By Lauren Wanko
“I would love for them to get on a plane and come here and look the people in the eye and tell them right to their face why you can’t help us,” said Seaside Heights Mayor William Akers in a message to Congress after House Speaker John Boehner didn’t bring the Sandy relief bill to the floor Tuesday night.
The Ocean County beach town was hammered by the October superstorm. Akers estimates Sandy caused $15 million to $20 million in damages to their municipal properties. That doesn’t include the privately owned Casino Pier and the other boardwalk attractions. Seaside Heights officials approved a $14.1 million emergency appropriation. The annual budget is just over $12 million.
“There’s that uncertainty,” Akers said. “Is it essentially going to put Seaside Heights out of business if we can’t pay these bills?”
Homeowners are faced with a similar uncertainty. Seaside Heights resident Robert Omert is dipping into his life savings to rebuild.
“They would just have to act on it and not use it as a political football,” Omert said.
Mike Loundy, a broker at Seaside Realty, says he was disappointed to learn about the status of the Sandy relief package.
“We’re a resort and our resort starts with our beaches and our boardwalk. If we’re not able to rebuild our boardwalk in a timely way, it effects all of our other businesses. So if that money’s not appropriated to where we can’t do that, the ripple effect is dramatic,” Loundy said.
“At the end of the day, we’re blue collar. We can’t go without a season in Seaside Heights,” Akers said. “We need to be up and running. We need to pay our bills, we want to pay our bills. We want to work, we just want to be given the opportunity to work and we’re asking you to work with us.”
Local officials and residents say whether or not Washington is listening remains to be seen.