(Nov. 8, 2019) Infrastructure projects to improve the functional and aesthetic condition of Ocean City were the first of several priorities tackled by resort officials, department heads and staff at the Strategic Planning Update meeting last Tuesday, Oct. 29, at the Ocean City convention center on 40th Street.
Five projects of interest were Baltimore Avenue, Boardwalk redecking, public light installation, Fire Station 3 redevelopment and canal dredging.
The last time the city did major development work on Baltimore Avenue was in 1987 and 1991-92, City Public Works Director Hal Adkins said.
“[In 1987] the town replaced the water main, the entire length of the road, surfaced milled it and then repaved it,” Adkins said. “We rebuilt the section of Baltimore Avenue from Ninth to 15th in 1991-92 ... We then installed a new water main, new storm drains and new sidewalks, then repaved.”
The present focus seemed to be burying utilities, with Council Secretary Mary Knight saying early on that she wanted to see utilities buried to increase property values.
Other council members agreed, and asked about its cost.
However, City Engineer Terry McGean explained that he could not give the council members a true number, as Delmarva Power had not completed its cost study.
McGean said a ballpark estimate would put costs at roughly $15 to $20 million.
“Other projects will definitely add to that cost, but I need an outline about exactly what you want so I can give you a true cost,” McGean said.
Participants decided to outline a strategic action that would have McGean and his staff produce three options for future Baltimore Avenue development.
The first would be to simply do nothing, and allow the State Highway Administration to complete its development projects in the area.
The second would be to widen sidewalks and repave streets, with no buried utilities, and the third would be the same as the second, but with the addition of buried utilities.
Moving on, participants then discussed Boardwalk redecking.
McGean explained that boards, particularly near North Division Street, were deteriorating and that nails were popping out on board in the tram lane area.
The upkeep will cost the city roughly $60,000.
In addition, the city engineer said the resort would need to begin thinking about funding a complete Boardwalk redecking project next fall.
For future redecking, Adkins said the city would use the same wood, southern yellow pine, but with heavier treatment.
This drew questions as to whether Adkins and McGean had considered other materials.
McGean explained that they had done multiple tests and found the current wood was the best bet in terms of durability, environmental impact and aesthetics.
McGean said that other options, such as plastic, other wood species, concrete and even a plastic/wood mix were either too expensive, had negative environmental impacts or were received poorly by the public.
“One person told us that if we put concrete on the Boardwalk they would never come to Ocean City again,” McGean recalled.
The complete redecking project is estimated to cost $2.26 million, and is likely to be paid for by the proceeds of a bond sale, but the final decision has not been made, McGean said.
Participants decided to bring the project to a council meeting with the necessary bidding and bond documents.
Mayor Rick Meehan focused his attention on a smaller project called “Lighting up OC.”
“It’s not a huge priority, but we do need more lighting to keep the city safe,” he said.
The Ocean City Development Corporation and the police department already have a program where it works with businesses to add lights in dark spots, such as alleyways.
The program provides a 50 percent reimbursement of lighting costs, with a maximum contribution of $500 from the development corporation to property owners who participate.
Ocean City Development Corporation currently has roughly $5,000 budgeted to support the program.
The mayor asked the city to work in conjunction with the development corporation, and figure out how much it would cost to install lights in areas such as bus stations and downtown side streets.
Next on the list was the redevelopment of Fire Station 3 on 74th Street.
City Fire Chief Richie Bowers told participants that the station had outlived its use and was greatly lacking in space, making it virtually impossible to have separate female and male facilities, and suites for the fire company’s live-in program.
Originally, there had been plans to complete a $30,000 feasibility study and to possibly move the station to 65th Street, but Bowers said he would rather use the funds to begin design plans instead at the current site.
Participants agreed with the fire chief’s recommendations, and moved on to discuss the final project, canal dredging.
As of 2019, the city has dredged 16 canals and has the following areas laid out for future dredging: Twin Trees basin and 67th Street channel in FY20, Penguin, Plover and Gull Way in FY21 and additional canals identified through FY25.
The city will continue to prioritize canal dredging in its strategic plan.
The resort has the following projects budgeted for Fiscal Year 2020: $2.5 million for street paving, $500,000 for canal dredging, $5,000 for Baltimore Avenue project designs, $62,000 for Whiteside parking, $75,000 for an inlet lot variable message sign, $40,000 for a transfer station floor design, $233,000 for Eagle’s Landing cart bridge repairs and $30,000 for the Fire Station 3 redevelopment project.
Projects not included in the budget include $550,000 for inlet parking lot paving, $15,000 for Northside Park maintenance garage design, $180,000 for a Northside Park bioretention system, which helps remove pollutants, and $80,100 for airport terminal parking lot paving.