Public has until Feb. 8 to weigh in with comments on fiscal year 2020 priorities
(Jan. 25, 2019) Residents have until Feb. 8 to request a public hearing for Ocean City government’s fiscal year 2020 Annual Transportation Plan Capital Request from the Maryland Transit Authority.
State funding is only anticipated for three of the dozen items on the request, which altogether totals more than $22 million.
Public Works Director Hal Adkins said state officials hinted a trio of requests for roughly $7.9 million would be approved, including $7 million for the Public Works Campus Plan Construction, $200,00 for Public Works Campus Plan Construction Management and $785,000 for one year of bus fleet preventative maintenance.
“We are required by their regulations to hold a public hearing, but only if one is requested,” he said. “From all indicators, we will only receive state funding for the first three items.”
Adkins reviewed alternative funding suggestions for the other, most likely unfunded, items during a Transportation Committee meeting last Tuesday.
He said although the annual ATP request includes roughly $10 million to replace 21 buses that have surpassed the federal government useful life criteria, in reality other avenues have been explored to obtain a lesser number of transit vehicles.
“Had the funding been available, they would not be replacing 21,” he said. “We were lucky if we got one-to-three a year.”
Adkins said because of several years of extensive state funding for construction of the 65th Street Public Works Campus Plan, replacement bus funds would be unavailable for a comparable period.
“This will be the third year of funding and, aggregately, when … approved that will be roughly $18,100,000 in federal cash that will be coming your way over the three-year period, matched with your land,” he said.
To help compensate with replacement vehicles, Adkins said last year Ocean City purchased five buses for $1 each that were beyond the MTA useful life criteria and plan to match that total this spring.
“My understanding is they’re running … better than the buses we had in the first place,” he said.
The fiscal 2020 ATP request also includes more than $3 million to purchase four 60-foot articulating buses, at a cost of roughly $700,000 each, which Adkins said would also not be funded.
“We own two and feel six is the ultimate number,” he said. “They’re like a vacuum cleaner when they pull up to these stops.”
Transit Manager Mark Rickards said in the past the state lent Ocean City the oversized vehicles for the summer season.
“They stopped doing that [and] we made the recommendation to purchase our own,” he said. “They make a significant difference in summertime.”
Adkins said Grant Coordinator Wayne Pryor is currently pursuing a $700,000 federal grant application to purchase one articulating bus, which would require a local funding match of 10 percent. He said the application is still being finalized and Pryor should be informed if matching funds are located.
Other items in the fiscal 2020 ATP request include four ADA-accessible nonfare transit supervisor vehicles for $240,000, and one ADA para transit van replacement for $68,000.
Because the state is not expected to award the more than $300,000 requested for vehicle needs, Adkins suggested working with Fleet Manager Ron Eckman to maximize existing stock.
“We have one ADA van from 2009 with over 200,000 miles and the other is from 2012 and has 160,000 miles,” he said.
Rickards said the four supervisor vehicles, priced at $60,000 each, would be modified with a ramp for ADA accessibility.
“We would like a multi-purpose supervisor vehicle … not quite a conversion van, but modified for transit use,” he said.
Lacking state support, other options included funding the Transportation Department purchases through vehicle trust fund in fiscal 2020, Adkins said.
Budget Manager Jennie Knapp, while noting vehicle trust fund has no monies currently available, suggested earmarking funds from a separate account sourced from sales of retired buses and transit grant funded assets, which has a present balance of $40,000.
Between the transit-based funding account and identifying potential savings in the Transportation budget, Knapp said money for a percentage of the request might be located.
“If we have to buy them at 100 percent, that’s going to compete with other needs,” she said.
Mayor Rick Meehan suggested testing the waters with the purchase of a single supervisor vehicle.
“Give it a trial period before you buy four,” he said. “One may be sufficient to offset the need.”
Councilman Dennis Dare echoed Meehan’s suggestion and also expressed reservations about tapping into the vehicle trust fund, expressing instead a preference for using the transit-based funding account.
Dare suggested a delay in obtaining the supervisor vehicles until grant funding becomes available. He added the local grant match for the articulating bus should take precedence, with the ADA van next in importance.
Meehan said the committee consensus was to purchase one ADA van from the transportation account, if sufficient funds are available, which would take precedence over the four supervisor vehicles.
Adkins said alternative channels are being explored for a $90,000 allocation to retrofit LED lighting at the West Ocean City Park and Ride, which was included, but also not anticipated to receive funding.
City Engineer Terry McGean is currently working on the second phase of an energy management project that may provide fiscal support, with an update forthcoming, Adkins said.
“It deals with water/wastewater, the airport and the West Ocean City Park and Ride,” he said.
Bus stop shelter replacement parts, estimated at $50,000, is another area Adkins highlighted for alternative suggestions.
“This is maintaining the current ones to make it presentable for the summer,” he said.
Adkins said after surveying the currently required bus shelter repairs, the present inventory of replacement plexiglass panels would likely be exhausted.
“We have about 300 plexiglass panels left and they are already scheduled in the locations where they go,” he said. “By spring, all 300 would be in place and I would have zero panels left for vandalism in the summer.”
Adkins said if roughly $14,000 in funding is not available in the budget to purchase additional panels, he could prioritize the repairs to maintain a summer backstock.
Public hearing requests must be in writing and received prior to 4 p.m. on Feb. 8. Hearing request or any written comments should be marked “Public Hearing Comments” and mailed to Ocean City Transportation, 204 65th Street, Building E, Ocean City, Maryland 21842. Requests and comments can also be emailed to email@example.com.
If requested, the public hearing would be held on Feb. 19 at 6 p.m. during the regularly scheduled City Council meeting.