By Tony Russo
OCEAN PINES — After a morning spent touring two of the Ocean Pines Association’s facilities most in need of repair or replacement — the Yacht Club and the Country Club — the OPA board met at the Community Center to hear the beginnings of the plan that General Manager Bob Thompson composed with the assistance of his facilities planning group (FPG).
Although for a time, some controversy surrounded the group’s extra-administrative appointment the details of the report they helped Thompson prepare for presentation were thorough. Members of the FPG included contractor and Ocean Pines resident Ted Moroney, Chair of the Comprehensive Planning Committee Carol Terry, Carol Ludwig, chair of the clubs committee, and Bill Rakow, former board member.
After the tour the board of directors spent the better part of the rest of the day hearing the details of the report which ended with the recommendation that both the aging structures be replaced.
Thompson was directed earlier this year to present the board a comprehensive analysis of the problems and extent of the need for solutions at both aging facilities. The pre lunch session was devoted to the Yacht Club.
Thompson reminded both the attendees and the members of the board that he was and had ben acting at their direction, and provided a detailed package of all the evidence he would be using to make the case, not only that the Yacht Club should be replaced but also that his business plan for its eventually revival was sound and well-researched.
“This wasn’t just, ‘Bob’s making something up,’” he said.
Moroney, who has extensive construction and engineering background gave the board the Cliff’s Notes version of the Yacht Club structural assessment, which was completed by AWB Engineers of Salisbury. At Thompson’s direction, the company provided an evaluation outlining would need to be done to get another 35-40 years of use out of the facilities.
The presentation contained a litany of troubles with the building, some with which the directors and really the rest of the community were familiar with and others that were either newly discovered or the result, as Moroney said, of having professionals do the investigation.
Much was accomplished over the last few years by Moroney and other members of the 10 Year Task Force, another investigatory group established by a former board of directors, but there were some things beyond their expertise, as the report showed. Board member Dave Stevens agreed.
“Perhaps we were a little naive on the renovation side,” Stevens, who was a member of the Task Force said.
Many pilings that support the building are in desperate shape, according to the report. A temporary fix was taken care of last year and continues to hold but needs to be addressed in the long term.
If nothing else were to be done, the pilings will have to be replaced in the relatively immediate future.
“It’s going to be a major project to to that,” Moroney said. “The building will have to be closed for safety concerns during the project.”
He also pointed out that during any major renovation it is possible and even likely that more damage than imagined has been done by time and weather and will require replacement. According to the AWB analysis, the number of temporary fixes that have been done over the last four decades have undermined the building’s structural integrity somewhat.
Beyond the walls, the porch and decks need complete replacement as do the guardrails on the top deck, which has been unusable for years. The roof, electrical systems, windows all also need to be replaced and the bathrooms, doorways, stairs and the like all must be brought into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Barring any unforeseen difficulties, such as additional structural problems that would only be revealed after a renovation started, the price tag to redo the Yacht Club was estimated at $175-$225 per square foot, although AWB recommends demolition. New construction is estimated at $200-$250 per square foot.
Thompson tread lightly as he prepared to make the pitch for a new building. “I want to make sure I keep saying the word ‘concept’,” he said. “We’re looking at replacement of the Yacht Club.”
The reason for his reticence was that he hoped to make absolutely certain that he was willing to make any changes the board of directors suggested or to scrap the proposal altogether if that was their wish. Still and all, the concept was objectively impressive.
Under this initial suggestion, the Yacht Club would abandon winter operations. It would be a two story building with the bottom part literally open — that is, supported by columns but without walls — for in-season dining and the second floor converted into banquet space.
Thompson provided drawings to the directors and the concept drawings will also be on display at Saturday morning’s Town Hall meeting.
On the operational side, Thompson provided a draft business plan suggesting what the future uses of the Yacht Club might be. The plan will continue to take shape as the board better defines the goals for its management but Thompson was clear that being aggressive was one aspect of the plan unlikely to change.
“We were set up for failure right at the start,” Thompson said of a previous business plan that included expecting the OPA to subsidize its losses. “It’s a mindset. Our plan does not say hope anywhere, our plan says, ‘we will’ and ‘we shall.’”
Thompson asked the board to direct him for what the next plan is at their Dec. 20 meeting, he suggested that if they didn’t like the plan at all or wanted major changes to it, that would be the bet time to get it started.
Should they endorse this plan, or endorse it with changes, Thompson said he could begin getting blueprints together early in January with the expectation of sending whatever project they decide upon by March 1. It is possible the board may decide to go with renovation anyway, although their tone suggested it wasn’t likely.
Stevens worried that there weren’t several different concept drawings to choose from but Thompson said the easiest course would be for the directors to decide what they wanted before he proceeded.
He reminded Stevens that tis was the second concept plan the directors had seen. The previous being reviewed and discarded last year.
If the board decides on rehab or rebuild the yacht club by March 30 the bids could be completed by April and go to referendum by the time of the next board election with potential construction beginning Sept. 30.