By MADDY VITALE
Residents at the Ocean Aire condos will have a much better view of the bay and won’t have the worries about the chronic flooding that has plagued the complex for years.
The project began last week to elevate the 52 units in the seven-building complex eight and a half feet off the ground and above the floodwaters that rise in coastal storms and heavy rains.
“It is going well,” said Wayne Yarusi, owner of W.A. Building Movers & Contractors Inc., a New Jersey-based company hired by Ocean Aire to do the project.
Yarusi said Monday that the first building has already been lifted and Tuesday, weather permitting, the plan is to lift the second building and go on from there to the other buildings in the complex. The company picks each building off the ground and then erects a cinder block foundation.
The city was awarded a $3 million federal grant to elevate the condo complex to protect it from floodwaters that seep out of the surrounding marshlands and back bay.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency agreed to fund the entire project and will reimburse the city for the cost. The city approved the funding upfront to enable the project to get started.
On Monday, work crews used an excavator and other machinery to scoop up chunks of the old foundation to create a clean area for the new foundation to raise the buildings above the stormwater.
“We are keeping everything winterized. We are pouring a new foundation, putting in windows, doors and stairs in a very cost-effective way,” Yarusi noted.
The project at the flood-prone complex at 43rd Street and West Avenue in the south end of town is slated to be completed by April, weather permitting.
“We really are recycling stuff and saving resources in the process. Instead of tearing down, we are rebuilding,” Yarusi said from his construction trailer while displaying some of the blueprints for the job.
There are two crews working on the project with a total of about 25 workers.
“There is a lot of manual labor involved and lots of loose ends,” Yarusi said. “But we’ve been doing this a long time and we have the best people for all of the work.”
Yarusi has worked in the elevation business for years, along with his sons Jason and Ryan.
They have raised homes and properties throughout the Tri-State area, including locations in Ocean City.
Steve Sinibaldi, vice president of the Ocean Aire condominium association, pushed for the elevation of the complex over the years.
Sinibaldi said Monday that he and his family are very pleased with the work being done by W.A. Building Movers & Contractors.
He noted that the No. 1 thing that he and the other residents wanted was to put together a plan to relieve them of the exorbitant flood insurance costs and give them peace of mind that their properties would not flood.
“Our flood insurance was almost $100,000 a year and we had to either raise the home owners’ association fees or do something about it,” Sinibaldi said. “We will see some relief and hopefully it will eventually go down to $20,000 a year. But the most important thing for all of us was the peace of mind elevating the complex gives us.”
Sinibaldi and his wife, Eileen, purchased their first floor unit in 2014. The Havertown, Pa., couple said that when they and other Ocean Aire residents would leave for the winter, there would be the inevitable fear about what they would come back to.
“We knew it would flood. Now, we won’t have to worry about that. We will have a better view,” Sinibaldi said. “The noise level from cars won’t be as bad and we will have more breezes. There are all pluses to this project.”