New Fire Station Plans Advance With Design, Engineering Funding Approved

OCEAN CITY — Replacing the aging midtown fire station at 74th Street with a new station in front of the Public Safety Building moved closer to becoming a reality this week with approval for the design and engineering work.

In April, the Mayor and Council voted to eventually replace the aging and dilapidated Station 3 firehouse at 74th Street with a new facility in the parking lot of the Public Safety Building at 65th Street. The midtown Station 3 firehouse was built in 1969 and expanded in 1987. In the decades since, it has fallen into disrepair and no longer meets the needs of the fire department.

In recent years, there have been discussions about building a new fire station at the existing site at 74th Street, but the lot size is too small to meet the growing needs of the department and the city was unsuccessful in attempts to acquire neighboring properties. Attention then turned to the vast and often under-utilized parking lot in front of the Public Safety Building at 65th Street.

In April, after pleas from Ocean City Fire Chief Richie Bowers to take some action on the failing midtown firehouse, the council voted unanimously to approve the plan to build a station at 65th Street. Replacing the midtown fire station at 74th Street was identified as a high priority project in the recent capital improvement plan and the council pulled the trigger on the 65th Street location. City Engineer Terry McGean on Monday explained reasoning behind replacing the existing station with a new facility at 65th Street.

“Previously conducted feasibility studies and preliminary designs confirmed that the existing site was not large enough to meet the space requirements for the new station,” he said. “After extensive research into other locations in the corridor between 62nd Street and 94th Street, it was determined that the front parking lot of the Public Safety Building was the best available site that would meet the needs for the new fire station.”

McGean and Bowers came before the Mayor and Council on Monday with a recommendation on an architect firm from the design and engineering phase of the project and a request for funding. Last spring, requests for proposal (RFP) for the design of Station 3 were advertised and the town received six proposals.

After the proposals were evaluated by McGean, Bowers and the Ocean City Volunteer Fire Company president, it was determined Manns Woodward Architects were the best fit for the town on the firehouse design.

“The next step is to proceed with the design to the point we can make a good estimate on the overall project before the bond sale,” said McGean.

Once a decision was made on the 65th Street location, the scope of the work was determined, and a cost was negotiated. The total cost for the design of the new facility is $478,900. The council on Monday voted unanimously to approve the $478,900 for the design of the new firehouse, which will be reimbursed to the town through the future bond sale that will help pay for the new facility.

The new fire station at 66th Street would cost an estimated $5.5 million, although the price could come down with a contribution from the Ocean City Volunteer Fire Company (OCVFC), which owns the land of the existing midtown fire station at 74th Street and has offered to sell the property at its highest value and contribute the proceeds of the sale to the cost of building the new station.

Currently, the property is appraised by the state at $1.5 million, but it would likely fetch a higher sale price. If it sold at that price, the overall price of the new fire station could be reduced to $4 million. There are other creative ways the OCVFC could contribute, but in any case, they would like to somehow retain some ownership stake in the new facility.

About The Author: Shawn Soper

Alternative Text

Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.