OC Keeps Downtown Park Hopes Alive

OCEAN CITY – The Downtown Recreation Complex took a few steps forward this week with the City Council’s approval of a contract for design services for the proposed 3rd Street park.

The Downtown Recreation Complex, which is slated to include an expansion of the current Ocean Bowl skate park and a facelift to the current park space, is located between 3rd and 4th streets, from Philadelphia Ave. to the bay.

The design services, which call for design work on the entire park, are included in the upcoming bond issue, in the amount of $200,000. The construction of the park, estimated to cost approximately $3.75 million, was originally included in the upcoming bond issue, but was removed after the county failed to provide a lease agreement for the land that would allow for a 20-year bond issuance. Earlier in the year, the town requested a long-term lease on the land from the County Commissioners.

The town cannot proceed with the millions of dollars of work on the county-owned land until a lease agreement is met. Despite the request for a long-term or 99 year lease, the county returned an offer for a 15-year lease, which fell short of the minimum 20-year lease that the Mayor and Council requested.

As a result, the City Council decided to proceed only with the design services in the bond issuance, holding off on borrowing of money for construction until an agreement with the county could be reached.

City Engineer Terry McGean came before the Mayor and Council at Monday night’s regular session to recommended that Slater Associates be awarded the contract for the remaining design work. Slater Associates was contracted for the design work of the skate park expansion earlier in the year.

The project was originally split into two phases, phase one being the area between Philadelphia and St. Louis avenues, which is currently home to the skate park, a baseball field, a basketball court and playground, and phase two as the remaining area from St. Louis to the bay, currently home to a baseball field and a long Boardwalk.

In August, Slater Associates presented the town with the option to do the design work in either two phases or all at once. Splitting the design work into two phases would cost $89,000 for phase one and $142,000 for phase two, totaling $213,000. Completing the design work as one phase would only cost $198,000.

The council agreed to proceed with the design work in one phase in an effort to save money and also to move forward with the project that has been stalled for an indeterminate amount of time by the county. The council also expressed the desire to have the construction of the park also proceed in one phase, to save both time and money.

McGean recommended that the council award the design services contract for the complete park to Slater Associates on a time and materials basis, not to exceed $198,000. He noted that although the design work would be done in one phase, the construction could still be done in two phases if desired.

City Manager Dennis Dare noted that the designs would give them a more accurate estimate of how much the project was going to cost. He added that it would also put them in a position to be ready to commence construction, when and if, a lease agreement is made with the county over the land.

Councilman Jim Hall remains hopeful that the project, which has been a favored item among the council members, will be realized.

“I think we’re going to get a deal with the county really soon,” said Hall. “People want this, this should be done.”

Council President Joe Mitrecic maintained that the blame for the project’s delay lays solely with the county, not the Mayor and Council. Mitrecic addressed recent suggestions that the Mayor and Council is to blame, pointing out that the city is more than ready to proceed with the project as soon as a workable lease agreement is met.