$2.2 million emergency bond approved for cleanup expenses in Brigantine

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On Wednesday evening, Brigantine’s city council met and approved an emergency appropriation for $2.2 million to cover cleanup expenses following Superstorm Sandy.

The appropriation covers expenses dealing with subcontractors hired to help clean up debris from the storm ($1,305,000); fuel ($17,000); Office of Emergency Management expenses, including food for the emergency shelter ($5,000); police salary ($23,000); Fire/EMS Department salary ($66,000); Public Works, recycling and streets ($34,000) and solid waste tipping fees ($400,000), which included $350,000 in water and sewer expenses. Mayor Philip Guenther noted that the tipping fees covered more than 44,000 tons of solid waste removed from the island.

City Manager Jennifer Blumenthal noted that the emergency appropriation covered only cleanup costs and did not cover any capital expense (fire trucks, golf course, etc.) It is expected that FEMA will cover 75 percent of the costs, but Gov. Christie has requested that FEMA cover 100 percent.

The balance of the costs (after reimbursement from FEMA) will be paid off in a bond over a five-year period, according to Chris Johansen, Brigantine’s chief financial officer.

The meeting started with a swearing-in ceremony for Brigantine police officers Lt. Scott McClaskey and Sgt. Ralph Spina Jr.

Next was a presentation by Attorney Jack Plackter regarding the proposed purchase of a strip of municipal land fronting 404 21st Street by property owners Jeanne Fox and Stephan DeMicco. That led to a discussion regarding a new city policy currently being developed by City Manager Jennifer Blumenthal and City Solicitor Tim Maguire. This policy would govern any sale of municipal property within the guidelines established by the state.

Council members were unsure whether the new policy should be established as an ordinance (part of city code) or as a resolution. Outgoing Councilman Steve Bonanni questioned why this council, which is losing three members, should make a decision on a policy that would need to be debated again by the new council in January. Council agreed to postpone the decision until the new council is sworn in.

One matter of great importance to those recovering from Superstorm Sandy flooding is the new flood plain plan being developed by FEMA. There may be a further demand by the DEP which could increase the flood plan. Blumenthal said the plan should be released early next week, and that she would try to set up a town hall meeting with FEMA representatives to answer questions from residents affected by the storm. (See accompanying story.)

Rich Stevens, the city’s construction official, discussed FEMA’s Increased Cost of Compliant Coverage program, reported on last week in The Beachcomber News. The ICC program will provide up to $30,000 toward the costs of raising homes to meet the new requirements.

Stevens confirmed that he and his team had inspected 2,800 homes to date. To be eligible for ICC funding, a building must have at least a 50 percent damage assessment. However, Blumenthal noted that FEMA appears to be flexible.

“They want residents to raise their houses,” she said.

Residents whose properties were damaged should also pick up an Assessment Review Form at the Tax Assessor’s office or download it at www.brigantinebeachnj.com/Tax Assessment.pdf. The form must be returned to the Tax Assessor by Thursday, Jan. 10 in order for a property to be reassessed for the 2012 tax year.

Mayor Guenther asked council to approve the formation of a committee (comprised of the mayor and two returning council members) to address challenges affecting the island post-Sandy. The committee was approved, and councilmen Rick DeLucry and Tony Pullella accepted positions on it. The committee will include various professionals including the city engineer, city and planning board solicitors, and the city manager to deal with issues such as abandoned properties and damaged bulkheads.

Other business conducted included the transfer of appropriations from and to various departments in the aggregate amount of $380,000. Council also approved resolutions designating official banks and official newspapers (The Beachcomber News, The Press of Atlantic City and The Philadelphia Inquirer) for 2013.

The next city council meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 19 in council chambers at City Hall.

The meeting agenda and supporting documents are available prior to the meeting at www.brigantinebeachnj.com.

The Beachcomber News, as Brigantine’s official newspaper of record, publishes all city legal notices.

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