Council Outlines $20M In Capital Projects

OCEAN CITY – The process to create a list of capital improvement projects to be included in an ordinance for a bond sale in April began this week.

The list of previously approved projects and their total issuance cost are the reconstruction of the Boardwalk at $6,120,000; the new Art League of Ocean City building at $612,000; the Caroline Street Comfort Station at $1,020,000; the Caine Woods Pump Station, Old Landing Pump Station, and 28th Street Pump Station, all at $918,000 each; the Clarigester upgrade at $1,376,000; the winter influent pump at $408,000; and the St. Louis Avenue Sewer at $442,600. The total cost for all the previously approved projects is $12,732,680.

According to Finance Administrator Martha Bennett, the Boardwalk project was already approved for reimbursement from bond proceeds and various wastewater projects were included in the 2010 water and wastewater rate study to be paid by fees. The Art League building was approved in October of 2011.

Bennett reported that this is the time to take advantage of low interest rates for the refunding of the 2005 municipal bonds.

“What I need is to give our bond council a list of proposed projects so we can bring it to first reading on Tuesday [Feb. 21] night,” she said.

The projects need to be approved to be included in the ordinance. Also, the bond ordinance is the ceiling of what the town can borrow and a project can be deleted before the sale is advertised in April.

City Engineer Terry McGean presented other projects that have been discussed in the past and are also candidates to be included in the project list are. They included the following.

(BULLET)Property acquisition and site improvements. The cost is to be determined and the status of the project is currently in negotiation.

(BULLET)The full reconstruction of St. Louis Ave. including storm drains, new street scape with wider sidewalks and new pavement and will cost $9 million. Construction documents are 90 percent compete. The cost for paving, sidewalk repair, and storm drains only is $4.5 million. $2.7 million of the paving is included in the proposed $3 million annual paving program for a three year period.

(BULLET)A Caine Woods street improvement project includes the reconstruction of 136th to 141st streets with new wider sidewalks, landscape strips and new pavement and will cost $3 million. A concept design has been completed. The pavement and sidewalk work will cost $2.5 million and is also included in the proposed paving program.

(BULLET)The Philadelphia Avenue Transit Lane project is the addition of a bus lane on Philadelphia Ave from 17th Street to 2nd Street and will cost $2 million. A concept design has been completed.

(BULLET)The replacement of, additions to, renovations and repairs to various fire stations including Station 4 and Headquarters and is estimated to cost around $5.5 million. The council is expecting to hear a report from Ocean City Fire Chief Chris Laramore in the near future.

(BULLET)A new headquarters building for the Ocean City Beach Patrol will cost $2 million. The status is in program stage only and no design or location has been established.

(BULLET)The expansion of the skate park and compete renovation of the 3rd to 4th Street Park, which will cost around $3.2 million. Construction documents are completed and are ready for bid.

(BULLET)The dredging of city canals will cost $1.5 million and the designs and permits are completed and ready for construction.

(BULLET)The construction of a 590-space parking garage at the current Worcester St. parking lot. This will cost $13.3 million. A schematic design is completed but needs construction documents and permits.

(BULLET)Phase II of the reconstruction of the Convention Center, which is a 1,200-seat auditorium/performing arts stage in the convention center and will cost $14 million. A schematic design is completed, and the town is currently working with legislature for State Funding.

At this week’s meeting, Councilman Joe Hall pushed to add the entire St. Louis Ave. project to the list.

“I think we should do St. Louis Ave.,” he said. “I think it is a major corridor and I think when we do we should do it all the way … I know it is a giant number but I think the opportunity is now while Hal [Adkins, Director of Public Works] is going into the ground to do everything we should step up for the additional monies, it is a wise investment.”

Mayor Rick Meehan said for now paving, sidewalk repair and storm drains will be beneficial.

“I drive St. Louis Ave. every single day and I think doing a $4.5 million project there and re-doing that street would make all the difference in the world, and I think the neighborhoods along that street and the people that use it will be very happy if that was a project that was completed,” he said.

Councilman Brent Ashley reminded the room that bonds are a debt obligation on the government and ultimately the taxpayers.

“We currently have almost $82 million in outstanding bonds so if we keep adding to our outstanding obligations and our tax revenue is decreasing, where do you draw the line?” he said. “They are all worthy projects but how much do you spend before you say we can’t spend anymore.”

Bennett responded that the town is currently retiring about $7 million a year in debt.

In order to make a decision, Council President Jim Hall offered to go with the list of the previously approved projects and discuss the others as the ordinance moves toward its conclusion.

At that point, Joe Hall said the council should include all the projects to create a ceiling number for the ordinance.

“Every project that has been discussed by Terry tonight has been scrutinized, turned inside out, and on the drawing board for years and years,” he said. “Construction costs are extremely competitive and favorable, interest rates are the lowest in years and if you are going to set Ocean City up for success in the future we need to invest in infrastructure. These are bills that are not going to go away … I think at a minimum we approve the entire list as for the ordinance and then over the next couple weeks we can really buckle it down for second reading.”

Council Secretary Lloyd Martin set the motion to include the list of previously approved projects.

The council voted to set the bond sale ceiling at $20 million in a vote of 4-3 with Council members Joe Hall, Brent Ashley and Margaret Pillas in opposition.