OCEAN CITY — In the first volleys of the 2018 mayor’s race, challenger John Flood has accused incumbent Jay Gillian of unfairly benefiting from a city project to rebuild the bathrooms at Sixth Street and the Boardwalk.
The new, bigger bathrooms are next to Gillian’s Wonderland amusement park, a Boardwalk landmark founded by the mayor’s grandfather.
“It appears the mayor is using public funds for private gains,” Flood, 65, said in a campaign press release.
“I’ve heard of gutter politics, but never toilet politics,” Gillian, 53, responded in an email from his campaign.
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Gillian said he’s made public improvements a priority over his eight years in office, and that he plans to continue to do so.
“The bathrooms at the end of Sixth Street are a small part of a $100 million capital plan, and they serve an area that is busy with traffic from the beach, Boardwalk, school complex, Carey Stadium and many events throughout the year,” Gillian stated.
May 8 is election day for Ocean City’s nonpartisan government. The three at-large council seats are also up for a vote, with the three incumbents — Peter Madden, Karen Bergman and Keith Hartzell — running unopposed.
In his campaign statement, Flood says both the amusement park and Gillian’s Sixth Street Grill in the same building rely on the restrooms at the Boardwalk entrance at Sixth Street. Inside the amusement park is a sign directing customers to the city bathrooms.
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“The Sixth Street restroom project is an example of self-serving backroom deals that are deliberately hidden from the public and cost the taxpayers greatly," Flood says. "As your mayor I will bring a transparent, data-driven approach that actively seeks public input, feedback and vetting to all public projects.”
According to city spokesman Doug Bergen, the total contract for the bathroom structure was $690,537 with Secaucus-based Schiavone Construction. The new building is planned to be open year-round and include 21 stalls for women, 10 toilets and six urinals for men, and two family bathrooms. Three places for beachgoers to rinse off will be outside in the back of the building. The new facility is set to open by the end of April.
The former building was built in the early 1980s.
“The entire street-end project, including decking, demolition and reconstruction of ADA ramps, HVAC upgrades, reconfiguration to create a cul-de-sac at Sixth Street, adjacent drainage improvements on Wayne Avenue and paving costs $1,478,639,” Bergen wrote in an email.
The project will eliminate the exit for a Boardwalk parking lot onto Sixth Street, an area that is often crowded, usually with many children.
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Flood argues the public was not well informed about the project.
“We continue to hear from folks that it’s become an old boys club at City Hall, and we want to change that, make sure everyone is informed and spend our collective tax dollars for the good of the entire community,” he said.
Gillian has cited ongoing infrastructure projects as a major factor in his decision to seek a third term.
Flood expects to discuss the issue at a debate planned for 7 p.m. April 27 at the Ocean City Free Public Library, 1735 Simpson Ave., sponsored by Fairness in Taxes and moderated by the League of Women Voters.