OCEAN CITY – A few weeks ago, local resident Jerry Albright came before the Mayor and City Council with a photograph from a recent trip he had taken to a resort town in Mexico. The photo showed a seawall, similar to the one that runs along Ocean City’s boardwalk, painted a vibrant blue. After talking about it for a bit, the Mayor and City Council agreed it was indeed aesthetically pleasing and decided to look into painting the city’s own seawall “Ocean City Blue.”
At the Mayor and City Council work session Tuesday afternoon, City Engineer Terry McGean was on hand to present his recommendation regarding the repainting of the seawall a new color, a project he said that would cost about $6,000 and need to be funded solely by the city.
McGean began by pointing out that the seawall itself is 8,125 feet long and costs $289,000 to recoat every five years, using a coating that makes the cleaning of graffiti much easier. He continued, explaining why gray was the current selection.
“We chose gray at the time because gray matched the color of the concrete under the wall,” he said. “I admit that maybe gray is not the prettiest color, but if you look at that wall and walk down it you don’t really notice the chips and the gashes and everything else along that wall – and we get quite a few of those particularly when we have to pull the sand off the wall after major storms.”
If the council did decide to go ahead with a different color, McGean warned them the scratches and gashes will be seen a lot more. This only leads to constantly recoating the wall, something the state will not allow since it provides for the beach maintenance fund. If the city would want to recoat it before the five-year mark, it would have to front the cash.
Bright colors not only show more, but they fade quickly as well, McGean also warned.
“I appreciate what you said about that,” Councilman Jim Hall said. “I sure don’t want it to look like it’s beat up after a year or two especially if we have equipment out there scraping it and shovels hitting it clearing the sand after a storm.
Councilman Lloyd Martin agreed with Hall and compared the issue to the painting of the bridges on Route 90.
“They got away from painting the bridges just because after a year they look like whatever when they are scraping them, painting them and whatever else, and that’s what your seawall will look like in a year,” he said. “I think blue would be a prettier color but at the same time it’s not practical.”
Councilwoman Mary Knight, who was adamantly for painting the seawall Ocean City blue, said after this weekend she had second thoughts.
“Unfortunately, I really like the idea of blue also but this weekend I did go up there and you’re right,” she said in regards to the damage. “When you look at it, when you really look at it, you see it. When you are just walking along you don’t.”
Knight also mentioned the idea of a compromise, such as a different shade of blue or maybe a different color. McGean said that would be doable and maybe even a tan would work since it would not be so different from the underlying concrete.
Another idea, this one coming from Councilman Jay Hancock, involved only painting a certain section to serve as a trial “to see what it does in terms of fading and reacting to the mechanical dings, dents and other perils that exist on the sidewalk,” thus showing if five years of blue would be feasible.
Hall then asked what McGean personally recommends since it’s the engineers who know it better than anyone else.
“My recommendation is gray and part of that is that I’m an engineer and if it ain’t broke don’t fix it,” he said, stressing the point. “It has worked for 17 years. Right now we don’t have to keep it up and that’s my point. We clean the graffiti off it and recoat it every five years and that’s it.”
Mayor Rick Meehan stepped in, offering everyone a different point of view on the whole discussion.
“I remember when we had a fight to get the seawall coated and the gray just kind of blends in with the skyline and blends in with the water and you don’t see it,” he said. “And really, the beauty of walking down the Boardwalk is the ocean. I think practicality wise the gray works perfectly.”
Councilwoman Margaret Pillas agreed with Meehan and echoed his sentiment that it’s the ocean people come to see, not the wall.
The motion to go ahead and approve McGean’s recommendation was then passed, with six of the council members for it and Council Secretary Nancy Howard against it.