The following letter was submitted by Toms River Councilman Mo Hill:
Four months after Superstorm Sandy we are still faced with numerous unanswered questions. While we wait for answers to those questions the Township and residents have answered the call and started the recovery process. Toms River and Brick faced the unique problem of fighting the battle on two fronts — the barrier island and the mainland.
The primary job initially was debris removal and our Public Works employees and contractors have done a magnificent job. Heavy equipment was dispatched to the barrier island within days after the storm. On the mainland large dumpsters were at the end of most streets that had flooding. Front end loaders removed debris that residents placed at the curb numerous times. Residents also carted debris to the dumpsters.
It was a total team effort. At the height of the debris removal phase we were removing in excess of 17,000 cubic yards of debris per day! Now that the initial debris removal operation has been completed the Township and the residents have embarked on the rebuilding phase. Most residents have assessed their properties and based on the amount of damage, structural integrity and age of their homes have decided either to demolish their homes or repair and rebuild them. In addition the Township is working with the utility companies as they repair and rebuild their infrastructure to facilitate the necessary permits and inspections so that residents can continue their rebuilding process.
There are numerous challenges that still need to be resolved such as adoption of the FEMA flood elevation maps so that residents can ascertain what flood zones they are in and the new heights and types of construction they will need to comply with as they rebuild. We have been told that the FEMA maps may change before the final anticipated adoption in August 2013. This has been a frustration as the residents have not been able to obtain definitive answers as to flood elevation heights and the appropriate flood zone they will finally be assigned to once the maps have been finalized. In many cases this has delayed the rebuilding process. This has been compounded by the fact that there are a limited number of companies that are proficient in home elevation.
The numbers of homes that will require elevation are several thousand according to current versions of the FEMA maps. It is anticipated that this process will take several years to complete. This is compounded by the threat of tremendous increases in flood insurance premiums that are not in compliance with the FEMA maps. This has a potentially devastating effect on our community.
Rebuilding will be a daunting task but the resilient character of the residents of Toms River and the Jersey Shore will insure the success of the mission at hand. While the process will take time there is NO doubt that we will "Restore the Shore."