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Long Branch Bonds $30.4 Million For New Boardwalk, Sandy-Related Repairs

LONG BRANCH: The city council passed a $30.4 million bond ordinance on Nov. 25 that will allow it to begin several Hurricane Sandy-related repairs including the construction of a new boardwalk along the oceanfront.

The city's boardwalk was demolished after Sandy in 2012 and its remains were removed shortly thereafter in anticipation of building a newer, more-resilient structure.

The ordinance's largest appropriation is $18.1 million for "major repairs to the boardwalk consisting of, but not limited to, bluff, roadway, comfort stations, steel bulkhead, benches, trash containers and promenade repairs, including all work and (necessary) materials."

FEMA is expected to reimburse 90 percent of the money that is appropriated by the bond ordinance with the exception of widening the boardwalk, which the city will likely have to pay for out of its own pockets.

"We made a promise that we are going to do this boardwalk once and we are going to do it right, we're putting up city money, not just FEMA money, to make it wider and better," Long Branch Mayor Adam Schneider said.

The second highest appropriation in the ordinance is $11.5 million for park repairs including repairing and replacing synthetic fields, underground electric for scoreboards and walkway lighting, irrigation systems, street lights, promenade and gazebo improvements and boardwalk repairs "consisting of, but not limited to widening."

Schneider said FEMA has approved the city's boardwalk plan and that DEP approval is the final step. He said he expects the city to go out to bid for the project in February or March. Once construction begins, the project should be complete in 12-14 months.

"Our goals for next summer is to make sure there are beaches, which by the way had their best summer ever," Schneider said. "At the same time, we're going to have a construction zone going on."

Another large project in the bond ordinance is making repairs to the spillway at Lake Takanassee for $250,600. The repairs will include excavating sediment deposit, repairing the coffer dam spillway, cleaning the spillway pipe and flume and fixing the the area where the the lake was breached allowing water to flow onto Takanassee Beach.

Other repairs include:

• The water filtering system at Manahassett Creek Park is being replaced for $420,000.

• Fixing the street end of Pullman Avenue, which was severely eroded by Sandy, and replacing street lighting and signs on Plaza Court: $51,000

• Demolishing the old recreation building on 3 Bay Avenue for $37,000.

Save Ocean Avenue Committee member Dennis Sherman said that although he is thankful that the boardwalk is being repaired, he is concerned that the ordinance will increase taxes in the city further

"It's been two years, we have all suffered without a boardwalk, the ordinance is well-intentioned and we are happy it's here, but we're concerned about the increase in the tax debt," Sherman said.

The bond ordinance will increase to the city's tax debt to over $100 million, but Long Branch CFO Ron Mehlhorn said it will be lowered because FEMA will reimburse most of the money appropriated.

Sherman also said he felt Ocean Avenue is being neglected because no new improvements have been made including benches and shade areas and that the fencing and road is in bad shape.

Schneider said he was "offended" by Sherman's comments and said the city is doing its best to keep the oceanfront accessible and that any improvements will have to wait until after the new boardwalk is built. He said anything that is placed there now would just have to be ripped up to make way for the new structure.

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