the group, collaborate on creating a sanctioned event and profit from it.
“I take offense when you say that we are not open to this group,” resort resident and business owner Michelle Knopp countered, “because we are open to all of the groups [who] come here.”
“I know they’re here to have a good time, but they also seem to come to cause problems. They seem to hate the Ocean City police … when you pull into town and you have a F*** the Ocean City Police Department [sign], that doesn’t go over well.”
Knopp went on to list a variety of events, including last month’s Bike Fest, that caused no issues despite heavy attendance.
“I would like an answer from you all [City Council] … and it might be to accept them … but right now I feel like we’re 10 steps behind, and they are always 10 steps in front of us,” Knopp said.
Several other residents echoed the possibility of working with participants, however, one resident pointed out a flaw in that approach.
“Who do you talk to? It’s an unofficial event,” resident Martin Branagan asked.
He also pointed out a flaw in another popular idea, speed bumps. He said the city would have to put in speed bumps for every vehicle event, otherwise the modified car enthusiasts would simply change dates and disrupt sanctioned events.
“Something has to be done,” Branagan said. “I said last year that this event was getting to the point that somebody is going to die. I have no doubt about it now.”
There were also criticisms over the council’s decision to have a closed session on Tuesday to discuss preventative measures.
Council President Lloyd Martin said the session would remain closed, although everything the public had said would be considered, and he urged residents and visitors to continue contacting fellow council members and the mayor with suggestions.
“We all live here with you, and we know what you’re feeling, and we’re trying to understand where they are coming from as well,” Martin said.
Councilman John Gehrig took responsibility for what he deemed as a lack of action on the council’s part.
“This is not new, this is 10 years old, and it has been creeping and creeping,” Gehrig said. “So I’m going to personally apologize. We [City Council] have done very little, frankly… and you should hold us all accountable … Lets solve the problem.”