OCEAN CITY – The new Ocean City Beach Patrol (OCBP) headquarters’ preliminary design was presented on Tuesday afternoon with Mayor and Council requesting a few minor tweaks before approval.
The new OCBP home was presented as a three-story building with the entrance facing the corner of Talbot Street and Philadelphia Avenue. The building represents a traditional Ocean City aesthetic as laid out by Ocean City Development Corporation’s (OCDC) Downtown Design Standards.
In August, the Mayor and City Council voted to add the construction of a new OCBP facility to a bond issuance that will go to the market by the end of the year. The facility has a maximum price tag of $2 million. Prior to the council’s approval this year, the project had been left on the drawing board for some time.
The OCBP currently occupies three buildings on Dorchester Street that were formerly used to serve as the old Ocean City Police Department and District Court facilities. In 1993, the buildings were deemed unsuitable for the OCPD and District Court and they vacated the property moving into the new Public Safety Building on 65th Street.
The dilapidating facility was never meant to be a permanent home for the beach patrol. Examination of the existing buildings revealed significant issues, such as numerous ADA violations, nonfunctioning sprinkler systems, asbestos siding, cracks in exterior masonry walls and all buildings’ first floors are below the FEMA Base Flood Elevation.
OCDC and city staff had recommended the new headquarters be located across the street from its existing location on three parcels purchased by the OCDC between Talbot and Dorchester streets that currently stands as a gravel parking lot next to OCDC’s office.
The council accepted OCDC’s proposal of a land swamp of OCDC parking lots in the Dorchester/Talbot streets block for the city-owned lots where the existing headquarters stands in the Dorchester/Somerset streets block. Once the existing facility is demolished, those lots will then become temporary parking lots instead.
In addition, the OCDC will pay 35-percent of the cost of the new OCBP building and site improvements over the 20-year bond life, not to exceed $2 million. These assisted funds would come from the Inlet Parking Lot fund, which is a dedicated funding source established a decade ago to fund downtown revitalization projects by OCDC.
City Engineer Terry McGean this week presented the facility’s conceptual design, which was created by Becker Morgan Group.
“Quite a bit of effort has gone into this on a staff level in meeting with the architect. The first design go around we had 3,000 square feet larger then what we’re showing now, so there was quite a bit of an effort to get it down to where it needed to be,” McGean said.
The first floor will enter into a lobby that will serve as a directory towards the second and third floor with access to a stair tower and elevator. There is an outdoor entrance to a second stair tower on the opposite side of the building.
The majority of the first floor serves as OCPD bicycle storage, which the current facility is also used for, as well as a restroom and office space for OCPD’s bike patrol division. Also a garage for OCBP vehicles, such as ATVs and Jet Skis, and a work shop is included.
A separate room is included in the first floor to store and dispense radios. A section is included for OCPB dry storage, such as buoys and umbrellas, uniform storage, a laundry room and an office for the employee responsible for dispensing uniforms and equipment, which can be quite the undertaking with over 200 Surf Rescue Technicians (SRT) in the OCBP.
The second floor includes a work room, office space, storage and male and female locker rooms, which is an improvement from the current facility that holds a restroom with one sink, one toilet and one shower for the entire OCBP.
The largest space on the second floor is a combined 1,100-square-foot classroom and multipurpose space to be used for training and/or physical activities. A partition wall was added to be able to divide the space if needed.
The third floor will serve as the administrative area and will enter into a receptionist area that is joined by the dispatch area.
The rendering of the exterior of the headquarters reflects red roofs, white siding with columns and a covered wrap around roof on the second floor. The lines of the building are similar to the Ocean City Life Saving Station Museum.
McGean concluded all the user space is a total of 10,000 square feet that is less then what was originally proposed. However, the building cost is estimated to be higher than what was originally proposed, with the total coming in near $2 million not leaving much leeway.
‘We have reduced the amount of contingency we are carrying,” McGean said.
Ocean City follows a 5-percent building contingency and a 15-percent planning contingency that has been reduced to 10 percent because the advancements already made in the design process, which will leave some wiggle room for additional costs.
“For me we have to remember the beach patrol is our number one good will ambassadors. I think they touch more of our tourists than anyone else in town does. They have operated in terrible conditions for years, so I want to see them have a first-class facility and if we have to go a little above that’s ok,” Councilman Brent Ashley said.
While he said the building is beautiful, Councilman Joe Mitrecic said the covered porches are driving up the price tag.
“Also this building is going to be 98 percent empty nine months a year, so although staff has made great strides in bringing it in where they think it should be space wise I am still concerned it is too big then what it should be,” Mitrecic said.
Recreation and Parks Director Tom Shuster interjected the department is already in discussions in how the multi-purpose room can be used throughout the off-season.
McGean added between OCPD and OCBP there is about 3,000 square feet of storage the building will also be used for throughout the off-season.
Councilwoman Margaret Pillas pointed out that while the OCBP could go with a building without covered porches, the design follows OCDC guidelines.
“I look at it in a different way. I saw it as another anchored building for downtown … it enhances the downtown for people entering into town,” Pillas said.
McGean agreed OCDC Downtown Design Standards calls for covered porches.
“We do want to follow what we make everyone else do,” he said.
Mayor Rick Meehan agreed the town supports OCDCs guidelines that are used for residential and commercial properties in the downtown and the same should be used on public buildings.
Councilman Dennis Dare listed several concerns over an abundance of entrance and exit points throughout the building regarding security, the lobby being too large to be used only as a directory and the elevation of the first floor should be further elevated above base flood elevation to avoid flooding during a storm surge in the downtown.
“I think the first floor needs some more work,” Dare said.
McGean explained the number of exterior doors was included to have the building be as efficient as possible. McGean furthered a city-wide controlled access will be added to the building where access is granted in certain doors with an employee ID card.
“Height wise we will get what we can,” McGean said. “If you raise the entire building an additional two feet you wind up with losing area around the building because you have to put in ramps to access the elevator lobby but we will raise it up as much as we can from ground level.”
McGean concluded the 245-square-foot lobby along with other concerns will be “taken to heart”.
“The lobby is quite intimidating, especially to walk in and not have anybody there” Council Secretary Mary Knight said.
McGean reassured the council the conceptual design can be tweaked.
“I hear you loud and clear,” he said.
There was no action taken. The design will be revised to address council concerns and return for approval.