Road Improvement Fund Considered to Address Future Street Repairs

OCEAN CITY- Faced with the prospect of $41 million in future road improvements, Ocean City officials this week debated the possibility of forming a dedicated funding source for an annual Street Improvement Program.

Councilwoman Margaret Pillas initiated a discussion on the possibility of an Annual Street Improvement Program and although she was absent due to illness during this week’s Mayor and City Council meeting, the item was scheduled to be discussed.

Director of Public Works Hal Adkins explained the city has a capital account set up to address street paving, sidewalks, and miscellaneous storm drain improvements that are necessary. The account currently holds about $900,000, but is intended to be used on street repairs that have been selected to be completed this fall and spring.

The last update of the town’s street inventory summary, completed about 18 months ago, estimated that it will cost about $41 million to repair and improve all municipal streets in need. Adkins said it is unrealistic to think that amount of funding would be available or to complete such an improvement project at one time.

“But we have been knocking out about a million dollars a year,” he said. “When it comes to the funding of the program as we head into next summer, it is really not necessary to appropriate any money into the account at this minute. I think as we go through our normal FY 13 budgets it should be something we should focused on.”

Mayor Rick Meehan explained the reason the council was able to contribute $1 million to the capital account in the past year is due to the actions that have taken place starting in 2008 when changes to the budget began.

“We weren’t actually spending money, or large amounts of money on infrastructure, but we were accumulating money,” Meehan said. “It was not expended because we really didn’t know where the economy was going, and we felt a lot more comfortable making the cuts we needed to make, being very conservative, moving forward, and seeing what was going to happen before we spending that money as we had previously done on a yearly basis.”

The mayor recommended taking Adkins up on his suggestion in contributing another $1 million in next year’s budget in order to establish an annual improvement program, but pointed out that the allocation will have to be replaced or a new revenue source will have to be created.