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Posts Tagged ‘Treating Ocean Grove fairly in financing their boardwalk’

New marina construction: floating docks, bulkheads June 9, 2013

New Shark River Municipal Marina construction: floating docks, June 9, 2013

New bulkheads, docking posts, water and electric almost complete

New bulkheads, docking posts, water and electric almost complete. Blogfinger photos.

 

By Paul Goldfinger, Editor @Blogfinger.  This topic came to the surface after Sandy, but it was relevant before then and is relevant today.  Read it now in 2019 and you will see the similarities between Sandy and now.    Neptune Township has not changed its stripes—it takes from Ocean Grove but doesn’t give.

It is a bizarre relationship that should be subject to legal scrutiny, but that doesn’t happen.   We get minimal value for our tax dollars while other parts of town have favorite nation status.  It was unfair then, and it is unfair now, and the 800 pound gorilla in the Township, the OG Camp Meeting Association, is not interested in recognizing this conundrum.  (defined as “A paradoxical, insoluble, or difficult problem; a dilemma.”)

 

The Fairness Dilemma in Neptune Township: (June, 2013) on Blogfinger.net

There are two similar public recreational places in Neptune Township: The Shark River Municipal Marina and the Ocean Grove Boardwalk. The Marina is owned by Neptune Township, while the OG Boardwalk is owned by the OG Camp Meeting Association. Both places are open to the public and provide public services.

Neptune manages and maintains the Marina, while the CMA does the same for the Boardwalk. Supposedly the Marina is self- sustaining, requiring no taxpayer dollars for its routine functions. The OG Boardwalk receives no taxpayer dollars from Neptune Township either.

But along comes a massive storm called Sandy, and there is destruction in both parts of town. A cleanup ensues after the storm, and Neptune Township borrows a great deal of money and  quickly begins to deal with the mess at Shark River. It sends crews everywhere except the beachfront at Ocean Grove. Its workers do not step beyond the eastern curb of Ocean Avenue.

Marina building after post-Sandy demolition by Neptune Township

Marina building after post-Sandy demolition by Neptune Township

Ocean Grove embarks on a slow cleanup, mostly with the help of volunteers. A remarkable outpouring of support brings help from around the state and other states as well. While the CMA struggles with its oceanfront cleanup, it tries to figure out how to pay the bills for the boardwalk reconstruction. Because of the uncertainty of financing, a phased project is designed. Once FEMA rejects their initial application, they know that the boardwalk will not be done for this coming summer.

In February, 2013, construction work begins at the Marina to replace bulkheads, docks, electric and water systems. The Township is sure it can get funding from FEMA. Their confidence lets them issue bonds while they wait for FEMA to pick up 75-90% of the bill.

Now, June, 2013, expensive floating docks are arriving and being installed at the Marina along South Riverside Drive at the Shark River. There are plans to rebuild the Marina buildings which were demolished. The Marina will be operational this summer; boaters are already enjoying their new dockings. The Riverside Park across the street has already been rebuilt to help lift the spirits of the citizens who live near the river. The final reconstruction of the Municipal Marina will be expensive.

Riverside Park is across the street from the Marina.

Riverside Park is across the street from the Marina. Blogfinger photo June 10, 2013

In Ocean Grove, a part of town which is almost identical in population to Shark River Hills, minimal rebuilding of the boardwalk has occurred—paid for by the OGCMA. There are no  plans to reconstruct the entire middle of the Boardwalk at this time. No FEMA money is approved, and an appeal has been denied.

Not a dime has been paid by Neptune Township for the oceanfront cleanup, nor do they intend to help pay for the boardwalk. They have given some advice and moral support, but evidently, it appears that they are certain that it is not their business. The Mayor says that no money can come from NT because the Boardwalk “is private.” In fact the financial burden for that is all on the CMA, generous donors from outside, and the people of Ocean Grove.

Yet the citizens of both parts of town pay taxes to Neptune and the Federal Government. One part is being helped, but not the other part. The only difference between the two is that the owners are different. But in terms of public service, they are essentially the same. In fact Ocean Grove serves many more people on their Boardwalk than are served at the Marina.

Where is the fairness in that? The people who live by the ocean want access to their public place restored just as those who live along the Shark River do.

OK, the CMA owns the boardwalk, but it is used as a public facility and it has been recognized as such in the past by court rulings. (ref: State Sen. Jeniffer Beck) The CMA has acted in good faith all these years by maintaining the boardwalk so that it is accessible and free to everyone. I bet most of the boardwalkers never wonder who actually owns that wonderful place, and Neptune has not objected in the past to the public services provided by a private group. They were OK with the unique private/public relationship as long as they were getting, but not giving. But now, after the storm destruction, the boardwalk is recognized only as being private. They seem to have forgotten the rest.

Maybe the FEMA bureaucrats see a distinction according to their rules, but to the people of the Grove, it fails the smell test. The situation requires special consideration by Neptune Township because fairness is the American way, and, in our country, rules are often changed in the interest of fairness. Neptune needs to take down the smokescreen, start thinking out of the box, and try harder to find a way to help the taxpaying citizens of Ocean Grove.

2019 update:  A private fund raising effort by the CMA brings in over $1,000,000 (the Together Fund.)  The Township eventually issues bonds to help pay for part of the boardwalk, but that isn’t the same as free money provided by FEMA to the Shark River area.  Eventually FEMA did award some money after appeals, but not enough to rebuild it all in the Grove, and they denied payment to bring back the pier after initially promising  payment.  It took several years to restore the entire boardwalk, one of the slowest beach towns to recover.  Meanwhile, while the CMA had to beg for some FEMA money, parts of Seaside Park were rebuilt twice.

Today, Neptune Township continues to show little interest in its “historic district,” and it refuses to recognize the specific demographic of “OG residents.”

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