Freeholders Poised To Approve $45 Million Emergency Appropriation For Sandy Debris Removal
County is fronting the money, will be reimbursed by FEMA, Freeholder John C. Bartlett Jr. says
The Ocean County Board of Freeholders are slated to approve a $45 million emergency appropriation at the March 6 board meeting to help front the costs for Superstorm Sandy debris removal in municipalities.
"So far, so good," Bartlett said at the pre-board meeting on Tuesday. "We can indirectly borrow from certain county accounts. We will be able to complete the entire thing by self-financing upfront."
The county will eventually be reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the participating municipalities, Bartlett said.
"We will get it all back," Bartlett said. "The money will be coming back. It's good news we can afford to do it. It's bad news we had to do it. It's a way to protect our financial interests to do it this way."
"This is the only time in my memory we have done an emergency appropriation," said Bartlett, who has served on the board since 1980.
The appropriation will be the third since Superstorm Sandy roared into Ocean County on Oct. 29. The county appropriated $10 million in a separate account to pay for debris removal along county rights-of-ways and to clean up Ocean County Park in Lakewood, which lost more than 1,000 trees, Bartlett said.
The county has already fronted $50 million to pay for debris removal in municipalities who signed up for the shared service agreement.
The money will be used to pay Ashbritt - a Florida-based debris removal firm - and the monitoring firm that oversaw Superstorm Sandy debris removal from municipal right-of-ways it towns that signed on for shared services.
Every truck that picked up debris had an independent monitor on board to oversee the pickup and amount of debris picked up on an individual run. The debris was then taken to local transfer stations, where a monitor signed off on the total cubic yardage. The debris was separated by category - cement, asphalt and brick; wood and garbage; and white goods like refrigerators and metals, Bartlett has said.
Anything that could be recycled was. Wood and garbage was trucked to the Ocean County Landfill in Manchester Township, where the tipping fees are $81.21 a ton, Bartlett said.
The $45 million emergency appropriation on tap for next week will only be used for the costs of municipal debris removal, Bartlett said today.
Bartlett said he was tired of reading news accounts that said Colts Neck and other towns had handled debris removal cheaper, without using Ashbritt. But many of those towns were smaller and had less damage than some Ocean County towns, he said.
"Colts Neck is in the middle of Monmouth County," he said. "Go over to Seaside Heights. Give me a break."
Bartlett also said he was still "infuriated" by some who say that the Ocean County freeholder board was pressured into going with Ashbritt by Ocean County Republican party chief George R. Gilmore. Gilmore is a lobbyist for Ashbritt.
Not true, he said.
Gov. Chris Christie wanted to meet with representatives of the Ocean and Monmouth County freeholder boards several days after Sandy struck on Oct. 29, Bartlett said.
"He told us the state had Ashbritt and we could make use of it if we wanted," he said.
Ocean County signed on with Florida-based AshBritt in mid-November. Under the shared services agreement, towns that signed on with the county used AshBritt for debris removal, with the county footing the bill upfront and seeking reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Administration.
Municipalities could opt in to a shared service agreement with the county for debris removal, or handle the debris removal on their own. Eventually, 19 towns signed up for the shared services.
The vast majority of debris is "out" in the towns that participated, but the total cost of removal has yet to be determined, Bartlett said.
"When there is a final closeout, probably within two weeks, we will have those numbers," he said.