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$1.75M Sewer Bond Explained

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By Shay Roddy

WEST WILDWOOD – West Wildwood Commissioners, during their Feb.5 meeting, brought an engineer and auditor to help explain the necessity of a $1.75 million bond ordinance for a sanitary sewer project, which would take place on parts of Poplar and G avenues.
The sewer project is necessary to repair sinking, leaking infrastructure underground, according to Engineer Jim Oris, of Remington and Vernick. The project would take place on Poplar Avenue, between Arion and G avenues, and on G Avenue, between Poplar and Glenwood avenues.
“Much of your sanitary sewer, as it’s constructed is, in fact, in the water table. What we’ve identified is you have pipes that are sagging,” said Oris. “When they sag, they deflect, and the joints get broken, and they begin to leak.”
This is problematic, Oris said, because the leaks are causing water to seep into the sewer system, resulting in up to six times more effluent than what’s expected from West Wildwood to reach the pump station during storms.
“What we identified was a direct correlation, when the water table comes up, we get a storm that we experience flooding, we see a spike in the flow running to your pump station,” Oris said.
West Wildwood received a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development Search Grant of $30,000 to pay for investigation for future improvements. The borough used the grant to investigate a sample of roads in town, including video of sewer lines on Maple Avenue. Oris said the video indicated how severe the problem with the current pipes, laid in the late 1980s, was.
“Because this situation of settlement is occurring across the entire island, we feel 100% confident this situation is not limited to Maple (Avenue),” said Oris. “As you know, driving around town, many of the roads have manholes that are elevated.”
The reason the roads are sinking around the manholes is poor bedding, Oris said. This would be addressed during the replacement by adding better bedding and raising the roads. The project would also include resurfacing the road and curbs.
The manmade island of West Wildwood was filled in mostly by dredging the surrounding lagoons, and the material used to fill and raise it has been sinking slowly over the years.
While about half of the $1.75 million project would be paid by further Rural Development grants, the rest would come from a low-interest, 40-year USDA loan, according to Oris.
Mayor Christopher Fox said the borough is paying the loan on the pipes from the late 80s, which would be replaced by the project.
“We’re confident that the improvements we’re proposing will last in excess of 40 years,” Oris said, “so there’s not an issue or concern that you’re going to be paying for something, and not having completed paying for it and having to replace it again.”
According to Scott Barron, the borough’s auditor, from Bowman and Company, the reason the full $1.75 million bond ordinance was voted on, even though grants would cover about half the project, is the grants are for reimbursement, requiring the borough to get the money first.
Taxpayers questioned why this section of Poplar was selected, pointing out that Commissioner Scott Golden, Fox’s wife, Municipal Clerk Donna Frederick and Deputy Clerk Carl O’Hala live in the proposed renovation area.
“It just seems funny to me,” said Joe Kline, vice president of Concerned Taxpayers of West Wildwood, a nonprofit group active in the city’s politics. “They’re all going to get a nice road to live on, and it’s not going to flood, while the rest of us aren’t going to get it, and our sanitary pipes are still going to be leaking.”
Fox explained there were several reasons for choosing Poplar, including a grant that existed only for that street. Oris also pointed out that the piping on Poplar is shallower than some other streets, making it cheaper to do there.
“What you have to understand is there are two involved grants here,” Fox said. “It has nothing to do with who lives there, it has to do with what is the most efficient area to fix, and that was it because of those two grants.”
A petition circulated among taxpayers after Commissioners Golden and Amy Korobellis were reportedly unable to articulate the reasons they voted for the $1.75 million bond ordinance at a special meeting Jan. 23, which Fox did not attend.
The petition would force a public vote on the bond ordinance, if it gets 41 signatures by Feb. 13. With an explanation of the project, it is unclear if the petition will be successful.
To contact Shay Roddy, email sroddy@cmcherald.com.

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