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Repairs to city buildings damaged in Sandy nearly complete

Administration said it’s pleased with recovery and reimbursement progress so far

OCEAN CITY — The city has almost completed its Sandy-related repair projects, according to a capital plan update meeting hosted by City Council Thursday, June 20 at the Ocean City Library.

“This has not been a normal what we call ‘preseason period,’” city administrator Mike Dattilo said.

During Hurricane Sandy, several city-owned buildings were damaged from flooding, and some remain unusable. The storm also heavily damaged the beach and part of the city’s traffic signaling system. Since the October super storm, the city has been working to get many Sandy-related repairs complete as possible, passing two emergency bond ordinances totaling $7 million and what was dubbed the “Sandy bond ordinance,” at $3.6 million, to pay for the work.

“We feel good about where we are,” Dattilo said.

Leading the presentation was Georgia Arnold, city director of community development.

Arnold said that the city has a total of $2.2 million worth of dune repair work currently contracted out.

“As you know, we’ve been doing a lot of sand movement and dune construction and emergency berm construction, which is currently complete,” she said.

The work also includes dune fence and beach grass installation. Bayfront repairs currently under contract total $1.55 million, she said.

Arnold said that several bulkhead repairs are under contract including Battersea Road, North Street, Third Street, Cove Walk, 12th Street, 16th Street, Marcus Harbor and Tonga Harbor. Also included in the work is removal of safety hazards at the Second Street marina on Bay Avenue.

“Most of these jobs are getting fairly completed,” Arnold said.

She said there is still work to do at the 12th and 16th street bulkheads, and that the North Street bulkhead will be repaired last.

“The 34th Street tennis court surfaces have been repaired, replaced,” Arnold said, for about $136,000.

“We’ve done restoration of parks and playgrounds,” she said, for about $100,000.

Parking lot repairs and meter replacements were completed for $60,000.

Last week, council authorized the city to go out to bid for a contract to repair City Hall.

“We hope to be under contract the latter part of August at the latest and construction to start after Labor Day,” Arnold said.

Plans are still being formulated for the 29th Street firehouse, which is being used to store the fire trucks, but is uninhabitable for firefighters. The building was substantially damaged in the storm and the city has been weighing its options on whether to replace or repair the structure.

“We’re still working very closely with FEMA to get as many funds from them as we can for the mitigation end of it,” Arnold said.

Dattilo said there are a number of items related to the 29th Street firehouse project that are still pending.

Councilman Keith Hartzell asked about the possibility of rebuilding the firehouse a few blocks away at 34th Street, specifically, if FEMA would still contribute funds if the city were to relocate the building.

“That is a question that we’ve been asking,” city director of finance Frank Donato said. “The response that we got from them it was that replacing the 29th Street firehouse would be eligible (for FEMA funding) as long as it was in the same footprint or relatively the same footprint as it exists today.

“You could have the option to request to them an alternate or improved project,” he said, noting that relocating the firehouse would be an alternate project.

“One of the things that they would look for is to make sure you are not hampering or (increasing) response times to any part of the island by doing so,” he said.

Donato said that some of the studies the city has completed in the past show that a firehouse in the 34th Street area might be feasible, but the one negative is that it would increase response times to “certain corners of the island.”

“Therefore, I don’t know if we would get their participation in relocating it that far away,” he said.

Hartzell said that he recalled the study stated that a firehouse at 34th Street, as opposed to 29th Street, would increase fire response time by about 17 second to the Riviera section and 55th Street south.

“I guess I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around 17 seconds on a fire call being a lot,” he said.

Mayor Jay Gillian said that his administration is trying to gather all the facts before coming to council with a suggestion on the firehouse. Relocating it is not out of the question, he said.

“We’re looking at 34th street, no question about it,” he said. “We’re trying to get all the facts.”

“There are so many questions to ask and that’s what we’re doing right now,” Gillian said, adding that he hopes to have an answer in a couple weeks.

Councilman Pete Guinosso said that there are other options available to the city in terms of first responders, including the police. He mentioned an incident last weekend where a police officer with an automated external defibrillator in his car was able to help save a man’s life after a car accident, before firefighters arrived.

“If you look at the personnel on the street, and I’ve always said this all along, is the police department is there first,” he said.

Guinosso also said that city has to make sure the Ocean City Fire Department keeps track of times for every operation, including the time from when a call comes in to when a firefighter arrives on scene.

Also damaged during Sandy was the city’s transportation center was, which needed special restoration and remediation work due to its historic designation. The remediation is complete, Arnold said, and restoration and mitigation plans are underway.

The vehicle maintenance building repairs, she said are in the design-mitigation phase.

In total, about $200,000 worth of repairs were completed on the 46th Street buildings, the Ninth Street restaurant, the Ocean City Community Center, beach patrol buildings, the Ocean City Music Pier, the Bayside Center pool house and the golf course pro shop, Arnold said.

Donato said that he expects the city to be reimbursed for about 75 percent of the funds spent on all Sandy-related repairs. The reimbursements, he said, will come from both insurance and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“We have submitted and completed a number of flood insurance claims on a variety of buildings,” he said.

Harztell asked where the city stands on being reimbursed for the restoration of Pecks Beach Village. Through a shared services agreement, the city used Council on Affordable Housing funds to undertake repairs to the building in the winter with the stipulation that the housing authority, which operates the low-income units, send all its insurance and FEMA reimbursements back to the city.

Dattilo said that a package of information is completely assembled and ready to provide to the housing authority, but he is not sure where the housing authority is at on their end, in terms of submitting insurance and FEMA claims.

So far, Donato said, the city has been reimbursed for the following buildings: 36th and Bay, the Music Pier, 15th and West, the Bayside Center, the Aquatic and Fitness Center, the 29th Street firehouse, the 46th Street firehouse, the golf pro shop at the airport, the 58th Street lifeguard station, the vehicle maintenance building at 1040 Haven Ave., and City Hall. The total flood insurance reimbursement to date is $600,000. Donato said he is expecting another $75,000 in reimbursements to come in to the city.

He said after all claims are submitted for the city’s flood insurance, the next step is submitting claims to the Joint Insurance Fund for reimbursements.

“They provide the next layer of insurance,” he said.

“JIF will also cover a number of things that flood insurance won’t,” Donato said, including smaller buildings not eligible for flood insurance and traffic signals, as well as playground and recreation equipment.

After the JIF, he said, FEMA is the last stop for reimbursements.

“We’re working basically with all three simultaneously,” Donato said.

“FEMA has written up a list so far – and their still working, they’re still very much in the region – of over $16 million worth of damage, the majority of which is on the beach,” he said.

Beach damage totals $10 million, Donato said, and the debris removal effort is over $3 million.

“The rest is a variety of different facilities, and bulkheads and docks, building damage,” he said, adding that a variety of write ups are not included in the $16 million list.

“We’re getting to the end, but it’s been a long, painstaking task at some points, but were getting through it,” Donato said.

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