By Paul Goldfinger, Editor @Blogfinger
Just when the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association (OGCMA) thought that everything was going right, the local FEMA project office notified the CMA that the Fishing Pier was ruled ineligible for FEMA Public Assistance because it is entirely recreational (unlike the boardwalk) and it falls under the rules for nonprofit entities. This notification was received on May 16.
At a meeting tonight with the Community Leaders Group, COO J.P. Gradone announced this disturbing news. He said, “It shocked and disappointed us.”
“However,” he said, “We have a positive working relationship with FEMA and we will appeal.” Once again, the Governor’s office will supply consultants to help the CMA navigate these suddenly stormy waters. He also said, “We plan to pursue available assistance through other federal, state and charitable resources to complement potential FEMA funding.”
The CMA had attended several recent meetings with the local FEMA office regarding the three-phased project (1= Middle Beach; 2=North End; and 3=Fishing Pier,) and at those meetings the CMA received verbal commitments for all 3 phases. Mr. Gradone said, “There was no indication that there would be anything but total project approval for the 3 phases.”
However, in March, during the process of expediting the Middle Beach phase, the Fishing Pier phase 3 was removed from the project plan. At first this just seemed like routine paper work, but it actually was the beginning of a broken promise. Unfortunately , none of the written communications from FEMA ever formally mentioned the Fishing Pier. The estimated cost of the Fishing Pier is $1.1million.
Attending the meeting this evening, besides the Community Leaders Group and J.P. Gradone, were CMA President Dale Whilden and CMA official Bill Bailey.
The appeal process provides for 60 days to file an appeal to regional FEMA. The appeal will be similar to that for the boardwalk–to try to persuade them that the pier is more than just recreational. Meanwhile, the CMA has continued to place discussions about the private Fishing Club on hold.
Regarding the current status of funding for the boardwalk project (Middle Beach and North End), the $2.3 million has been allocated by Congress. This is about 90% of the total needed for the Boardwalk. The rest will be provided with funds that were raised through the Ocean Grove Together Fund.
Neptune Township has issued a bond for $1.4 million to get things going at the Middle Beach, and it will be reimbursed by the CMA once the actual payment arrives from FEMA. COO Gradone said, “It’s a very complicated process, and we will work with the State while maintaining a positive attitude.”
Regarding the Together Fund’s $1.6 million, that will be used to pay towards the balance on the boardwalk, the Great Auditorium roof work (which will begin soon), and for a restoration of the Thornley Chapel. A full accounting of all these financial aspects will be presented at the Town Meeting on June 21. (see the Wassup section for more on this meeting.)