Ocean City News In Brief

OCEAN CITY — In the brief this week, the town continued with steps to update infrastructure, add some new amenities and tie up some proverbial loose ends.

New Boardwalk Sign Approved

The City Council awarded GableSigns Inc, a bid for $21,245 to construct and install two new Variable Message Signs on the Boardwalk on Tuesday, enabling the town to streamline updates to Boardwalk visitors on any alerts or information that needs to be disseminated.

Mayor Rick Meehan, who brought the idea last September to the council, after the town was awarded a Homeland Security Grant to install the message boards, was pleased that the approximately nine-foot high digital signs, will be added to the Boardwalk.

“I think they are going to be a great addition to the Boardwalk and will enable people to get up-to-date information about why we are clearing the beach or if the time of an event is changed,” said Meehan. “We hope to have them ready to go by Springfest.”

Most likely, the two boards will be installed near the comfort stations on Caroline and 9th streets.

Sewer Project Delayed

When Public Works Director Hal Adkins told the Mayor and Council in December about an upcoming project to fix the town’s main sewer intake pipe that lies beneath 64th Street, he said the project was supposed to begin in early January.

However, Adkins said this week that the contractor hired will begin early next week due to a scheduling conflict.

“They still have until March 2 as per the contract to get the job done,” said Adkins. “Even though they are a few weeks behind when I would have desired them to start the project, I was informed via a phone call this week that they anticipate the project to take 10 days, start to finish, 24 hours a day.”

The approximately $561,000 project will see major traffic restructuring in the midtown area of Ocean City, most notably in the northbound lanes between 59th and 65th streets, while crews bypass the wastewater flows coming into the main 48-inch intake sewer pipe beneath the street so that it can repair 1,000 lineal feet of the pipe itself.

Adkins said the northbound lanes would essentially be reduced to one lane (the extreme left lane on Coastal Highway traveling north) in between the aforementioned streets and then opening back up. He also noted that the traffic patterns for motorists coming onto the island via Route 90 would also be impacted.

“Northbound traffic emptying off of the Route 90 bridge would be turning into that extreme left lane and traffic is going to be very slow there and congested until at least 65th Street and then it will open back up again,” said Adkins. “Once motorists hit 58th Street, the cones are just going to start bumping them farther and farther to the left.”

Hangar Construction Approved

The Mayor and Council approved a bid for the construction of a new hangar at the Ocean City airport, which is apparently filled to capacity, according to Public Works Director Hal Adkins.

“We’ve been working on putting in Hangar J for almost two years, if you add up all the zoning and designs,” said Adkins. “When we first started getting price quotes a few years ago to see how much this was going to cost, the price we got was almost a million dollars.  So, when the bid was awarded at $553,000 on Tuesday, I was ecstatic.”

Blades Construction in Pocomoke was awarded the bid to construct a five-unit corporate style box hangar at the Ocean City airport that would add approximately 19,000 square feet of storage space for aircraft.

“We have had tenants waiting to occupy these units for sometime,” said Adkins. “Now that we have the number, I am going to sit down with [Finance Administrator] Martha [Lucey] and figure out what kind of rates we can get for construction and if the rent for the space, will make the project worthwhile. We’ve done it like this in the past, and it’s worked very well.”

Stormwater Utility Study Okayed

Growing concerns over the condition of the miles of piping that handles the resort’s stormwater flows have prompted City Engineer Terry McGean to propose a feasibility study be done by the Department of Natural Resources, in partnership with the University of Maryland and the Coastal Bays Program, to see if a fund should be created by the town to ensure money would be available to keep the stormwater infrastructure in good repair.

The Ocean City Council voted 6-1, Council President Joe Mitrecic opposed, to allow McGean to take $10,000 from the town’s critical area mitigation fund, which currently has a $200,000 balance, to fund the town’s part of the study, with the remainder of the approximated $60,000 study to be absorbed by the state and the bays program.

“For our other underground systems [wastewater and water], we have enterprise funds dedicated to those particular projects funded by fees collected by the users on their monthly bills,” said McGean, “We want to do the study to see if we can manage a fiscally sound way to fund the stormwater system only, not a revenue generator.”

Public Works Director Hal Adkins told the council that the aging stormwater infrastructure has experienced increasing failures and needs a funding source that is solely dedicated to its upkeep.