OCEAN CITY – Plans for city-maintenance of the town’s 64 canals were presented and approved at this week, calling for town control over dredging of the waterways.
“This is our continued effort to take over the canal dredging in the city,” explained City Engineer Terry McGean.
McGean presented the Mayor and City Council with the initial plans for canal dredging last November, returning this week with the necessary code changes to move forward with the project.
McGean presented two changes to the code that would ultimately alter how the waterways are maintained.
“The first part makes it a violation to damage the waterway and assigns the responsibility for cost to repair said damage to whoever caused it,” said McGean. “The second gives the council authority to dredge waterways and requires the adjacent property owners to bring their shoreline up to an acceptable standard as a condition of dredging.”
Currently, the property owners along the canal are responsible for the cost of dredging as well as bulkhead repair, but according to McGean, it is difficult to coordinate all property owners along a canal, as result, dredging is done piecemeal, if at all.
“It’s just too cumbersome to get everybody along the canal to pay for it,” McGean said, noting that in his 18 years with the town, only one canal has been completed.
The code change aims to fix that problem by bringing waterway maintenance and canal dredging under the town’s control. Property owners would still be responsible for bulkhead repair prior to dredging.
McGean explained that contingent upon the permit process; the project could be underway within a few years. “If things go smoothly, we would expect to be digging, in our first year, in October 2010.”
McGean also presented the Mayor and Council with the dredging list, which is based on canal depth, as well as geography.
“I have not included how dredging will be funded in the code, previous direction from the council was to use the General Fund and I am proceeding on that basis,” said McGean.
In McGean’s presentation to the council in November, the consensus from the Mayor and Council was to proceed with full funding of the dredging, with funding to come from the General Fund. There had been discussion, however, as to whether property owners should contribute. McGean estimated the costs ranging between $200,000 and $300,000 per year.
“I think the cost of dredging is going to play a major part. I can’t equate the canal with the roads, I think the property owners should be responsible for at least some of it,” said Council member Nancy Howard, pointing out that canal front property owner get the most use out of the canals.
Council member Margaret Pillas disagreed.
“I think the property owners do pitch in,” she said, referring to the bulkhead work. “I think its something that has to be done by the city.”
Mayor Rick Meehan pointed out that waterfront property owners are already paying more through higher property taxes.
“I support your idea 100 percent,” said Councilman Jim Hall. “I think going this route is absolutely the way to do it because if not, it won’t get done.”
The council voted unanimously to move the code changes to first reading.
“I think you’re all right on the money. I think its time we move forward with this,” added Meehan.