Home Authors Posts by Donald Wittkowski
Ozzy the owl made what was certainly an unprecedented appearance in City Council Chambers on Thursday night. His owner, Erik Swanson, brought Ozzy with him to give a report to the governing body and Mayor Jay Gillian on the success of the city's efforts to chase away aggressive seagulls by using raptors. “By all accounts thus far, it’s been pretty successful,” City Business Administrator George Savastano said. Ozzy, along with the falcons and hawks that are part of the gull-harassing team of raptors owned by East Coast Falcons, have become celebrities in the process and have also attracted national and international publicity for Ocean City.
Ocean City’s public housing agency, just two years after reeling from shaky finances and an embezzlement scandal involving its former chief executive, completed a “remarkable turnaround” Tuesday that has left it debt free and looking ahead to a major expansion project. In a series of moves during its board meeting that underscored its financial recovery, the Ocean City Housing Authority received a clean audit, paid off its remaining debt to the city and approved an agreement that is a key part of its plan to build a new senior citizens housing complex. “This is really the end of a dark chapter in the housing authority. It’s a monumental day. It’s a monumental achievement,” said Bob Barr, a city councilman who serves as chairman of the agency’s board of commissioners.
Historic trolley tours offer a fascinating glimpse of Ocean City's past. Stops include some of the most historic treasures in town. But book your tickets now. The last tour of the summer season is scheduled for Aug. 22.
The anguish was obvious in his voice as Dr. John Albert spoke of the traffic accident that claimed the life of his beloved stepson, Thomas F. Gibbons Jr., an engineer from Lansdale, Pa., who enjoyed vacationing in Ocean City for years. “We feel horrible that we lost Tommy,” he said. Albert has been pleading with Ocean City and Cape May County officials for changes to the busy intersection where the 47-year-old Gibbons was struck and killed while crossing the street with his family over the Memorial Day weekend. In response, the county’s engineering department has begun overhauling the crosswalks at the corner of Eighth Street and Bay Avenue to make things safer for pedestrians.
With a team of trained falcons, hawks and even an owl hot on their tail, Ocean City’s pesky seagulls appear to be fleeing town, including the popular tourist areas such as the beach and Boardwalk. An experimental program using birds of prey to chase away the gulls has been showing promise since it began last Saturday, according to initial reports. “As of today, reports about the effectiveness of the program are encouraging,” City Business Administrator George Savastano told members of City Council during their meeting Thursday night.
Jackie McLeer joked that the seagulls “must have gotten the text message or memo.” The Ocean City resident looked around with amusement at the unusual sight of only a small number of the pesky, squawking birds hanging around the Boardwalk in front of the Music Pier at about 11:30 a.m. Saturday. Then it became apparent why so many gulls were missing. The purported text or memo conjured up by McLeer was about two intimidating falcons held by representatives of the company East Coast Falcons. The arrival of the falcons in Ocean City is part of Mayor Jay Gillian’s plan to rid the beaches, Boardwalk and other parts of town of the swarms of hungry gulls that have been menacing residents and tourists alike.
Ocean City’s landmark Music Pier will undergo a facelift to transform its open-air loggia into an enclosed space containing a lobby, reception area, multipurpose rooms and new restrooms. The proposed renovations would preserve the historic and iconic building while adding some of the amenities of a modern performing arts center and meeting place, city spokesman Doug Bergen said.
For many beachgoers, the trips across the sand are a relative breeze, a short trek while heading for a favorite spot near the water’s edge. For others, though, the deep, powdery beach sand is like trudging through a desert, one challenging step after another. It is especially difficult for senior citizens, people with disabilities and families with young children or baby strollers. But at the 34th Street beach, a 200-foot-long blue mat made of hard plastic creates a pathway that allows everyone to walk on top of the sand instead of getting bogged down in it. The mat also makes it much easier for people in wheelchairs to gain access across the beach. In what is Ocean City’s latest project to improve access to its beaches, the long mat at 34th Street extends all the way to the high tide line and is part of a test program this summer. It offers an amenity for some, and to others, it provides the only way to easily access the beach.
In a big boost for a project that has languished on the drawing board for the past year, the Ocean City Housing Authority has awarded a nearly $7 million construction contract for a new senior citizens housing project. Two construction companies submitted bids for the contract. Gary F. Gardner Inc. of Medford, N.J., came in at $6.9 million, while Fabbri Builders of Vineland, N.J., submitted a $7.3 million bid. The housing authority awarded the contract to Gary F. Gardner. Bob Barr, a city councilman who also serves as the housing authority chairman, said negotiations will begin with Gary F. Gardner to see if changes could be made with the project to reduce the cost.
City Council approved $9 million in funding Thursday night for a series of road, drainage and dredging projects that will get underway in the fall. The bond ordinance includes $4.2 million to rebuild roads and alleys, $1.8 million for drainage improvements and $3 million for dredging. The projects are part of an ongoing strategy to protect the island from flooding, replace aging drainage pipes and clear out lagoons along the bay backs that are choked with sediment, said Frank Donato, the city’s chief financial officer.