OCEAN CITY — With no major issues on its agenda Thursday night, City Council spent the bulk of its meeting debating the possibility of completing road improvements more aggressively and holding utilities responsible for repairing the cuts and openings they create on the island’s 108 miles of roads and alleys.
“You have a rough ride all over the city,” 4th Ward Councilman Pete Guinosso said during the new business portion of the 75-minute meeting at the Ocean City Free Public Library, which was attended by 20 residents, including Michael Hyson and Eric Sauder, two newcomers who are challenging for at-large council seats in May 13’s election. “Even some of the newer roads have cuts that are sinking.”
Tony Wilson, who represents the 3rd Ward, agreed, saying that the ongoing repair work being done on county-owned Bay Avenue, especially between 15th and 17th streets, which is in his neighborhood, makes navigating the road particularly challenging.
“Beruit would be smoother than what’s there,” he said.
City Business Administrator Mike Dattilo, pressed by council for a completion date for the project on Bay Avenue, delivered unwelcome news when he said that Cape May County Engineer Dale Foster recently confirmed to the city that he did not anticipate all work being done by Memorial Day.
Scott Ping, the only one of the three at-large councilmen who earlier this week announced he would not seek re-election, questioned how the city can do more than it plans in regard to road repair, considering the time constraints under which it works.
“There are only six months you can do work,” he said. “You can’t do it in the summer and this has been a long winter.”
Still, at-large Councilman Keith Hartzell, who is seeking re-election to a third term this year, pushed for a bigger commitment to increasing the capital improvement plan of $5 million for road and drainage improvements. He suggested another $250,000 could annually be taken from the city’s fund balance and applied to road repairs.
Under unyielding pressure from Hartzell, Dattilo estimated a one-block stretch of road could be repaved for $50,000 and an alley for $30,000. That would equal five additional blocks of road repairs or more than seven alleys every year for 10 years, Hartzell said, if a quarter-million more dollars a year were moved from the fund balance to the budget for roads.
Hartzell also criticized the city’s current ordinance that permits utilities six months to complete repairs to road cuts and openings.
“Six months seems like an excruciatingly long time,” he said, asking city Solicitor Dottie McCrosson to research how enforceable the ordinance is. Guinosso encouraged Dattilo to push the administration to reconsider that six-month time frame, asking for a shorter period in which repairs should be made.
“We’re at the point something absolutely has to be done,” Guinosso said.
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