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Stevens provides update on three OP studies

(July 2, 2015) Even though three major studies were either approved by the board of directors or introduced by Board President Dave Stevens back in March, the need to plan was a recurring them during last Wednesday’s candidates forum.
According to those plans, Jerry Aveta and Ted Moroney would tackle a new capital improvement plan (CIP), Salisbury University’s Dr. Memo Diriker would handle a new long-term comprehensive plan, and General Manager Bob Thompson would prepare a request for proposals for a new reserve study.
Aveta and Moroney are residents and volunteers. Diriker, founding director of the Business, Economic, and Community Outreach Network at SU, would receive grant money and two payments of $8,250 from Ocean Pines to cover two stages of the study. The vendor of the reserve study was, and apparently still is, to be determined.
As for progress made on those plans, Stevens said this week that it has turned out to be a case of easier said than done.
“Those things are easy to say and hard to do,” Stevens said. “I’ve been one of the people that’s said those things, and now I’m trying to do it.”
According to Stevens the first two plans are well under way, while the reserve study “should be under way” by the end of July.
“The [request for information] went out, responses have been evaluated, and three out of five companies were invited to come and give a presentation,” he said. “Two of the companies have given us prices, but they’re not their best and final.”
Stevens said the prospective vendors would likely make their pitch to the board during an open meeting, the date of which was not set.
“The board will ask questions and, hopefully, the general membership will be enlightened at the same time we will,” Stevens said. “Then we’ll give them a few days and ask them to come back with their best and final offer.”
When the offers come in, according to Stevens, Aveta and Moroney will evaluate and make a recommendation to Thompson, who will take the results to the board for a vote, likely during the July 30 meeting.
The comprehensive plan, Stevens said, is in the hands of Diriker.
“He has already been gathering information and I think it’s moving along,” Stevens said, adding, “I’m kind of watching this one from afar.”
Stevens said the CIP was “slow moving,” but making progress.
“To a certain extent, it should coincide with the arrival of the completion of the reserve study, and I’m guessing six-to-eight weeks on the reserve study,” he said.
The goal is to have all three major studies at least partially completed in time for work on the next fiscal year budget, which generally begins in September in Ocean Pines.
“That’s the plan, anyway,” Stevens said.
While the purpose of the reserve study is, on the surface, to gauge how much money the community has in reserve and how much it should have, Stevens said the actuality is a little more complex.
“The reserve study focuses on all of our assets,” he said. “It tends to look at specific facilities and specific components of our facilities. The reserve study, as I would expect it to be done would, let’s say, go into the county club and it would look at the roof, it would look at the foundation, it would look at the HVAC system, the plumbing, the electricity, each of those components of the individual building.”
Stevens said the work Aveta and Moroney have done thus far has been to compile known data and look for obvious gaps in information. That includes the 2008 reserve study, the 2010 report by the OPA Facility Task force, the 2011 report by the 10-year Facility Plan Task Force, as well as various engineering surveys and maintenance work orders.
Newer facilities, like the yacht club, are rich with data, while older amenities, including the aforementioned country club, are less up to date and may require fresh information.
While the CIP will obviously share some data overlap with the reserve study, Stevens said the CIP and the comprehensive plan were “fundamentally different.”
“In my view the comprehensive plan is about major changes that will influence what happens in Ocean Pines, let’s say, 10 years out. The operative question is, what’s going to be different 10 years from now?” he said.
On the other hand, the CIP, Stevens said, would specially address “current assets and what has to be done to preserve – or improve – them.”
“That’s where the overlap comes in,” Stevens said. “If the comprehensive plan says we need a different kind of beach club and it should do different things and it makes a case for that because of changing demographics or – it could be environmental issues, it could be anything – then obviously that would be taken into account when you’re looking at any serious improvement or replacement of that particular asset.
“The comprehensive plan, really, is looking at what we think is going to be different [in 10 years],” Stevens added. “What is our plan for future expansion? Will we buy surrounding properties? It’s the larger issues.”
The last comprehensive plan in Ocean Pines, Stevens said, was conducted in 2002.
“The capital improvement plan is really looking at our existing assets,” Stevens said. That includes infrastructure such as roads and bridges, where recent reports have suggested some of those assets are literally crumbling.
The point was emphasized when, during a recent board meeting, one resident claimed a sizeable chunk of concrete from the one of the bridges recently fell onto his boat as he passed underneath. OPA Board Candidate Slobodan Trendic also brought up the issue of bridges during the June 25 forum.
That particular part of Ocean Pines’ infrastructure is tricky because state funding comes into play, and the percentages may vary depending on whether the community attempts to repair or replace a bridge. Stevens estimated the state would cover as much as 80 percent of replacement costs, for example.
Stevens said the county inspects bridges every two years, the last such study coming in 2013. The next study, he said, is due in November of this year.
“In the 2013 study they recommended a number of repairs. Some of them were of the ‘do it right now’ type, and then there was a second list, which was called ‘priority repairs.’ The total of those priority repairs were around $360,000,” Stevens said.
Stevens added that the 2011 study “didn’t have the bridges past the critical point,” although it did recommend a host of repairs, most of which were never done. Those issues on the 2013 county study listed as critical, Stevens said, “were not the most expensive ones and they’re not in the life-threatening category.”
Specifically on bridges, Stevens said the plan was to either create work groups or have the board meet directly with County Director of Public Works John Tustin in order to “walk us through exactly what this process is.”
“That is the action that really has to be taken, but it is a process,” he said.
The other issues the community is attempting to tackle in the studies, Stevens said, “are no less complicated,” and include amenities, information technology and bulkheads.
“There are a lot of things and you have to say, ‘do I want to spend this much money in our next budget?’ when, in fact, updates and engineering reports [on amenities like the country club] might show that really, we have to do a major renovation. That’s the issue that’s been facing the board and the general manager before Bob and has faced Bob since he’s been in there.
“It’s a hard problem, and what we’re trying to do is say, ‘here are our options’ and not look at it as an immediate thing,” Stevens continued. “This is a plan of action for the next, it could be up to 10 years, and here are alternative plans of action. And if we can decide on a first step then that can be budgeted in the next coming year. That’s what the CIP should be.”
Nearly every item on the CIP list, Stevens said, “either has some renovation or replacement needs, or it has some serious maintenance needs.” If the study is successful it will tell the board when each item needs to be addressed, and in what order.
“It’s based on specific requirements from specific engineering reports, and it’s based on what the reserve study says – very much so,” Stevens said. “Right now our reserve study is eight your old and we don’t have up-to-date engineering studies. We haven’t asked the questions about, ‘do we really need this, or do we need a different kind of one, or another kind of one?’ Specifically it’s about what are our needs to keep our assets as they are.”
While Stevens said it would be useful to have much of the work done by the time the next board meets for the first time in August, the larger looming deadline is the fiscal year 2016 budget.  
“In my mind that’s going to be the real driver,” he said. “That should be the actual target. There should be specific things in there that are related to the CIP and in specific areas, and areas that I’d like to see are IT and bridges on the infrastructure side, and the county club on the facilities side.
“The trouble is you have to do all the rest too, but they don’t have to be done to the same detail,” he added. “I don’t see the same urgency in any of the other areas.”