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Thompson also looking at bridges in Ocean Pines

(July 9, 2015) The possibility of repairing or replacing Ocean Pines’ apparently deteriorating bridges is being quietly explored by Ocean Pines Association officials.
While OPA Board President Dave Stevens is looking into the issue via the capital improvement plan, with an eye on budgeting for repairs in the next fiscal year budget, General Manager Bob Thompson is also addressing bridges with his own internal team.
According to Thompson, the 2014 Worcester County Bridge Inspection Report scored structures in Ocean Pines in several categories, ranging from items that need to be addressed immediately, to more minor issues that could be put off for several years.
Addressing the report, which Thompson said he only received recently, he concluded that decisions needed to be made.
Thompson said he had not been instructed by the board of directors to consider the situation, but decided on his own to look into it based on the structures current conditions.
“Based on the current evaluation report, I have started to take action on those reports,” he added.
Although conditions aren’t optimal, Thompson said it’s still too early to conclude that serious trouble is about to occur.
“We have 46-year-old infrastructure and we continue to have deteriorating [bridges], which need to be addressed,” he said. “We shouldn’t be alarmed by it, we should just be prepared to address it.
“Right now, we’re reviewing the report in more detail,” Thompson continued. “I received this information on the 23rd of June. Since then, I’ve met with my team twice, we’ve picked up the ball where the staffing side left off last September, we’ve reengaged with the engineer we were working with for solutions and we’ve reached out to our county counterparts to coordinate the next necessary steps to take corrective action.”
Thompson said his team includes Ocean Pines Public Works Director Eddie Wells, Facilities Manager Jerry Aveta, and “one or two others that are not employees directly.”
County and state coordination is key, Thompson said, although the necessary partnerships often make the process appear to drag.
“When you’re looking at bridge either repair or replacement, it’s a very different approach than us having public works go out and repair some lighting or repair some fencing,” he said. “This is something that we not only have to rely on outside contractors to perform the work, but we also have to make sure that the work would be performed in a way to meet whatever state or federal regulatory guidelines are for bridges.
“That’s our biggest challenge – clearly identifying the specifications necessary to make either the appropriate repairs or replacement under whatever the guidelines would be,” Thompson continued.
He said the cost of the work would depend on whether repairs or replacement were called for and whether either of these things fell under the “required” or “recommended” category.
“The basic rule is 80 percent state/county funding for replacement, and pretty much 100 percent for repair for us,” Thompson said.
As an example, a bridge that might cost $800,000 to replace would cost Ocean Pines $160,000, with the rest of the money coming from the county and state. If, on the other hand, the community wanted to repair a structure, it would likely pay for most or all of the cost.
Ocean Pines is less likely to pour significant money into the latter option, according to Thompson.
“If repairs are going to exceed the replacement cost for the association and the bridge conditions are close enough to warrant replacement, then that would be the wiser path to follow,” he said, adding that replacement of at least one bridge is “more compelling today than it was a year ago.”