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While Belmar Swims In The State “Grant Pool”,

Lakeside Residents Swim In Their Living Rooms!

I tell you, at times I really don’t understand this administration’s spending priorities.  We sink tens of millions into building a new boardwalk in record time.  For the tourists.  We sink tens of millions into a marina that can just barely pay it’s own bills.  Again, for tourism.  We also sank millions into downtown beautification projects because supposedly they will attract shoppers from out of town.  But what about protecting the homes of the Silver Lake area residents?  Well, if it rains hard enough, they’re sunk.  Literally.

You know I used to think a million dollars was a lot of money.  And, according to Paul Calabrese, our borough engineer, that’s roughly what it would cost to get the flooding of Silver Lake under control.  So while I might have hesitated in the past to endorse spending a million dollars on this, against the backdrop of this administration’s profligate spending a million bucks is just a drop in the bucket.  (Sorry about all the puns this morning.)

Now the mayor says fixing this problem is a top priority.  But he says that every time it floods.  Read what the Coast Star reported in 2011 after flooding from Hurricane Irene:


“Something has to get done, so we’ll see what FEMA will end up allowing us to do.”

Because FEMA is paying 75 cents for every dollar of the project’s cost, “it’s up to them as to what option, since they’re funding 75 percent of the project,” Mayor Doherty said.

The mayor hopes FEMA will choose to fund dredging because “it’s going to have to be done at some point anyway,” he said.

“To me, that’s the least expensive of all of the options and it’s something that, even if this mayor and council doesn’t do it, a future mayor and council is going to have to do anyway,” he said.

Both lakes currently have outfall pipes which drain water into the ocean, but these pipes do not have backflow stops, meaning water from the ocean sometimes finds its way into the lakes.

“It’s old and it’s pretty obvious that it’s not adequate,” Mayor Doherty said of the current system.

The mayor anticipates the borough will know where it stands with FEMA grant money for the lakes within 12 months.

“We need to address both lakes as soon as possible, and with the federal money available, now is the right time for us to do it financially,” Mayor Doherty said.


That was two years ago.  Nothing has changed.

Please at this point go to the 20:10 mark of the video below from the last council meeting and watch for about 2 minutes.

OK, are you back?

Why is such an important project like this only doable if FEMA pays for it?  We’ve been waiting for years and it could be years longer.  It may never happen.

The city government’s primary responsibility is to the residents.  Not the tourists, not the boaters and not the shoppers.  So despite my basic instinct to be sort of a tightwad, I am supporting Councilman Jim Bean’s call to bond the $1.1 million needed to do the job and get it over with.

Below is the statement Bean released:

At the most recent borough council meeting Paul Calabrese, our borough engineer, presented a plan to construct a new outflow pipe for Silver Lake that would allow us to prevent the lake from flooding due to rainfall events like we witnessed earlier this month. The plan is to run a 36″ pipe from the lake north under A Street that would release the overflow into the Shark River Inlet. It would double the capacity of our current 24″ outflow pipe, which feeds directly into the ocean. More importantly, it would not be compromised by the ocean debris and wave action that causes repeated problems with our current outflow pipe. Since the pipe would be under dry land its entire length, it would be much easier and less expensive to service. The plan also includes a pad for a pump near the pipe inlet that would allow us to drain water from the lake even at high tide without closing Ocean Avenue. The project’s total cost is estimated to be approximately $1.1 million.

This basic plan has been presented before, and its been known now for several years that it would prevent most flooding events, but its implementation has been delayed due to lack of funding.

Our administration seems content to let the project wait until federal funding becomes available. In the meantime our residents in the Silver Lake area must live in constant dread of heavy rainfall. To me this is unacceptable. Our local government has failed in its basic responsibility to protect the property of Belmar residents.

Since taking office this administration has bonded millions of dollars for downtown beautification projects, millions of dollars for marina improvement projects and tens of millions to rush the completion of the boardwalk, all in the name of promoting tourism. There was absolutely no discipline exhibited in the storm-relating spending.

Aside from the millions wasted in the Ashbritt fiasco, we spent well over a million dollars on brand-new vehicles for the borough, including a fleet of Chevy Tahoe police SUVs. I strongly urge our residents to examine our payment of bills lists available on the borough website. It seems to me that no spending request was ever denied.

The result of all this reckless spending is that Belmar’s total debt now stands at $46 million. When you add in the $4.5 million FEMA loan taken out on June 5, it will be digging us even deeper. Yet in all this spending Belmar couldn’t find $1.1 million to protect the property of its residents, who now must re-do the renovations they just completed. Even the newly re-opened library was damaged again in the most recent storm. This is a disgrace.

As the only council member to question our recent spending and debt accumulation binge, I am aware of the political heat I will be facing if I propose now to add another million dollars to Belmar’s debt.

To me, that political heat would be a small price to pay to ensure the peace of mind of our residents in the Silver Lake area. So at the next borough council meeting I will propose that we immediately bond the money we need to fix Silver Lake and start this project with no further delay. And if this administration continues to ignore the needs of its constituents, and instead serves the interests of the tourists, next year a Republican majority on the council will ensure that Silver Lake flooding is a thing of the past.


By the way, in the interests of journalistic fairness, I did locate some Belmar residents who support the mayor’s policy of waiting for FEMA funding, even if it delays the project for years.


Photo courtesy of the Patch.

One Comment

  1. Tom Burke wrote:

    Yet another great observation and presentation. You presented the facts, I too endorse Jim’s proposal. I think it is always better to fix the problem you know you have before looking for others. Like someof your readers have suggested in the past, I am sure the mayor will try to blame Jim Bean by suggesting he should have spoken up earlier or some other tactic to divert the issue away from his own shortcomings.

    Saturday, June 29, 2013 at 5:36 am | Permalink

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