One year after Hurricane Sandy caused major devastation to towns along the New Jersey shoreline, Belmar Mayor Matt Doherty told NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider that there are still 20 families that are displaced from their homes and the town’s main priority is getting those families back home.
“What a difference a year makes,” Doherty said as he stood on Belmar’s new 1.3-mile boardwalk that was rebuilt after Sandy completely destroyed it.
Doherty said that the biggest frustration from the storm is that everyone is not back in their homes. Belmar is working with FEMA and the state government to try to get those families back in their homes as soon as they can, he said.
“We knew all along that the recovery wasn’t going to be easy and during the recovery process there are always going to be disagreements just like anything else in politics and government. So the disagreements are something we will address but what’s most pressing is still getting those families back home where they belong,” Doherty said when asked about disagreements that may be going on with issues such as taxes.
All 140 businesses in Belmar were able to reopen by Memorial Day weekend and most of the residential properties survived the storm pretty well compared to other shore towns. So the tax base took a bit of a hit but not as much as other shore towns did, Doherty said. He also said that there has not been a tax increase in Belmar in three years, including 2013, so there will not be one in 2014.
From Sandy, Belmar raised $1 million in private donations. Around $727,000 went to rebuilding the boardwalk and more than $300,000 went to help families that were still displaced after Jan. 1. Doherty said that $5,000 grants were given to homeowners and $2,000 to renters. Money is still continuing to be raised for the displaced families.
There were no easement issues in Belmar because the entire beach is publicly owned, Doherty said.
“Gov. Christie has shown outstanding leadership through this entire recovery process with Sandy and he has been leading us through the rebuild in Belmar,” Doherty said.
He said that the new boardwalk was built up to the 2013 codes and standards, so it is built to withstand a storm surge like the one that came with Hurricane Sandy. The town is also pursuing FEMA funding to build a dune system to protect the boardwalk and the town.
“These storms are getting more severe and more frequent so we have to be smart in protecting our investments like the boardwalk here and the town as well,” Doherty said.