MARGATE – After months of wrangling with the powers that be, city officials admitted they are frustrated with a lack progress in completing two federally-funded projects in the city. Although one would provide convenience for residents and summer visitors, the other provides much-needed safety for beachgoers.
On July 18, Margate officials said they would try one last time to get the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers or the NJ Department of Environmental Protection cut the protruding bolts on outfall pipes located on the beach. But, with a shrug of the shoulders and a chuckle, the city officials learned it would take another year before federally-funded bicycle racks will be installed.
The safety issue centers around the protruding bolts on cages for the outfall pipes the ACE installed on the beach in five locations to bring stormwater to the ocean. The multi-million-dollar drainage system was put in place after the dunes were erected and stormwater from street ends pooled in the area between the bulkheads and the toe of the dune. Although the outfalls corrected the drainage problem, city officials are concerned the bolts that hold the splice joints together pose a safety hazard for children and beachgoers trying to cross the obtrusive cages.
The City of Margate erected signs warning the public to stay off the cages, but its human nature for those walking along the shoreline to take the path of least resistance and hop over the wooden beams and pipe, while children find it amusing to use the timbers as a balance beam.
Although city officials feel as though the Army Corps left the city with an incomplete project, something has to be done to protect the public, they said, even if the city has to finish the job.
“We have to do something. I’ve said that from the beginning,” Mayor Michael Becker said.
Commissioner Maury Blumberg said the city should make one last attempt in writing to get the ACE to complete the project to the city’s satisfaction. If not completed within seven days, the city should cut the bolts and send the bill to the state, he said.
“It’s what’s done in the contracting world. We’re going to back-charge them. We have to let them know we are serious,” Blumberg said.
“The sooner we can do something the better, because we are going to end up with a liability issue,” Fire Chief Dan Adams said.
The incoming tides change the shoreline daily, exposing the bolts in one area while exposing them in other areas, Adams said.
According to Police Chief Matthew Hankinson, who was the city’s liaison to the ACE during the project, “they are not going to cut those bolts,” he said.
Public Works Supervisor Frank Ricciotti assured the commissioners that his department has the wherewithal to cut the bolts. All he would need is a diamond tipped saw blade and time to do the job, he said.
According to ACE spokesman Stephen Rochette, the design of the cages was coordinated with the state and the city, and are similar to ocean outfalls in other communities, including Atlantic City and Longport.
“In terms of Longport, the USACE did not cut bolts. We are looking into whether the municipality did so,” Rochette said.
Longport officials said the bolts on the outfalls installed there have been trimmed and capped, but borough personnel did not do the work.
Rochette also said the ACE does not recommend cutting the bolts, “because it can cause corrosion and affect the safety and maintenance of the structures.”
Instead, the ACE recommended other options, such as erecting signage and provided information about other low-cost options for capping the bolts.
Since the ACE considers the bolts a maintenance issue, it would be up to the DEP and city to determine how to move forward, Rochette said in an email.
“We will again provide information on low-cost options to cap the bolts and reiterate that we do not recommend cutting the bolts,” he said.
Meanwhile, Commissioner John Amodeo has been in touch with DEP Assistant Commissioner David Rosenblatt, who agreed to get the DEP to cut the bolts, he said.
“Although we have no confirmation in writing, he verbally agreed to get the DEP to cut the bolts,” Amodeo said in a telephone interview July 23.
The city is aware that cutting the galvanized steel bolts could cause them to corrode and rust over time, Amodeo said, but there is a spray-on zinc coating or a tar-based coating that can be painted on to protect the bolts from the salt air and water.
“Nothing will happen to the bolts over the next 20 years. It will be in the long-run,” he said.
On Monday, July 29, Amodeo said the city was still waiting to get a final word from the DEP.
In other multi-jurisdictional issues, Zoning Officer Roger McLarnon told commissioners the installation of bicycle racks in Ventnor and Margate would be delayed another year until fall of 2020.
Ventnor and Margate partnered on a grant application and were awarded a $275,000 in 2017 to install bike racks in strategic locations. Margate would get 131 decorative bike racks, while Ventnor would get 77. The would be place in commercial areas and community gathering places.
After residents complained about the lack of bicycle racks in the city last summer, Margate erected boards along the bulkhead to give beachgoers a place to lock up their bikes.
The bicycle rack project was funded through the Federal Highway Administration and Federal Transit Administration’s $1.9 million allocation to the South Jersey Transportation Planning Organization for fiscal year 2017 and implemented through the Atlantic County Planning Department with input from the towns, Atlantic County spokeswoman Linda Gilmore said previously. Ventnor was the lead agency on the grant application, but the county put the project out to bid.
The most recently timeline received from the county indicates the start of the project will be delayed until August 2020, McLarnon said.
“It’s being co-sponsored by the DOT in Trenton and the federal government in Washington, D.C. They are walking the papers back and forth,” McLarnon said.