By Donald Wittkowski
Sea Isle City unveiled a new capital plan Tuesday that proposes $26 million in spending over the next five years for a series of municipal projects, including road and drainage improvements to reduce coastal flooding across the island.
Members of City Council reviewed a draft version of the plan submitted by Mayor Leonard Desiderio’s administration and indicated they will likely make revisions before voting to approve it.
The plan runs from 2017 to 2021 and is considered a broad blueprint for addressing the city’s critical infrastructure needs, particularly the roadways, beaches, the Promenade and flood-prone areas.
“This is just a plan,” Business Administrator George Savastano said while briefing Council members during their meeting Tuesday. “We still have to introduce a funding ordinance and adopt that.”
Councilman John Divney stressed that the public should be closely involved with the capital plan as it goes through the approval stage.
“Let’s lay it out for all of us to view,” Divney said.
Council is expected to approve the plan on Dec. 13 and would follow up with a funding ordinance in February. Savastano explained that the ordinance would finance a total of $5.4 million in projects and utility work proposed in 2017, not the entire five-year plan. Projects planned from 2018 to 2021 would be funded in coming years as part of the city’s annual spending.
Drainage and roadway construction is a high priority in the capital plan. Altogether, it calls for $7.5 million in drainage and road projects over five years, including nearly $1 million in 2017. Related projects include $3.4 million in flood-mitigation work and $1 million in storm-drainage improvements over five years.
Underscoring growing concerns about flooding, the city plans to spend $75,000 in 2017 for a new study that will pinpoint the island’s most vulnerable areas and recommend ways to protect them from storm waters. Savastano noted that the study is a new initiative.
The capital plan proposes $200,000 in 2018 for design work on flood-mitigation measures. However, Divney suggested shifting that money to 2017 to allow the city to get a jump on those projects as soon as they are recommended by the flooding study. Divney said he was worried about delays in getting construction started if the money wasn’t immediately available.
Savastano responded that Sea Isle already has other flood-control improvements underway, including new drainage pipes. The new study will help the city identify and prioritize other flood-prone areas as it continues to address the problem, he said.
Drainage improvements, road construction and pumping stations to clear storm water from the streets are key parts of the city’s flood-fighting strategy.
“I think the pumps are the most important thing,” Councilman Jack Gibson said.
Gibson predicted Tuesday that coastal flooding will only become worse. At previous Council meetings, he has warned of rising sea levels. He has complained that parts of Sea Isle are susceptible to flooding even during run-of-the-mill rainstorms. Gibson has proposed building a new link between Park Road and Central Avenue to create another evacuation route off the island.
Meanwhile, the city’s beaches, bays and Promenade would receive nearly $3.2 million in upgrades over five years in the capital plan. There would be $300,000 worth of lagoon dredging and $300,000 in bulkhead construction in 2017. A $1 million beach-fill project is planned in 2019.
The city also plans to spend $7 million for water, sewer and utility improvements and $5.6 million for building and facility upgrades over five years. One facility scheduled for refurbishment in 2017 is the Public Works Department garage at Kneass Street and Joseph A. LaRosa Way. Savastano said a new roof and siding will be added to the garage.
Decorative lighting will be installed along the Promenade’s entire length between 29th Street and 57th Street in 2018 and 2019 at a total cost of $500,000. The lighting will brighten up darker areas of the popular oceanfront walkway to make them safer. City officials have been looking to improve safety following a police crackdown over the summer on rowdy behavior and underage drinking on the Promenade.
In a separate project that is already funded, new decorative lighting will be added to the heart of the Promenade, by the gazebo and seating areas. Savastano said the project will be ready by the 2017 summer season.
The city is also preparing to install outdoor lighting for the Little League field at the Dealy Field athletic complex. The $72,000 project should go out to bid in December, with the work starting early next year and finished by March, Savastano said. It will allow Little Leaguers to practice and play their games at night for the first time.