(April 26, 2019) In a rapid-fire session at the end of a budget meeting last Tuesday, Ocean City Council members approved funding to clean storm drains, rewrite city code, and study a new midtown fire station.

Public Works Director Hal Adkins said storm drain cleaning begun this year has been both “successful [and] eye opening.”

Work this year was from 130th to 146th streets on Sinepuxent Avenue and 123rd to 127th streets on Jamaica Avenue on the north end of town, and on 9th to 14th streets on Philadelphia Avenue on the south end.

Adkins said the project “explained a lot of substantial drainage problems” and was well worth it. He said the plan was to knock out additional areas over the next two years “and then fall back into a much more minor maintenance program.”

Councilman Mark Paddack moved to approve $100,000 in spending over the next year and Mary Knight added a second. The vote was unanimous.

City Clerk Diana Chavis presented two options for redoing city code: a complete recodification for a maximum of $24,000, or a phased recodification for $8,500, to include a legal review and an outline of areas that need to be corrected. A second phase to include full implementation would cost an additional $13,000.

Municode, a national company founded in 1951, would do the work.

Chavis said the municipal code had not been reviewed in decades and City Solicitor Guy Ayers had suggested doing so.

“This is a 12-15 month process and, in the end, we’ll have a very clean code that’s a little over 1,000 pages,” Chavis said.

She said the “Cadillac version,” complete recodification, was designed for codes that are in poor shape and have not been maintained.

“We don’t need to go that [route]. Our code is in decent shape,” she said. “We just need to clean it up.”

Chavis recommended option two and the council unanimously supported that.

City Council budget wrap

Ocean City Council members last week discuss several lingering items during a budget wrap-up meeting at City Hall. 

Harder to nail down was what to do regarding the midtown fire station, also known as Station 3 on 74th Street and Coastal Highway.

According to an executive summary, Station 3 has been scheduled for replacement since 2002.

The City Council budgeted $30,000 for preliminary design services for a new building in fiscal 2017, but later questioned the need for a new building.

Station 3 was built as a two-bay facility in 1969 and two additional bays were added in 1987. The 5,240-square-foot building includes an office and dispatch room, living room, kitchen, bunk room, one bathroom in the engine bay, and another single restroom and shower off the bunk room.

The overall physical condition of the building is said to be good, but it has cracks in exterior walls and engine bays, and some defects in the living space. Additionally, the mechanical systems need $4,000 worth of work and a new generator is needed at an estimated cost of $50,000.

City Engineer Terry McGean, in an email to Budget Manager Jennie Knapp, said other needed improvements include $8,000 for a front entrance handicap ramp and $10,000 for a new front entrance with card key access. He said the roofs would also need to be replaced within the next five years, costing another $40,000.

McGean presented three options to the council: staying in the building for three years while a new one is constructed at 65th Street ($3.5 million), doing only critical renovations ($275,000), doing one major renovation and creating a two-story living and office space ($1.042 million), or adding a second floor to the entire building with a new front façade ($2.63 million).

The summary noted a new building was estimated to cost $1.5 million in 2000.

McGean recommended hiring a consultant “to look at all the different options,” at a cost of about $30,000.

 Councilman Dennis Dare said improvements for the building had been put off for several years “because of other issues within that department.”

“What the study for $30,000 would allow us to do is to look at what our need is … and what that would cost,” he said. “Then, we can make those other decisions.”

He moved to approve the study and Councilwoman Mary Knight provided a second. Mayor Rick Meehan also said he supported the study.

Two councilmembers, John Gehrig and Matt James, were opposed.

Gehrig said he worried about doing study after study, while James said there were 14 other projects ranked higher on that city’s capital improvement plan.

The vote in favor of approving the study passed, 5-2.  

Josh Davis is an MDDC award-winning editor and reporter at the Bayside Gazette and Ocean City Today newspapers, covering Berlin and Ocean Pines, Maryland. He is the author of three novels, including 'Vanishing is the Last Art' (2012). He lives in Berlin.

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