Ocean View studies, talks drainage issue

It seems like, no matter where you stand in Ocean View these days — if it’s raining, you’re wading. Drainage has become a noticeable issue in almost all corners of the town and nearly everywhere in between. Members of town council took some time on Tuesday evening to look a little deeper into the issue, with a conceptual review presented by Town Engineer Alan Kercher.

For the past few weeks, Kercher has assembled findings from field studies and input from Administrative Official Charles McMullen to pinpoint six hotspots around the town, arranged in levels of concern.

Included within the review was current status of the area, and the projected start date and estimated costs for repair. These costs are loosely based on last year’s budgeted prices, and could potentially drop in the future. Officials emphasized that the conceptual review is a preliminary plan, and is not official. It is a proposal, and has not been officially accepted by council at this time.

The top priority of the town’s drainage lies within the subdivision of West View, along Sussex Drive and the northwest portion of New Castle Drive.

“The street is constantly submerged here,” explained Kercher. “Drainage ditches are flooding onto the roads, causing ‘asphalt stripping.’”

Due to the overflow of water in the ditches, though, safety issues beyond the performance of pavement arise. Although among top concerns, projected repair isn’t likely to begin until the 2009 fiscal year, due to the need to acquire easements from property owners. Approximate costs of drainage repairs in West View: $325,000.

Next on the list, and most likely to be tackled the soonest, is the area including Hudson Avenue, Longview Drive and the adjacent portion of Woodland Avenue, forming what Kercher calls “Phase I” of Woodland Avenue.

This area is waiting survey information required for further improvements, though. Kercher noted that about 80 percent of this area is complete.

“Hudson and Longview [avenues] are in their final stages of their drainage design,” he said. If the proposed conceptual review is approved, the town may go to bid for this area as early as August. Approximate cost of drainage repairs in Woodland Phase I: $275,000.

Woodland Avenue extension, running between Central and West avenues, makes up the third priority, known as “Woodland Avenue extended.”

“There’s significant ponding in this area,” said Kercher, “but one of the bigger concerns here is not just traffic, but pedestrian and bicycle safety. The lack of defined ditches poses a threat.”

Right-of-way issues ensue within this area, and a recommended complete survey and engineering study set construction on this area of town around the 2010 fiscal year. Approximate cost of drainage repairs in Woodland extended: $325,000.

Phase II of Woodland Avenue runs from Daisey Avenue southward to points north of Hudson. With no prior drainage surveying or work in this area, crews would be forced to start from scratch, pushing estimated repairs to the 2011 fiscal year. Approximate cost of drainage repairs in Woodland Phase II: $400,000.

Significant ponding throughout The Cottages and Woodland Park, as well as several piping systems not functioning properly, place this area next on the list for construction, in the 2012 fiscal year. Approximate cost of drainage repairs in The Cottages and Woodland Park: $350,000 (total).

The sixth area in need of drainage repair is Woodland Avenue Phase III, which runs from Route 26 to a point north of Oakland Avenue. The area would need new piping and pumping systems. Start date for this area has not been determined at this time, due to the contingency of planned Route 26 improvements. Approximate cost of drainage repairs in Woodland Phase III: $200,000.

Altogether, construction to repair these issues throughout the town sits just shy of $2 million in cost, and spans an indefinite time frame, at least six or seven years down the road. Undoubtedly, this raises many concerns within the town, which has seen a financial deficit in the budget over the past year. However, the council agreed that action needed to be taken to address the drainage issue throughout Ocean View.

“We need to make sure that these projects are going to solve all of the town’s drainage problems,” said Councilman Roy Thomas. “Two million dollars is double what was budgeted for repairs. We have to look at this proposal from every angle. The council needs something well-defined that lists all the assumptions of these projects.”

He stressed the importance of not making false promises to the citizens, too.

“It’s likely that we’ll run into more individual problems and complaints along the way,” he added. “Communication to residents of the town is important. Our deficit is what the citizens believe it is, and it’s our job to justify fixing these problems to them.”

McMullen added that he would like to see progress begin in the near future.

“We should be moving along with the priorities,” he said. “Once we start, we may be overlapping areas and splitting monies, but we need to get started by early to mid-fall.”

Town Manager Conway Gregory agreed.

“I’d like to see the first of the bids by the end of August,” he said. “All of this needs to be looked at as a total campaign rather than individual ones. One project will be proceeding right after another. Design and preparation plans will have to be moving right into the next location. By our July meeting, we need to come to our meeting with a plan on the floor.”

Thomas stressed the importance of preliminary planning for the multi-year projects.

“We need to be careful and methodical in understanding all of the problems,” he said. “The council needs and definite process before we start going forward. The process should serve as a road map that we can follow, step by step. From a budgeting and communication standpoint, this conceptual review is a real eye-opener to the people.”

Kercher — who performed a similar analysis and oversight of phased drainage improvements in neighboring flood-plagued Bethany Beach, resulting in a project several times that $2 million cost — plans to return around the end of July to present the scheduled plan of action for the drainage process to the Ocean View council.