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OC Unveils $35M Concept for New Public Safety Building

The concept design of a $35 million public safety building

By Camille Sailer

OCEAN CITY – City, county, and state officials Oct. 24 unveiled the long-awaited concept design of a new public safety building to a large gathering of Ocean City residents, at Ocean City Tabernacle (https://bit.ly/3mrNeZY).
Mayor Jay Gillian led a panel presentation from the municipality’s police and fire chiefs, and administration staff, including the city’s business director, finance officer, and municipal auditor (https://bit.ly/35AnnYH). 
The building would cost $35 million and, per Gillian, “We hope to break ground about a year from now, after all stages of final design, bidding and contracting are complete, and have the building done in about 18 months.” 
Freeholder E. Marie Hayes and Assemblyman Antwan McClellan (R-1st), a former Ocean City Councilman, lenttheir support for the project. Hayes mentioned when she worked as a police investigator early in her career, she had to use the men’s room when visiting the Ocean City Police Department because there were no women’s facilities.  
“For my 11 years in office, as mayor, public safety has been my number one, first priority,” said Gillian, in his opening remarks. “We have been through many ideas, designs, and locations, as we thought about how to best serve our community through shared services located in one modern facility. 
“This is such an important undertaking and up until now, I have never felt right in my gut that any of the proposals were the way to go. I believe this project will result in a legacy complex that will serve us well for generations,” he continued. 
The city proposes placing the building at the current fire headquarters, at 550 Asbury Ave. 
The structure will house the police and fire departments, 911 service, which is shared with Upper Township, emergency management, and the city’s municipal courts, as well as street-level public restrooms that will accommodate  crowds that attend various city events, such as its popular block parties. 
 Parking will be underneath the building and, according to Gillian, “to the extent possible, we will maximize the building to high standards of energy efficiency and environmental benchmarks and execute a green design, such as making as many surfaces permeable as is feasible.”
Throughout the presentation, Gillian stressed that the building’s cost would not affect ongoing, expected infrastructure projects, such asboardwalk improvements; water, drainage, and sewage system upgrades; land acquisition; and beach replenishment that are line items in the city’s five-year total capital spending plan of $116 million, which includes the new public safety building. 
“There will be no spike in taxes because of this new building, and property owners can expect to pay about $25 additional local tax each year on a home valued at $500,000. We also will take advantage of the historically low-interest rates for a bond ordinance to fund the project. 
“Ocean City is number three in ratables in the state, and our real estate market and credit rating are extremely strong, so that will also help in borrowing costs. While second homeowners cannot vote officially in city matters, they have made their voices and opinions known, and we have heard them and are making sure to take their views into consideration. We are always asking the question ‘how does any particular project affect your investment in Ocean City,’” said Gillian. 
 David Breeden, president, Fairness in Taxes (FIT), a non-profit organization self-described as “watchdogs for fiscal responsibility,” per its website, voiced support. 
“Mayor Gillian included us from the start with discussion of this project and the police and fire chiefs sat down with us for hours to answer questions, and we were very pleased with this transparency. We toured their facilities and found that they have a compelling need that they are provided this new facility. 
“Many people believe FIT is against all spending because of the Klause property issue (when city-initiated negotiations to acquire a large parcel of land, formerly the site of a car dealership on 16th Street, were stymied because of vocal reservations by FIT that the price offered was too high). However, we are not against spending when it makes sense, and we are concerned more about looking at costs. In this case, we believe this new building is a wise investment and fully support moving forward,” said Breeden. 
As the building proceeds to construction and final completion, Gillian said there will be ample opportunity for citizens to continue to express their recommendations. 
“We recently conducted a public survey for this initial design, and we will maintain a website where people can keep sharing their suggestions, which we very much welcome and will take into consideration as we move forward,” he said. 
To contact Camille Sailer, email csailer@cmcherald.com.

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