The city team is hard at work putting together plans to accomplish a lot in 2022, but I want to take a moment to reflect on what we achieved in 2021. From beach to bay, we were able to continue our ambitious program of infrastructure improvements, and we provided a lot of new services and amenities to improve the quality of life in Ocean City. None of this would be possible without an experienced and dedicated city team and the full support of our residents and taxpayers. I want to thank you all for making so many good things happen.
Our success can be measured not only delivering on plans but also in being prepared to react to the unexpected. That’s what good government is all about. For a second year, the global pandemic provided exceptional challenges. But I’m proud of how we responded to that and other emergent matters:
- At a time when COVID vaccine appointments were exceptionally difficult to secure, a city team was able to arrange them for more than 400 seniors in Ocean City.
- Our Community Services team hosted virtual events like our annual Martin Luther King Ceremony before the safe return of live events like the Fourth of July, Night in Venice, Fall Block Party and even a new Dog Day on the boardwalk.
- Ocean City firefighters were able to protect the boardwalk and neighboring properties as a fire destroyed Playland’s Castaway Cove. The city has worked with the owners on plans to rebuild the iconic amusement center.
- With the state legalizing recreational marijuana, City Council swiftly passed an ordinance banning dispensaries in town and protecting the city’s brand as “America’s Greatest Family Resort.” We hosted a public town hall explaining how this legislation and juvenile justice reform could affect Ocean City.
- Our police department worked with local parents to organize a bike rally to establish positive relationships with young residents who had been riding recklessly on their bicycles.
- We provided detailed information on how citizens can comment on plans for an offshore wind energy project during a critical review period. I also encouraged Ocean Wind to organize a town hall meeting to provide information on its plans.
- The city’s Office of Emergency Management continued to provide alerts to storm events and options for safe parking to protect vehicles.
- Enforcement of our Historic District ordinances helped save a historic home on Wesley Avenue.
Perhaps the most consequential work we do is with flood mitigation. Our comprehensive plans are ongoing:
- We held a neighborhood meeting in November to share information on plans for a pumping station, a new drainage system and utility upgrades for West 17th Street. Work will begin early in the new year.
- We completed designs for a neighborhood drainage project from 10th Street to 14th Street in the area from West Avenue to Bay Avenue. We are currently seeking infrastructure grant funding and working on interim measures to improve these roadways.
- We recently awarded a contract for design of a second round of flood mitigation improvements for the Merion Park neighborhood.
- We eliminated a pinch point in the drainage system on the beach block at Fifth Street where flooding was occurring.
- Bulkheads were installed at Clubhouse Lagoon, Walton Place, Tonga Harbor, and work is expected to begin shortly at Eighth Street.
- The city was able to secure a $3 million grant for the elevation of 52 units at the Ocean Aire Condominiums at 43rd Street and West Avenue, and work has begun.
- Temporary measures have helped flooding at 25th Street and Haven Avenue and at 22nd Street and West Avenue.
- The city authorized a study using piezometers to learn more about the relationship between groundwater flooding and tidal flooding.
- The city completed plans for flood mitigation along Waterway Road by elevating parts of the road and re-routing water to a new outfall.
At the same time, the city continued its program for other road improvements, including:
- Repaving of West Avenue from 26th Street to 34th Street with elimination of antiquated siphon drain systems along 26th Street, 29th Street and 31st Street. The project was funded in part by a municipal aid grant.
- A network of streets along both sides of Gardens Parkway at the north end were improved and repaved.
- A pedestrian-friendly crosswalk was added at 20th Street and Bay Avenue to improve safety for students traveling to and from Ocean City Intermediate School.
- Work has begun to improve and repave Asbury Avenue from 36th Street to 39th Street with elimination of siphon drains on 38thStreet.
- The city received a grant for elevation and repaving of West Avenue from North Street to Ninth Street.
- Cape May County finished its sewer main replacement and repaving of Bay Avenue from Eighth Street to 31st Street.
- Utility companies completed a sewer main replacement and re-routing near the 34th Street playground, a water main replacement on 10th Street from Bay Avenue to West Avenue, and another water main replacement on Central Avenue from 34thStreet to 40th Street.
The city was able to acquire an entire city block to be preserved as open space. The former car dealership lot adjacent to the Ocean City Community Center was taken by eminent domain and protected from dense residential development.
Our successful bayside maintenance dredging program continued at Snug Harbor, Glen Harbor, Sunny Harbor and South Harbor in 2021, and will return to North Point Lagoon, Snug Harbor, Carnival Bayou, Venetian Bayou, Sunny Harbor Lagoon, South Harbor Lagoon and the approach to Clubhouse/Bluefish Lagoons starting next week. Private owners can arrange to have their boat slips dredged at their own expense using our unprecedented citywide permit.
Decking replacements on the Boardwalk were completed from 18th Street to 20th Street. The construction of permanent bathrooms at 10th Street and 11th Street is expected to be complete in time for the summer season, if not sooner.
Much like our roads, our public buildings and facilities are in need of maintenance and improvements, and we were able to accomplish much this year:
- The Civic Center at Sixth Street and Boardwalk was completely renovated.
- City Hall rest rooms were expanded and renovated.
- The Music Pier HVAC system was replaced.
- Pickleball courts were resurfaced and fencing expanded. The city completed sound studies in preparation for a potential expansion of courts. A championship court was named for Pickleball advocate Don Hepner.
Improvements to important services include:
- Implementation of new interactive RecDesk software to manage Aquatic & Fitness Center memberships and programs
- Accepting credit cards for tax payments
- Sponsoring semi-annual paper-shredding events, free to residents and taxpayers
- The return of our popular and effective raptor program for gull abatement on the Boardwalk
- Moving the daily summer flag-raising ceremony to the Ocean City Music Pier with a new flagpole dedicated to veterans Joe Caserta, Bill Cruice and J.R. Robinson
- Sponsoring a free patriotic outdoor concert by the Ocean City Pops for the Fourth of July
- Working with the school district to provide a venue for the high school’s Homecoming Dance and an Ocean City Intermediate School dance.
- Providing surf chairs and expanded beach mats to improve accessibility to our beaches
- Opening the historic Life Saving Station for visitors
- Providing improved Social Services, including regular “OC Talks!” programs
As always, everything we do is with the taxpayer in mind. I’m proud to report that we were able to accomplish all of this with a tax rate increase of just one penny.
Jay A. Gillian