The tour of the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy by Vice President Joe Biden on Sunday received high marks from Deputy Director John C. Bartlett, who said it highlighted all the good things about the Jersey Shore.
"I could not have been more impressed with the sincerity, understanding and depth of empathy Vice President Biden showed here in Ocean County," Bartlett said Tuesday during the Ocean County Freeholders' weekly meeting in Toms River. Bartlett was called on to represent the Board of Freeholders because Director Gerry P. Little had a personal conflict, they said.
Bartlett said Biden, who called the Jersey Shore a national treasure, told the freeholder and others assembled for the tour, including Rep. Jon Runyan and Sen. Robert Menendez, that the amount of damage caused by Sandy may make New Jersey eligible for reimbursement from the federal government of 90 percent of the costs associated with the storm, instead of the standard 75 percent. But Biden noted the funds for the cleanup aren't in the current budget, and asked Runyan and Menendez to push to get that funding through Congress.
When there are disasters in other parts of the country, New Jersey has done its share through taxes, Bartlett said Biden said, so it's only right to expect that New Jersey will be taken care of now.
The freeholders on Tuesday passed a resolution asking the federal government to pay 90 percent of the costs associated with Sandy for that reason, he said.
"We will be sending that resolution to all of New Jersey's congressmen and senators," Bartlett said, "seeking their support."
Bartlett -- whose remarks came just before the freeholders meeting was abruptly ended by an apparent natural gas leak, the source of which was never determined -- took offense to comments that have been made by some in the community that Biden's visit was simply a publicity stunt.
"I resent the implications he was there for a photo opportunity," said Bartlett, who represented the freeholders on Biden's tour. "This was no photo op. The election was over."
Bartlett said the tour they took compared the damage in areas with little or no dune structure, such as what happened in Seaside Heights, Ortley Beach and all the way to Bay Head, with Seaside Park, where the stronger dune structure protected homes on the oceanfront.
And Bartlett said the vice president said the federal government is committed to rebuilding the beaches that Sandy destroyed, because they are important to protecting the mainland from more serious damage.
Biden walked out to the end of the destroyed Casino Pier, where waves had crashed down on it from 20 feet above, Bartlett said, to survey the damage. There were pieces missing, there were loose boards and nails sticking up, but Biden was undeterred, Bartlett said.
"I was surprised the Secret Service allowed him out on that pier," Bartlett said. But he noted that as a resident of the Atlantic coast, Biden understands the ocean's power.
"We understand the ocean, we play in it," Bartlett said.