ZACK HOOPES ¦ Staff Writer
(Oct. 5, 2012) The Ocean City Council discussed the following matters during its Oct. 1 session:
Building code revision
Council moved to give final approval to an ordinance revising the city’s building codes to align with new state-mandated guidelines for energy efficiency and hurricane protection.
City Engineer Terry McGean had noted that the new codes would increase building costs in some areas, and decrease them in others. While energy standards would boost expense, the city would see a considerable savings from the fact that much of the Mid- Atlantic has been removed from what is known as the ‘windborne debris region’ on hurricane maps, meaning that windows on residential and most commercial structures would not require impact-resistant glazing.
There had been some apprehension in the construction industry regarding the changes, and Councilman Doug Cymek had asked McGean to give the council last week with a more full run-down of the new code. McGean said although the new codes seemed to be inconsistent in the wind levels that they placed the city under, the actual calculated loads had remained the same and would not affect the ratings of windows, other than the glazing requirement. This had allayed the fears of at least one window manufacturer who had spoken to council.
Cymek asked Monday that council implement the new codes as of Nov. 1. “This will allow builders and contractors to choose the code that best suits them in this period,” he said.
HSA contribution adjusted
Council moved to approve a change that will see the city contributing four percent more annually to the Health Savings Accounts of employees in the High Deductible Health Plan.
Since the plan was established last year, the city’s policy has been to make an annual contribution to the employees’ accounts equal to the deductible in the corresponding insurance program. Last week, the city’s benefits planner, Bolton Partners, noted that federal law has increased the minimum deductible allowed for HSAs to still qualify for preferential tax treatment. This increases deductibles from $1,200 to $1,250 for individuals and from $2,400 to $2,500 for couples or families.
Bolton recommended that the city correspondingly increase its annual contribution. 18 employees have enrolled in the plan so far.
Ocean City Development Corporation Executive Director Glenn Irwin requested the council to back his application for state funding to partially redevelop the Fat Daddy’s restaurant location on Baltimore Avenue just north of Dorchester Street.
“We wish to partner with Fat Daddy’s for a new mixed-use project,” Irwin said. “This is a brand new program from the state that just came out a few weeks ago.”
The state has $2.5 million under the Maryland Strategic Demolition and Smart Growth Impact Fund, of which Irwin would request $90,000 to cover demolition costs for the upper floors of the property. These floors, he said, had been used for seasonal employee housing, but have been condemned for some time, making the building essentially two-thirds uninhabitable.
Fat Daddy’s owners Ed and Lisa Braude have attempted to secure financing for the project, but have been unsuccessful. If the state is able to sponsor the initial demolition, however, Irwin said the project is much more likely to get further support from lenders.
Mayor Rick Meehan asked Irwin if he had reservations about gutting a building that was a “historic landmark.”
“Actually, I’m probably the only one that considers that a landmark,” Meehan said, noting that the current Fat Daddy’s location is where he opened his first retail store in Ocean City some decades ago.
Server replacement OKd
Council approved a sole source purchase of a new AS/400 computer system, bypassing a formal bid process and using the only vendor – SPS VAR, LLC – that City Engineer Terry McGean said both sells certified IBM products and is qualified to transfer the software and data from the city’s existing system to the new device.
“This is the system that we run all our accounting on, our utility billing, our building permits,” McGean said. “It’s basically the critical piece of operating software in the Town of Ocean City.”
Although IBM still supports the city’s current hardware, it can no longer be upgraded. “The size of the AS/400 used to be about like that podium. Now it’s smaller than a desktop PC,” McGean said.
The city’s aging system, he noted, has reached a point where it will be more expensive to maintain that it will be to replace. The city currently pays over $13,000 per year in service charges, but the new system will come with three years of service included in the $36,768.93 cost.