The state has approved a plan to allow residents access to barrier island communities - including Seaside Heights, Lavallette and Ortley Beach - in phases, officials said Tuesday.
The State Police has approved a plan that would allow residents phased-in access to Lavallette beginning this week, officials said during Tuesday's Toms River Council meeting.
Toms River Police Chief Michael Mastronardy suggested that the township will get people to see their properties as soon as possible and mentioned a five-to-six day timeframe. Some Ortley Beach residents who attended the meeting were upset that Lavallette residents could have easier access to their homes than they will.
"There are still areas of Ortley Beach that are unstable," Mastronardy told residents at the council meeting, noting that sinkholes and debris pose some risks. "We understand that you are victims."
Residents will be allowed to enter Ortley Beach and other barrier communities beginning on Wednesday, but only for short periods of time. They'll be allowed to pick up essential items. Phase I is a controlled entry and exit of residents whose primary homes are there year round, while phase II is to extend that to people with second homes, Mastronardy said. Phase III will be when residents can take their own vehicles to the area. Please click map.
Residents are required to register at the Disaster Recovery Center at Bellcrest Plaza at 935 Fischer Boulevard to enter the 12 buses heading to barrier communities tomorrow. The residents can start registration at 8 a.m., but they must start boarding the bus to return by 2 p.m., Mastronardy said. Only emergency crews will be permitted between Lavallette and Seaside Park after 3 p.m., he said.
At the meeting, council members, police and public works and construction officials confronted a packed crowd of angry residents who were largely frustrated that they're unable to gain access to their homes. Residents also criticized township officials about poor communication and the inability to learn about whether their homes were still standing, much less understanding the extent of the damage.
A map of Ortley Beach that the township had on display showed that most of that section of the township had some form of water damage, while other sections marked in pink revealed missing structures.
Barbara Erb of Ortley Beach criticized Township Council members for not having one meeting for Ortley Beach residents and waiting until two weeks for a public meeting to address the issue. "You say it's up on Websites, but it doesn't matter," Erb said, noting that many people didn't have power for more than a week.
Ken Langdon, also of Ortley Beach, told Township officials that the two-feet of water in his house during the storm has made things worse.
"The more remediation is delayed, the more damage will be done. It's time you start getting us back so we can work on our homes," he said.