“I think it shows what a great working team our federal delegation is,” said Belmar Mayor Matthew Doherty. “And Gov. Christie was such an important part of fighting and pushing this bill through as well, so I think New Jersey really took the lead and showed what bipartisanship is all about.”
It’s not a done deal just yet, but mayors along the Jersey Shore are confident the long wait for Sandy relief aid is finally over. Toms River faces $35 million in damages to the township owned properties.
“We’re desperately waiting for it. For example we passed a $25 million bond issue just to have cash in our pockets so to speak to pay police overtime, public works overtime and so on,” said Toms River Mayor Thomas Kelaher. “We’re going to be very happy to get enough money to pay off that $25 million bond issue.”
Kelaher says officials expect FEMA to reimburse 75 percent of the emergency costs but the mayor hopes for a different outcome with the passage of the Sandy relief package.
“I just hope that if there’s that much money available and it becomes available that those figures will change from 75 to at least 90 or maybe 100 percent,” Kelaher said.
Toms River isn’t waiting for money from Washington to rebuild. Crews are reconstructing sand dunes and streets torn apart in the storm.
Farther north in Belmar, it’s anything but quiet on Ocean Avenue. Belmar hasn’t waited for federal dollars to begin the reconstruction process. Last week contractors began rebuilding the boardwalk. So far they’ve driven 300 pilings into the sand.
Doherty says the beach town’s top priorities include completing the boardwalk, rebuilding the damaged marina and repairing the sewer system.
“There’s no mechanism in place yet as for how the money is going to be allocated. We understand it’s going to be through block grants so there’s going to be a tremendous amount of discretion on the state level as to what projects are funded,” Doherty said.
“In the very beginning we thought we were involved in a sprint running to get things taken care of. Now there’s no question we’re in what I guess you could call a cross country long-term marathon,” Kelaher said.
And local officials say although the finish line may seem out of sight, Jersey’s shore communities will reach the end of that marathon and be stronger for it.