By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
OCEAN CITY – In the first formal vote for the project, the City Council introduced a bond ordinance Thursday night to pay for architectural design services for Ocean City’s proposed $35 million public safety building.
The $1.1 million bond ordinance will allow the city to work with an architect to design the building’s exterior and interior features and also nail down the development cost.
City Business Administrator George Savastano said the $35 million price tag is a preliminary estimate based on conceptual plans for the project.
The hiring of an architect will allow the city to “drill down” on the cost before council is asked to approve another ordinance sometime in the future to fund the building’s construction, Savastano explained.
Construction on the project is expected to begin in the fall of 2021 and would take about 18 months to complete. A series of preliminary steps must first be taken, including finalizing the architectural designs and hiring the construction contractor through the public bidding process.
The bond ordinance unanimously introduced by council represents the first formal step taken by the seven-member governing body since Mayor Jay Gillian unveiled plans for the project during a town hall meeting Oct. 24. A public hearing and final vote for the ordinance are scheduled for the Nov. 19 Council meeting.
The new public safety building would combine Ocean City’s police, fire, emergency management, emergency dispatch and municipal court operations all in one complex. It would occupy most of the block bordered by Asbury and West avenues between Fifth and Sixth streets – the same location currently used for the fire department’s headquarters.
The existing fire station at 550 Asbury Ave. would be demolished to create space for the public safety building. In addition, the city plans to tear down the existing police department headquarters at Eighth Street and Central Avenue for downtown parking.
Gillian said the old public safety building, which dates to 1890, and the fire department’s headquarters, built in 1983, are simply too outdated to handle the technological demands and complexities of modern police and fire operations.
Rising three stories high, the new public safety building would include a parking garage built underneath. There would also be parking in front of the complex on Asbury Avenue.