By Donald Wittkowski
City Council gave final approval Tuesday night for an $18.5 million bond ordinance to finance road construction, drainage upgrades, dredging projects and other public improvements that represent a major piece of Mayor Jay Gillian’s 2017 capital plan.
Voting 6-0 on the funding package, Council has been working hand-in-hand with Gillian’s administration on what is shaping up as the largest capital improvement program in Ocean City history.
In February, Council authorized $12 million in bonds as another major source of funding for the mayor’s plan. Combined with the bond package approved Tuesday, the city has approved more than $31 million in capital funding this year.
Gillian has placed a heavy emphasis on road construction, drainage upgrades, dredging projects and the Boardwalk’s ongoing rehabilitation to help overhaul parts of the city’s infrastructure that are decades old.
The $18.5 million bond ordinance will underwrite a litany of projects that will get underway later this year, said Frank Donato, the city’s chief financial officer.
The lion’s share of the funding, or $9.7 million, will go toward road, alley, drainage and bulkhead construction throughout town. Another $6.5 million is targeted for dredging projects in the shallow lagoons and back bays.
City officials, along with dredging consultant ACT Engineering Inc., plan to hold a town hall meeting on June 3 at the Ocean City Tabernacle to announce which areas of the bayfront will be dredged this year.
In a separate vote Tuesday, Council approved a $370,000 contract with ACT Engineering that continues the company’s role overseeing the dredging program.
ACT Engineering will develop plans for short-term dredging projects that can be done this year, as well as long-range plans for clearing out the city’s silt-choked lagoons and channels.
“The biggest part of what they do is to search for more permanent dredging solutions,” city spokesman Doug Bergen explained of ACT Engineering.
Some lagoons are so clogged that boat owners and fishermen are often trapped at their docks or can only navigate the waterways at high tide. Gillian has labeled the shallow lagoons as a threat to property values, local marinas and public safety.
Meanwhile, the rest of the funding in the $18.5 million bond ordinance will pay for an array of smaller projects, including parking improvements, upgrades to the beaches, a dune maintenance program and repairs to City Hall. Two parking lots will be upgraded, at the Transportation Center at 10th Street and Haven Avenue and the public boat ramp on Tennessee Avenue.
The city will also use the bond ordinance to buy a 100-foot ladder truck for the fire department. Also included in the funding package are communications and IT upgrades citywide, including the fire department, Donato said in a presentation to Council.