TOMS RIVER, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – Some of New Jersey’s hardest hit coastal communities are already planning to be ready for next summer.
At a hearing before the state Senate Budget Committee Monday, local emergency management officials and mayors testified about their storm recovery needs to ensure they are up and running for high season.
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“We’re going to increase the height of the boardwalk by 12 inches and also install a sea wall for the first time ever,” Belmar Mayor Matt Doherty said.
The sea wall will be four feet high to protect against future flooding experienced in Sandy.
The project will cost $26 million, with city officials counting on FEMA to cover 75 percent of the cost.
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Doherty said the summer season is critical to the community’s economy and said the goal is to back in business quickly.
“To begin construction by the end of this year and have it completed in time for Memorial Day,” he said.
In total, Belmar sustained $130 million in damage due to Sandy, officials said.
Officials appealed for extra financial help from the state as they struggle with rebuilding costs and property values.
Other officials called on the state government to speed up the approval of rebuilding permits and mold remediation certifications.
Local officials also said there needs to be a tougher crackdown on utilities.
“We’ve got to find a better way for JCP&L to deliver electric and to monitor who has it and who does not,” Brick Township Mayor Steven Acropolis said. “To get a phone call and say ‘is the power on in Veterans Elementary School?’ You’re asking us – you’re the electric company.”
“JCP&L, frankly, did not give us accurate information at times that hurt us,” Toms River municipal administrator Paul Shives said.
In addition, local officials said more state funds are needed to pay for generators to supply power to places like gas stations and senior centers. The generators should also be used to help infrastructure over the long term, said Acropolis.
“Any time a cell tower is built, it should have a backup generator. Cell service was horrible,” he said.
Local officials said the state funds are necessary to help residents rebuild.
“We need to get our people back into their homes. Our beaches are really no longer there anymore. Our dune line is gone,” said Toms River Councilwoman Maria Maruca.
Other officials said the rebuilding effort should be done carefully and thoughtfully to prevent similar devastation.
“It’s not going to do us any good to simply rebuild what was there if we have another event, God forbid, like this one. I think we need some assistance,” said Shives.
Shives called for three to five years of extra state aid to help rebuild. The storm may have wiped out a third of Toms River’s property values, Shives said.
This was the first of several planned hearings to help localities recover from Sandy. Democrats in the legislature have promised bipartisan cooperation Republican Gov. Chris Christie to expedite the assistance.
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