OCEAN CITY – The Mayor and City Council granted approval this week for city staff to move forward in the bid process to renovate the Boardwalk, leading possibly to construction starting as soon as this fall.
A few months ago, the Mayor and City Council voted to approve an all-wood deck on the Boardwalk over two other options involving a concrete tram lane or a stamped concrete tram lane to resemble a wooden pattern. Since then, City Engineer Terry McGean has been working on the next steps.
During Monday evening’s City Council meeting, McGean presented the council with the direction he has taken in the Boardwalk’s renovation. The design of the Boardwalk will include an all wooden deck over concrete footings with stone ballast between. Instead of the current 45 degree angle the wooden boards are currently placed, he suggested placing them at a 22.5 degree angle.
“It’s going to help delineate the train lane, make the train lane stand out, it’s going to help to use shorter pieces of board and not stagger them, which will make replacement of the deck easier, and I think aesthetically it’s a very nice appearance for the Boardwalk,” McGean said.
McGean placed the Boardwalk reconstruction into two phases.
The first phase includes the full replacement from 27th Street to 15th Street and the deck replacement from the Inlet to Somerset Street. The construction would initiate in the beginning of October 2011 and end in late May of 2012.
The second phase would begin October of 2012 and end May of 2013. This phase would include the full replacement of 15th Street to North Division Street and the deck replacement of North Division Street to Somerset Street.
“I have based the downtown being split up into two phases based on whether you all want to redo the Caroline Comfort Station,” McGean said. “If you do not want to do that, the entire downtown re-deck could be done in a single year.”
McGean estimated the base cost assuming the council would agree to use a conventional treated wood in construction is $6.5 million.
“Right now, we are looking to do this all contracted out. We are not looking at using city labor,” McGean said. “We just do not have the man power any more to do this work in house like we have done in the past.”
McGean recommended to the council to select the conventional wood of southern yellow pine because it is the least expensive and the other treatments are too expensive or still experimental.
“I have lost sleep over this,” McGean said. “I have tried to look at these 100 different ways of what I wanted to recommend to you all for a deck and I really wanted to recommend to you all something flashy, something new, something exciting but after looking at this I’m back to good old treated wood.”
The other decking options include Timbersil, Kebony, and IPE lumber. McGean said that Timbersil would be the best option if the manufacturer’s claims are valid but it’s not used on any other boardwalk so it has no track record or code approvals.
According to Timbersil’s website, is a combination of wood and glass. The benefits to the product are more stable, safer, stronger, long lasting and low maintenance.
“If Tibersil had something I could look at, a company that I feel comfortable with, that I knew this product is going to do what they say this product is going to do, it would be the answer to all our prayers,” McGean said. “There is a potential for a significant amount of savings if this does what it says it supposed to do.”
According to McGean, the only commercial places that have installed Timbersil is a nature walkway in Maine, a set of steps in Michigan and railroad ties in South Carolina, and none of the installations have been in for more than five years.
“I really agonized over this and the bottom line is I cannot justify this experimental product,” McGean said.
He added that Kebony’s benefits do not justify its increased cost and IPE is very expensive, a known commodity and has the best aesthetics but involves a public perception issue because it is grown in the rain forest.
The Caroline Street Comfort Station was built in 1979 and involves ADA violations and plumbing problems, as well as is the last “bunker style” restroom on the Boardwalk. The new building was proposed in 2007 and includes larger restrooms, a covered stage, a shaded rest area and is an environmentally sensitive building. The building will cost $1.3 million.
“This project also requires a new configuration of the concrete Boardwalk,” McGean said. “So it would make sense at least from a scheduling standpoint … to do it at this time.”
“I’m a big believer in a penny saved a penny earned,” Councilman Brent Ashley said, asking if it would be cheaper to construct the building at this time. McGean replied affirmative given the construction market.
Finance Director Martha Lucey added within two years, even with adding a new deck, the town will remain below its current debt schedule because it’s paying off debt rapidly.
Councilwoman Mary Knight placed a motion to begin the bid process for the new Boardwalk and to include a discussion on the Caroline Street Comfort Station in a future work session.
Councilman Joe Hall said he was voting against the motion, due to the council not taking advantage of the cost savings associated with the concrete tram lane.
“I do support the Boardwalk and I do believe it needs to be rejuvenated but … I just don’t find the aesthetics worth the extra $1.5-$2 million extra,” he said. “We could be voting for the Caroline Street Boardwalk combination and not be spending an extra million dollars.”
The council voted 6-1 to approve Knight’s motion to allow McGean to move forward in the Boardwalk’s renovation by starting a bid process.