By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
Just in time for the holidays, Ocean City’s second-busiest gateway is expected to sparkle with brand new decorative lights that will brighten up an area of town in need of a makeover.
City Council on Thursday night approved a long-awaited contract for the electrical system for what will become a permanent display of white lights greeting visitors and residents as they drive over the 34th Street Bridge and make their way along Roosevelt Boulevard.
Fourth Ward Councilman Bob Barr, who represents the south end of town, has made the decorative lights one of his top priorities since entering office in 2016.
He noted that the permanent decorations will replace the current patchwork of lights that hang haphazardly from poles and don’t always work.
“It’s going to improve it by leaps and bounds,” Barr said in an interview after the Council meeting. “The new lights are going to be brighter, will hang better and will look nicer.”
He explained that the burned-out lights hardly leave visitors with a good impression as they arrive in town on 34th Street, the second-busiest entrance into Ocean City behind the Ninth Street corridor.
“All of the lights don’t even come on,” he said.
Since taking office, Barr has worked with local residents to ask for, and get, aesthetic improvements in the area that runs from the foot of the 34th Street Bridge to West Avenue. Eye-catching lights to spruce up the corridor year-round have been sought after the most.
“This is essentially what people have been asking me for all along since July 1, 2016,” Barr said, referring to the date he became a councilman.
On Thursday, Council awarded a $35,400 contract to Gibson Electrical & General Contractors Inc., of Sicklerville, N.J., to install permanent weather-protected outlets in place of the temporary electric poles and cords that run along 34th Street now.
The lights will be strung in the tree-lined grassy strip on the side of the road.
The goal is to have the permanent lights ready for the winter holidays for their formal unveiling, Barr said. Next, he hopes to follow up by getting the city to install new landscaping along the 34th Street corridor and to remove some old signs that have become clutter.
“One step at a time, we’re working on this,” Barr said of future improvements.
Earlier this year, Mayor Jay Gillian described the importance of adding a permanent display of lights on 34th Street.
“This started as a holiday display, but the decorations were popular enough the residents and guests have asked that they be lit year-round,” Gillian said in a statement.
New decorative lights are also being considered for the north end of town, on the entryway that runs from the Ocean City-Longport Bridge and along the Gardens Parkway.
First Ward Councilman Michael DeVlieger, who represents the north end, said he has been approached by local residents who would like to see decorative lighting in the area.
As a first step, DeVlieger has requested a cost analysis to determine whether the project would be financially feasible. He would next seek more feedback from First Ward residents, he said.
At Thursday’s Council meeting, DeVlieger said new lights would “brighten up that entrance a little bit.”
When DeVlieger asked Gillian whether the cost has been determined for the proposed project, the mayor assured him that the city is looking into it.