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Ocean City Council discussed rankings for long-term projects included in the 2020 Capital Improvement Plan during its work session on Tuesday.

(March 1, 2019) After holding initial discussions last fall to formulate a fiscal year 2020 Capital Improvement Plan, City Engineer Terry McGean told the Ocean City Council this week that significant price reductions have been identified for several long-term projects.

“First, the council was going to rank the general fund projects,” he said.

McGean said the CIP project rankings include categories deemed critical, very important, important, less important, and those reserved for future consideration.

The list of projects ranked as critical included: street paving, Boardwalk re-decking, canal dredging, the Chicago Avenue bulkhead replacement, and undergrounding utilities on Baltimore Avenue from North Division to 15th Streets.

During a council work session on Tuesday, McGean said a recent meeting with utility company representatives revealed that cost estimates for placing existing utility lines underground in that area of Baltimore Avenue ended up far below what was initially suspected.

“It came back they can get the numbers that we need to at least get us a good conceptual idea of how much utility undergrounding [is needed] on that section of Baltimore Avenue,” he said. “That number went from over $50,000 to $5,000.”

McGean said other positive fiscal news came to light earlier that same day related to replacing a failing bulkhead along Chicago Avenue, which the Army Corp of Engineers recently decided would not qualify for federal grant funding.

“The good news today [is], we had an extremely low tide, so [Engineering Manager] Paul Mauser and I took advantage … to look at a number of bulkheads in town, including on Chicago Avenue,” he said.

With improved clarity from lower than typical water levels, McGean said it was visually determined there are, in fact, two bulkheads along Chicago Avenue.

“The bulkhead piece that is failing …  is located at the end of Fourth Street, which is where the first sinkhole developed,” he said. 

McGean said the improved views revealed that about the last 50-feet of bulkhead fronting Fourth Street differs from the remainder along the roadway.

“The structure is different, my guess is it was put in at a different time, [but] the remainder … is actually in pretty good condition,” he said.

McGean said the revelation should drop the original cost estimate of $2.2 million by about 90 percent.

Projects the council ranked as very important included: Eagle’s Landing Gold Course cart bridge repairs, playground replacements, redeveloping the former public works Whiteside building on Second Street for temporary parking, and updating the elevator at Fire Headquarters on 15th Street.

The projects ranked as important included: re-surfacing the inlet parking lot, installing a variable message board in the inlet lot, downtown one-way street pairings, and Ocean Bowl Skatepark renovations, along with expanding the Downtown Recreation Complex. 

Among the projects classified as less important were: building a midtown fire station and Lifesaving Museum renovations, along with three projects at the Ocean City Municipal Airport, including installing a new hanger, repainting existing hangers and resurfacing the terminal parking lot.

The list of projects set for future consideration included: Sunset Park Pier improvements, expanding the Recreation and Parks Department garage, relocating the Information Technology department, constructing a bio-retention pond at North Side Park, relocating the West Ocean City Public Works storage yard, expanding the Fourth Street parking lot, and installing a transit lane on Philadelphia Avenue.

Councilman Dennis Dare said despite a new midtown fire station not anticipating construction until 2023, cost estimates should be examined during the interim.

“Can we ask [City Manager] Doug Miller to add that to the budget discussion so we … have a number of what that might look like?” he said. “I would like if we could start the first study … 2023 is a bit away, but beginning the study to see what can be done on site.”

McGean said next steps would include approving the current project priority classifications, selecting pay-as-you-go projects for inclusion in the fiscal 2020 budget, and adopting the Capital Improvement Plan document in April, prior to adopting the 2020 budget in May.

Councilman John Gehrig said revenue-producing items should carry more weight, while also lamenting the exclusion of a sports marketing feasibility study.

“The sports complex could probably pay for all of this and get it done in a year … if we had one,” he said. “Sports marketing could help short term, but also in future.”

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