In January of 2018, the Mayor & City Council of Ocean City (M&CC) held a bond sale of $25.8 million.
The bond sale was to finance the town’s portion of both the Campus Plan at 65th Street and the current expansion of the convention center, as well as to fully fund the new Public Works South Facility, designed to house the Boardwalk trams and beach cleaning equipment.
In reference to the Campus Plan, Hal Adkins, Director of Public Works, wrote the following in a memo dated 8/24/16, which appeared in the Council agenda packet on 8/30/16: “It should be noted that it is our intent to have formal bids in hand by June/July 2017 thus allowing us to proceed to the Bond Market with ‘hard numbers’, not estimates.”
Contrary to Hal’s sound advice, the M&CC proceeded to the bond market without hard numbers, only estimates. The bids for the Campus Plan were opened just a few days before the bond sale. What was estimated to cost a total of $25.4 million came in at $35.8 million, over 40 percent higher.
Why would the M&CC go to the bond market without hard numbers?
In April of 2019, well over a year after our bond sale, the Maryland General Assembly authorized the sale of State bonds for their portion of the convention center expansion.
It took another six months before the Maryland Board of Public Works authorized the Stadium Authority to issue bonds for the state’s portion of the expansion.
It was nearly two years before the final bids were approved by the state to proceed with construction.
The original estimate for the expansion was estimated to cost a total of $34 million.
Following the two years delay, the cost had increased to $37.5 million, up over 10.2 percent. Why would the M&CC go to the bond market before they knew the state had finalized the approval of their portion?
By the time the contract was awarded to build the Public Works South Facility, nine months after our bond sale, the cost increased from an estimated $3 million to $3.85 million, up over 28 percent.
This does not even take into account that the M&CC paid $2 million for land acquisition to construct this facility, which was $220,000 more than the property’s appraised value. Again, why would the M&CC go to the bond market without hard numbers?
The combined result of opening bids at or well after our bond sale for these three capital projects revealed an overall increase of $14.7 million over original estimates. The M&CC continue to establish textbook cases of how not to plan, fund and build capital projects.
Vincent dePaul Gisriel, Jr.