Showing a united front, the three Mayors for Brick Township, Toms River and Seaside Heights are pleased to announce their re-population plans in a joint request to Governor Chris Christie to allow resident’s access back into their homes.
The North Beach area of Toms River, all of Brick Twp. and single-family homes in Seaside Heights will be included in the formal joint request to re-populate their towns on the same day, on Jan. 7, 2013.
Toms River Township Mayor Tom Kelaher said, "Myself, Brick Mayor Stephen Acropolis and Seaside Heights Mayor Bill Akers are in constant contact with the utility companies. We are doing this the right way, putting public safety first to make sure that the gas, electric, water and sewer companies are doing their due diligence to make sure their services are safe and reliable." "Based on what we're seeing from the utility companies," Acropolis said, "We expect Gov. Chris Christie to look favorably upon the request to repopulate. If so, residents will have unfettered access to their homes beginning on January 7th."
Brick Police Chief Nils Bergquist relayed that there will still be a police presence to restrict people from wandering around the island homes. Toms River Police Chief Mike Mastronardy said a heavy police presence and security cameras are well placed, particularly around Ortley Beach where the area is still uninhabitable due to the lack of utilities.
An understandably absent Mayor Akers was attending the funeral for Seaside Heights resident and Ocean County Sheriff, William Polhemus. Mayor Akers previously stated that some local businesses in Seaside Heights were open during the day. “We want to welcome the businesses back, even if they are only open for a few hours each day. It’s important for people to get back to normal.”
There will be a meeting with Toms River officials and the utility companies on January 4, 2013 that will give a more comprehensive update as to when Ortley residents will be allowed to return home on a full time basis. JCP&L, NJ Natural Gas, United American Water & the Toms River MUA will be in attendance.
Kelaher said, “The Ortley Beach section of Toms River will take longer to re-populate. Utilities are simply not available. Numerous streets need to be reconstructed before JCP&L can even begin to replace the downed poles. Many houses are still off their foundations making the areas dangerous and delaying repair work. Water mains are broken, plus there are further complications with the addition of the new FEMA Base Flood Elevation Maps.” The mayor continues, “We are in a fluid situation with regards to Ortley Beach. We may be looking at re-populating in phases, with the lesser-damaged areas able to open first. Many homes that were not damaged are still affected because the utilities were severely impacted.”
“Bottom line,” Kelaher said, “Is that we all have the same mission to get people back into their homes as quickly and as safely as possible.”
(Photo by Debbi Winogracki)
Toms River Twp. Mayor Tom Kelaher signs a request for re-population to parts of the barrier island, to be sent to Gov. Christie. Brick Mayor Stephen Acropolis will sign the request. Also pictured is Brick Police Chief Nils Bergquist.