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Posts Tagged ‘hurricane sandy aftermath’

CMA Director of Operations Bill Bailey shows photos of storm damage. Ralph delCampo (left" and Dale Whilden look on. Photos by Mary Walton

Camp Meeting Director of Operations Bill Bailey shows photos of storm damage. Ralph delCampo (left) and Dale Whilden look on. Photos by Mary Walton (Left click to see the photos enlarged)

By Charles Layton

A new spirit of good will and cooperation blossomed on Tuesday night, when leaders of the Camp Meeting Association and all of Ocean Grove’s major civic groups met to discuss storm recovery.

It falls to the Camp Meeting, as owner of the beach, to raise money and plan and execute the work of repairing the boardwalk and beach facilities.

However, others have a major stake, and up to now some of them had felt isolated, uninformed and frustrated. Merchants had complained because neighboring towns seemed to be moving ahead with rebuilding plans much faster than Ocean Grove. Other local groups said they wanted to help raise money for the beach and boardwalk, but their members hesitated for fear that donations for storm relief would be commingled with the Camp Meeting’s other funds and activities.

Camp Meeting officials organized Tuesday night’s meeting with those concerns fully in mind. “We’re all in the boat together and we all need to row in the same direction,” said Ralph delCampo, the Camp Meeting’s interim administrator. He and Camp Meeting president Dale Whilden pledged to keep everyone fully informed going forward. They also asked for everyone’s input, including their criticisms. But no criticisms were voiced on Tuesday night.

Those present included leaders of the Home Owners Association, the Historical Society, Ocean Grove United, the Fishing Club, the Chamber of Commerce and the Ocean Grove Beautification Project.

In laying out their plans for this year’s fund-raising campaign, DelCampo and other Camp Meeting officials stressed again and again that funds for the boardwalk and beachfront will be “totally separated” from all other funds. (Contributors can write “Boardwalk & Beach Front” in the memo field of their checks to have the donations routed to that separate account.)

The Camp Meeting officials said the entire beach will be open by Memorial Day and that most of the boardwalk will be operational, as will the beach office, bathrooms and changing rooms. And they discussed engineering issues in considerable detail. Bill Bailey, the Camp Meeting’s director of operations, used aerial photos of the beachfront to explain how different types of dune structures, bulkheads and barriers had functioned during Hurricane Sandy, and which of those might best prevent damage in future storms.

At the end of the meeting, Rich Lepore of the Chamber of Commerce expressed optimism about the summer season. “We’re going to do everything we possibly can do to drive home the fact that Ocean Grove is open,” he said.

Gail Shaffer of the Historical Society suggested that all of the organizations present should state on their websites that the OG beach will be open this summer. Others talked about plans to help with fund raising. Connie Ogden of OG Beautification said “We intend to go full blast” in providing decorative plantings along the boardwalk and elsewhere. Luisa Paster of Ocean Grove United suggested sending news releases to The Coaster on a regular basis.

Camp Meeting development officer Karen Adams began the meeting with an explanation of this year’s fund-raising campaign. She said the Camp Meeting normally needs to raise about $1 million, but this year the need is much greater. The cost of fixing the boardwalk and beachfront is estimated at $3 million, she said. Assuming that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provides 75 percent of that amount, the Camp Meeting would need to raise another $750,000. Thornley Chapel is also in need of $500,000 worth of renovation (not related to the hurricane), and $100,000 must be raised for repairs to the storm-damaged auditorium roof. Insurance will cover the rest of the auditorium costs.

Karen Adams (center) describes the fund-raising campaign. Listening are Carol Woidt (left) of OG Beautification and Mary Ellen Tellefsen of the Chamber of Commerce.

Karen Adams (center) describes the fund-raising campaign. Listening are Carol Woidt (left) of OG Beautification and Mary Ellen Tellefsen of the Chamber of Commerce.

Ordinarily, the Camp Meeting would simply put donations for all those projects into a single fund. However, Whilden said, “We fully realize that probably the majority of the community is primarily interested in the boardwalk,” and therefore “there will be no commingling of funds. They’re completely different funds.”

Whilden said the Camp Meeting has already raised $190,000.

Bailey led a technical discussion of beach barriers and dunes. He said the Camp Meeting believes the reason the portion of the boardwalk from the pavilion to Seaview Avenue held up so well was because the dunes along that stretch of beach were constructed on top of a rubble wall buried beneath the sand. This rubble wall had been installed following a 1953 nor’easter. It has performed so well that the Camp Meeting would like to use that same type of structure along the entire length of the beach. However, “ultimately, it’s going to be all about the money,” Bailey said, “and those rubble walls are expensive.”

The Camp Meeting also discovered that a sheet steel bulkhead in front of the boardwalk at the south end had provided good protection there. Engineers have been helping the Camp Meeting study these and other options for rebuilding.

Bailey said the reason Ocean Grove did not announce its rebuilding plans as quickly as other towns was that the Camp Meeting wanted to first determine which structures will best prevent damage in future storms. “We’ve got to get this right,” he said. “We’re investing a lot of money. We’ve got to study it.”

DelCampo said Ocean Grove needs to avoid what happened in Spring Lake, where the boardwalk was damaged by Hurricane Irene in 2011, the town rebuilt it immediately, and then it was destroyed again just one year later by Hurricane Sandy.

According to Bailey, here is what visitors to Ocean Grove can expect by Memorial Day:

  • The beach will be open in its entirety.
  • The south end boardwalk – from the beach office to Bradley Beach — will be restored.
  • From just north of the beach office to just north of McClintock Street the boardwalk will not be in place, but beach access points will be provided.
  • From the pavilion to the north end the boardwalk will be in place.

Still unanswered is the question of access to Asbury Park. As a temporary fix. there may just be an asphalt pathway.

Also, before summer, the Camp Meeting will send volunteer rescue divers out to retrieve submerged offshore debris.

The Camp Meeting officials said they still had no word as to whether FEMA will agree to provide any funds for restoring the boardwalk. Neither do they know when FEMA might announce that decision. For background on that, see this previous story.

Bailey uses aerial photos to illustrate the performance of a boardwalk bulkhead

Bailey points to an aerial photo showing how the beachfront looked before the storm

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This is how we move wood from the debris pile to the dumpster -- hand to hand. Photos by Mary Walton

This is how to move wood from the debris pile to the dumpster — hand to hand. Photos by Mary Walton (left click to enlarge)

By Charles Layton

On this crispy-cold Saturday morning we found approximately 40 volunteers down at the beach, divided into two work gangs – one at the foot of Main Avenue, the other at the Pavilion.

Both were performing similar tasks, tearing up the broken boardwalk and using human chains – bucket brigade style – to load the wood into dumpsters. We’re told a third group was working at the South End.

“We’ve been trying to find places where we could volunteer,” said Gina Voorhees, a kindergarten teacher at Presbyterian Church at New Providence. She and others at her church discovered Ocean Grove via the Facebook page of another volunteer group, Calvary Relief, which does cleanup operations all along the Jersey Shore.

Voorhees put a note about Saturday’s Ocean Grove cleanup on her church’s own Facebook page, and that’s where Karen Lawler of Bucks County, Pennsylvania, found out about it. So on Saturday she was out there too.

One thing we’ve learned from Hurricane Sandy is how many people, like Lawler and Voorhees, are eager to volunteer for the massive ongoing cleanup efforts. “Our goal is to try to do something two Saturdays a month,” Voorhees told us, speaking for the New Providence group.

Another thing we’ve learned is the important role that social media play in coordinating these efforts. For instance, Calvary Relief’s website had a posting on Friday that said, “Join in Ocean Grove tomorrow morning to continue work on the boardwalk! No need to call, just meet us in the Youth Temple at 9:00 a.m.!!!”

If you go to “PCNP Hurricane Sandy Relief” you’ll see how that group in New Providence spreads the word to its followers.

Most Grovers probably have little idea how much our town and others benefit from perfect strangers who read such postings, show up, pitch in, and ask absolutely nothing in return.

Most of the volunteers in the Main Avenue work gang on Saturday seemed to be from New Providence and from Calvary Relief. Members of the latter group are headquartered at the Youth Temple in Ocean Grove and can often be found at work on our beachfront, especially on weekends. (To read our previous story about them, go here.)

But native Ocean Grovers were out there, too. Liz Saunders of Ocean Grove told us she had been looking for ways to help with the cleanup. So she just showed up at the beach on Saturday morning. “The lady in charge said to me, ‘You looking for a job?’ and I said yes.”

Simple as that.

Doing her bit, Zlë Walters, 8, with the Calvary Relief group, sweeps the sand off the memorial plaque at the base of the flagpole.

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By Charles Layton and Mary Walton

Two and a half months after Hurricane Sandy, the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association still hasn’t been told whether it is eligible to apply for FEMA funds for its boardwalk.

Until FEMA answers that basic question, the Camp Meeting cannot even submit an application for such funding.

And because time is of the essence, Camp Meeting administrator Ralph delCampo said Wednesday that the association will need to take out a loan for the repairs it must make in time for the summer beach season. If FEMA money does eventually come through, it could be used to repay that loan.

“As an organization we’re stretched financially,” he said in an interview.

In 2011, after Hurricane Irene damaged Ocean Grove’s fishing pier, FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) ruled that the Camp Meeting, which owns both the pier and the boardwalk, was ineligible to apply for storm damage reimbursement.

Neptune Township CFO Michael Bascom, who has worked closely with the Camp Meeting on storm relief issues, said this week that he thinks FEMA will probably reverse its 2011 ruling. (Unlike the damage from Sandy, the 2011 damage was to an area of the pier not open to the general public.)

But even if FEMA does declare the Camp Meeting an eligible applicant now, the association will still face tougher-than-usual obstacles to having its application for funding approved. That’s because the rules are different for private, non-profit organizations than they are for municipalities. Ocean Grove is unique in having its boardwalk and beach owned by a private entity.

DelCampo said that the Camp Meeting’s plans to restore a large portion of the beach and boardwalk in time for Memorial Day could cost in the neighborhood of $1 million. That is in addition to other expenses, including a $100,000 insurance deductible the Camp Meeting must lay out for repairs to the damaged roof of the Great Auditorium. A temporary roof was quickly laid in place immediately after the storm, but now a permanent one of specially fabricated stainless steel is required. The Camp Meeting’s total damage costs – including work on the boardwalk, pier, beach and dunes – will come to between $3 million and $4 million, delCampo said. “That’s a very preliminary number.” The Camp Meeting’s entire annual budget is normally around $5 million.

DelCampo said the Camp Meeting is launching a fund-raising drive. He also said that the Camp Meeting will apply not only to FEMA but “to other agencies, any other governmental agencies.”

Bascom suggested in a separate interview that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development may have funding available for Sandy-related repairs. DelCampo said the Camp Meeting intends to apply to HUD. The association is working with a professional in the field of grant applications to federal agencies.

Bascom said the Camp Meeting should have an easier time qualifying for FEMA funding for the sand dunes than for the boardwalk. That’s because the sand dunes can be seen as a form of “hazard mitigation” – i.e., the dunes protect beachfront properties from storm surges.

The legal problem with funding for Ocean Grove’s boardwalk is that FEMA classifies the boardwalk as a recreational facility. And while, under FEMA’s rules, local governments can be reimbursed for damage to recreational facilities, private non-profits such as the Camp Meeting usually cannot.

Bascom, Township Business Administrator Vito Gadaleta and Camp Meeting representatives Bill Bailey and Jack Green met in Trenton last week with a representative of the governor’s office to discuss, among other things, this very obstacle, which other New Jersey beach towns do not face.

Camp Meeting and Township officials both argue that the Ocean Grove boardwalk serves much more than simply a recreational purpose. DelCampo said on Wednesday that the boardwalk acts as an economic engine for the entire town and provides interconnectivity between Ocean Grove and adjacent towns. It is unfair, he and others say, for FEMA to treat Ocean Grove’s boardwalk differently when it is functionally just the same as all the other ones.

DelCampo and Camp Meeting Director of Operations Bill Bailey, whom Blogfinger also interviewed on Wednesday, both expressed disappointment that some Ocean Grovers have criticized the Camp Meeting for being slow to act following the storm.

Bailey said Camp Meeting officials have worked diligently with technical consultants, engineers and other professionals to analyze the problems caused by the storm and to design solutions that would minimize damage from future storms.

 “We took the storm more seriously than most towns,” delCampo said, noting that the Camp Meeting built temporary dunes along the beach in the days and hours before the storm hit. “We were the most proactive of all the towns on the North Jersey shore.

“We’re committed to do everything we can,” he said, “but we have limitations.”

NOTE: For an account of the beachfront repairs the Camp Meeting has committed to make by Memorial Day, see our previous story here.

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Ocean Grove, NJ. Dec. 9, 2012.  Paul Goldfinger photo

Ocean Grove, NJ. Dec. 9, 2012. Paul Goldfinger photo. Left click to enlarge

EDITOR’S NOTE: Our December 23rd story on whether the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will reimburse Ocean Grove for repairs to our storm-damaged boardwalk raised as many questions as it answered.

Many Grovers are wondering why disaster relief for our boardwalk is in doubt while relief for damaged boardwalks in neighboring towns is not. The answer is that our boardwalk is owned not by a local government but by the Camp Meeting Association, a private, non-profit organization.

A FEMA official assigned to Monmouth County hurricane relief has been following our discussion of this issue. Today, she weighs in with an explanation of some of the main considerations on which FEMA’s decision will rest. Although she makes no prediction as to which way that decision will go, she frames the issue in some detail. We present her analysis here.

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By Robin E. Smith, FEMA Media Relations

Public Assistance grants from FEMA may be given to state, local and tribal governments, as well as to certain qualifying private non-profit organizations, to cover 75 percent of the cost of disaster repairs.

The criteria for approving the grants, set by the Stafford Act, differ for governmental entities and private non-profits.

State, tribe or local governments may apply for disaster-related damages to public facilities they own that provide flood control, navigation, irrigation, reclamation, public power, sewage treatment and collection, water supply and distribution, watershed development, or an airport facility. They may also apply for disaster-related damages to non-federally funded streets, roads or highways, and any other public building, structure, park or system, including those used for educational, recreational, or cultural purposes, that is owned by a state, tribe or local government.

In general, a private non-profit facility may qualify for FEMA Public Assistance grants if it provides educational, utility, irrigation, emergency, medical, rehabilitational, or custodial care resources to the community.

In certain cases, private non-profit organizations that provide essential, non-recreational services of a governmental nature to the general public may also be eligible. Examples include some museums, zoos, performing arts facilities, libraries, homeless shelters, senior citizen centers, and similarly purposed facilities.

For a form that helps determine the eligibility of private non-profits for FEMA Public Assistance grants, see http://www.fema.gov/library/viewRecord.do?id=2726. Additional information about FEMA Public Assistance grants for non-profit cultural institutions may be found at https://www.heritagepreservation.org/federal/index.html.

Ed. note: Of particular interest to Ocean Grovers is this link.

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Beach Avenue on the night of the hurricane. Photo by Janet's daughter, Juliana Cavano

Beach Avenue on the night of the hurricane. Photo by Janet’s daughter, Julianna Cavano

EDITOR’S NOTE: As a new year approaches, Hurricane Sandy is history for those of us fortunate enough to have emerged unscathed. For others, the memories cling, unforgettable.

Janet Mazur

Janet Mazur

The writer Janet Mazur, who lives with her husband and two daughters in the second block of Abbott, was among those hardy souls who decided not to evacuate on the night Sandy struck. She wrote of the experience on her blog, iamnotwiththeband, describing how they watched the water cascade down the street, “like a horizontal Niagara falls,” climbing ever higher, covering planters, swallowing a car. “Foamy water, the wind lifting little blobs of bubbly foam and depositing them on the doors, the windows, the side of the house.” 

Next came redemption. “The waters receded. Slowly. And then the tops of the plants were visible in those hidden pots and more of that car on Beach Avenue appeared. By dawn, the street unveiled itself – a tangle of sea grass, heaps of boardwalk the size of a mini van randomly piled on a street corner, knee-high sand drifts and even tiny dead fish caught curbside. Meet the new world order. And the damage remains.”

After living without power for 11 days, she wrote afterward, “I will never look at a light switch the same way again.”

In the storm’s aftermath, she found herself thinking about the five stages of grief and how they apply to hurricane recovery. Here is Janet’s version as she looks back on events.

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One: Denial – The morning after the storm, I tried to sweep knee-high sand from Beach Avenue with a flimsy kitchen broom. Heaven forbid anyone drag sand onto our hardwood floors. Meanwhile, power lines are down all along the street, the governor has declared a state of emergency and the basement is full of water.

Two: Anger – With no traffic lights to guide them, more than one impatient driver navigating Rte 33 made obscene gestures or screamed at other drivers who barreled through an intersection. Does anyone remember the rules of the road? And why are we angry at each other? Sandy is no one’s fault.

Three: Bargaining –  Those with wrecked waterfront property promise to NEVER, ever build in the same spot, if only the insurance company, or FEMA or someone will just cover all the damages.

Four: Depression – So many locals are weepy for no reason, lack energy, and nurse an overall melancholy. No surprise considering that we’ve all been knee deep in a hugely traumatic event. We’ve lost more than just stuff — our sense of safety and security has been abruptly upended. Hurricanes happen in Hatteras. Or on the Gulf Coast. This wasn’t supposed to happen to us!

Five: Acceptance – Remembering that the boardwalk where we took long power walks or trained for the Spring Lake Five is no longer there, we adjust. Eventually we settle into a different route. We may even come to like it. Some day/Not just yet.

— Janet Mazur

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It's low tide on Wesley Lake, and not a pretty picture. Photos by Mary Walton

It’s low tide on Wesley Lake, and not a pretty sight. Photos by Mary Walton

By Charles Layton

The controls that normally maintain the water level in Wesley Lake are no longer working.

That is why you may have noticed that the water level is sometimes extremely low, exposing filthy mud, sand bars and old scraps of rusted junk on the bottom.

Leanne Hoffmann, Neptune Township’s director of engineering and planning, said Wednesday that the Township did two visual inspections of the lake following the hurricane and discovered that the water “seems to be bypassing, going under, that two-foot cutoff wall that’s in the lake — going under the existing concrete retaining wall on the south side of the lake, and then out to the ocean.”

What this appears to mean is that the lake water now flushes in and out with the tides. “The controls there currently are not working,” Hoffmann said. Furthermore, as the lake water drains underneath the retaining wall it is undermining that wall, creating an emergency situation.

The Township has already sought proposals from contractors for a temporary, emergency repair, which should take no more than three or four days to complete once the contract is let, she said. Part of the repair involves draining down the water in the troublesome portion of the lake and filling in with grout the area that’s been undermined, to plug the leak. Once they’ve “dewatered” that portion of the lake, she said, they’ll be able to see the problem in better detail.

Here's the up side: the gulls now have little islands to stand on

Here’s the up side: the gulls now have little sandbar islands to stand on

Meanwhile, a part of the Ocean Grove retaining wall at the north end, which was already in danger of collapse, has now in fact collapsed as a result of the hurricane. “Thursday the insurance adjusters are coming out again, and they’ll see that,” Hoffmann said. The Township is still working with the insurers and with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to catalogue the full range of storm damage. This is in order to determine the amount of reimbursement for Neptune.

Hoffman said the north end portion of the lake wall will be repaired in early 2013, using $250,000 already received from the Monmouth County Open Space Fund. (To read more on that, go here.)

Until that north end wall is repaired, people would be wise not to go near it. “It’s very dangerous next to that wall,” our photographer, Mary Walton, reported on Wednesday. “I nearly fell into a sink hole.”

She wasn’t kidding.

The collapsed bulkhead wall

The collapsed portion of the wall

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As planks are removed from the damaged boardwalk, they are saved in piles for possible reuse. Photo by Mary Walton

As planks are removed from the damaged boardwalk, they are being saved and evaluated for possible reuse. Photo by Mary Walton

By Mary Walton

The Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association estimates that it will cost roughly $3 million to restore the boardwalk and pier damaged by Hurricane Sandy, interim administrator Ralph delCampo said Tuesday.

The cost for the pier alone is estimated at $500,000 to $750,000. In addition, the insurance policy which covers the damaged roof of the Great Auditorium, now under repair, has a $100,000 deductible.

DelCampo emphasized that the estimates are preliminary, given many questions about how to proceed. “We want to enhance the kind of construction,” he said. “We do not simply want to replace the boardwalk. What did we learn from other towns?”

One thing they learned is not to follow the example of Spring Lake, he said. After last year’s Hurricane Irene demolished the boardwalk there, the town rebuilt it in nearly identical fashion, only to lose it to Sandy.

In fact, planks in the heavily damaged section of the Ocean Grove boardwalk between the south side of the pavilion and the beach office were recently replaced at a cost approaching $300,000. “All of that money just went to the ocean,” delCampo said. That section, known as the Middle Beach, now must be completely rebuilt.

In probing why the pavilion itself and the boardwalk north of Seaview Avenue survived almost intact, initial credit went to the dunes. No one is discounting their importance, but, in addition, the Camp Meeting discovered that a hidden bulwark of massive boulders and rubble lies beneath them. “We believe that’s what saved the boardwalk and dunes,” delCampo said.

Dale Whilden, president of the board of trustees, who joined delCampo in a conference call with Blogfinger, said the boulder wall was built in 1953 following a major storm. Post Sandy, he discovered drawings and documentation in his files. “I had forgotten,” he said. “A couple of trustees remembered it vaguely.”

Under discussion now is extending that bulwark south in tandem with new dunes. DelCampo said the Camp Meeting is working with consulting engineer Peter Avakian and with local contractors in designing a plan. At present, the Middle Beach boardwalk is being systematically dismantled and inspected for structural integrity, a process that will take about three months. “We will remove joists and planks and even some of the pilings and save them to be reused,” delCampo said.

At the same time, he said. the Camp Meeting has hired a consultant “to help us work through applications.” Topping the list of potential funders is the Federal Emergency Management Agency. FEMA will pay 75 percent of the cost of approved projects and up to 100 percent under certain circumstances. Gov. Christie has asked for the higher amount.

The Camp Meeting is also seeking private contributions from people in the community. delCampo said he was intrigued by Belmar’s “Buy a Board” campaign, which allows contributors to pay from $25 to $5,000 for individual planks, with their name and board level displayed at beach entrances.

The topic of private donations came up at meetings the Camp Meeting held last week with representatives of the Ocean Grove Home Owners Association and with Ocean Grove United. Both groups praised the meetings as positive but expressed reservations about a glossy fund-raising flyer titled “Let’s Rebuild” mailed to Ocean Grovers in late November. It stipulated that checks should be made payable to OGCMA “with ‘Now & Forever’ in the memo line.”

Home Owners president Ann Horan said her understanding is that the Camp Meeting’s “Now & Forever” fund is money that “they could take and use it for whatever they want. We think they should make it more specific.”

OGU raised a similer objection. The organization has a history of friction with the Camp Meeting, most recently over the speaking engagement of actor Kirk Cameron last summer for a Sunday worship service after Cameron had made anti-gay remarks in a television interview. Last week’s meeting between OGU and the Camp Meeting fulfilled a Camp Meeting pledge to improve communication between the two groups.

The flyer was a major topic at the meeting. “People are not comfortable giving to a general fund,” said OGU co-chair Harriet Bernstein. “They would certainly be willing to give to an earmarked fund with some accountability.” She and co-chair Luisa Paster told the Camp Meeting officials, “Everyone wants to help, but they want it dedicated to the replenishment of the beach and the boardwalk.”

Bernstein and Paster suggested that the Camp Meeting consider holding a fundraiser and also forming a coalition of community organizations to drum up financial support for rebuilding.

The Camp Meeting also met with board members of the Ocean Grove Chamber of Commerce, but the “Now & Forever” issue did not come up at that meeting, said Chamber president Rich Lepore, owner of Smuggler’s Cove on Main Avenue. “I’ve heard it more from customers,” he said. “They want to give but they don’t quite know how.”

Whilden explained that the press of time was why people were asked to donate to a general fund rather than one earmarked for rebuilding. At the time the fund-raising flyer was sent out, he said, “We were planning an immediate response. We didn’t have a strong idea of where the money ought to go. We wanted flexibility to put donated funds where they needed to be.” He said that if donors specify a preference in the “For” line of their checks, such as “boardwalk” or “pier,” or specify the intended use in a letter, the Camp Meeting is legally obligated to use the money for that purpose.

Meanwhile, delCampo said, the Camp Meeting development committee is meeting Thursday and will be coming up with an alternative “for those who don’t want to give more broadly.” In addition to donations for beachfront damage, he added a plea for funds to help pay for the auditorium repair. “We cannot forget the auditorium. It is a central focus of the community as well,” he said.

 

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1. Local attorney Barbara Burns has been appointed to the Ocean Grove Sewerage Authority, replacing Clark Cate, who has stepped down. Burns is also the vice president of the OG Home Owners Association. The other members of the Authority are Francis Paladino (chairman), Mary Winkler, Al Dawson and Julius Lodato.

2. On Monday, December 3, Neptune Township will return to its regular pickup schedule for solid waste and recycling. Refer to the pickup schedule at Neptunetownship.org. Leaves and tree debris are to be put in separate piles along the curb; do this as soon as possible. Residents with storm-damaged bulk items may make arrangements for a free dumpster for disposal of those items by calling the Department of Public Works at 732-775-8797, extension 602. This offer is available through December 15.

3. Deputy Mayor Eric Houghtaling said Monday that DPW has now picked up about half of the brush piled along the streets in the wake of the hurricane. The Township continues to urge residents to help themselves to any branches and logs still at curbside, which they’d like to use for firewood. Having residents take this wood saves the Township the considerable expense of hauling it and disposing of it.

4. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has just released these storm recovery statistics for the state of New Jersey: Number of people who have registered for FEMA assistance: 230,162. Amount of aid disbursed so far: $253 million. Number of Disaster Recovery Centers now open throughout the state: 33.

FEMA also says that 96 percent of the home inspections ordered in New Jersey have now been completed.

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Ocean Grovers overflowed the Community Room for an update on storm recovery. Janet Whritner, right, greeted arrivals and gave out name tags. Photos by Mary Walton

By Charles Layton

Michael Bascom, Neptune’s chief financial officer, said Saturday that Neptune is recovering from Hurricane Sandy faster than most other Jersey shore towns, and that the storm’s impact on local taxes should be minimal.

“I still don’t see the tax impact of this storm being much more than a penny” per $100 of assessed value, Bascom told the Ocean Grove Home Owners Association at its monthly membership meeting.

He said the total cost of Neptune’s response to and recovery from the hurricane will be between $5 million and $7 million and that FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) will reimburse the Township for at least 75 percent. Insurance on Township facilities will also help. Whatever expenses aren’t reimbursed will be apportioned over the next five years’ municipal budgets.

“We are in full recovery mode in Neptune at this point,” said Bascom, who coordinated the preparations and response as director of the town’s Office of Emergency Management. He said all Township employees — including librarians, code enforcement and construction officials, tax officials, engineering and public works employees — became emergency response workers in the wake of the storm.

Although Sandy was extraordinarily destructive, impacting “properties that had never been impacted before by a storm,” Neptune was better prepared than most other towns, he said, and therefore recovered faster than most.

The flooding was “exactly where we thought it would be,” which allowed police, fire and EMS officials to go door to door in advance, warning those in danger to get out. They were rescuing people “right up to the last minute, until it was unsafe to do so,” he said.

Neptune was able to clear streets and roads faster than most places, which made it possible for the electric company to move in and restore power faster. At one point, he said, Township supervisors became truck drivers in order to give their employees a few hours of rest.

No one in Neptune died as a result of the storm, although two people were severely injured, due to a blown-out gas pilot light, when they returned to their damaged home prematurely. “When they drove their car in the garage their house exploded,” he said.

He said 772 homes in Neptune suffered significant damage from the storm, including 18 in Ocean Grove. Seven Ocean Grove homes were deemed unsafe. In Neptune as a whole, 121 homes were deemed uninhabitable — most of them in Shark River Hills. Shark River Hills also had “probably 100 boats” blown onto people’s lawns or into their houses, he said.

At least 400 trees were down following the storm, and more than 100 of those were entangled with electrical wires, which hampered the town’s ability to clear them off streets. This, along with gas and water leaks, made streets unsafe to navigate for several days.

Michael Bascom: “We are in full recovery mode”

Bascom said the biggest expense of the cleanup is the enormous amount of brush that has to be removed, processed and disposed of, at a total cost of about $2 million. He said about two-thirds of that brush disposal work still remains to be done.

Mayor Randy Bishop, who introduced Bascom, gave lavish praise to all of the Township’s employees. He also said the Township was especially well-prepared in advance of the storm. Home Owners president Ann Horan and various members of the audience also complimented the Township on its well-organized response.

Horan said that after the storm Bishop and Bascom were on the phone daily with her and with leaders of other residents organizations throughout Neptune, keeping them informed. The problem, she said, was that, with power out, the Home Owners Association had limited ability to pass on information from the Township to the residents. For the future, she said the Home Owners Assocation intends to organize an emergency information system based on volunteers on each block going door to door.

Bascom and others also made these points:

  • The dunes along the Ocean Grove beach proved to be far better protection against the storm surge than dune systems in most other towns on the Jersey coast.
  • The Township expects FEMA to approve repairs to the Wesley Lake wall at the North End, which was already damaged and suffered further deterioration from the storm. Bascom said as soon as FEMA gives authorization the Township will begin repairs.
  • Neptune officials have been helping the Camp Meeting Association apply for FEMA’s help in repairing the boardwalk.
  • The lakes to the north and south of Ocean Grove are silted up and will need to be dredged to mitigate future storms.
  • Neptune schools reopened sooner than those in most other towns, partly because Neptune managed to clear its roads more quickly.
  • Neptune suffered no looting problems after the storm. Bascom said police had an especially strong presence in those neighborhoods that had the worst damage and were therefore most susceptible to looting.
  • No one in Neptune is living in shelters now. “We feel we’re ahead of everybody else in recovery,” Bascom said.
  • If anyone would like to volunteer their time and skills to help with recovery, Neptune has a volunteer coordinator — Monique Burger. She can be reached at 732-988-5200, extension 298. She can be emailed at mburger@neptunetownship.org.
  • The Township is still accepting donations for storm victims. It has a donations center at 1924 Heck Avenue, although it is not open full hours. Tax assessor Bernard Haney is in charge of receiving and distributing donations.
  • Neptune has hired part-time employees, under a federal grant, to help with cleanup and with expediting the approval of applications for construction permits. Also, until December 11, as part of the recovery action plan, fees for building permits have been waived.

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By Charles Layton

At it’s meeting on Monday, the Neptune Township committee plans to authorize $5.1 million in bonds to pay for hurricane expenses.

Mayor Randy Bishop said in an interview that he thinks this amount will cover most of the Township’s costs incurred during the storm and for the cleanup afterward. He said he expects most of that money to be reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and by insurance. “I believe that we will get a significant amount back,” he said.

But because the Township wants to proceed with cleanup and repairs now, it is willing to borrow the money in the short term.

The bonds to be issued include $1 million for the heavily-damaged marina at Shark River Hills, $500,000 for the Township’s Sewer Authority and $3.6 million for other emergency expenses. One of the biggest expenses is the clearing of massive amounts of debris — discarded household items, downed trees and other refuse. “We have, as of today, picked up as much debris from this storm as we do in one year’s time,” Bishop said.

He said FEMA normally pays 75 percent of damages incurred by a municipality, but in the case of Hurricane Sandy negotiations are underway at the state and federal level to increase that percentage, perhaps as high as 90 percent. And because Neptune has acted more quickly than many other towns, Bishop said, it has gotten better funding matches. “A portion of early funding is [reimbursed] 100 percent.”

The mayor also said FEMA may continue to help the Township long after its immediate needs have been met. It is possible that FEMA will help fund projects designed to make the Township less vulnerable to flooding in the future. “So you’ll see things that FEMA will be with us on for a number of years,” he said.

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