Letter to Editor: City Lacks Know-How on Marina and Big Projects
Ocean City resident Michael Hinchman sees similar shortcomings in beaches, bay, boardwalk and roads projects.
To the editor:
The former Dan's Dockside Marina property has long been a defunct operation and in foreclosure, and a white knight — the Gill family — has emerged to purchase the property.
The plans are to construct a marina, restaurant, small shops and a gas filling station on the water. This approval will be accomplished at the Planning Board and eventually City Council.
Let me state my desired result up front: the Gill family gets approved and builds an attractive functioning restaurant/marina.
The " how" is my concern and it reflects what I have continually observe as the failing of the administration and council as they tackle the big issues of the day: 1) roads and drainage; 2) the Ocean City marina deal (at Second and Bay); 3) the lack of sand on south-end beaches; 4) the capital plan; and 5) the replacement of the Ocean City Boardwalk. In each case, the government lacks understanding of key economic or business factors, planning over the long term, and how one factor influences other factors in determining outcome.
- Roads and drainage: We have a two-variable problem: the condition of the roads and drainage issues throughout the city but not an integrated plan dealing with both factors together. In addition, the rating system for the roads is flawed. Why have we fixed alleys in Ocean City first, instead of some roads?
- The Ocean City marina deal: Not understanding the enormous mitigation of risk negotiated by Mr. Scarbourgh while he retained all of the financial upside. Lack of sensitivity analysis of possible revenue streams made the government look like boys playing with men.
- Lack of sand on the south-end beaches: Weighing the option of doing it ourselves versus the likelihood of getting outside funding. I am not advocating either option because I don't know enough, but it hasn't been analyzed yet in public. How to try to change permitting rules that requires change in procedure for Army Corps of Engineers. Critical path analysis of a long-term problem is lacking.
- Capital plan funding: $36 million of capital spending over four years, while funding only approximately $20 million long term while rates were and are at historically lows.
- Boardwalk replacement: First pine, then no pine, because with the preservatives, it still doesn't wear well — only the mayor doesn't know pine has been a maintenance disaster for the city — three years and counting, but we are experimenting with 4' by 4' samples on the boardwalk as if that is a representative sample. We have missed the window of a less expensive replacement as every marine piling company is busy in the wake of Sandy.
The "rub" in the welcomed reconstruction by the Gills of the 10th Street and Palen Avenue waterfront is how the environmental costs and liability of six gas tanks will affect how the property may or may not be financed with private or public (read city) funds.
The Gill's attorney mentioned the possibility of public financing at the last City Council meeting. The environmental clean-up cost may or may not be important, but the environmental impact of the compromised tanks is the fork in the road to pulling the city into the transaction or not.
Please, Ocean City government, determine independently the environmental situation. You haven't thought of the outcome again — HOW ONE FACTOR DETERMINES THE OUTCOME OF ANOTHER.
At the last council meeting, I asked hypothetically how much this project might cost — $3, $5 or $8 million — after Mr. Gill stated that he was an "accountant" and that he understood "costs." I was told by Ms. McCrosson that my comments were "pertinent but premature." That is not true. You work the planning of a project backward and forward.
This exemplifies several deficiencies in the city's management of many projects — lack of transparency and not trying to understand a key component to the outcome ahead of time: in this case cost and therefore a possible public financing role. When I get in a car, I usually know where I am going, how long it may take to get there and the cost. Isn't that simple?
In a later article, I will go into greater detail an explanation of the environmental situation, another way of solving the remediation and a time-frame discussion.