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Councilman: FEMA Has Become 'A Household Word'

A letter to the editor submitted by Councilman John Sevastakis

The following letter to the editor addressing dealing with the Federal Emergency Management Agency was submitted by Councilman John Sevastakis:

The mainland of Toms River, as well as Ortley Beach and every other waterfront neighborhood, including my own were shaken to the core by Superstorm Sandy more than 3 months ago. Since that time, I personally have been balancing my role as a husband and father trying to secure a temporary home for my family, a businessman whose income is depended upon to support my family and a Councilman-at-Large whose obligation it is to act in the best interest of all of our taxpayers and citizens regardless of which section of town they live in.  Never has there been a time as an elected official that I have felt more challenged by the weight of my responsibilities then now.  

There is one agency that appears to hold all the important cards with regard to my decision making about my own home, the homes I have committed to restoring as a Builder and just as importantly, the decisions made as an elected official regarding how to help the residents of our town get back into their homes. That agency is FEMA, whose name has become a household word for many of us, usually spoken with a tone of anger and frustration. I have spent numerous hours and days, since Oct. 29 of last year, fact finding to obtain answers regarding FEMA’s new regulations. Until the past few weeks, we were all forced to do that, waiting for FEMA officials to open the lines of communication and clarify what this new elevation map actually meant to the residents of Toms River and every other waterfront town severely affected by Sandy.

When we finally started receiving clarification from FEMA, instead of bringing some peace of mind, in many cases it confirmed many homeowners’ worst case scenario with regard to their homes and the expectations related to raising their homes in accordance with the new flood zone designations. Through the cloud of red tape rhetoric, I have continued to do my due diligence as an elected official who wants to see our town come through this disaster and made whole again. The following information is what I received from the FEMA Informational Workshop arranged by the Township, which I attended on Jan. 26 at Toms River High School East, as well as in a private meeting, a few days before that, accompanied by the Mayor, the Business Administrator, Councilman Whittmann and Councilman Carr.  

There were over 75 FEMA representatives and numerous township employees, who represented several different areas of expertise present at the Workshop.  The three separate sessions were able to serve over 1,400 residents. For those residents that were unable to attend, a portion of FEMA’s presentation that day is on the Township Website. A few of the more important programs are summarized below however more detailed information on all of them is also available on the Township Website www.tomsrivertownsip.com

  • If you sustained greater than 50 percent damage to your dwelling unit and you had flood insurance, you would be eligible for funds under the FEMA "Increased Cost of Compliance" or (ICC) program to raise your property. The funding is up to $30,000 and the Township Engineer’s office has additional information to assist you. There is a process you need to follow including the need to obtain a Proof of Loss from your insurance carrier that documents the damage to your property.  The determination of whether you have greater than 50 percent damage is based on the improvement value of your dwelling, not the land,  which can be found on the Ocean County Clerk Tax Records http://www.co.ocean.nj.us/TaxBoardTaxListSearch.aspx. If your Proof of Loss claim exceeds 50 percent of the improvement value on the tax records then you would be eligible.  

  • In our meeting with FEMA representatives on Jan. 23, we discussed our concerns with the Advisory Base Flood Elevation (ABFE) maps, specifically with regard to the Velocity "V" Zone designations on the mainland areas. We were advised that revised maps based on further data and study will be published in August and it is likely that the Velocity Zone will "shrink" on the mainland however no further information will be available until August. Governor Christie announced on Jan. 25 that the ABFE maps that were published by FEMA and the National Flood Insurance Program in December of 2012, would be adopted in the State of NJ, in an effort to allow rebuilding to begin. Therefore, it is incumbent upon all township officials to caution and advise all property owners that the current ABFE maps are the law in this State until the new maps are issued.  One important statement made by the FEMA representatives was that it was "highly unlikely" that the Velocity Zone will expand in Ortley Beach. In essence, if according to the ABFE maps, you are currently in a V zone on the mainland, you may ultimately end up in a less restrictive zone, however if you are not in a V zone on the barrier island, it is "highly unlikely" that you will end up in the more restrictive zone when the final maps are published in August.  

  • The Township is also participating through Ocean County in FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program. This is a "competitive" program with limited funding that can be used to raise your home and repair the damage. I only briefly mention this program in this article due to the fact that the deadline to sign up is currently Feb. 5, which will have already passed by the time this article is published.  

  • The Township is also soliciting information for FEMA funding for residents/property owners who still have debris on their property that they are unable to clean up or who have homes that unfortunately will need to be demolished. If you fall into either of the afore-mentioned categories, you simply need to send an email to our Township Business Administrator, Paul Shives at pshives@tomsrivertownship.com and he will add your property to the list. There is paperwork that will need to be filled out so please include your name, address, contact phone number and email address. Additionally, FEMA funding may be available for removal of debris from commercial properties as well and the process is the same for those business owners. As with all FEMA funding, the Township does not control the timing, schedule or approval of funding. Our Township Officials promise that we will advocate for ALL property owners but the final decision rests with FEMA.  

In conclusion, the affects of Superstorm Sandy dealt a crippling blow to our town that is unprecedented and the aftermath is already a challenge to our emotional spirit, physical strength and mental resilience without being clouded by Federal rules and regulations that were continue to evolve before all of us. Please know that the Township is there to assist you and provide information as best we can. We strive to operate on the "best information available" principle and will only release information that we believe to be factual on our website.  If you have any problems obtaining information from one of our departments, please email me, as well as the rest of the council, Mayor Kelleher and our Business Administrator, Paul Shives and we assure you that we will follow up to ensure that you receive the information that you seek.

Kit February 09, 2013 at 12:19 AM
can you give actually reasons for why you can call him a dope? he's a regular person, just like you. the difference is you're an in considerate rude person who could NEVER do his job, simply because you don't know his job AT ALL. so instead of sitting here talking crap on a computer about a regular human being, go to the council meetings and try to actually make your "thoughts" make sense. but I'm sure you can't, which is why you comment looking for drama on the internet.
Kit February 09, 2013 at 12:21 AM
or maybe because Katrina made FEMA broke, broke all the way up until the bill that passed.
HankyCraft February 09, 2013 at 12:55 AM
Do you think that covering 90 percent of the property with concrete was something that was beneficial to all of your neighbors when you live in a Flood Zone? Did you "consult" with "The one agency that appears to hold all the important cards with regard to my decision making about my own home" when you put the big addition onto your property 5 years ago, or did you just put the biggest thing that would legally fit on the lot, at the same height, and now are complaining about how much it will cost you to "lift it". And, as a "Councilman-at-Large whose obligation it is to act in the best interest of all of our taxpayers and citizens regardless of which section of town they live in".... tell me, what orifice did that statement come out of ?
John Sweeney February 09, 2013 at 12:44 PM
I have no problems with John Sevastakis. I applaud anyone that is trying to bring clarity to all these matters. The problem I have is that we can't raise our house because of the elevation restriction. A neighbor just 2 doors down was permitted to do so, when he built his house a year and a half ago. How is this in the best interest to all the taxpayers? I just think it would be a good idea to grand father those who have lived and payed taxes in ortley beach since the 1940s.
HankyCraft February 09, 2013 at 01:30 PM
Are you allowed to "loot" your own vehicle of it's tires and wheels "after" it has been declared a "salvage from the storm" and you have gotten your insurance monies?.....just wondering.
Pat S. February 09, 2013 at 02:23 PM
The check doesn't come until after the car has been towed from your property.
barbara February 09, 2013 at 02:31 PM
No, you are not allowed. My son asked his ins. co if he was allowed to take out radio system, etc. and they said no, he would be compensated for that in the settlement. Well, low and behold, he gets a call a few days ago from the ins. co. inquiring about the radio system, etc., which he did not take out, but someone did. Was it the tow truck driver, the salvage people? All equipment was ripped out.
John Sweeney February 09, 2013 at 02:32 PM
just wondering why no one can answer , or evaluate my concerns. btw ... really didn't get much insurance monies , and since no one closed the matter on the elevation issue we're really going to have to bite the expense bullet on first fixing the house, than waiting to find out if we an raise it. This is like putting the cart before the horse. Please tell me "What would you do if you were in our situation"? Would you just sell the property? Who would buy it if their forced to pay thousand and thousand on flood insurance? please ... no fluff ... just facts!
Naru February 09, 2013 at 05:56 PM
Kit, Obviously a family member. This guy should not be on council. Heard he had a good laugh when visiting the barrier island. Wonder if he is flush with work there?
Kit February 09, 2013 at 06:23 PM
@Naru , the whole council wasn't on that bus ride. John was not on that bus, what don't you get about his house being destroyed also. You should really find out true facts before you assume online you look really stupid.
HankyCraft February 09, 2013 at 06:30 PM
Hey "Naru", was that really this guy that made the jokes on the Tour bus after Sandy? We heard about a councilman with moobs doing that. Unbelievable.......well actually, it is believable.
Roy Fuchs February 09, 2013 at 07:04 PM
Kit, reading comprehension! Clearly there are two reasons I listed supporting the portrayal our astute councilman being a dope. I'm not rude, just frustrated with incompetance. The job definition is clearly defined, you are correct, I could do "his" job as I have a strong work ethic and am one not to bury my head in the sand. Going to council meetings and being "talked to" by bullies in their podium sandboxes - no thanks. I'm sure you take pride in your child-like defense, it shows thru your grammar and orderly composition. May your unbalanced support disappear too.
Janice February 09, 2013 at 07:16 PM
To Kit and Hanky. I am sure you are family members. However "boob or moobs as you say" is a good term for this lot. My 6 years old could have copy and paste that 1st grade information. As they say in politics "if you have to defend yourself". Question for you all, if he has done such a great job. How come he never was nominated over his what, 10 year tenure as council leader? Hmmmm?
Kit February 09, 2013 at 07:21 PM
Roy, yet you're commenting on an Internet article. You can talk how you please you're still who you are, have you seem the way these people talk? I can be 40 years old and still illiterate like them. I'm commenting because I know and simply just don't. The council has to wrote an article when they're told to, it isn't 100 days late. It's part of the job. You people just sit on here and complain because you can't do so to the federal government, who is who you should be complaining to. Just because this happened to our town doesn't mean that our mayor and council are to take blame for all of it? If your head wasn't so far up theirs, you'd realize how stupid it looks to blame them. But that's what simple minded people do. And no my actually balanced support won't disappear, idk who you are to tell me that so you can disappear.
HankyCraft February 09, 2013 at 09:09 PM
@ Janice.......you make a great point there at the end with the tenure comment.....one thing though..."moobs" was the correct spelling....
Katarina February 09, 2013 at 09:45 PM
you're a sick STALKER, not only are you a creep as a neighbor, but since we're not there right now for you to run your mouth, you have to be a creep on the internet and run it there. get a real job and get off the internet before you get yourself in trouble.
Dick Bidet February 09, 2013 at 10:07 PM
Wow Kit needs to loosen the belt on her bathrobe and also lighten up on the afternoon chablis. Take a shower, start your day and focus, or just keep the crazy comments coming
TRWatch February 09, 2013 at 10:33 PM
Hey Kit, If you know Sevas wasn't on the bus, then you know who was on the bus. Who was on the bus?
HankyCraft February 09, 2013 at 10:54 PM
Thats a good point made by the TRWatch for sure.....I know a lot of people that would want to know about that.....especially in Ortley Beach......we shall see.....I am off to my "real job" now.....
Barbara February 10, 2013 at 03:06 AM
The people of Toms River are fortunate to have someone as compaaionate and caring as you to represent them. I have no doubt you are doing all you possibly can to assist your constituents during this difficult time. Don't get disheartened by naysayers, just keep up your good work. Lord knows you have no control over the Federal Bureaucracy that is FEMA.
Stephanie Sevastakis February 10, 2013 at 07:38 PM
You can fix your home before its raised as long as its on a crawl space, concrete homes and homes on a slab are a problem to fix before they are raised but the town isn't the problem, its a structural issue. Also I am trying to find the link about height restrictions being relaxed for damaged homes that need to be raised. I know that is the case but I only heard it verbally. The link below explains the rebuild process http://www.tomsrivertownship.com/index.php/Latest/process-for-continued-occupancy-of-substantially-damaged-structures.html
Stephanie Sevastakis February 10, 2013 at 08:24 PM
I agree with Barbara, I can't believe after all this destruction that some people haven't become more humble and compassionate. The accusations in some of these comments are proof that some people are consumed with vicious negativity. Be careful because that it can eat you up inside. I'm sure that Councilman Sevastakis is so glad he took the time out of life to write this article so that a group of miserable people could take the opportunity to take cheap shots at him. It's disgraceful, especially the neighbor, and you should all consider how you would feel if your family members were to read lies and false accusations like this about you? Oh that's right none of you guys have probably ever had the guts to run for public office or if you did run and didn't win, maybe it's just sour grapes. Our society appears to get more and more heartless everyday.
barbara February 10, 2013 at 10:21 PM
just to clarify, there are two barbars on here. Who is John Sevestakis? I made so many, many phone calls and emails to the twp and did not get one call back. Let's call me Barbara #1. Very frustrating, but we remodeling our home, what is is. hubby been busting his butt to get it back to normal. we will not raise, twp. wont even return my phone calls. In the end, if we can't sell it, which i am sure of, we will walk away. sad.......alot of good memories in that house.......
George Kasimos February 18, 2013 at 02:09 AM
I was never given the opportunity to make an educated choice when rebuilding. As oon as the water receded I rebuilt immidietly. IF I know I had to raise my home to a "V" zone standard for $150,000 I would have done things differently. Our government (FEMA) is a day late and a dollar short. www.facebook.com/StopFemaNow
George Kasimos February 18, 2013 at 02:20 AM
I think a lot of people are taking their problems out on our local officials. This is a FEMA issue. IF Toms River does not obide by their rules we will not be able to receive FEMA flood insurance. Dont't kill the messengers. FEMA is the problem. www.Facebook.com/stopFEMAnow
George Kasimos February 18, 2013 at 02:22 AM
Bravo.. We need to vent and go after FEMA.
Charles Henry March 07, 2013 at 05:19 AM
Why did you build an ice rink right next to a perfectly good ice rink.is it because you needed a place for Jackson hockey team to play.? I know your son wasn't getting time on the ice in the toms river team ,so Jackson put him on first team,and lo and behold now Jackson has somewhere to play?
Charles Henry March 07, 2013 at 05:20 AM
What a waste of taxpayer money!,
Katarina March 07, 2013 at 12:37 PM
Your ignorance is funny. He doesn't have that right to "build" a rink because he wants one. Obviously you know absolutely nothing because that rink was being built while his son was a mite. You probably don't know what that is either, let me tell you, it's the first year of hockey the youngest age. So please explain how a 6 year old doesn't get enough playing time? That rink was a great addition to the town. Now the town makes money all year round from it. Oh and Jackson was using our ice way before his son switched teams, another thing you know absolutely nothing about.
George Kasimos March 07, 2013 at 05:55 PM
The Local, county or state officials did not create this mess. FEMA did. Most of our local officials had their homes damaged too. www.facebook.com/StopFemaNow www.StopFemaNow.com twitter #StopFemaNow We are having a meeting this Saturday, March 9, 3pm - 4pm Silverton First Aid Squad 86 Maine St (like the state) Toms River, NJ 08753 Bring a friend or two

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