Seaside Heights awarded a $3.6 million bid Wednesday night for the reconstruction of its devastated boardwalk. And as terms of the deal, the borough is setting what it believes is a realistic deadline of May 10 to have it complete.
The Borough Council accepted the proposal of Millstone-based Sidd and Associates to rebuild the entire length of the boardwalk destroyed when Hurricane Sandy made landfall in New Jersey at the end of October.
The reconstruction of the boardwalk is the first of two planned phases, the second a more encompassing effort involving the rebuilding of ramps, repairs to buildings, and other miscellaneous improvements, officials hope will get the shore resort back on its feet and ready for tourists before the upcoming beach season.
“I think this is the turning point. I think this is like the sun coming up in the morning,” Councilman Rich Tompkins said following the approval. “Tonight we’re moving in a positive direction and I really feel good about this summer.”
Wednesday’s meeting was the first one to take place in Seaside Heights following Sandy. In the past couple of months, mayor and council, as well as residents hungry for updates about their town and respective homes, have been on a roadshow, conducting their meetings in a Toms River library.
Officials have long promised a comeback. Now it’s taking shape.
The accepted bid is a bit of welcomed news for Seaside, which had been expecting much higher bid proposals when it sent out its Request for Proposals, or RFP. Of the 16 bids, however, the highest one topped out at around $8 million, with most of the bids falling somewhere between that high mark and Sidd’s accepted proposal of $3.6 million.
Borough Administrator John Camera said the borough received one bid for less than the accepted bid, but noted that key material defects kept it from being accepted as the lowest responsible bid.
Mayor Bill Akers said work on rebuilding the boardwalk is expected to begin in as early as 10 days. Sidd has immediate access to approximately 500 of the 1,500 pilings it will need to complete the project, Akers said, and is ready to start work on the town’s new boardwalk.
In the process of approving the bid, officials made it clear that delays in construction would not be accepted. Should work not conclude on or before the May 10 deadline, the builder will be subject to daily fines of $7,500 to cover the cost of anticipated losses in revenue.
The hope is, however, that work will be finished earlier than the deadline date.
“We have every intention of getting it done,” Akers said.
In addition to its new boardwalk, much of the meeting was spent discussing flood mitigation in the future. While many barrier island communities are repairing or elevating their dunes, Akers said Seaside Heights isn’t considering installing any of its own, despite assurances that it would help protect the town in future instances of ocean flooding. As a resort town that relies on its beach to generate revenue, Akers expressed concerns that dunes would hamper access and views of the Atlantic Ocean.
In place of dunes, however, Akers said Seaside is looking to install a seawall the entire length of the boardwalk. He said he’s been told the seawall, which would rise from the base of the boardwalk and extend over its floorboards by two feet, can provide adequate protection from flood waters similar to dunes.
The boardwalk is also anticipated to be stronger and more resilient. Though Seaside opted to replace the boardwalk with wood instead of cheaper and longer-lasting synthetic boards, the new pilings are 25 feet long and will be struck into the ground 10 feet below sea level. The new boardwalk will also be raised to 16 feet, two feet above flood elevation maps released by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA.
In all, completion of both phase one and two of the towns restoration efforts could cost around $8 million. Akers said the town is eligible to receive 75 percent reimbursement from FEMA but could be eligible for as much as 90 percent. Getting the beach open as soon as possible will help the borough pay off the money it isn't getting back, he said.