The city is preparing a strategy to reduce chronic flooding across the island. By DONALD WITTKOWSKIOcean City plans to fight flooding with a series of projects that will include stormwater pumping stations, road construction, sea walls and possibly turning an abandoned railroad embankment into a protective barrier.To begin the planning for the projects, City Council awarded three separate professional services contracts Thursday night to the consulting firm ACT Engineers Inc. of Robbinsville, N.J., to develop conceptual designs for the flood-mitigation strategy.The city will target the Ocean City Homes area between 52nd and 56th streets, the Merion Park neighborhood and the section of town from 36th to 52nd streets and West Avenue – all places in the south end of town that struggle with floodwater.“We’ve all worked so hard to get this done,” City Council President Bob Barr said of the cooperation between city officials, state government and homeowners to tackle the flooding problems.In remarks during the Council meeting, City Business Administrator George Savastano said a pumping station, road elevation projects, berms and sea walls are being considered for the Ocean City Homes area.Merion Park, which has already had three pumping stations installed to ease flooding, will undergo a second phase of stormwater protection that will likely include the construction of dikes, Savastano said.For the area of town from 36th to 52nd streets and West Avenue, the city will look to elevate roads, add a pumping station and possibly convert an old railroad embankment that cuts through the marshlands into a flood barrier, according to Savastano.Separately, Council awarded two other design contracts Thursday for road projects and pumping stations that will help to ease flooding in the north end and midsection of town.Engineering Design Associates of Ocean View will design road improvements along West Avenue at 28th, 29th and 31st streets and at the intersection of Seventh Street and West Avenue, according to Council documents.Council also hired Maser Consulting of Egg Harbor Township to design the first phase of what will be a major flood-mitigation project involving stormwater pumping stations from Ninth Street to 18th Street, from the bay to Wesley Avenue.Savastano said four to six pumping stations may be built in the area between Ninth and 18th Streets in what would be the largest project of its type in Ocean City. Altogether, the project would cover a swath of 300 acres and seven separate drainage basins, he explained.“This will serve to greatly reduce flooding in that area,” Savastano told Council.City Business Administrator George Savastano outlines plans for a series of flood-control projects.The Council members expressed satisfaction that flood-prone areas of town will be better protected from stormwater.“I’m happy to see we’re addressing this issue,” Councilwoman Karen Bergman said.Before Council voted, members of the Ocean City Flooding Committee called on the governing body to delay approving five resolutions that authorized the design contracts for the flood-control projects.The OCFC, a private group that says it has more than 4,400 members, maintained in a statement read during the Council meeting that the city is pursuing a “piecemeal plan of band aids” instead of undertaking a comprehensive approach toward flood mitigation.Council, though, went ahead with the vote. Responding to the OCFC, Barr asserted that it would be “criminal” to delay projects that are critical for protecting the city from flooding.“We’ve waited far too long,” said Barr, the Fourth Ward councilman who represents the south end of Ocean City.Barr said there will be “plenty of opportunity” for the city to discuss the projects with members of the community as the plans move forward.In other business, City Solicitor Dorothy McCrosson reported to Council that the state Superior Court has ruled that the city can condemn and acquire a block of privately owned land bordered by 16th and 17th streets between Haven and Simpson avenues.For the past two years, Mayor Jay Gillian and Council have been trying to buy the property to prevent it from being used for densely packed housing construction that would add to the city’s overdevelopment. The property includes the former site of the Perry-Egan auto dealership.Council approved three bond ordinances earlier in the year totaling nearly $12 million to buy three pieces of property that comprise the block of land. The city wants to create a large corridor of open space protected from housing development.Updating Council on the land deal, McCrosson said the court has ruled that the city has the right to condemn the land and take possession. The final price still needs to be worked out, so the city will conduct a new property appraisal.McCrosson also said that the city is working with the court on a plan for any environmental cleanup that may be needed for the property before Ocean City takes ownership. Local taxpayers will not have the burden of paying for environmental mitigation, she said.“The city has no responsibility to clean up the site,” she said.The city wants to preserve this block of land bordered by 16th and 17th Streets between Haven and Simpson avenues for open space.