OCEAN CITY — With a nod to its storied past and the promise of a bright future, the Ocean City Beach Patrol and city officials cut the ribbon on the department’s brand new headquarters on the corner of Baltimore Avenue and Talbot Street on Tuesday morning.
The new 10,000-square-foot, three-story building replaces the patrol’s former cramped and aging headquarters nearby on Dorchester Street, which for decades housed the old Ocean City jail among other uses. While it is now the official headquarters for the Ocean City Beach Patrol, there is also space dedicated to the Ocean City Police bicycle units and other needs for the OCPD in the downtown area.
Groundbreaking on the $2 million building took place last September with a targeted opening date before this summer season. However, while it came in on budget, the project did run late into mid-July. All agreed on Tuesday it was worth the wait as they cut the ribbon and entered the new state-of-the-art facility for the first time for many.
The new headquarters will serve primarily as the home of the beach patrol, but can and will become a command center of sorts in the downtown area in the event of a major storm or other emergency. The three-story, cinder block building is raised above flood level and because the patrol has not yet moved in completely, it somewhat resembles a sturdy bunker of sorts in many of the interior areas. Outside, the architecture is reminiscent of old Ocean City and fits easily into the downtown landscape.
Councilman Dennis Dare, who was city manager when the project was conceived and approved, was the catalyst of the new beach patrol headquarters. Dare said on Tuesday the new facility represents the hard work and dedication of OCBP and all of the city’s departments.
“This building is befitting of the professionalism of our people in Ocean City from the beach patrol and our police department to Recreation and Parks and all of the departments,” he said. “Everybody had a hand in this and should be very proud.”
City Engineer Terry McGean was also instrumental in the project, from the creative land swap with the Ocean City Development Corporation (OCDC) to coordinating with the design and development teams including Becker Morgan and Gillis Gilkerson.
“Doing a building like this is a team effort and there are many key players to thank,” he said. “It was a challenging site and everybody did a great job.”
McGean said he would be remiss if he didn’t recognize the cooperation of the surrounding community during the 11-month construction phase.
“We really need to thank the neighborhood,” he said. “No matter how hard we try with a project like this, it’s always going to be noisy and messy at times and the neighbors here were patient and cooperative.”
The project has its roots in an April 2013 report presented by McGean to the Mayor and Council about the growing problems with the aging beach patrol headquarters on Dorchester Street, including ADA compliance issues, non-functioning sprinkler systems, asbestos siding, cracks in masonry and first floor facilities below base flood elevation. In August of 2013, the OCDC came before the Mayor and Council and proposed a land swap of OCDC parking lots on Talbot and Dorchester streets for the existing site of the Beach Patrol headquarters on Dorchester Street. The OCDC funded 35 percent of the new headquarters’ $2 million price tag with a 20-year bond with funds from the Inlet parking lot fund established a decade ago for downtown revitalization projects.
Beach Patrol Captain Butch Arbin said on Tuesday the new OCBP headquarters is a shining beacon near the downtown entrance to the resort.
“This is an incredible model for Ocean City,” he said. “People come across that Route 50 Bridge and into downtown and this is one of the first buildings they will see. It was a combined effort and everybody came together.”
Arbin praised the current council and the members of the previous council for their foresight and dedication to the project.
“The current council’s names are on the plaque inside, but we have to remember some of the previous councilmembers who approved it,” he said. “They voted for this to happen.”
Arbin said the new headquarters signals a bright future for the beach patrol while recognizing its storied past. For that reason, the three floors of the new building are dedicated in honor of some OCBP legends. Arbin explained the first floor is set up for beach patrol day-to-day operations and is dedicated to 40-year OCBP veteran Lieutenant Warren Williams.
The second floor includes space for training and is dedicated in honor of former longtime Captain George Schoepf. Finally, the third and top floor is set up for the OCBP administration and is fittingly dedicated to former Captain Robert Craig. Arbin also saluted longtime Lieutenant Ward Kovacs, who is the beach patrol’s only full-time, year-round employee and who helped shepherd the department’s transition into its new digs.