O.B.A. Focusing on COVID Recovery and Village Centennial this Season

by FIN |

By Joey Macellaro ~ The Ocean Beach Association (O.B.A) convened its semiannual membership meeting virtually for the third time on the evening of March 16. Board President Maria Silsdorf coordinated an active discussion between several dozen residents and leaders from the Ocean Beach community.

Silsdorf opened the meeting with an announcement that the O.B.A. would be working with the Ocean Beach Historical Society to publish a journal in celebration of the centennial anniversary of the incorporation of the village of Ocean Beach in 1921. Silsdorf welcomed Board Members Judy Gerardi, Craig Sherman, Gwen Silver, Jill Feighan, Jon Randazzo, and Chris Brahe back for another year; and thanked Pam Nornes, who has retired from the board. A moment of silence was observed for all members of the community lost in the last year, with special recognition given to longtime O.B.A. Board Member George Rehn and Ocean Beach Youth Group Director Ralph Scordino. Feighan will be assuming the role of advertising director for the community directory and centennial journal in Rehn’s place.

“We’re optimistic and hoping that this summer will be a return to some kind of normal,” said Silsdorf. “We’re hoping for the best but preparing for the worst. We will have to be nimble in case we have to change plans.” She noted that a full schedule of events is planned to celebrate the village’s centennial, including a formal ceremony and bonfire on Sept. 18, but events will be modified or postponed if necessary to ensure the safety of attendees.

Silsdorf announced that membership dues will be increasing for the first time in 20 years, from $35 to $50, and that technical upgrades are being made to allow for members to submit dues electronically. Treasurer Sherman noted that in spite of the pandemic, expenses only slightly exceeded income over the last year.

Gerardi provided additional information about the centennial journal, which she said would be modeled loosely on the organization’s 75th anniversary publication. She recognized Silsdorf, Shoshanna McCollum, Sydney Fishman, and me as volunteer editors in addition to herself, and thanked the Ocean Beach Historical Society and Ocean Beach Community Fund for offering to provide submissions from their “100 Years, 100 Voices” for inclusion in the journal.

Ocean Beach Community Fund President Holly Etlin shared that 2021 is her organization’s 25th year in operation. She noted that she hopes the community will be able to return to some sense of normalcy this year, and that decisions would be made by Memorial Day regarding plans for the July 4 baby parade, movie nights, and the annual dinner dance, tentatively themed “100 Years, 100 Dances.” The annual fine arts show and children’s art show will be held as usual outdoors on the village green this year, and the Historical Society, funded by the O.B.C.F., will present recollections from community members in a safe environment in its space at the Community House in August.

Camille Guigliano and David Lieber of the Village of Ocean Beach Environmental Committee thanked Etlin, Silsdorf, and the village for their financial support over the last year, and acknowledged recent volunteer work from David Lipsky and Lisa Lowe. A beach cleanup is tentatively scheduled for May 15 and 16, with plans for the organization’s 15th annual Environmental Awareness Day in the works for September, either virtually or in-person.

Patty Brahe of the Ocean Beach Youth Group introduced Sam Globus, Michelle Grady, and Sari Rowe as new members of her organization’s board, while expressing heartbreak over the loss of longtime Director Scordino. New Co-Director Sophie Pollak spoke on behalf of herself and Co-Director Caitlin Alfano.

“I’m humbled to be able to continue in Ralph’s footsteps,” said Pollak. She emphasized the organization’s focus on safety for all campers and staff members, and said she and Alfano would be following all state directives. For the first time, children as young as 3 will have an opportunity to participate in the camp’s programs, which are open not only to families enrolling for the whole season but to those wishing to have children join for days or weeks at a time.

Jill Weinstein spoke on behalf of the Ocean Beach lifeguards and announced to members that she had assumed the position of chief lifeguard after Nick Stertz stepped down. She encouraged beachgoers to try to limit single-use plastic products on the beach.

Ocean Beach Fire Department Chief Ian Levine recognized new members Amanda Gilsten, Lauren Hesse, Jose Ortega, and Jake Putman, and said he expects five additional new members by the summer. He thanked Kara Stretch and Tim O’Rourke for their years of service as they retire, and recognized active members John Lardner and Joe Loeffler for their 60 and 54 years of service respectively. Levine noted that 330 fire and E.M.S. calls were received in 2020. The department’s annual blood drive is planned for Memorial Day, and members hope to hold a July 4 barbecue on the ball field as usual this year, after canceling last year for safety reasons.

Police Chief George Hesse noted that he is now in his 12th year as head of the department, and he thanked O.B.A. members for their overwhelming response to the police reform survey that was posted online over the winter. He acknowledged that the department would be changing the way it trains its members based on the results of the survey, and that an official plan of action would be adopted at a later date by the village.

Hesse also addressed concerns of residents about the increased number of unaccompanied minors in Ocean Beach last season, and noted that there were 996 calls for service — about 240 calls above average. Several residents expressed concerns about enforcing mask wearing and social distancing among minors, and Hesse explained that police are limited by state law regarding enforcement for those less than 17 years of age.

Last to address attendees was Mayor James Mallott, who began by noting that renovations to the beach overpass at Bayberry Walk were underway, and that the overpass at Cottage Walk would be repaired in the spring. He added that work had just commenced on a new well at 503 Bayberry Walk, and that the village budget was approved with a zero percent increase over last year. He wished the Ocean Beach Youth Group well as the organization transitions to new leadership and echoed the thoughts of others in the community in mourning the loss of Scordino.

After the mayor detailed plans to install new drainage systems in response to members’ concerns about flooding in the downtown and residential districts, Silsdorf thanked attendees for their participation and encouraged all to follow safety guidelines as they continue to support the Ocean Beach community during its centennial season.

Centennial logo designed by Matthew Langley.

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