Ocean City Today

Draft of capital improvement plan approved

By Greg Ellison | Jan 11, 2018
Photo by: Greg Ellison Councilman John Gehrig weighs in on draft version of the resorts five-year Capital Improvement Plan during a City Council work session on Tuesday.

(Jan. 12, 2018) Although most of the $139 million worth of projects Ocean City government hopes to tackle over the next five years have yet to be budgeted, the City Council on Tuesday agreed to the format and framework for its 2018-2022 capital improvement plan.

After holding an initial meeting on the topic last September, the council later prioritized six projects: annual street paving, security improvements suggested by Homeland Security, constructing a new Public Works and Transit storage facility on Second Street, razing the Whiteside tram storage building for additional parking downtown, plus improvements on Baltimore Avenue, including increasing sidewalks and burying utility lines underground.

Finance Director Martha Bennett, who worked with City Manager Doug Miller to organize the remaining long-term projects, presented a draft of the plan to the council.

“It’s a work in progress, but we do want to complete and publish it,” she said.

Councilman Tony DeLuca said after holding a subsequent meeting in mid-December to make additional plan changes, the process is markedly improved from previous efforts.

“This is the first year we’ve met twice to go over it,” he said. “We never went into it in detail.”

Among the changes Bennett included are new categories for long-term projects planned more than two years in the future.

“It’s more of a placeholder,” she said. “It keeps it on the radar.”

Concerned about potential negative fiscal impacts, Councilman Wayne Hartman opposed the plan as it’s now configured.

“It’s foolish to consider anything that makes us think of a tax increase,” he said. “I can’t support it.”

Bennett said the city has thus far only committed to fund projects during the current fiscal year 2018.

“This plan does not increase operating costs [or] debt service,” she said.

Councilman Tony DeLuca said while the draft plan would not commit funds to projects in future years, it would create a positive impression for residents and tourists.

“It’s important for people coming to town to know we have a long-term financial plan,” he said “We can change it yearly based on priorities.”

Miller also noted in the past the city did not prepare a long-term financial forecast.

“The [capital improvement plan] is a component and contributor to that,” he said.

Hartman still expressed reservations over the potential commitment of resources.

“We need to look at what we need [versus] what feels good,” he said.

Commenting on the plan’s fluidity, Councilman Dennis Dare said indelible ink should be avoided.

“It ought to be done in pencil not ink,” he said.

Miller said further financial deliberations would accompany future project approvals.

“We can adopt the framework of the forecast as a draft,” he said. “During fiscal year 2019 budget talks we can revisit in more detail.”

Councilman John Gehrig questioned the relevancy of approving the capital improvement plan draft.

“Why vote on something we know is going to change until it changes?,” he said

Miller concurred with that sentiment while confirming council approved of the framework of the draft plan.

“We don’t need a motion today,” he said. “I think we have some consensus.”

Mayor Rick Meehan emphasized that most of the projects included in the plan haven’t been approved.

“I tend to look at this as a plan [and anything] beyond 2018 is subject to appropriation of funding from the budget.”

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