In 2009, the Mayor & City Council (M&CC) passed Ordinance 2009-17, stating that the land mass at our Wastewater Treatment Plant on 64th Street was at capacity.
It added that any new improvements, increased hydraulic capacity and additional enhanced levels of treatment needed would require additional land.
The ordinance authorized the M&CC to purchase or condemn a vacant tract of land located at 200 64th Street, adjacent to the Wastewater Treatment Plant.
Information available through the Maryland State Archives, reveals a recorded document identified as “Consent Inquisition,” dated June 15, 2010.
This document found in Worcester County Land Records, with case title “Mayor and City Council Of Ocean City, Plaintiff v. Oceanbay Shopping Center Limited Partnership, Defendant”, states “THAT the parties have agreed on Five Million Dollars ($5,000,000) as the amount of damages which the Defendant will sustain by reason of the taking, use and occupation of said property …”
The document further states “That the purpose for which said land and property above described is sought to be condemned is as set out in Ordinance 2009-17…”
In 2010, the M&CC passed two separate Bond Ordinances for the acquisition of the property.
Both bond ordinances indicate that the bond proceeds were for the acquisition of property being condemned pursuant to Ordinance 2009-17.
The first bond ordinance adopted in June of 2010 authorized a bond sale in the amount of $5.1 million. It was passed just eight days before the court awarded the $5 million in damages to the defendant.
However, that bond sale never took place. Where did the $5,000,000 come from to acquire the property?
In September of 2010, a second Bond Ordinance was adopted authorizing the M&CC to issue and sell $18,105,000 in bonds.
Along with the acquisition of 200 64th Street, this bond sale was also to fund a variety of public works projects, along with expansion, repairs and improvements to the convention center.
However, this bond ordinance was not adopted for at least two months after the property was acquired by the Town; and the actual bond sale did not occur until mid-November of 2010, over four months after ownership transferred.
If funds were not available until November, where did the $5,000,000 come from to settle with the defendant months earlier?
It has been over 10 years since the M&CC acquired this property, and they have never utilized the land for their stated intended purpose of expanding the Wastewater Treatment Plant.
And now, as part of the massive, major, and expensive renovation project at the 65th Street Public Works Complex, otherwise known as the “Campus Plan,” the M&CC have recently built a ground level parking lot on the property at a cost of $2 million, of which the Maryland Transportation Administration paid half.
With the cost of acquisition at $5 million, and the interest accrued on its assigned debt thru early August 2020 at over $2 million, and the town’s portion of construction costs at $1 million; this combined $8 million makes this one very expensive parking lot.
What is also curious is the fact that FY10 Budget Amendment #2 adopted in September of 2010, reveals that a Bond Issuance in the amount of $6,453,899 was added to the Wastewater Fund as a budget amendment.
Where did that money come from, when the Bond Sale was not held until November of 2010?
If, in fact, the original intent of the condemnation ordinance was to acquire the land for the Wastewater Treatment Plant expansion; and if, in fact, the Wastewater Fund paid for the acquisition and has financed the debt service with interest all these years, then the Campus Plan should reimburse the Wastewater Fund for the land now used as a parking lot.
After all, it is only fair to those of us who pay our wastewater bills.
Vincent dePaul Gisriel Jr.