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Senate Panel Hearing On Sandy Rebuilding

By Phil Gregory, WBGO News
Toms River. November 26, 2012

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Belmar Mayor Matt Doherty and Brick Mayor Steve Acropolis testify at Senate Budget Committee hearing in Toms River

The Senate Budget Committee held a hearing in Toms River to examine the process of rebuilding New Jersey communities that were hard-hit by Hurricane Sandy.

Brick Township Mayor Steve Acropolis says the storm caused heavy damage to about ten thousand homes in his town. He wants the state to allow local communities to speed the permitting process to rebuild.

 “When it comes to DEP permits or CAFRA permits we can do that at the local level with licensed processionals in-house instead of having to go to another level of government and really slow down that process.”

Boardwalks in many shore towns were destroyed including the one in Belmar.

Mayor Matt Doherty says a new boardwalk and a seawall should be completed by Memorial Day.

 “We’re going to increase the height of the boardwalk by 12 inches and also install a seawall for the first time ever. Belmar has never had one before and it would have helped mitigate the storm surge this time around and certainly would have deflected the surge from Irene last year.”

Local officials are urging the state to take the lead in rebuilding dunes and beaches.

Toms River Councilwoman Maria Maruca says two key things now are getting residents on the barrier islands back in their homes and getting the tourism industry rebuilt.

 “Tourism is a $38 billion industry for this state. That is the economic engine of this area. So as soon as we can get the process going. I know it’s going to take time. I know it’s going to be little by little to get our barrier island up and running.”

Senate President Steve Sweeney says rebuilding must be smarter so homes are better protected against future storms. Lawmakers say they’ll work on a bipartisan basis to pass any laws needed to help with the rebuilding process that’s expected to be costly and take several years.

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