An architectural rendering depicts what the housing authority’s Speitel Commons complex will look like when completed. (Rendering courtesy of Haley Donovan architectural firm) By DONALD WITTKOWSKIOcean City’s public housing agency wants to make sure that local residents and companies share in the economic benefits created by a nearly $7 million housing project scheduled to get underway in April.By a 6-0 vote, the Ocean City Housing Authority board members approved an “action plan” Tuesday that gives preference to local residents and companies for jobs and contracts for the proposed 32-unit Speitel Commons housing complex.Five years in the planning phase, the project will provide affordable housing for senior citizens who are now living in a flood-prone area of town in the authority’s Pecks Beach Village development on Fourth Street.A $6.9 million construction contract has been awarded. The project will be built on what is now a parking lot adjacent to the housing authority’s Bayview Manor complex at Sixth Street and West Avenue. A groundbreaking ceremony is scheduled for Saturday, April 4, at noon.“Make sure your calendars are clear and you’ll be there. It should be a nice affair,” Bob Barr, a city councilman who also serves as the housing authority’s chairman, told the board members.As the housing authority hammers out the final details of the project leading up to the groundbreaking, the new action plan creates goals for hiring local residents and companies for work at Speitel Commons.“We’re going to get as much local participation as possible,” Rick Ginnetti, a consultant for the authority, said during a presentation to the board members during their monthly meeting Tuesday.The Ocean City Housing Authority board members approve the action plan by a 6-0 vote.Ginnetti explained that the action plan sets a goal of hiring local residents for at least 30 percent of the jobs for the project.Residents who currently live in housing developments managed by the Ocean City Housing Authority would receive first preference for those jobs. Ocean City residents who live elsewhere in town would be next in line. After that, Cape May County residents who live outside of Ocean City would be considered next for jobs in order of preference.The action plan also includes a goal of awarding at least 10 percent of the contracts for the project to local companies. First preference would be given to companies owned by residents who live in Ocean City Housing Authority housing developments, Ginnetti said.The authority plans to hold a meeting with prospective contractors on Feb. 28, from 9 to 11 a.m., at its administrative office at 204 Fourth Street.Ginnetti said the authority is planning a public outreach and marketing campaign to make local residents and companies aware of the jobs and contracts created by the project.He stressed that the authority will do its best to meet the hiring goals for Ocean City residents and companies, but if it falls short, “that’s all we can do.”“We’re going to give it our best efforts and do a lot of marketing,” Ginnetti said.The action plan stems from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Section 3 Program, which encourages local hiring in public housing projects.As a public agency, the Ocean City Housing Authority uses federal funds from HUD to provide affordable housing for low-income senior citizens, families and the disabled at Pecks Beach Village and Bayview Manor.Consultant Rick Ginnetti says a public outreach and marketing campaign is planned to make local residents and companies aware of the economic opportunities created by the housing project.Speitel Commons represents the next wave of construction for the authority. Named in honor of the late Edmond C. Speitel Sr., a former housing authority commissioner, the project is expected to take 12 to 18 months to build, with a grand opening sometime in 2021.Although the construction contract for the project is $6.9 million, the full cost is expected to be closer to $8 million, according to Ginnetti.The full price tag will include construction, planning, engineering, design, permitting, insurance and the expense of relocating residents from Pecks Beach Village into the new building.The 21-unit senior citizens portion of Pecks Beach Village on the north side of Fourth Street will be demolished after the new project is completed.Pecks Beach Village also includes affordable housing for low-income families. The 40 family units are located on the south side of Fourth Street. The family units will stay for the time being, although there are longer-range plans to replace them with new housing construction.Approval of $4.5 million in funding from the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency has set the stage for construction of Speitel Commons to begin. Ginnetti said that while the funding is technically called a mortgage, it is actually closer to a grant. The housing authority will make no principal or interest payments on the mortgage, which will simply disappear after five years, he said.In 2019, City Council approved a $6.6 million bond ordinance to build or rehabilitate affordable housing sites for senior citizens and low-income families. The projects will help Ocean City meet its state-mandated obligation to provide its “fair share” of affordable housing as part of a court settlement in 2018.One of those projects is the Speitel Commons complex. The city is expected to contribute more than $2 million toward the project.Pecks Beach Village, located on a section of Fourth Street prone to flooding, is slated to be demolished after the new Speitel Commons housing complex is built.