Ocean City Today
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OC drops $100K for pair of Jeeps to upgrade tram cars

Modifications drive cost up but allows council to delay buying trailing units for now
By Greg Ellison | Dec 07, 2017
Photo by: Greg Ellison The Ocean City Council voted to spend $100,000 to purchase and retrofit a pair of Jeep Wranglers to pull the Boardwalk trams next summer during its meeting on Monday.

(Dec. 8, 2107) In a bid to update an aging fleet of Boardwalk trams, the Ocean City Council approved the purchase of two Jeep Wranglers for approximately $100,000, during its regular meeting on Monday.

The council had opted to reject two tram bids at its Nov. 28 work session because of price concerns, which Public Works Director Hal Adkins said resulted from miscommunication.

“The $50,000 comment about (the cost of) a Jeep was not the purchase price, that was the Jeep along with the conversions that would be necessary,” he said.

During the recent work session, Councilman Wayne Hartman, while expressing support for the Jeep purchase if the vehicles would eventually be repurposed for the Beach Patrol, wondered if more cost efficient options existed.

On Monday, Adkins explained the base price for a 2-door Jeep Wrangler was about $23,000. Subsequent modifications, such as removing passenger seats, increasing rear suspension and adding air bags, accounted for the additional cost.

“To the best of my knowledge, when we last did it around two years ago, it (the modifications) was about $27,000,” he said. “So that’s where we were coming up with the $50,000.”

Adkins said the money for the purchase would come from $200,000 in an equipment trust fund earmarked for tram upgrades.

Councilman John Gehrig asked Adkins what level of funding was required for new tramcar units.

“It was roughly $2 million if you were purchasing eight gas trams,” Adkins said. “It was in the vicinity of $4 million had you gone with electric.”

With custom-made trailer cars costing approximately $60,000 each, and a gas engine cab chassis totaling around $200,000, Adkins estimated the Jeep purchase could reduce the overall tram replacement cost to approximately $1 million.

“That would allow us to survive for the summer of 2018 and position the mayor and council to have pressure relief from rushing to purchase replacement trailing units,” he said.

Councilman Dennis Dare asked if the Jeep switchover could negatively affect revenue due to reduced capacity.

“The existing power units have seating for six people,” he said.

Council Secretary Mary Knight said the council could customize future tramcars to compensate for the loss.

“We can design the width and the length of the trailer unit,” she said. “We’re going to look at bench seating instead of bucket seats.”

Adkins estimated the current tram seating capacity at 76 persons, which he thinks can be expanded in the future.

“The goal I was shooting for was a seating capacity of 85,” he said.

After the Jeeps are operational, Adkins said the council could regroup and rebid the trailing units next spring, with an eye on maximizing ridership and revenue.

While factoring in cost and capacity, Adkins said other concerns raised by council members were beyond his purview.

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” he said. “If part of the concern is aesthetics of what you feel is acceptable on your Boardwalk, I can’t help you with that.”

Before making a motion to approve funding for the Jeeps, Gehrig said he was underwhelmed with the tram options presented during the Nov. 28 work session.

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but ugly is ugly,” he said. “The tram that we saw in the pictures was not attractive.”

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