OCNJDaily.com talked with Mayor Jay Gillian about his focus on Ocean City’s neglected infrastructure over the past eight years.
The discussion follows in this question-and-answer format.
Over the past eight years, why has so much of your focus been on infrastructure?
Even before I took office, it was the one thing I heard from everybody: fix our roads, help us with flooding, take care of our beach and Boardwalk, dredge our bay, take care of our town. City Council members brought me the same requests – that’s what we heard from every Ward. At some point during my first term, when the interest rates were at a historic low, we thought, “What if we increase our annual capital plan to get the job done right?” That’s what we have done.
Is this responsible, and can Ocean City taxpayers afford it?
Yes and yes. Any major investment starts with a financial analysis, and the city is fortunate to have one of the best and most responsible finance departments you could ask for. From the start, we made it clear that this amount of work would not come free. But we came up with a sensible plan that asks taxpayers to pay small annual increases for an unprecedented level of work. Independent ratings agencies have rewarded our conservative approach with an AA bond rating, which helps us get low interest rates when we finance these projects.
How much will it cost?
On a $500,000 home, taxpayers can expect to pay about an extra $50 each year for the next six years. But as we return to a maintenance mode to sustain our road, drainage, dredging and other programs, capital spending will decrease and debt service payments will level off and ultimately decrease as well.
After infrastructure, what are your greatest accomplishments?
First, restoring the residents of Pecks Beach Village to their homes, and cleaning up the city after Superstorm Sandy. Next, working with City Council in a positive way on every issue. We don’t always agree, but we always work together to do what’s best for the taxpayers. Lastly, my outreach through town hall meetings, appearances at Council Ward meetings, my weekly Mayor’s letter and direct phone calls when questions and comments come into City Hall. Taxpayers, residents and guests know that the Mayor’s office and the City Team are available to address their concerns 24/7.
What do you want the voters to know about you that we have not discussed?
I enjoy rolling up my sleeves and getting the work done. I do not see myself as a politician – I’m a problem-solver, guided by common sense. I surround myself with the best, and as a team, we embrace the challenge of making Ocean City an even better place to live.