OCEAN CITY — With city crews steam-rolling through planned street repaving projects this offseason, an opportunity has arisen to continue to push forward and knock out a significant area this spring in advance of the coming season.
During a larger discussion this week about widening the sidewalks in the ocean block between 118th Street and 130th Street, Public Works Director Hal Adkins presented a proposal to allow crews to utilize the next three months or so to continue to push forward. Each year, the city repaves vast sections of municipally-owned roadways in the resort on a rotating schedule.
This offseason the plan called for repaving many of the streets in the north-end Caine Woods community, along with a significant repaving project at Robin Drive, or the east-west corridor on the bayside at 28th Street. Any time a street is scheduled for repaving, city officials evaluate if other improvements can be accomplished at the same time such as widening sidewalks, undergrounding utilities or creating bike paths, for example.
Earlier during Tuesday’s work session, the Mayor and Council signed off on a sidewalk widening proposal for four streets in the section from 118th to 130th streets in advance of next winter’s repaving project in that area. However, with the Robin Drive project nearly in the books, thanks in part to the lack of inclement winter weather, and a good portion of the offseason still remaining, Adkins on Tuesday pitched a plan to keep rolling with infrastructure projects in 118th to 130th streets corridor including driveway improvements, and sidewalk reconstructions, for example.
“We’ve been going great guns since last September,” he said “We’ve paved a large portion of the Caine Woods neighborhood and 28th Street and Robin Drive is going very well and we should wrap that project up on or around April 1. My point is, I have an opportunity to move into the area from 118th Street to 130th Street and really attack it. I want to move into that area as soon as two weeks from now, but I don’t have all of the necessary funding at this time.”
Adkins said he worked with City Manager Doug Miller and Budget Manager Jennie Knapp to find a way to keep the repaving ball rolling through the rest of the winter and early spring.
“Is there a feasible way to get funding appropriated without bothering fund balance so I can use the next 90 days productively?” he said. “We could get the majority of the sidewalk work done and out of the way.”
Knapp said she identified a potential funding source for the requested $380,000 expenditure through parking fees and fines in the second year of the town’s new paid parking system. Two years ago, the town switched to a pay-by-plate system and revenue increased, largely because the consumers weren’t familiar with the new system.
“Last year was the first year of the new parking system and the structure for the parking fines and I didn’t anticipate that we would repeat that in this fiscal year,” she said. “I assumed everybody who didn’t know how to use it in the first year would figure it out in the second year, but I was wrong. As a result, I have the funds available for this in that line item.”
Adkins said moving into the 118th to 130th Street area with needed sidewalk and driveway repairs would expedite the overall repaving project in that area next year.
“It would allow us to get the majority of the sidewalk work done in the next 90 days,” he said. “It would position us to roll into those neighborhoods the minute the fall special events are over. If I don’t knock out that concrete work in the next 90 days, that’s fine. I can come back in the fall and do that. However, then I would be pushing the paving work in that area into next spring.”
The council voted 5-1 with Council Secretary Mary Knight absent to approve the $380,000 expenditure from the parking fine line item in the budget to expedite the work in the 118th Street to 130th Street area.
Mayor Rick Meehan cautioned against getting too far ahead and ending up with unfinished projects as the season arrived.
“I wouldn’t start anything you can’t finish by this spring,” he said. “I think there needs to be a drop-dead date in there so you don’t start anything you can’t finish.”
Adkins explained he and his staff had considered that situation.
“We’ve already discussed the strategy,” he said. “I don’t want our crews out there demolishing four, six or eight blocks ahead of time in those areas. I want them to set up a rhythm based on anticipated daily production rates. In a perfect world, we’re tearing out sidewalks on a Monday and coming right back in on a Tuesday to finish it. We will go as far as we can.”
Adkins also said he was cognizant of the commercial interests in those areas and would not start projects that might disrupt business.
“We also acknowledge there are certain areas in that section from 118th to 130th Streets that are highly developed commercially,” he said. “We’re going to work around those areas, whether they’re done first, or we come back and do them in October right before we’re ready to pave. We won’t do anything to disrupt business in those areas.”
Meehan reiterated his concerns about moving too far, too fast this spring.
“A couple of years ago, we had projects that went a little too long and it caused some problems,” he said. “If we have to stop at a certain point, I just want to make sure we stop.”