The Township Auditor, Holman, Frenia, and Associates, recently conducted a financial audit of the Toms River financial operations. This audit, which is required under state law to be conducted annually, looks into the financial operations of the township government in great detail. It examines financial controls in place for collections of fees and taxes, compliance with state laws in terms of budget allocations and classification, and a whole host of other financial data. In the event of a finding by the auditor, the Township Council is required to approve a corrective action plan that provides a change in the way business is conducted. I am pleased to report that for 2013, there were no findings by the auditor! This is unprecedented, and is the first time in the last 25 years that the Township has had no findings. The credit for this goes to the finance department led by Mrs. Christine Manolio and her staff and the Township Administrator, Mr. Paul Shives. Congratulations on a job well done!
By the time this article is published, the Township will have sent out final notices to recalcitrant property owners that have failed to voluntarily sign an easement allowing the Army Corps of Engineers to build the dunes and beach along the coast. If the property owners fail to sign the easement, the Township will begin eminent domain proceedings to take the easements necessary to build the dune and beach. The delay in getting this moving was the lack of a final map of the dune line along the coast which was released about two weeks ago in a final form. This map establishes the dune line and beach along all of the project areas in Toms River and allowed us to prepare the survey information necessary to establish a legal description for the easement. We are currently putting together the meets and bounds descriptions for the easements on all properties in the Township. These descriptions will provide the information necessary for the Township to begin the eminent domain action on the properties where the owner failed to voluntarily agree to sign the easement, and our real estate appraiser will estimate what value if any the property owner should be compensated for providing the easement. One question that was asked was whether or not properties subject to eminent domain receive the same side letter provided to owners that voluntarily agreed to an easement. The answer to this question is that they will not. Our goal is to go to court as soon as the information is available to allow us to do so. In the meantime, the Township Engineer is developing a plan to construct dunes and perform beach maintenance, per our agreement, with the property owners.
On another note, the Township Council voted to suspend the ban on construction on Sundays and allow homeowners and contractors to work from 9am until 6pm. This was done so that work can continue in storm damaged areas without having a complaint to the police department stopping work from being performed. We had a mixed reaction to this at the meeting, but the Council felt that it was the right thing to do.
The storm damaged homes are slowly being rebuilt, and the funding from the state is one of the reasons, as the dollars for grants are not being released as soon as we first thought they would be. I expect that there will be significant construction activity once these grants are issued.
The rebuilding process will be a long one, and the township government is committed to doing its part to help facilitate it as much as possible. I know that the process is difficult and sometimes confusing, but we have resources available to help, and I encourage anyone that has questions to contact our Ombudsman Trevor Newman at TNewman1@tomsrivertownship.com for help. You can also email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are not getting answers to your questions. I am always happy to speak to anyone that needs help!