Ventnor adding local funds to federal beach project

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By SHAUN SMITH
Staff Writer

VENTNOR – An ordinance introduced Thursday, June 16 would authorize a $1.7 million non-emergency city-funded beach replenishment project.

Passed on first reading by a 2-1 vote with Commissioner Stephen Weintrob voting against, the measure would fund additional beach replenishment not covered by federal funds.  Prior to voting against the ordinance, Weintrob made a motion to table the ordinance; it did not receive a second. There was not further discussion at the meeting.

Last July, U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo, a Ventnor resident, announced the Army Corps of Engineers approval of $7.8 million in emergency federal funding to restore beaches eroded in Atlantic City and Ventnor during a nor'easter in November 2009.

According to Mayor Theresa Kelly, the city was also offered additional beach replenishment at 9 percent of the total cost of the project.

She said at the June 9 commission workshop meeting that the city would only agree to the additional beach replenishment if the beach access points are reconstructed.

Kelly said the emergency funds only cover the parts of the beach that were damaged in the past storm. She said the project would begin in Atlantic City in July before moving on to Ventnor.

"I'm assuming this will be more toward September, but we don't know because you have to keep in mind once the dunes were put in, we lost a control over our beaches. They really do control what we do, the state and federal government," Kelly said June 9.

She said more specifically, she asked the Army Corps of Engineers for a harder surface for use as beach access.

City Engineer Matthew Doran said the city ideally would like a level walkway from the boardwalk to the beach.

The route for bathers to access the beach in Ventnor was also designed by the Army Corps of Engineers, according to Kelly. Typically, bathers must walk down steps from the boardwalk and then over the dunes on a Mister Boardwalk, roll-out type of wooden walkway.

"I think they may be willing to help us. We need it," said Kelly. "People have an unbelievably difficult time getting onto the beach."

She said the city only had a week to make up its mind.

"We don't have much time when the money is available," said Kelly.

Weintrob said he was a proponent of the dunes, but would have a difficult time voting in favor of spending more than $1 million of city funds for a plan he said does not work now.

"I would have appreciated to have been at that meeting to ask them what they plan to do differently than they did before. If it’s the same plan, I'm not so sure we ought to get involved in it again if we're just going to have a storm come along and blow the beach away," said Weintrob.

"Every time we have a storm, the untold costs of the storm are the public works employees who are not part of the FEMA reimbursement plan who are out there trying to fix what's not part of that, and they have spent hundreds of man hours doing that, so that's a cost to taxpayers."

Kelly said any storm is going to wash away some of the beach and the city has already missed two cycles of beach replenishment.

"However, if we don't have a beach we're not going to be in business," said Kelly.

Weintrob said, "I think the whole theory behind how they structure and how they develop those dunes is as important as the walkovers; the walkovers are a nice apple at end of the stick."

According to Kelly, when the project begins, equipment will get to the beach via Suffolk Avenue and bathers will not be able to enter the water where the equipment is placed and work is being done.

The next City Commission workshop meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, July 14; the final vote for this ordinance is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, July 21.

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