Flood-prone areas, such as the intersection of 28th Street and West Avenue, are in line for sweeping improvements. By Donald WittkowskiConstruction of a series of roadway, drainage and pumping improvements that would bring relief to a flood-prone neighborhood vulnerable to even run-of-the-mill rainstorms will come before City Council on Thursday for approval.The nearly $6.6 million project targets a low-lying, 24-block area that runs from 26th Street to 34th Street roughly between West Avenue and Bay Avenue.Mayor Jay Gillian calls it the largest flood-mitigation project in Ocean City history. It would represent the second major flood-control project undertaken by the city since similar work was done in the Merion Park neighborhood in 2014.The area between 26th and 34th streets is notorious for flooding. During a December town hall meeting about the drainage project, a city engineering consultant told local residents that even routine rainstorms can swamp the neighborhood.However, the new drainage and roadway improvements are expected to help reduce flooding in most storms. They would not stop the type of extensive tidal flooding unleashed by Hurricane Sandy in October 2012 or the powerful nor’easter Jonas in January 2016“While the system will not be able to prevent all flooding in the low-elevation neighborhood, a new storm drain system and four pumping stations are expected to make a substantial difference in the quality of life for residents there,” Gillian said in his weekly mayor’s message posted on the city website.Mayor Jay Gillian calls the flood-mitigation plan for 26th Street to 34th Street the biggest of its kind in Ocean City history.As a first step, City Council is expected at its 7 p.m. meeting Thursday to award the construction contract to A.E. Stone Inc. of Egg Harbor Township. City officials are expected to release details of the project’s construction schedule during the meeting.The project will consist of three major parts: Roads will be repaved, new pipes will replace some that are 40 to 60 years old and four new pumping stations will help channel floodwater off the streets and into the bay.“This will mark the long-awaited start of the biggest flood mitigation project in Ocean City history,” Gillian said.Also at Thursday’s meeting, Council is expected to vote on Gillian’s proposed $112 million, five-year capital plan that will serve as a blueprint for citywide construction projects from 2017 to 2021.When he publicly unveiled the capital plan on Jan. 24, Gillian noted it spreads out improvements across the entire town and addresses Ocean City’s critical infrastructure needs after years of neglect.There is a financial cost for local property owners. On average, the capital plan would increase the local property tax rate by about a penny per year, city officials said. On a home assessed at $500,000, that would mean about an extra $50 annually in local taxes, or $250 over five years.Big-ticket items in the capital plan include the Boardwalk’s ongoing reconstruction and dredging projects to clear out clogged lagoons along the back bays.Gillian, though, has decided to delay moving ahead with the proposed $17.5 million renovation and expansion of the antiquated public safety building, which houses the police department and municipal court. He is asking Council to move the funding for the public safety building from 2017 to 2018 to give the city more time to study the project and solicit feedback from the public.Funding for the proposed $17.5 million renovation of the public safety building is expected to be moved from 2017 to 2018 to give the city more time to study the project.Similar to last year, the Boardwalk will be a major focus of the capital plan in 2017. In all, the Boardwalk would receive about $6.6 million in upgrades, including $4.7 million for its reconstruction from 10th to 12th streets. The Boardwalk’s redecking between 10th and 12th streets represents the final phase of a multiyear project to replace aging wooden planks with new timber from Fifth Street to 12th Street.Continuing what he started in 2016, Gillian is once again placing a big emphasis on dredging projects for the city’s shallow lagoons and channels. Some lagoons are so badly choked with muddy sediment that boaters are trapped at their docks. After setting aside $10 million for dredging projects in 2016, Gillian has followed up with $7.5 million for similar work this year.Other major improvements proposed for 2017 include an array of road and drainage projects in every ward of the city. Altogether, $10.4 million worth of paving and drainage upgrades are planned in 2017 to help reduce flooding, particularly during coastal storms.City bonds backed by local tax revenue would finance a large portion of the capital plan. A variety of grants, as well as state and federal funding, would also be key parts of the plan’s financing.On Thursday, Council will consider a $12.2 million funding package, including nearly $11.6 million in city bonds, to underwrite some of the proposed construction projects. They include the Boardwalk’s redecking, work on the new 29th Street firehouse, landscaping improvements, repairs to city buildings and upgrades to playgrounds and recreation centers.The new firehouse under construction on 29th Street will benefit from a proposed $12.2 million funding package up for approval.
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