By MADDY VITALE
Flood mitigation projects and bicycle safety were the main topics of discussion for city officials and Fourth Ward residents during a meeting at the Ocean City Free Public Library on Saturday.
The meeting was a workshop for residents to ask questions and raise concerns they might have.
Fourth Ward Councilman Bob Barr conducted the meeting. At-Large Councilman Keith Hartzell and city official Vince Beckier were on hand to also address people’s concerns and answer questions.
The meeting was held just two days after City Council authorized a contract on Thursday for ACT Engineers, based in Robbinsville, N.J., to develop a Flood Mitigation and Drainage Master Plan. During Saturday’s ward meeting, a handful of people in the audience brought up specific areas of town that had continual flooding problems in the 20s, 40s and 50s streets.
Barr told the audience that a town hall meeting will be held in the next couple of weeks with representatives of ACT Engineers, Mayor Jay Gillian and other city officials to discuss the flood-mitigation plans.
Beckier explained that areas around Merion Park, west from 42rd Street to 45th Street, will be looked at again and improved as needed as will other portions of the island where flooding is an issue.
“We are aware of most of the problem areas and we are trying to address them. It won’t be done overnight. But the town hall meeting will be in a couple of weeks,” Barr pointed out. “Most of the problems will be fixed or addressed.”
In his weekly mayor’s message posted on the city website Friday, Gillian explained some of the plans for the island.
He said in his message that the city has completed major drainage projects in three of the island’s most flood-prone neighborhoods and invested more than $20 million to improve storm drainage, pumping stations and elevating roads.
Jackie Wolchko, who lives on 50th Street and Haven Avenue, said her home is elevated, but she has endured flooding in her area for years.
“It seems to me a lot of work is going on around 50th Street and on the south and north end, but I don’t see anything happening in my area. They did say they would get to it,” she said.
Barr said there have been things done in Wolchko’s area to lessen the flooding problems. “Hopefully ACT will make things better there,” he said.
Hartzell told Wolchko to attend the town hall meeting to see what the engineers have to say.
Beckier explained that it can be difficult to stop flooding altogether in low-lying areas. “That’s why we elevate the streets,” he said.
“The marshlands are reclaiming the street,” Wolchko noted.
Officials said ACT is aware of the problem in her neighborhood.
Bicycle safety was also a main issue of concern for residents at the ward meeting. They said there are more bicyclists in town than ever before, and some don’t obey the traffic laws.
Police Lt. Brian Hopely, who is in charge of the Traffic Safety Unit, is a good person to start with if residents have concerns about bicyclists, officials said.
“Clearly, more work needs to be done. We need to educate people about bicycle safety,” Barr said.
He added that real estate packets given to summer renters with safety messages are not the most efficient way of getting the message across. Simply put, he said, vacationers are excited to get on the road and they aren’t always interested in reading material about safety.
“People are excited. They aren’t going to take the time to look through the rental packets,” Barr said.
Hartzell pointed to the city’s bicycle advocacy group, Bike OCNJ, which has safety information on its website at www.bikeocnj.org.
“We are advocating for bikes. If we had everyone on bikes, we’d be happy,” Hartzell noted.
However, he said, people must follow the traffic laws.
Mary Faust, who has lived in Ocean City since 2014 on 24th Street and Simpson Avenue, asked if possibly speed bumps could be installed to slow motorists and bicyclists down along Haven Avenue rather than keeping the stop signs along the popular stretch for cyclists.
“As a bicyclist, and an elderly person, I can’t start and stop at the stop signs. It just doesn’t work,” Faust said.
Officials said they would look into speed bumps but noted that Ocean City does not utilize them.