By Maddy Vitale
Residents on Third Street attended a meeting at Ocean City Tabernacle Saturday morning to hear plans for a drainage project that city officials hope will alleviate flooding problems plaguing the neighborhood for years.
On Jan. 10, residents on 10 lots affected by flooding, received a letter about improvements to be done on Third Street between Bay and West avenues. City officials said the project, which is expected to be completed by January 2019, would include elevation of the roadway, the curbing and sidewalks and even homeowners’ yards, all at the city’s expense, except for additional upgrades residents choose to do.
Craig Wenger, the city’s consultant, an engineer from Michael Baker International, Mayor Jay Gillian, Councilmen Michael DeVlieger, Antwan McClellan and Peter Madden, Mayor’s Aide Vince Beckier and Ocean City spokesman Doug Bergen, listened to residents’ concerns about flooding and their questions about the project.
“This is a project that should improve the quality of life for the people in the affected area,” DeVlieger said after the meeting. “It was good to see the individual homeowners get a chance to talk with the City’s project team to see how their properties will be impacted.”
Gillian is hopeful the project will be successful. He said City Solicitor Dorothy McCrosson is sending out letters late next week to homeowners for them to approve the easement to give permission to the city to do the work on their property.
Throughout the project, Bergen will be giving weekly or bi-weekly updates on the progress on the city’s website. The mayor said other city officials would also be closely involved with the project.
“One of the biggest reasons we brought Vince in is he is your city guy – whatever you need, he will always be around,” Gillian said, referring to his aide, Vince Bekier. “Vince will come right down. He is well-versed and can give you the right answer and put you at ease.”
During the public portion of the meeting, residents asked about the timeframe for the project and some of the details.
“So, will this work?” asked Gerard Maydwell, who owns a condominium on Third Street with his wife Jackie.
“We are lifting,” Beckier said of the elevations to the roadway and walkways. “Nothing works better than lifting.”
Gerard and Jackie Maydwell live full time in Montgomery County, Pa. They love visiting Ocean City so much, they decided to use their savings to purchase a vacation home here three years ago. They opted for a large condo, one perfect to entertain their two children and three grandchildren and to rent out for the summers to enjoy some extra income.
But they had no idea their dream vacation home was in a flood-prone area.
“The realtor told us when we asked if it floods, that it only does when there is a bad storm,” Gerard Maydwell said. “We figured it would flood only with a real downpour, but even when it doesn’t rain, it floods there. I have lakefront property. The Titanic would have sunk here, too.”
After the meeting, Jackie Maydwell got teary-eyed and said, “I’m sorry. We just spent our savings for this home. We are hoping this work helps.”
Had they known they were looking at property that floods, things might have been different, the Maydwells agreed.
“If the city had a sign that warned of a flood zone, we probably wouldn’t have bought here,” Jackie Maydwell said.
The first time it flooded, the Maydwells’ grandkids remarked that they didn’t know how they were going to get out of there.
But despite all of that, the couple said they love Ocean City and that it is “their happy place.”
“We really want this to work,” Gerard Maydwell said of the project. “We want to come down here to enjoy vacations.”
Third Street resident Mary Crane asked if the homeowners will be responsible for any of the costs.
Wenger reiterated that there is no cost to the homeowner, unless he or she wants to make other changes to their property beyond the scope of the project.
“If you want to do something, now is a good time to do so,” he noted.
Beckier assured the residents that the water will drain properly away from their properties and out into the street.
Crane has lived in her home or 25 years. Her sister, Jackie McLeer, moved in six years ago. They know how bad the flooding is there, where mini-icebergs have floated down the street, especially in the monster snowstorm on Jan. 4.
The sisters go to Florida to visit family several times a year. They told officials they are anxious for the project to begin and said they want to be notified if something is being done or they are needed for input about their property, if they are away.
Beckier said they would be notified.
“We are excited. We will do whatever we need to do. The city has been good about it,” McLeer said.
Crane expressed concern about a house that she said was abandoned, next to them.
“Technically, it is not abandoned,” Beckier said. “They are still paying the taxes on it.”
While Beckier and other city officials said they couldn’t imagine why someone would not approve the city going ahead with the project, any concerns such as that should be put in writing and the mayor and Bergen will address the issues and consult with the solicitor.
“Write letters to us, to me, to Doug. We will give them to the solicitor. We have avenues to do things, but we need support,” Gillian said of the need for the public’s approval to ensure the project gets done.
“There is no down side. There is no cost, and you are getting a lift off the street,” Beckier remarked. “I don’t see why someone would say they don’t need their property raised.”