Sandy Won't Stop City From Investing Big in Roads, Boardwalk and Beaches
The city administration outlines a $50 million plan to improve infrastructure over five years.
Mayor Jay Gillian's administration on Thursday outlined a $50 million commitment to completing a to-do list of long-neglected projects: roads that don't drain, lagoons with no water, a warped and splintered boardwalk, bulkheads that fail to hold back the bay and a host of other public facilities in disrepair.
The administration presented a five-year capital plan to City Council at a public workshop meeting Jan. 17 at the Ocean City Free Public Library. Gillian has said he'll make a priority of infrastructure improvements that were too often ignored in the past.
The presentation also included a list of projects related to Superstorm Sandy, which left widespread damage across Ocean City when it struck on Oct. 29.
Business Administrator Mike Dattilo said Ocean City expects federal reimbursements to cover enough of the storm-repair work that the city can pull off its ambitious five-year plan without being substantially affected.
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Ocean City will spend $850,000 as its share of a $3.4 million federal project to rebuild dunes, and replace dune fencing and dune plantings across the length of Ocean City's beaches.
The dune project involves trucking in 60,000 cubic yards of sand to help rebuild dunes at the south end, but it is not related to approved and proposed beach replenishment projects for Ocean City.
A beach-widening project for the north end of Ocean City was approved before Sandy struck and is scheduled to start in March. The city had been approved for about 1 million cubic yards of sand as part of an Army Corps of Engineers project, but Dattilo said the city will seek an expansion of the project to include more sand, because so much of it was lost during the storm.
Dattilo said there is still no word on a separate beach-widening project for the south end. The beaches between 36th and 59th streets are on a list of projects approved by the Army Corps but awaiting funding by Congress.
Dattilo said funding of the Army Corps project remains the best hope for the south end, but he said there's a possibility that the city and the state could work together on their own beach-widening project, possibly using some of the $50.7 billion in federal disaster relief headed for the region.
Sandy-related projects also include:
- $360,000 in bayfront repairs (including $175,000 to reconstruct the 12th Street pavilion and $150,000 to demolish damaged structures and repair a fishing pier at the public marina at Second Street and Bay Avenue)
- $175,000 to repair the tennis courts at 34th Street
- $305,000 to repair the ground floor of City Hall
- $100,000 to remediate the Transportation Center at 10th Street and Haven Avenue
- The firehouse at 29th Street is still under review (to determine whether it's more cost-effective to repair or replace the building).
CAPITAL PLAN 2013-2017
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The city's five-year plan calls for spending $25 million to improve roads and drainage in Ocean City.
The city will spend $5 million in 2013-2014 (PDF includes specific streets). At the urging of constituents, City Council members have vowed to make road improvements a top priority.
The city plans to spend $1.4 million each year between 2014 and 2017 as part of a project to completely replace the Ocean City Boardwalk between Fifth and 12th streets. The city is still working to determine a suitable and durable material for boardwalk decking — though Gillian said it will be wood and won't be tropical hardwood.
The plan also calls for spending $8.4 million to build a new public safety building to replace the police station and municipal court at Eighth Street and Central Avenue. The new building would be constructed on city property that currently houses the Ocean City Fire Department at 550 Asbury Avenue.
On Thursday as in the past, city officials were reluctant to call the capital expenditure on the public saftey building a certainty. They said plans are very preliminary and still under review. The capital plan allocates $220,000 for planning costs in 2013.
In presentations last year, the city administration outlined a plan to borrow more money to fund the capital-improvement plan, increasing debt service by about $600,000 to $800,000 per year as it moves from about $8.3 million now to about $12 million by 2018, according to Finance Director Frank Donato.
Donato said the annual increases might add a half-penny annually to the tax rate (or $5 for every $100,000 of property value) if cuts are not made elsewhere.