City Council heard a report from Chief Financial Officer Frank Donato about a new $38.8 million bond issue that is expected to save money through lower interest rates. By Donald WittkowskiFour years after Hurricane Sandy pummeled Ocean City with flooding and damaging winds, the town has been awarded more than $400,000 in a new state grant that will help pay for storm-related cleanup costs.Chief Financial Officer Frank Donato told City Council at its meeting Tuesday night that the money comes from a New Jersey Department of Community Affairs grant program created by Gov. Chris Christie.In the storm’s aftermath, the city was able to recover 90 percent of its cleanup costs through a Federal Emergency Management Agency program. Now, the new state program has reimbursed the town for the remaining 10 percent of those costs, Donato explained.The state grant, awarded Tuesday, totals $403,889. The money goes toward such things as clearing sand from the streets, cleaning up trash and removing storm debris.Those things were already done after the hurricane struck in October 2012, but the city had to pay 10 percent of the cleanup costs until the state grant money was awarded.“At the end of the day, it’s money back in the taxpayers’ pockets,” Donato said in an interview after the City Council meeting.Council members and Mayor Jay Gillian praised Donato and the city’s management team for securing the grant.“I think that’s just a lot of taxpayer dollars,” Councilman Tony Wilson said of the savings to the public from the grant. “It doesn’t get any better than that.”Also during the meeting, Donato told Council that the city is preparing a $38.8 million bond sale in early November to finance an array of capital projects.The debt sale will combine a series of existing, short-term bond anticipation notes into one combined funding package that could result in lower interest rates, saving the city perhaps hundreds of thousands of dollars, Donato said.“Even the smallest savings on the interest rate can mean big savings for taxpayers,” Donato said.The bonds are expected to be graded in late October by the Wall Street ratings firm Standard & Poor’s. A higher grade would reduce the city’s interest rate when the bonds go to market.Donato said the city’s strong financial footing has resulted in a current bond rating of AA, just two steps from the top level of AAA. The city hopes Standard & Poor’s will upgrade the rating to AA-Plus for the $38.8 million in bonds.“We have a very good rating. We want to at least maintain that rating,” Donato said.The bonds will finance a series of city projects, including beach replenishment, upgrades to the Boardwalk, the dredging of shallow lagoons, road construction, drainage improvements, building repairs and recreation attractions.Now that the peak summer tourism season is over, the city and Cape May County are preparing to begin construction on a number of key projects throughout town.Business Administrator Jim Mallon told City Council that work began Tuesday on the redecking of the Boardwalk between Eighth and 10th streets. People will have to detour off the Boardwalk in the construction zone.Mallon said the county is scheduled to begin refurbishing the 34th Street Bridge on Oct. 20. A new deck is planned for the bridge, a major gateway into town.The 34th Street Bridge project will be done in stages over two winters, wrapping up in June 2018. There will be lane restrictions for construction, resulting in traffic backups and delays, county officials have warned.The county is also getting ready to replace the 17th Street Bridge in Ocean City, a tiny span that serves the surrounding neighborhood. Mallon said the work is scheduled to start in early November.