OCEAN CITY — The next piece of the property-acquisition puzzle for a future water treatment plant started to fall into place this week with an early approval of the Sandpiper Energy parcel on 67th Street for around $1.1 million.
The Mayor and Council on Monday approved an ordinance on first-reading authorizing the purchase of a parcel along 67th Street currently owned by Sandpiper Energy for $1.1 million.
Last spring, the town completed the purchase of an adjacent property that hosts the World Gym on 67th Street amid some controversy. In the months since, resort officials have worked out a lease allowing the gym to remain open on the property until it is needed for the future water treatment plant.
The ordinance approved on Monday authorizes the Mayor and Council to purchase the World Gym property for $1.1 million. The town will pay for the property through an upcoming bond sale, but the purchase will ultimately be reimbursed through the water and sewer enterprise funds, which are supported by ratepayers.
Sandpiper Energy has owned the property as part of its ongoing conversion in town from propane to natural gas. With that project nearing completion, the utility company no longer has use for it, and the town needs the parcel to complete its future water treatment plant goals.
The existing water treatment plant at 44th Street has been in service for over six decades and has outlived its useful life. To that end, the town has been piece-meal purchasing parcels in the area of 67th Street for the purpose of planning and ultimately building a new water treatment plant.
The council ultimately approved the ordinance on Monday with a 6-1 vote with Councilman Matt James opposed. James said he was opposed not because he was against the water treatment plant, but rather because he wasn’t confident the town was getting the best deal it could for the parcel.
“I understand why we’re purchasing this and I understand the need,” he said. “I just think we’re overpaying for it.”
Public Works Director Hal Adkins said two independent appraisals of the property have set its value at $1.1 million. He said the Sandpiper Energy parcel was the last piece of the larger puzzle.
“We’ve been acquiring property that will allow for a modern water treatment plant,” he said. “This is the last parcel needed.”
Councilman Mark Paddack pointed out the proposed water treatment facility included a desalinization element that could be needed in the future. Adkins agreed.
“Our long-range plan is not for today, next month or next year,” he said. “This is planning for 10 or 20 years down the road. This property is not only for a water treatment plant. It includes land that will allow for desalinization of water, not if but, when that becomes necessary.”
Local resident Tony Christ said he opposed the property purchase because he believes the city already has ample land for the water treatment plant at its vast public works campus just south of 67th Street.
“I object to taking another property off the tax rolls while there is plenty of land the city already owns to do this project,” he said.
The council voted 6-1 with James opposed to approve the ordinance on first reading.