Column: Mayor Addresses Apparent Inequities in Federal Sandy Aid
Column as submitted by Toms River Mayor Thomas Kelaher
The following is a column as submitted by Toms River Mayor Thomas Kelaher regarding a recently published chart showing the amount of disaster aid municipalities have received from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Toms River appears to have received less money than other areas, but Kelaher explains that is because Ocean County is fronting the funds for debris removal.
The township has received inquiries from residents over the disparity of FEMA Relief Aid being given out to shore towns, especially hardest-hit Toms River, and Mayor Tom Kelaher wants to set the record straight.
In response to the Toms River Patch article, "CHART: Sandy Relief Aid: Who's Received Money, And How Much?" it seems as though Middletown received $2.3 million in relief aid from FEMA and neighboring Brick received a total of $2 million, while Toms River received only $51,789.
"First of all, unlike some of the other large towns, like Brick for example, at the very beginning of the storm we chose to use the county's debris removal program so that we did not have to lay out the money in advance for debris removal," Kelaher said.
In the end, Toms River will pay its "share" (either 10 or 25 percent) of whatever costs FEMA does not reimburse to the county, but, Kelaher explains, "It was good business not to lay out those funds if we didn’t have to. If we had paid the contractors on our own, we would have expended well over $15 million in township funds by now for debris removal alone, and we would have had to wait for FEMA to reimburse 75 percent of that amount. Our landfill costs alone were averaging $1 million a week for cleanup, not including the contractors’ costs."
Ocean County is fronting the money for Toms River’s debris removal and the township will then pay the unreimbursed FEMA portion pertaining to Toms River’s costs. Kelaher also points out that, "Secondly, our reimbursement will be much larger and, therefore, will take longer for FEMA to verify. We are working with FEMA and our consultants on two separate reimbursements, both of which will be very large. One is for our initial 90 day costs from the storm inclusive of overtime, equipment, etc., which will be well in excess of $5 million and the other is for damage to township facilities which will be well over $20 million in the end."
There is no question that payments to Toms River will be significantly larger than the chart currently shows, but it does take longer to verify and Toms River’s reimbursement will be much higher as time goes on.