New Buses Needed In OC

OCEAN CITY — Public Works Director Hal Adkins says that the town will ask for the full $7.1 million outlined in the 2011 Annual Transportation Grant that he presented to the City Council on Tuesday night, but he isn’t optimistic that he will get all of it.

Adkins stood before the Mayor and City Council this week to give a report on the town’s essential wishlist in grant money provided by the annual Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) grant, which would see the town have to match 10 percent of the total contribution.

Adkins told the council that since the request must be made for the entirety of the grant prior to official town budget talks commencing in July, he was uncertain what the final totals would be.

“Due to the economic situation and the expected tightness of this years’ budget process, it does concern me a little bit on what will happen with this,” said Adkins. “There is a strong possibility of receiving those grants but our local match would have to be in the ballpark of $711,000 and I don’t know if the Mayor and Council are going to consider our list of what we feel are true needs for the department, to set that type of money aside during an already tight budget process.”

Ironically, it appears that the biggest line item on the grant sheet, which includes spare bus parts, a HVAC system, two Americans with Disabilities Act vans for the new pilot program to Berlin, looks to be more of a need than a want, and could catch the Mayor and Council’s eye at budget time.

More than $5.4 of the 7.1 million outlined to council was for the purchase of 13, 40-foot city buses at $420,000 each.

Adkins says that the bus situation in the town of Ocean City is quietly reaching the point of concern.

“We have never received the type of funding where we could replace a few a year and keep the fleet totally up to date, but, I have to stress to you that these 13 buses are real needs for us, and these 13 buses have reached what is considered the ‘useful life criteria’ of their lifespan,” Adkins said.

Adkins also noted that an additional 14 buses were already on order using American Renewal and Recovery Act money, which handles 100 percent of the purchase of those buses, bringing the total of apparently needed buses to get the town’s fleet up to snuff to 27.

This is notable, according to Adkins, because those 27 buses account for almost half of the town’s total bus fleet.

Adkins estimated the town’s bus fleet sits at just over 60, and the aforementioned useful life criteria for city buses, is either 12 years or 250,000 miles to the best of his knowledge, however, he deferred to Transportation Superintendent George Thornes for the exact number. Thornes, however, was unreachable for comment to confirm those two figures as of press time.

Adkins said the grant would be awarded sometime in July post the March 15 deadline for request, but he says that based on the uncertainty surrounding the assumed tightness of this year’s town budget, he is unsure what the final result will be.

“It’s going to be kind of a roll of the dice for lack of a better cliché,” he said.

Also of note in the proposal is the $1 million environmental assessment and design and engineering of the 64th Street site that the town is trying to acquire through condemnation proceedings. Adkins said that the MTA requires an environmental assessment if the town hopes to have any grant money allotted to that particular project.

“Historically, we’ve never gotten all of the things that we asked for, and if we can’t get all that we are asking for, or the town can’t match what the total number is, we may have to scale our request back,” said Adkins.