By DONALD WITTKOWSKI and MADDY VITALE
A narrow, temporary sidewalk that is accommodating construction of a new Republic Bank pushes pedestrians perilously close to traffic at one of Ocean City’s busiest intersections.
The sidewalk at the intersection of Ninth Street and West Avenue in the heart of the downtown business district is drawing strong criticism from City Council President Bob Barr, who says that it is “an accident waiting to happen.
“Someone is going to get hurt or killed there,” Barr said in interview Tuesday.
The site is where a new Republic Bank is being built along the busy Ninth Street corridor to the downtown. “Coming Soon” signs have been erected at the construction site to advertise the bank’s opening.
City Solicitor Dorothy McCrosson and City Business Administrator George Savastano said the narrow sidewalk is only temporary. It was installed at the request of the city’s construction official to maintain some public access at that corner.
McCrosson told City Council at its Sept. 9 meeting that Republic Bank is in compliance with its city approvals.
She also said a full, permanent sidewalk will be installed before a certificate of occupancy is granted for the bank.
Savastano said the permanent sidewalk will meet regulations and be 5½ to 6 feet wide.
But in the meantime, Barr said, the approval of the temporary sidewalk is “unconscionable.”
“You have a lot of people who walk there,” Barr said. “It’s impossible for two people to pass on the sidewalk. I can’t fathom that they would allow this to go on.”
During the Council meeting, Barr held up a large photo of himself in a wheelchair that showed him struggling to make his way along the narrow walkway. Barr has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair for mobility.
“It is extraordinarily dangerous,” Barr pointed out. “You could very easily fall off the sidewalk. I had two people with me so I was fine.”
People in the community have voiced their concerns, he noted.
“I received five or six calls from people complaining. A mother couldn’t walk with her baby carriage across. Another person had trouble carrying her groceries across,” he said.
“And the final straw was when I got a call from a person whose mother-in-law is in a wheelchair and couldn’t navigate the corner. I was in shock and I called (Councilman) Keith Hartzell and we went down there,” he added.
Republic Bank officials could not be reached for comment Tuesday. Barr said he isn’t angry with the bank, Mayor Jay Gillian or any city official who allowed the temporary sidewalk.
But, he said, he will be pleased when a sidewalk with the proper width is in place.
“I don’t know when the bank is slated to be completed,” he said. “But even if it is a couple of months from now, it is unacceptable.”