1:47PM EST December 5. 2012 – BELMAR, N.J. — At least five Jersey Shore resort towns hit hard in superstorm Sandy plan to spend more than $50 million to rebuild their boardwalk areas with a goal of being ready for beach season.
To bring back its 1.3 miles of boardwalk, Belmar, N.J., officials approved $20 million in bonds earlier this week.
Meanwhile, Asbury Park, N.J., officials said that city expects to spend nearly $12 million.
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In Seaside Heights, N.J., home to an iconic wooden roller coaster destroyed in the storm, council members at their meeting Wednesday night plan to look at the costs associated with rebuilding its 16 blocks of boardwalk. Original estimates were almost $13 million.
Point Pleasant Beach, N.J., is expecting restoration of its almost milelong boardwalk to cost about $2 million. And officials in Long Branch, N.J., who want their walkway rebuilt by Memorial Day, have approved $5 million so far in emergency money because of the storm.
The Jersey Shore is known for about 20 boardwalks lining the Atlantic coast from Keansburg in the north to Cape May in the south. Superstorm Sandy reduced several of them to splinters.
“The boardwalk is an integral part of the identity of the town. We’ve had one every year since 1875,” Belmar Mayor Matthew Doherty said.
“This year will be no different,” he said, adding that the boardwalk should be back in place by Memorial Day weekend.
Belmar approved the bonds at a Monday night meeting that one resident described as “standing room only.”
“All they wanted to talk about was the boardwalk. They’re concentrated on getting that fixed,” said JoAnn Ali, a lifelong Belmar resident.
Doherty said the borough is being aggressive about resurrecting the boardwalk because losing tourists would hurt many small businesses that depend on healthy summer revenues to survive.
“If we don’t have tourists, property taxes will skyrocket and the businesses will suffer,” Doherty said. Cleanup costs associated with the storm will account for $3 million with the remaining $17 million earmarked for the borough’s new boardwalks.
“If we don’t have tourists, property taxes will skyrocket and the businesses will suffer.”
— Mayor Matthew Doherty of Belmar, N.J.
Belmar officials anticipate the Federal Emergency Management Agency will pay for 75 percent — if not more — of the cost of boardwalk repairs, Doherty said. The remaining 25 percent will be paid over 20 years out of the borough’s beach utility fund.
To keep up with the payments, Belmar beachgoers can expect an increase in beach badge fees for next summer.
“The beach will still remain a very affordable price for middle-class families to come,” said Doherty, adding that he was first in line to buy seasonal beach badges for his family of four when they went on sale Monday.
Another way the borough is raising money: Beach lovers can buy a board on the new boardwalk. Individual boards cost $25 to $5,000.
Belmar’s new boardwalk plans call for 3,100 25-foot-long pilings that will be pounded into the sand, composite decking and hurricane straps.
“The old boardwalk was built during the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s,” Doherty said. “This one will be built to current codes.”
Meanwhile, Asbury Park manager Terence Reidy said that city will receive more than $1 million from FEMA for debris cleanup and expects to spend nearly $12 million on rebuilding.
Recovery costs include repairing damage to the boardwalk, sewage plant and fire house, as well as paying for emergency personnel who worked overtime after the storm, Reidy said.
The city submitted a $1.8 million preliminary request to FEMA for clearing debris in hard-hit sections, Reidy said. Officials anticipate FEMA will roll out more money and insurance providers will make reimbursements as construction begins.
Asbury Park approved an emergency appropriation of $7.1 million that will be allocated over five years.
Reidy and other officials have promised Asbury Park’s boardwalk will be ready by summer 2013. A few boardwalk businesses already have reopened their doors.
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Original Content: Contributing: Kristi Funderburk, Asbury Park (N.J.) Press