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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, "" 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. 

Ray C. February 01, 2013 at 02:01 PM
I thought FEMA was to be on the hook for 80% of the deductible for the Toms River High School outdoor "bubble". Are we still getting that money?
Marina February 01, 2013 at 04:21 PM
Mayor....suggestion....Force the OB homeowners association sign the easements. Maybe then sections in Silverton, Snug Harbor and Shelter Cover wouldn't have taken damage.
charlotte February 03, 2013 at 01:13 AM
The gawkers are disgusting and a donation would be appropriate considering they are gawking at homes where people probably lost everything. But who will collect the money? Probably not the people that lost everything so I see no need to add to corruption coffers.
Ortley Home Owner February 04, 2013 at 08:30 PM
We learned that the taxes of "the rich people" who live on the barrier island have been paying at least 20% of the taxes for the Township. The barrier island -prior to Hurricane Sandy -did not cost 20% of the budget -for the town or the school system. The last property valuation purposely treate the barrier island house unfairly Now TR administration wants to blame the barrier island land owners for failing to protect the beaches. Who's failure is it really? It's the failure of the Toms River administration to aggressively pursue protection options YEARS before the storm. Creative thinking, negotiations and legal strategy was needed along with leadership. The Toms River Barrier Island communities are devastated. Toms River staff have been mostly terrific -but there is no vision in City Hall. time for Ortley residents to demand assistance and demand a say In what happens (ie knocking down the ambulance building without community input for a plan or refusing to open the old sewage property for community park or rec center) No more side deals or special treatment for some in ortley who agree to go along and appease the TR administration. It's a shame what is happening and real leadership in ortley beach is needed.
Mr. ? February 04, 2013 at 10:24 PM
Mayor better be concerned. Gonna need a lot of money! NJ.com- NJ budget official questions Fla . debris firm's $100 M contract. Mr. ? 12:57 pm on Friday, February 1, 2013 ...."fronting the funds for debris removal". Love that word "fronting" So tax me out of my County tax pocket. Whats the difference? Kelaher makes it all sound so good. Not so. So Ash Britt was used by the county and thereby so did Toms River. How much a ton for debris removal did they charge? Search out an APP article of how Wall Twsp saved their tax payers big money.

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