By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
Ocean City’s public housing agency formally granted a 30-day extension for its construction contractor to complete a nearly $7 million affordable housing project for senior citizens.
Previously, the 32-unit Speitel Commons complex was supposed to be completed by May 30, but the Ocean City Housing Authority voted at its board meeting Tuesday to push back the date to June 30.
“They are close to being finished,” Jacqueline Jones, the authority’s executive director, said of the overall construction work. “We expect everything to be finished by June 30th.”
Jones added, “There’s nothing that looks like it’s going to stop us at this point.”
The slight delay comes as no surprise. At the board meeting in April, the authority talked about the possibility of extending the completion date for the $6.9 million project because of delays in getting the elevators installed in the three-story building.
Documents submitted by the general contractor, Gary F. Gardner Inc. of Medford, N.J., show that the project has encountered delays from bad weather, the elevator work, the delivery of appliances to the site and completion of the exterior rails.
Senior citizens who now live in the authority’s flood-prone Pecks Beach Village housing site on Fourth Street will begin moving into Speitel Commons in July. The new complex is being built at the corner of Sixth Street and West Avenue next to the authority’s Bayview Manor housing site.
City Council President Bob Barr, who also serves as chairman of the housing authority’s board, said the agency will likely wait until September or October to hold a formal ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the project.
Barr noted that the authority doesn’t want to expose the senior citizens to any possible risks during the pandemic. As the number of coronavirus cases continues to decline and more people are vaccinated from COVID-19, it will be safer to wait until the fall for a ribbon-cutting ceremony, he indicated.
“We want to involve the residents, but we don’t want to take chances,” Barr said in an interview. “We’re erring on the side of caution.”
After the senior citizens move into Speitel Commons, the aging, flood-prone Pecks Beach Village complex on the north side of Fourth Street will be demolished.
Pecks Beach Village also includes affordable housing for low-income families. The 40 family units are located on the south side of Fourth Street. The family units will stay for the time being, although there are longer-range plans to replace them with new housing construction.
The housing authority provides affordable housing for senior citizens, families and the disabled. Ocean City residents, the elderly and people with disabilities are given preference for the housing.
In 2019, City Council approved a $6.6 million bond ordinance to build or rehabilitate affordable housing sites for senior citizens and low-income families. The projects will help Ocean City meet its state-mandated obligation to provide its “fair share” of affordable housing as part of a court settlement in 2018.
The city is expected to contribute more than $2 million toward the Speitel Commons project, while the New Jersey Housing Mortgage and Finance Agency is providing $4.5 million in funding.
In a separate vote Tuesday, the authority approved a shared-services agreement with the city to develop 10 new units of affordable rental housing at different sites in town. The project will be headed by the authority’s affiliate, the Ocean City Community Development Corp. The New Jersey Department of Community Affairs will help to finance construction of the 10 affordable housing units with a $2 million grant.
Also at the board meeting, the authority approved an $878,600 contract with Levy Construction Company Inc. of Audubon, N.J., for renovations to the Bayview Manor housing complex. Improvements will include new windows and exterior siding.