By Donald WittkowskiAfter more than a year of planning and discussion, the Ocean City Housing Authority’s proposed $4.2 million affordable housing project for senior citizens is entering a crucial phase as the agency prepares to accept construction bids.During its monthly board meeting Tuesday, the authority announced it is in the process of soliciting contractors and plans to open construction bids on May 31.Assuming there are no problems with the bids, the authority will likely award the construction contract in June or July. The timetable calls for starting construction on the 20-unit project late this year and finishing it by late 2019.“Our goal is to build this project as fast as we can. We want to get it done before the next devastating storm,” said Jacqueline Jones, the authority’s executive director.The new complex will replace the authority’s flood-prone Pecks Beach Village senior citizens housing complex on Fourth Street. The area was swamped by storm waters from Hurricane Sandy in October 2012, underscoring the need to build new housing in a location less vulnerable to flooding.“This area floods in high tide, during a new moon and during a full moon. If a storm hits, it’s worse,” Jones explained.A parking lot next to the Bayview Manor housing complex at Sixth Street and West Avenue will be the location of the new project.The new two-story building will be constructed on what is now a parking lot adjacent to the authority’s Bayview Manor housing complex at Sixth Street and West Avenue. It will be funded by a federal Hurricane Sandy recovery grant.The project will be built on piles to protect it from flooding. Jones noted that the piles are expensive, the principal reason why it will cost $4.2 million to build 20 units of housing.The old complex will be demolished after the new building is ready. The authority adopted two resolutions Tuesday that are needed for U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development approval to build the new complex and demolish the old site.One of the resolutions included an updated version of the authority’s five-year construction plan.“That will be one step closer to getting demolition of Pecks Beach Village approved,” Jones said of the importance of the five-year plan.Senior citizens who already live in Pecks Beach Village will be transferred over to the new housing complex when it opens.Pecks Beach Village also includes a 40-unit complex for low-income families. That part of Pecks Beach will remain open after the new project is built. Jones said the family section of Pecks Beach sits on slightly higher land than the senior citizens complex and does not flood as much.The authority uses federal funds from HUD to provide affordable housing for low-income senior citizens, families and the disabled at its Pecks Beach Village and Bayview Manor facilities.In other business Tuesday, Jones told the board members that the authority is having “No Smoking” signs printed up as it prepares to implement a formal smoke-free policy in July.Currently, residents of Bayview Manor and Pecks Beach Village are allowed to light up in their rooms and other parts of the buildings. Up to this point, the authority has been encouraging residents to voluntarily refrain from smoking, Jones said.However, the authority’s board members approved a new policy in April that will ban smoking throughout the buildings starting July 1. The authority took the action to comply with federal smoke-free guidelines.Jones said the no-smoking policy has been met with widespread support among the residents. The flood-prone Pecks Beach Village complex for senior citizens will be replaced by a new housing project scheduled to open in late 2021.