(Sept. 19, 2014) Groundbreaking – both symbolic and actual – started this week on the Ocean City Beach Patrol’s new headquarters building, as contractors were literally standing by to start work immediately after city leaders finished the golden-shovel photo-op Monday morning.
“I’ve never actually done one of these since nothing’s been built specifically for the Beach Patrol before,” said OCBP Capt. Butch Arbin. “We’re really grateful to have this opportunity. There are a lot of people that need to be thanked for getting us to this point.”
The new, 9,477 square foot building will be located on the southeast corner of Talbot Street and Philadelphia Avenue, one block north of OCBP’s current headquarters.
That building, on Dorchester Street, previously served as the headquarters for the Ocean City Police Department until 1991, when the Public Safety Building at 65th Street was completed. The OCBP has been using the hand-me-down facility for the past 22 years.
Money for the new building, originally budgeted at $2 million with a 10 percent contingency, was borrowed by the city in last year’s bond issuance.
“The good news is that we’re within the $2.2 million mark for the project,” City Engineer Terry McGean said at last week’s City Council meeting. “But we’re kind of working without a safety net. That’s at zero contingency.”
City Council subsequently approved an additional $50,000 in funding – $10,000 for additional information technology upgrades to the project, and $40,000 contingency for the foundation work.
“We would fine…assuming that we know everything that’s underground and nothing goes different from planned,” McGean said. “If that were to happen, it would be the first job in 25 years I’ve seen.”
The city also finalized the project’s main contract with Gillis-Gilkerson, who is serving as the town’s at-risk construction manager – meaning the company is financial responsible for all of the subcontractors that may be used on the project under its advisement.
Gillis-Gilkerson’s final cost to the town for the project will be $1,964,458.
There has also been some concern over the level of “value-engineering” the project had already gone through, with a number of features having already been cut by McGean and his staff to keep the project within the council’s budget.
One of the major changes was the elimination of a metal roof and the use of more traditional, and cheaper, asphalt shingles, for a $50,000 savings.
But Councilwoman Margaret Pillas pointed out that on other recent projects, such as the Caroline Street Comfort Station, the city has made a point of using metal roofs given their long life and lower energy costs.
“We just built the comfort station that way, and here we go and change it around already for $50,000,” Pillas said.
However, Councilmen Doug Cymek and Joe Mitrecic, both of whom run construction businesses, said that metal roofing isn’t always worth it.
“With the new requirements for insulating the attic of a building, which are almost ridiculous these days…I don’t’ think you’re going to see that much of a difference,” Mitrecic said.
“A lot of people feel it’s unnecessary and doesn’t justify the extra cost to do it,” Cymek said.
However, Cymek said, “if I had my druthers, I’d rather see a metal roof because of its resistance to the elements…I don’t want to be a penny wise and a pound foolish on the structure at this stage.”
Likewise, Councilman Brent Ashley also asked about the elimination of LED lighting in preference of traditional fluorescent bulbs. Again, while LEDs are more energy efficient, and had been originally specified by the city, their high initial cost made them a target for cuts.
“I’m just wondering if we wouldn’t save money in the long run,” Ashley said. “Are we dealing with a false economy here?”
McGean offered to bring a more detailed cost-benefit estimate of the various budget cuts back to council for review.
“You’re seeing a lot of the sausage-making on this, so to speak, that normally you wouldn’t,” McGean said. “We’re trying to be very open with you all. These are decisions we have to make on any given project…a Rolls-Royce is better than a Chevy, but we can’t all afford a Rolls.”
The site for the new OCBP building is currently a parking lot owned by the Ocean City Development Corporation. In exchange for ceding the lot to the town, OCDC will take possession of the old OCBP building east side of Philadelphia Avenue between Dorchester and Somerset Streets, once the new building is finished and the beach patrol has relocated.
Combined with the westerly lots on the block, recently purchased from the Hall family, this will give OCDC a significant space for a future redevelopment project known as the “model block.”