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Ocean City

Bathroom project inching toward finish line

(Aug. 23, 2013) Despite some visible progress recently, the construction of new municipal restrooms and stage space on the Boardwalk will have the city bogged down for at least another two weeks.

“We’re being told the restroom portion could be open within two weeks, but I wouldn’t say I’m optimistic about it,” said City Engineer Terry McGean. “It has been a very arduous process.”

The facility was originally scheduled to be finished in May. But wet weather and the complexity of the concrete work involved in the new facility’s advanced, eco-friendly design, have stalled progress.

Until completion, the city has installed a large number of port-o-johns on the concrete plaza to the north of the new facility’s location, between Caroline and North Division Streets on the Boardwalk. Self-contained trailer bathrooms were originally used, but were removed given the difficulty of cleaning and de-odorizing them during heavy summer traffic.

“I will say that we’ve gotten no complaints so far about the set-up,” McGean said. “I think our Public Works Department has done an amazing job making this work.”

As of roughly two weeks ago, the contractor selected by the city for the job – Black Diamond Builders – has begun paying fees for incomplete work. The contract timeline was set at 200 days, although credit was given for the extremely wet spring weather that initially prevented much of the concrete pouring from being done.

“They are in the penalty phase of their contract now,” McGean said. Liquidated damages amount to $1,000 per day.

Much of the delay, however, has had as much to do with the complexity of the project as it has with the weather. The central portion of the new structure is largely formed out of concrete, requiring complex molding and pouring that has turned out to be far more intensive than expected.

Additionally, it has been discovered that the shape of the structure’s roof will prevent it from being finished as the framework is laid.

“The roof moulds can’t be done until the framing is fully finished,” McGean said.

This work-in-progress was conceived roughly a year ago as a replacement for the decades-old concrete block bathhouse at Caroline Street, a structure often described by city staff as “bunker-like” because of its inset construction.

The city also desired to create some kind of public performing arts venue at the location. After much discussion by City Council, McGean and architect David Quillen were able to design a structure that features a central stage area as well as expanded restroom facilities.

The central concrete platform will allow beach-facing shows and concerts, but will be flanked by two separate wings with expanded men’s and women’s bathrooms, and will feature low-cost, low-energy ventilation systems for heating and cooling. The cost of the project is approximately $950,000.


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