2012-12-06 / Front Page

City ponders time frame for boardwalk rebuilding

Long Branch City Council approves $5M note for storm costs
BY KENNY WALTER
Staff Writer


Long Branch officials do not think the boardwalk, which was destroyed by superstorm Sandy, will be rebuilt in time for the upcoming beach season. 
KENNY WALTER Long Branch officials do not think the boardwalk, which was destroyed by superstorm Sandy, will be rebuilt in time for the upcoming beach season. KENNY WALTER Long Branch officials are considering how to rebuild the beachfront boardwalk to withstand future storms of the magnitude of superstorm Sandy.

During the City Council’s Nov. 27 workshop meeting, Business Administrator Howard Woolley Jr. discussed the issues involved in rebuilding the boardwalk, which was completely destroyed by the Oct. 29 storm.

“We are going to have beaches and we are going to have access to the beach,” he said. “The boardwalk is another matter; we are looking at ways to rebuild it.

“We want to build something that has a 20-year useful life [regardless of what] future storms may come,” he added. “The old method of construction is not necessarily what we are looking at.” City Attorney James Aaron explained that the state will have to review construction methods used for different boardwalks before municipalities receive approval to rebuild.

“They have to evaluate what was destroyed and how it was built,” he said.

In an interview on Nov. 29, Long Branch Mayor Adam Schneider said it is unlikely the boardwalk would be ready by next summer’s beach season.

“Some towns are making great efforts to get theirs ready for summer, and we might; there is no decision being made yet,” he said. “FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency] encourages not just rebuilding, but [rebuilding] in a way that would make it less likely to be damaged during the next major storm.

“It would be great if the boardwalk is there in place, but more important is getting the design right and making sure it’s what we want during the next 100 years,” he added. “I don’t know if it would be possible to get something up and running for the boardwalk.” According to Schneider, he has had discussions with city planner Pratap Talwar about how to rebuild.

“Pratap had some really interesting ideas, including raising the boardwalk, moving it, and leaving some open space on the side so you get the benefit of having a much bigger area,” he said. “We are kicking ideas around right now and getting it right is not going to be easy.”

He said the city has had plans to rebuild the boardwalk, but funding has always resulted in holdups.

While the boardwalk remains an issue, Schneider said he is confident the beaches will be open by May.

“My goal, frankly, is, I would love to have a boardwalk for next summer [but] it’s not my major concern,” he said. “I just want to make sure we have access to the beach for next summer, that we have platforms, stairs, showers and bathrooms so that our beaches are open and running on Memorial Day. During the meeting, the council rescinded a $2 million emergency note previously approved, and unanimously passed a $5 million emergency note for costs associated with the storm.

Finance Director Ron Mehlhorn Sr. said the city has accounted for about $3.6 million so far in storm-related costs and will cancel the special note during the Dec. 27 meeting if the remaining $1.4 million is not needed.

“We are at about $3.6 million right now; this is just a fund in case anything pops up,” he said.

According to Mehlhorn, the city spent about $463,000 in overtime costs for public safety and other costs from public works haven’t been calculated yet.

He said the notes would also include funds spent for brush pickup and removal.

The note, Mehlhorn added, could be paid off over a five-year period and the city is hopeful that FEMA will reimburse a portion of the money spent. During the public portion of the meeting, resident Vincent Lepore requested that the city wait until the council’s Dec. 11 meeting before passing the emergency note, and research other programs.

“There are other programs out there, federal programs, state programs, and the Monmouth County Improvement Authority,” he said.

While city officials hope to get some of the $5 million back from FEMA, Mehlhorn said there is no estimate for how much will be reimbursed.

“They haven’t come up with any numbers; at one point I heard it was 100 percent for the first week to 10 days,” he said.

Stan Dziuba, director of the city’s Office of Emergency Management, said he has met with FEMA representatives but still doesn’t have many answers.

“Right now we are in the process of trying to deal with FEMA, both for our residents and the city,” he said. “We met today for about three hours and that was a big step for us.

“The problem we are having is, we can’t get a lot of answers right now because everybody is waiting on their insurance companies,” he added. “FEMA won’t react to anything until they get a yea or nay from the insurance companies.” He said it might be four to six weeks or longer before insurance companies respond to the deluge of claims generated by the storm.

Dziuba said the city is hoping the state will reimburse a large portion of the funds spent in the days immediately after Sandy.

“Emergency protective measures, which were the first few days after the storm, you will get a lot more on,” he said. “After that, you are talking about 75 [percent reimbursement] and down.”

According to Dziuba, FEMA funds are given to the state and the state will decide where to spend them.

Fred Migliaccio, director of public works, also said during the meeting that last week would be the final one for special bulk pickups.

Woolley explained the pickups are no longer needed.

“Everything from here on out is going to be in compliance with the regular ordinance,” he said. “We will pick up on Wednesdays like we normally do.

“We just can’t operate at this level anymore and quite frankly, there isn’t that much massive stuff as there was initially.”

Woolley said current ordinances allow residents to put out up to eight bulk items for pickup per week.

Dziuba also said the Long Branch Fire Station No. 4 on Union Avenue will operate as a Disaster Recovery Center, where residents can seek information on FEMA and other assistance programs and services.

He added that water and food have been distributed from the firehouse but the need has decreased in recent weeks.

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