Home Authors Posts by Donald Wittkowski
It was just a small piece of history, but the impact on Gail Powell was huge. As she stared at the old Chinese silver coin resting in the palm of her hand, Powell uttered “absolutely incredible” as though she was looking at a priceless artifact. Her fascination with the coin really had little to do with its origins in China. She was more interested in the fact that it was part of the cargo recovered from the legendary Ocean City shipwreck, the Sindia. Powell and her husband, Bruce, who live in Bala Cynwyd, Pa., were in Ocean City on Saturday for a special presentation on the Sindia on the 118th anniversary of the shipwreck. “The Sindia is the biggest story in Ocean City, as far as shipwrecks go,” said local historian John Loeper, who serves as chairman of the Ocean City Life Saving Station museum.
Ocean City will have to wait longer to undertake a multimillion-dollar renovation of the Sports & Civic Center after bids for the project came in much higher than the estimate and were rejected. Four competitive bids from companies seeking the construction contract ranged from about $4 million to $4.6 million, well over the $2.5 million estimate by the city engineer. City Council voted Thursday to reject the bids. City officials intend to seek new bids, but the process could be lengthy. For instance, it took three months from the time the city advertised for the first set of bids and opened them in late November. “The length of the public bidding process can vary, but it’s never quick,” city spokesman Doug Bergen said in an email Friday.
Ocean City is making another attempt to acquire a coveted tract of land that Mayor Jay Gillian hopes to preserve as open space instead of having it developed into a housing project by the private owners. City Solicitor Dorothy McCrosson told City Council on Thursday night that a new round of negotiations has begun with property owner Klause Enterprises for the block of land bordered by Simpson and Haven avenues between 16th and 17th streets. “We’d like to move forward with acquisition as quickly as possible,” McCrosson said. Although the city would prefer to reach a deal to buy the property from Klause Enterprises, it is also keeping the option open to acquire it through condemnation if negotiations fail, McCrosson added.
The shore town that touts itself as “America’s Greatest Family Resort” is getting a new hotel that reflects the family-friendly market. Known as the North Island Inn, the all-suite boutique hotel is under construction on a prime spot only a block from the Boardwalk and will make its debut in the summer of 2020. “The goal would be the Fourth of July,” the hotel’s developer, Christopher Glancey, said of the approximate timeframe for a grand opening. “But we’re always weather-dependent.” Glancey spoke Tuesday during a bitterly cold afternoon that hardly evoked leisurely summer days lying on Ocean City’s sunny beaches. However, Glancey and his development partner, Bob Morris, have their eye on the calendar as they press ahead to have the hotel ready in time for the bustling summer tourism season.
The new owner of the Deauville Inn plans to undertake extensive renovations to recapture the historic Strathmere restaurant’s old-time atmosphere dating back to its Roaring Twenties and Prohibition era heyday. Tim Fox, a Strathmere resident and founder of the healthcare company Fox Rehabilitation, bought the bayfront restaurant in October for an undisclosed price. While outlining his plans for the restaurant’s restoration, he likened the Deauville to a treasured artwork in need of a touch-up. “It’s a great piece of artwork to build on,” he said in an interview Friday.
Ocean City’s public housing agency announced Tuesday that it expects to start construction April 1 on a long-awaited project providing affordable housing for senior citizens who are now living in a flood-prone area of town. Known as Speitel Commons, the proposed 32-unit project will replace the Ocean City Housing Authority’s aging Pecks Beach Village complex on Fourth Street. Jacqueline Jones, the housing authority’s executive director, said construction is expected to take about 12 months to complete.
Assemblyman-elect Antwan McClellan joked that he plans to stay on City Council a little bit longer because he enjoys “getting on the nerves” of Ocean City Mayor Jay Gillian and his administration. “I’m not gone yet,” he said, smiling. Less than two weeks after McClellan won election to represent the First Legislative District in the state Assembly, his fellow Council members gave him an unofficial send-off Thursday night with plenty of accolades, humor and some tears.
City Council approved a $6.5 million bond ordinance Thursday night to finance a series of major projects, including beach replenishment, new geotubes to reinforce the sand dunes and the expansion of the aging Sports & Civic Center. The city plans to spend $3 million to give the now-drab Sports & Civic Center a facelift. New locker rooms and bathrooms will be built. An overhang will be added to the entryway to protect people from the rain and also to spruce up the building. Meanwhile, the bond ordinance also includes $3 million to help the city pay for its share of a beach replenishment project expected to be completed in time for the 2020 summer tourism season.
The agency that oversees the five toll bridges connecting Cape May County’s seashore towns along the Ocean Drive is keeping fares the same for the time being. Karen Coughlin, executive director of the Cape May County Bridge Commission, indicated that a toll increase will likely be needed at some point, but the timing is uncertain. For now, tolls will remain $1.50 on the Ocean City-Longport Bridge, Townsends Inlet Bridge, Corsons Inlet Bridge, Middle Thorofare Bridge and Grassy Sound Bridge along the scenic Ocean Drive coastal route.
Republicans pulled off their goal to “Flip the First” in a sweeping landslide election win Tuesday night in the First Legislative District’s Senate and Assembly races and also scored big by holding onto their seats on the Cape May County Board of Chosen Freeholders. At the top of the ticket, Republican Michael Testa, a Vineland attorney, defeated Democratic state Sen. Bob Andrzejczak. Republicans Antwan McClellan, an Ocean City councilman, and Erik Simonsen, the mayor of Lower Township, completed the GOP trifecta in the legislative races by beating Democratic Assemblymen R. Bruce Land and Matthew Milam. In the Cape May County freeholder race, incumbents Gerald M. Thornton and E. Marie Hayes won re-election against Democratic challengers Joyce Gould, a Wildwood Crest commissioner, and Elizabeth Casey, an Ocean City attorney.