By Donald Wittkowski
New pumping stations, pipes and road improvements are planned for a flood-prone section of the north end of town as part of a nearly $8 million drainage project approved Thursday by City Council.
During high tides and rainstorms, the surrounding neighborhoods are plagued by “nuisance level flooding” that has frustrated homeowners for years.
However, the new project includes three new pumping stations to flush storm water off the streets and into the bay. The pumping stations will be built along the bayfront at Second, Fifth and Sixth streets.
The project will also include an overhaul of old drainage pipes and deteriorated roads between First and Eighth streets from West Avenue to the bay. Some of the existing pipes are 40 to 60 years old.
Mayor Jay Gillian said the drainage improvements in the north end are part of a broader strategy to upgrade Ocean City’s aging infrastructure.
“We have a crumbling infrastructure. We have to maintain it,” he said.
According to the city’s website, more than $10 million will be spend on road and drainage projects in 2017 and $40.3 million in total over the next five years. The city is working with engineering and planning experts to identify the most flood-plagued neighborhoods on the barrier island.
The north end project is similar to major drainage improvements built by the city to ease flooding in the Merion Park section and the central part of town between 26th and 34th streets, the mayor said.
At its last meeting of 2017 on Thursday, City Council awarded a $7.9 million construction contract to Atlantic City-based L. Feriozzi Concrete Co. to get the north end project underway.
“We’re going to move as quickly as we can to get it done,” Gillian said, while noting that the homeowners have had to wait a long time for the project.
Construction will begin early in the new year and take between 12 and 18 months to complete, city spokesman Doug Bergen said. No major work will be done during the busy summer tourism season.
The contractor will begin by tearing up the streets to install new pipes. The streets will then be regraded and repaved, Bergen said.
Michael Baker International LLC, the city’s flooding consultant, redesigned the drainage project after one, large pumping station was originally proposed on Sixth Street. The large pumping station would have cost an estimated $20 million to $25 million, far more than what the city was willing to spend for the project.
Now, there will be three smaller – and less expensive – pumping stations scattered along the bayfront.
Representatives of Michael Baker, during a community meeting with north end homeowners last August, said the project will handle the “nuisance level flooding” that often occurs in the surrounding neighborhoods during rainstorms and high tides.
They stressed, though, that the drainage work and new pumping stations will not be enough to stop heavy flooding unleashed by major coastal storms, such as the nor’easter Jonas in 2016 and Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
First Ward Councilman Michael DeVlieger, who represents the north end of town, has raised the possibility of the city working with local marinas and homeowners to build new bulkheads or improve the existing ones as another way to fight bayfront flooding.
In remarks during the Council meeting, DeVlieger said talks with residents of the north end have gone well so far.
DeVlieger will hold a public meeting on Jan. 6 to give an update on the drainage improvements and other capital projects in the First Ward. It is scheduled for 11 a.m. at the Ocean City Free Public Library’s Chris Maloney Lecture Hall, 1735 Simpson Ave.
Also at Thursday’s meeting, Council awarded a $318,725 contract to Atlantic City-based Hackney Concrete Inc. for streetscape improvements concentrated along the Asbury Avenue retail corridor in the downtown business district.
Decorative touches such as brick paver crosswalks will be added at the intersections of Asbury Avenue and Eighth Street and Asbury and 10th Street. New “French grey” concrete will replace the old sidewalk pavers along Asbury Avenue, according to a city memo describing the project.