OC Campus Plan’s Rising Cost Should Concern All
After months of trying to obtain answers to costs involved in the massive construction project at Ocean City’s Public Works Complex known as the “Campus Plan”, I am now making progress. While not all of my questions have been answered, I have a better understanding of this very complicated undertaking. First, I want to thank our City Manager, Doug Miller, for inviting me to City Hall to meet with him along with key department directors to obtain answers to my questions. In December, I met with Doug, Jennie Knapp, Director of Budget & Management; Hal Adkins, Public Works Director; and Chuck Bireley, Finance Director. I also want to thank Jennie, Hal and Chuck for their help in providing answers. They were helpful at the meeting and with follow-up inquiries. I appreciate their time and assistance.
Early on I knew that the Campus Plan was a complex financial project involving many millions of dollars. Initially, we were told that it would cost $25 million with the Town paying $11 million from a bond sale and the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) with Federal Transit Administration (FTA) grants paying $14 million. When one delves deeper into the project, they will find that it is much more costly.
Initial Needs Assessment studies, Design and Engineering cost the Town over $1.75 million, and the MTA funded an additional $1.75 million. Construction and construction management oversight cost the Town nearly $11.1 million, and the MTA funded an additional $18.5 million. Land at 64th Street, originally purchased for Wastewater Treatment Plant expansion, but now developed as a ground level parking lot as part of the Campus Plan, along with early land improvements and interest paid on the 2010 bond to fund the acquisition cost the Town nearly $2.28 million. Interest over the next several years on the 2018 bond to fund the Campus Plan construction is over $4.9 million. These totals will cost the Town over $20 million. The MTA has funded a total of $20.3 million. Thanks to a bond premium of almost $950,000 which is cash applied to the construction, along with almost $376,000 in interest on bond proceeds, the Town is able to reduce their costs by over $1.32 million. With this reduction, the cost to the Town drops to $18.7 million.
What was presented as a $25 million project will now cost at least $39 million dollars.
However, that is not all. There is already consideration to revisit the construction of an employee parking garage and helipad which was initially scrapped due to exorbitant bids. If the Mayor & City Council proceed, it is to be built on the ground level parking lot on the land acquired with the 2010 bond. That alone could cost $8 to $10 million dollars based on earlier estimates and actual bids. If MTA shares part of the financing as previously planned, it could cost the town $4 to $5 million in additional funds.
I have recently learned that in 2016, the Town stated plans to swap a portion of the 64th Street land purchased in 2010 with land under the existing Public Works Administration Building. That swap would allow for future Wastewater Treatment Plant expansion to be built where the Admin Building sits, thus allowing the 64th Street land to be used for the Campus Plan. This will require the demolition of the Admin Building which was built in 2002. No one at the meeting could tell me the estimated added cost of the demolition of that building.
To facilitate the replacement of the Admin Building, an unfinished area or shell has been built on the second floor of the new purchasing building. It is to be finished to house the future administrative offices after the demolition of the existing building, if and when the Wastewater Treatment Plant is expanded. No timeline has been provided; but more important, I have no idea of what the added cost is to complete the unfinished office space.
To date, no one has provided any cost estimate on the eventual relocation of the Impound Lot which is earmarked to be relocated somewhere other than the Campus Plan Complex. This could involve land acquisition costs, as well as construction costs.
By the time the Campus Plan is finally completed, the combined costs to the Town and the MTA/FTA could potentially exceed $50 million, quite a bit higher than the stated cost of $25 million.
During the meeting, I had many questions. However, one question was posed to me, which was essentially, what was I trying to accomplish by my pursuit of this inquiry. My answer then, now and has always been that I am concerned about the Town’s excessive overspending and debt. I am also concerned about the excessive overspending and debt at all government levels, especially at the federal level. Likewise, I am concerned for our children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and generations yet to come.
Vincent dePaul Gisriel, Jr.
Education Is Critical
Research for many years has shown intelligence is spread out graphically as a bell curve. Half of all people fall above average, but an equal number fall below average in intelligence, which also increases gullibility. All Americans have the right to vote, regardless of intelligence, belief systems, or education. Democrats have failed to attract the same demographic that Republicans have successfully engaged with very successfully, with misleading advertising on multiple platforms, with many republicans voting against their own best interests. (who got a tax break, not us!) All people can be fooled some of the time, as Honest Abe said, but gullibility increases with a decrease in the ability to make solid evaluations of information using valid research, instead of hearsay on social media. Hermann Goering said, “if you tell a lie big enough and often enough, people will believe it”. Trump “wrote” in his book the secret of success in business is to use “hyperbole”, in other words lie. People that have been scammed often are too embarrassed to admit or change their opinion.
The key to any political campaign is to use advertising which uses science and research to influence our decision making in the desired direction. Look at all the drugs, supplements, class action lawyers, payday loans, rent-to-own, etc. ads which are just nonsense or rip-offs. They would not continue to run if they were not getting gullible people to buy so much of them. Allowing individuals to donate huge fortunes for political advertising perverts the system our founders set up with one person, one vote. Even worse the Super-Pacs with hidden info, or corporations allowed to donate unlimited money. Corporations are already run by individuals or a small board of people, which gives them inordinate amount of power to influence with their advertising.
A large part of our current issues are that are educational systems do not teach how to evaluate the validity of information properly anymore. Many people today rely on single skewed sources and the mass of misinformation on social media often invalid and often ridiculous, without checking with vetted sources. Civics that any new citizen has to know to pass the citizenship test would baffle many current voting Americans. Maybe a citizenship test should be given for a voting license. That may provide us with a better-informed electorate.
Hans Van den Bosch
Empty Bowls Get Filled
Because of the support of our community and sponsors, many empty bowls in Worcester County are no longer empty.
The Empty Bowl Project is an international grassroots effort to fight hunger and a unique opportunity to use art in a way that helps the community. Our local Empty Bowl Project is a collaborative effort between the Art League of Ocean City and Diakonia to raise awareness and funds for hunger through creative engagement.
We are honored to announce this year’s project raised $5,154, with $2,577 going to each nonprofit, an amount critically needed by both organizations.
We thank our long-time generous sponsors, First Shore Federal Bank and Shore United Bank. We couldn’t have done it without the friends and families who joined our bowl-making sessions at the Ocean City Center for the Arts, as well as the many potters and clay artists who handcrafted 309 one-of-a-kind bowls in the Arts Center’s studios.
Diakonia thanks the Art League for this partnership and being creative in making this fundraiser successful despite the COVID pandemic. Thank you to each and every one who worked on and participated in this event. These funds were greatly needed due to other fundraisers having to be cancelled this past year. Your help ensured that more than 3,600 people received help this past year through all our programs.
Our community came together to make this project a success, in spite of the challenging times, and we appreciate your loving support.
(Thaler is the executive director of the Art League of Ocean City and Ocean City Center for the Arts, while Miller is executive director of Diakonia.)