By Donald WittkowskiCome spring, residents of one low-lying neighborhood can expect to see the start of construction on a series of road, drainage and pumping improvements that represent the biggest flood-control project in Ocean City history.As a first step, City Council voted unanimously Thursday night to approve a $6.6 million construction contract for the drainage upgrades. They will encompass a flood-prone, 24-block area stretching from 26th Street to 34th Street between West Avenue and Bay Avenue.“It’s been a long time coming,” Councilman Bob Barr said of the work.Councilman Keith Hartzell said he is happy to see the project finally get underway because he has been telling residents for the past 10 years that “we were going to fix it.”Construction should get started in the spring and be completed by the summer, City Business Administrator Jim Mallon said. He noted the city will work with neighbors to try to minimize any construction-related disruptions, including the possibility that some of the street paving may be done over the summer.Mayor Jay Gillian has called the flood-mitigation project the largest of its kind ever built in the city. It represents the latest effort by the barrier island community to upgrade its aging infrastructure in the never-ending battle against storm flooding.Mayor Jay Gillian, center, has made flood-control projects a major part of the city’s capital plan.The area between 26th and 34th streets is particularly vulnerable to flooding, even during routine rainstorms, the city’s engineering consultant told residents during a public hearing in December about the drainage project.However, the new drainage and roadway improvements are expected to help reduce flooding in most storms. They would not stop the type of extensive tidal flooding unleashed by Hurricane Sandy in October 2012 or the powerful nor’easter Jonas in January 2016.“It’s incredibly important,” Mallon said of the project. “It’s not going to eliminate all flooding, but it will make the situation better and get water off the streets faster.”The construction contractor will repave roads, install new drainage pipes to replace some that are 40 to 60 years old and build four new pumping stations to help channel floodwater off the streets and into the bay.Drainage projects citywide are a major part of the city’s $112 million, five-year capital plan approved by Council on Thursday. The capital plan serves as a blueprint for an array of construction projects proposed between 2017 and 2021.In a related vote, Council approved a $12.2 million funding package, including nearly $11.6 million in city bonds and notes, to finance some of the construction projects that will be done in 2017. They include the Boardwalk’s reconstruction between 10th and 12th streets, work on the new 29th Street firehouse, landscaping improvements, repairs to city buildings and upgrades to playgrounds and recreation centers.The city will take more time to study the possible renovation of the public safety building.At Gillian’s request, Council is slowing down plans for a $17.5 million renovation and expansion of the antiquated public safety building, which houses the police department and municipal court. The mayor had Council shift the funding for the public safety building from 2017 to 2018 to give the city more time to study the project. The city plans to schedule a town meeting in the future to discuss the building’s proposed renovation in more detail with residents.Other major improvements proposed in the capital plan include new road and drainage projects in every ward of the city. Altogether, $10.4 million worth of paving and drainage upgrades are planned this year to help reduce flooding, particularly during coastal storms.Continuing what he started in 2016, Gillian is once again placing an emphasis on dredging projects to clear out the sediment-choked lagoons and channels along the back bays. After setting aside $10 million for dredging projects in 2016, Gillian has proposed $7.5 million for similar work this year.There is a financial cost for local property owners related to the capital plan. On average, the plan would increase the local property tax rate by about a penny per year, city officials said. On a home assessed at $500,000, that would mean about an extra $50 annually in local taxes, or $250 over five years. Council gave the go-ahead for the proposed drainage improvements between 26th and 34th streets.