*Baltimore Ave.-8th-9th St..JPG

Baltimore Avenue in downtown Ocean City is shown between Eighth and Ninth streets. The area is part of the section from North Division to 15th streets slated for $44 million of upgrades, which Councilman Peter Buas is pushing to get at least some funding to start this year.

Buas asks for cost breakdown to finance project in FY24

Ocean City Councilman Peter Buas is not giving up on getting at least some Baltimore Avenue improvements funded in fiscal 2024 and convinced his colleagues this week to consider breaking up the project.

“I can’t emphasize enough how I think getting this project started in any capacity is of utmost importance,” Buas said Monday of long-running plans to bury utility lines, widen sidewalks and perform other upgrades to Baltimore Avenue from North Division to 15th streets.

“And if we have to do the undergrounding now and the postpone the streetscaping part to get it underway, then that’s something I think we should seriously consider,” he continued.

Buas has been a consistent cheerleader for the project, which has been in the works for years, even after council members learned in the fall that cost estimates more than doubled from $20 million to $44 million.

The higher price tag convinced a majority of the council to shy away from including $18 million of the cost in a fiscal 2024 capital improvement plan bond issue, thus moving initial payments to fiscal 2025 or beyond.

Buas criticized the decision to remove it from this year’s CIP, and asked for staff to break down the specific costs to revisit at a future work session.

Council President Matt James, who has been staunchly against funding the project at the current price, said he would like to see the costs broken down and supported getting those details and discussing them before the council votes on the final CIP.

City Manager Terry McGean said it would not be difficult to get the information, since he has most of it on hand and just needs to organize it for presentation. He suggested including the details in weekly updates to council members, and they agreed. Council members ultimately decided to push the discussion on the project, and the vote on the CIP, to their March 28 work session.

Mayor Rick Meehan also said that he and Del. Wayne Hartman (R-38C) recently had a productive meeting with the state’s lieutenant governor, the secretary of transportation and members of the Maryland Department of Transportation about the project. Meehan said staff members are following up with a letter and that he is “confident” the city will get some money from the state to fund improvements to Baltimore Avenue this year.

This story appears in the March 10, 2023 print edition of the OC Today.

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