TOMS RIVER – The Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders will be distributing more than $9.3 million to the 17 municipalities that participated in the county's debris removal program following Superstorm Sandy in October 2012.
"With the County recently receiving a Community Development Block Grant through the state Department of Community Affairs, we will now be able to give those participating towns back the 10 percent they paid toward the cost of the cleanup," said Ocean County Freeholder John C. Bartlett Jr., who serves as liaison to the Ocean County Department of Finance. "By working with federal and state government agencies we were able to secure 100 percent reimbursement for the debris cleanup.
"This was a program we were, in part, criticized for but it provided some of the greatest results to our towns and our residents following a storm that devastated this County," Bartlett said. "I couldn't be more pleased with this outcome."
Bartlett announced the reimbursements at the Board's May 31 preboard meeting.
Immediately following Superstorm Sandy which hit the area on Oct. 29, 2012, Ocean County municipalities took prompt action to begin the massive debris cleanup efforts in the aftermath of the largest storm ever to impact Ocean County.
The Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders, noting that many municipalities didn't have the staff, funds or the appropriate expertise to oversee such a large undertaking while continuing critical municipal operations, created a shared services agreement on Nov. 19, 2012, and offered affected municipalities the opportunity to have the county oversee and fund the debris cleanup.
Under the agreement, the County would be reimbursed by both the Federal Emergency Management Administration at 90 percent and the town, at 10 percent for the required local match. The agreement allowed towns to free up staff to attend to other storm related activities and provide assistance to citizens. Seventeen of the county's 33 municipalities entered into the shared services agreement.
"It was imperative to take action quickly. It was essential to take these steps with expediency in order to allow for necessary utility repairs, infrastructure repairs and most importantly for public safety," said Ocean County Freeholder Director Joseph H. Vicari. "Because this work was imperative to start the rebuilding efforts and in order to assist towns devastated by the storm, the Freeholders provided the funding for the debris removal giving municipalities the opportunity to handle other important matters following the storm."
Vicari noted it was the ongoing fiscal conservative policies of the Board that allowed the Freeholders to front almost $100 million for the clean-up without having to borrow it.
"And now, all of that money through FEMA and grants, has been returned to the County and we are reimbursing the towns what had been their required match," Bartlett said. "Ocean County, with its staff and technical expertise, applied for the additional 10 percent and we were successful in receiving it."
Bartlett noted that FEMA told the County no other county has ever done or tried to do what Ocean County did following the storm.
"Debris removal was key and we knew we had to do it," Bartlett said. "We came up with a plan. We did a good thing for our towns and residents and we successfully received full reimbursement for it. We got their share back for them and we will be sending them checks."
Vicari said the reimbursement will be a financial help to the towns that were part of the agreement.
"For instance, Toms River Township, will get back almost $2.3 million," Vicari said. "The Ortley Beach section of the township was certainly hard hit during Sandy pushing houses off of foundations and onto Route 35.
"We worked with Toms River to remove the hazards so the rebuilding could get underway," Vicari said. "The program provided the same help for all the other towns that signed on. Ocean County and its municipalities suffered serious losses as a result of Sandy. We are coming back and this will help."
The municipalities and the amount they will receive are: Barnegat Township, $39,545; Bay Head, $377,524; Beach Haven, $262,224; Berkeley Township, $278,106; Brick Township, $1.3 million; Jackson Township, $594,009; Lakewood, $460,872; Lavallette, $921,529; Long Beach Township, $809,441; Manchester Township, $226,253; Mantoloking, $306,226; Ocean Township, $69,698; Seaside Heights, $345,112; Seaside Park, $112,581; Ship Bottom, $114,261; Stafford Township, $781,862 and Toms River Township, $2,298,677.
In addition, Ocean County will receive $336,458.