Resort Directing Savings To More Capital Upgrades; Funds Earmarked For Boardwalk Security Initiatives

OCEAN CITY – The city is looking to earmark savings from a 2012 bond and general fund surplus to fund a long list of unfunded projects that should ultimately lower expenses in the years to come.
On Tuesday afternoon, City Engineer Terry McGean explained cost savings from the Boardwalk reconstruction project and Fire Station 4 project in the 2012 bond fund are estimated at $1,170,000. Savings must be used on capital projects with priority placed on projects included in the bond issue.
Also, the general fund balance after closing out the previous fiscal year exceeds the 15-percent annual expenditures policy target by about $2,235,000. The surplus funds can be utilized at the discretion of the City Council.
McGean began by recommending using the bond saving toward Boardwalk safety enhancements, including additional cameras and call boxes at the cost of about $100,000 and extending fiber optic from the Worcester Street substation to the tram station at the cost of about $50,000, which would complete the fiber optic project from the Inlet to 27th Street.
Also, McGean suggested railing replacements on the Boardwalk in the amount of $100,000 from N. Division Street to the Inlet that was stalled in 1999 and $100,000 towards additional benches on the Boardwalk in the downtown area.
McGean added the purchase of benches would be the least prioritized item but the need for downtown benches has become apparent as donations for benches or the adoption of benches and the locations chosen are predominantly being placed in the north end of town.
Next McGean suggested placing bond savings toward the St. Louis Ave. project, including $150,000 toward decorative streets lights in Phase 2 and 3 of the street’s improvements, and that is assuming a $100,000 contribution from the Ocean City Development Corporation. Also, he proposed $100,000 to be set aside for side-street paving in the St. Louis Ave. area for utility connections.
Keeping an eye on the amount of calls for service to the police from the St. Louis are, Councilman Dennis Dare thought it would be a good idea to spur redevelopment in that area to minimize problem properties.
“With that in mind I don’t know if it would make a lot of sense to repave streets where we want to encourage redevelopment,” Dare said. “In other words you pave a street, and a couple years from now it may be torn up.”
Dare acknowledged the concept was a discussion for another day, as City Manager David Recor added Dare’s suggestion is a much bigger price tag than the $100,000 earmark in paving funds.
McGean’s final recommendation in how to use savings from the 2012 bond issue is to set aside $500,000 for the renovation project of fire headquarters in case anticipated costs increase. The total of funds recommended to be allocated from the bond savings came to $1.1 million.
McGean moved onto the excess fund balance but made it clear nothing would be spent until after hurricane season. The remainder of the excess funds will be retained in the fund balance to use toward items in the FY15 budget.
McGean recommended funding the capital improvement projects of street paving by about $383,000 to bring the total amount of funding for street paving to $3 million as well as $500,000 to fund the first year of canal dredging. The canals included in the first phase are between Hitchens and Trimper Ave, on 48th Street and on 52nd Street, and out of those three canals there is one bulkhead that is need of repair.
McGean suggested funding items that were removed from the FY14 budget, including $4,550 for arrow board replacement, $13,000 to replace a power washer, $10,000 for Northside Park gym lockers and shower stall, and $45,000 to replace the north fence that runs along Route 90 at the Tennis Center.
Next McGean recommended funding deferred maintenance items, including over $23,000 for street light pole painting along Baltimore Ave., $40,000 to replace flooring, painting, and power washing of City Hall, $25,000 to paint dumpster screens in the concrete portion of the Boardwalk that were also installed in 1999, $40,000 to paint the Boardwalk arch, $15,000 to repair cracks in the concrete tram lane on the Boardwalk, $45,000 to conduct maintenance at the downtown tram storage unit, $50,000 of added funds for patching and utility repairs in the street funding account and $31,500 to replace a Broyhill container.
In the category of vehicle replacement, McGean suggested $255,000 to replace one ambulance, $60,000 to replace a Boardwalk sweeper, and $40,000 to paint two solid waste collection trucks.
The final items McGean recommended were $10,000 for pedestrian safety enhancements to Baltimore Ave. where the primary pedestrian accidents occurred this year, and about $16,000 for the Public Safety Building transfer switch, which was previously approved by the council. The total of recommended expenditure from the excess general fund came to almost $1,607,000.
Following discussions with staff justifying a few recommended items, such as an ambulance and Boardwalk sweeper, Council Secretary Mary Knight started with a motion to earmark funds for all the recommendations made in how to use the savings from the 2012 bond issue, and the Mayor and City Council voted unanimously to approve.
Next, Knight made a motion to allocate funds for all items recommended in how to use the surplus in the general fund with the remainder to be retained for the next fiscal year.
Before a vote was taken, Dare asked for the council to consider adding about $3,000 to fund a second annual Town of Ocean City Newsletter, as well as funding to upgrade the audio and visual equipment in council chambers that allows meetings to be recorded and relayed to the public.
McGean responded the town has about $25,000 in franchise funds to enhance council chamber’s audio and visual equipment and it is on the to-do list. Recor added the project would cost at least $100,000.
“We will find the money,” Recor said, regarding funding to print and mail a second annual newsletter.
Knight’s motion regarding earmarked funds in the excess general fund was not amended to include Dare’s requests and the council voted unanimously to approve.
“When you look at our priorities, and the things that have been eliminated from the budget once if not twice, and some of the other things under deferred maintenance, well one of the reasons why I think Ocean City is so successful is because we haven’t deferred maintenance too long to the point where we can never catch up. This all makes sense moving forward and will alleviate some of these costs from future budgets,” Mayor Rick Meehan said.