$80 Million and Lots of Questions on City’s Capital Plans

first_imgA summer downpour in July floods streets in Ocean City.At two meetings Saturday, Ocean City property owners sought details on the city’s $79.4 million five-year plan to improve roads, drainage, the beach, bay and boardwalk.The citizens are wondering if the massive spending will make a difference in their lives — give them a street that doesn’t flood or a bay deep enough to use their boats.The Ocean City Community Association sponsored the first meeting at the Ocean City Free Public Library, and Finance Director Frank Donato and Business Administrator Jim Mallon made a presentation on the city’s plan. Mayor Jay Gillian had been scheduled to attend, but he could not make it due to the flu.The presentation summarized the key elements of the plan:The newest five-year plan ramps up overall spending from $50 million to about $80 million.The plan would be funded by borrowing and capitalizes on “older debt falling off the table” and low interest rates available in part because of the city’s good bond rating.More detail on plans is available at ocnj.us/capital-projects.The plan allocates $28 million to road and drainage improvements over the next five years, including $8 million in the next year alone. A road improvement program schedule lists proposed projects, but the list of roads could change as work is designed, according to Donato. It includes $250,000 annually for the improvement of alleys.The plan allocates $5 million for bayside dredging, much of it dedicated to freeing up space in a spoils site to allow projects to proceed. Donato suggested actual dredging work would start from the area where an incomplete project left off — near 16th and 17th streets — and proceed northward.The plan would allow the continuation of a project to replace the boardwalk between Fifth and 12th streets. Next year’s work would be from Plaza Place (near Seventh Street) to Eighth Street. The following year would involve creation of a stronger concrete substructure to accommodate vehicle traffic to the Ocean City Music Pier in a stretch between Eighth and Ninth streets.The plan would allow for maintenance beach replenishment projects at both the north and south ends of the island on a three-year schedule.The presentation allowed time for questions, and as property owners asked about their specific situations, it became clear that the long-range plans do not yet include that level of detail.Within the road improvement plan, could the city break down the amount to be spent on paving and the amount to be spent on drainage improvements? Could condominium owners on the bayside (at their own expense) piggyback on city projects for dredging?The questions went mostly unanswered.At a second meeting sponsored by a subcommittee of the Fairness in Taxes community group, about 10 property owners asked similar questions about the city’s specific plans for tackling street flooding issues.The group wants to see more detail than is offered in the existing plans on how the city can remediate flooding.“We’re not going to stop until this is addressed, and that is my commitment to this group,” said Eric Sauder, a leader of the Ocean City Flooding subcommittee.The group had met on Feb. 12 but wanted to add a weekend date to allow nonresident property owners to participate.As they did at the earlier meeting, the owners shared stories of flooding that occurs not only during major storms and tidal events, but during summer downpours and even on sunny days — with salt water bubbling up through the city’s storm drain system.“We had floods in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, but they’re not as bad as they are now,” said Joe Kelly, who has owned property on 31st Street just off Haven Avenue for 35 years.Steve Frame said the crest of a redesigned Bayland Avenue acts as a wall that prevents water from draining.“It stands there all the time, even when it’s not raining,” Frame said.Carol Corley suggested that even something as simple as regular maintenance to keep storm drains from clogging could go a long way. It’s a job that her husband routinely takes on himself.The group is encouraging property owners to share written anecdotes and information on their flooding problems by emailing [email protected]last_img

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