By Greg Ellison
(Sept. 3, 2020) Recent changes in funding for proposed drainage improvements in the area around Bainbridge Park in Ocean Pines brought Worcester County and Ocean Pines officials together last Tuesday to ensure both sides are charting the same course.
County Commissioners Chip Bertino and Jim Bunting led a unanimous vote on Aug. 18 to delay the county’s receipt of a $549,000 grant from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources to retrofit Bainbridge Pond for enhanced flood protection.
DNR awarded Worcester County $1.58 million in grants for the Pines project, which was estimated to cost $2.3 million. The sum represents the largest single allotment out of roughly $26 million distributed statewide.
Last week, Bertino and Bunting, along with Worcester Director of Environmental Programs Bob Mitchell, conferred with OPA General Manager John Viola, President Larry Perrone, Treasurer Doug Parks, Director of Logistics and Operations Colby Phillips and Public Works Director Eddie Wells to confirm the path forward after tabling grant acceptance the previous week.
“Larry, Doug and John made it very clear that Ocean Pines is on board with the drainage project,” Bertino said.
During the commissioners’ last meeting, both Bertino and Bunting hesitated on the county’s role as a pass-through agent for OPA, which is not a municipality, to receive state funding because of land costs and recent uncertainties expressed by Perrone.
After being installed as president on Aug. 12, Perrone, in referencing the revised award total, questioned if the lower amount would create a funding gap that might increase costs for the association.
For his part, Perrone said the previous commentary was based on unknowns.
“They had seen my comments … regarding the scope and cost of the project,” he said. “It raised concerns with me.”
Perrone said the most recent meeting with Bunting and Bertino gave him renewed confidence.
“The commissioners … wanted to get together to make sure the Ocean Pines board was in support of this project, which we are,” he said. “At this point, we believe we’re all on the same page.”
Bertino said all parties concur the drainage project’s scope of work will have to reevaluated.
“That process is underway with assistance from Vista Design, Bob Mitchell, the county and representatives from OPA,” he said.
Once the project parameters are refined, the revised proposal would require new approval from the state to proceed.
“When the work is re-scoped, it will have to go before the Board of Public Works,” he said. “They’re hoping to get that on the September agenda.”
If the state accepts the changes, the commissioners will revisit accepting the grant on Ocean Pines’ behalf.
“They’re going to take a big bite out of it … from this new scope of work,” he said. “It will really move things forward.”
Also adding to the commissioners’ hesitation during the Aug. 18 meeting was the issue of obtaining drainage rights-of-way easements on the former Old Pine Shore Golf Course property north of Beauchamp Road.
At that time, Mitchell said the project plan did not initially factor in land costs.
“It was to be done through a cooperative easement with the developer,” he said. “If we have to purchase an easement, that was not anticipated … we might have to go another route.”
Perrone said the OPA has since opted to forgo the land purchase.
“The Windmill Creek project [and] paying them once they put in their pond over there … for access to use it for drainage from Ocean Pines,” he said. “They made a demand for us to buy the property and we have since told them we are not interested in buying the property.”
Eliminating the land costs should result in a significant savings, Perrone said.
Perrone said an updated project presentation is on tap during the Board of Directors meeting on Sept. 9.
“All the board members will be brought up to date on what the scope of the project is right now [and] we can get more information out to the community,” he said.
Bertino said however the lines are redrawn, improving storm water runoff in Ocean Pines will require a multi-faceted approach.
“You’re not going to fix a decades old problem in just a couple of months,” he said. “I suspect this will be an ongoing process through the years until the problem is solved.”