Council OKs $18M Bond Sale For Projects

OCEAN CITY – Signaling a renewed dedication to securing Ocean City’s infrastructure future, the Mayor and Council on Monday quietly approved the sale of $18.1 million in bonds to finance the ongoing expansion and renovation of the convention center and other major public works projects.

The council voted 6-1 on Monday to approve the $18.1 million bond sale with Councilwoman Margaret Pillas the lone dissenter. Pillas reinforced her earlier objection to a portion of the bond sale used to finance the town’s purchase of the old 64th Street Slide and Ride property adjacent to the town’s existing public works department facilities.

Ocean City officials intend to use the property it purchased from a local developer, in a somewhat controversial land deal after hints of an eminent domain seizure, to facilitate the future expansion of Ocean City’s public sewer system. Ocean City ultimately paid around $5 million for the 64th Street property after the property owner agreed to halt the development of a hotel on the important parcel.

“I’m voting against this because of the inclusion of the acquisition of the land on 64th Street,” Pillas said on Monday.

The lion’s share of the bond sale proceeds will be dedicated to the expansion of the Roland E. Powell Convention Center. Other projects on the list to be funded by the bond sale include the purchase of the property on 64th Street, a new public boat ramp and new pumping stations from 15th Street to 49th Street among others.

By acting now on the $18.1 million bond sale, Ocean City is expected to be able to take advantage of federal Build America Bond (BAB) grants from the federal government for significant public works projects and infrastructure improvements that might otherwise be put on the back burner because of ongoing budget constraints. Ocean City last year put a freeze on many major public works projects in light of the ongoing economic crisis, but utilizing the federal BAB funds might get many of them back on the fast track again.

Ocean City Finance Director Martha Bennett Lucy is being credited in large part for finding away to utilize the BAB funds to help pay for the convention center expansion and other major projects.

The BAB program will reimburse the town on up to 35 percent of the interest costs on debt issued during calendar year 2011, making the decision to opt for the $18.1 million bond sale this week imperative before the Dec. 31 deadline to take advantage of the program.