Ocean City Council voted unanimously Thursday to spend $1,825,000 to continue a project to replace the entire Ocean City Boardwalk between Fifth Street and 12th Street.
Council approved the second and final reading of an ordinance that calls for borrowing $1.9 million to pay for the second phase of a multiyear project — from Sixth Street to Plaza Place (just north of Seventh Street). The first phase (between Fifth and Sixth streets) was completed in April.
When council approved the first reading of the ordinance on May 22, Councilman Mike DeVlieger asked if the city administration would provide a cost estimate on the use of hardwood to complete the job — a suggestion that stirred up memories a protracted and divisive debate in Ocean City that resulted in a decision not to use the rain forest hardwood ipé.
But on Thursday, DeVlieger remained silent on the issue during consideration of the second reading of the ordinance.
He later said he didn’t want to stand in the way of getting the boardwalk project completed in timely fashion. But he said, “I’m not going to back down and apologize for bringing it up.”
He said he hoped that council could continue to have an “intelligent conversation” about all options for building a better and more durable boardwalk.
DeVlieger said he believes council’s 2007 vote to break a contract for the purchase of ipé did not “represent the will of the masses,” and he said he thinks the issue should be decided in a public vote.
He said he was called names after he raised the issue last month.
“I’ll let their authorship speak to the quality of their argument,” DeVlieger said. “They came after me. I don’t mind that.”
The project approved Thursday calls for using a stock of southern yellow pine that has been stored in Ocean City since the settlement of a lawsuit with the Louis J. Grasmick Lumber Co. of Baltimore in 2009.
The city has long sought an alternative to pine for its boardwalk. The soft wood splits, cracks and exposes nails or screws after relatively short periods of time. The city has studied and tested many alternatives but has found none both suitable and cost-effective.
The current boardwalk project calls for a complete replacement of the substructure and decking of the Boardwalk’s busiest seven blocks.
The appropriation approved Thursday is part of an ordinance that authorizes $1.9 million in spending and $1.8 million in borrowing. The appropriation also includes $80,000 for self-contained breathing apparatus for the Ocean City Fire Department.
The boardwalk project will include reconfiguring the boardwalk ramp at Sixth Street, eliminating the north ramp and doubling the width of the south ramp to 24 feet. It also will include a redesign of the public restrooms there — with the building facing the ocean. The work is expected to be complete by next spring.
Ocean City Business Administrator Mike Dattilo told council last month that the existing stock of southern yellow pine is thicker (three inches) and sturdier that the pine used on other sections of the boardwalk. He said the city is “optimistic” that it will hold up much better.