UPDATE, 9 a.m. Friday: Seaside Heights officials posted the following notice on the borough's website: "Due to circumstances beyond our control, the location for the initial re-entry pick-up has been changed. All property owners and tenants must go to 1390 Bay Ave. on their designated days rather than the Fischer Boulevard Foodtown. We apologize for the inconvenience and will have personnel redirecting people to the correct location."
The address given is for Shelter Cove in Toms River, a mile east of Fischer Boulevard.
UPDATE: Seaside Heights residents who have concerns or obstacles to accessing the borough on their designated day can contact borough officials by calling 908-600-6741, Mayor William Akers said Thursday.
Previously: A standing-room-only crowd of Seaside Heights residents learned they will be allowed into the borough to retrieve some of their personal belongings beginning Friday, under a plan distributed at Wednesday night's Borough Council meeting in Toms River.
For nearly three hours, Seaside Heights Mayor William Akers answered questions from residents whose anger over being away from their homes for 10 days in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy spilled over time and again.
"I don't believe anything I'm hearing tonight," said Chuck Lada, one of many residents who criticized the mayor and council over the handling of the re-entry plan in the meeting at the county Administration Building in Toms River, which was filled to overflowing despite the snow brought by a nor'easter that added to the area's miseries as people try to recover from Hurricane Sandy.
Under the plan, which Akers said had to be approved by the state Department of Transportation, residents will be bused into the borough beginning Friday based on where in town they live. Residents should meet at the old Foodtown in the Bellcrest Plaza on Fischer Boulevard in Toms River beginning at 9 a.m. and Akers said the buses would depart for the borough as soon as they are full.
The town is allowed to bring just four buses, Akers said. A box truck also will be traveling over to bring residents' items back.
Two people per residence will be permitted, Akers said, and residents will need to show some identification to show they belong. They can bring two suitcases per person to retrieve belongings, and the borough will provide two boxes per person that will be transported by box truck back to the Bellcrest Plaza.
Residents will have until 2 p.m. to retrieve items and take photos of their homes, shut off their main electric breakers and drain water pipes, under the plan.
The schedule is as follows:
- Friday: Residents of Sherman, Sheridan, Grant and Blaine
- Saturday: Hancock, Fremont, Sumner, Webster
- Sunday: Kearney, Carteret, Hamilton, Franklin
- Monday: Sampson, Hiering, Lincoln, Dupont, Porter
- Tuesday: 400 Hiering/Bayside Terrace. Akers said the damage in this area was more extensive and re-entry may be delayed.
Residents will not be permitted to leave their designated streets while they are in the borough, Akers said.
Akers said getting to this point has been a lengthy process because it required coordination among so many entities, including the other towns on the barrier island, the county Office of Emergency Management, the state Office of Emergency Management, and the state Department of Transportation.
"I have been on conference call after conference call," Akers said, to map out a re-entry plan. "It's a very different communication process."
Residents asked why those who live in South Seaside Park and Seaside Park were allowed onto the island already and why they were allowed to take personal vehicles.
"I thought we had a coordinated effort," Akers said, but those towns moved forward on their own after an initial plan was agreed to, but the DOT "stopped it in its tracks," he said.
The DOT's statement that the roads were unsafe for passenger cars was questioned by many.
"How is it safe for 80,000-pound trucks to go in but not passenger cars?" one woman asked.
"Two suitcases isn't enough," said another woman. "I want my kids' toys."
Akers, who remained calm throughout the meeting, said the rules that were laid down for this re-entry were not what he wanted. He wanted to bring in eight buses, but was told no, he said.
"This isn't our decision," Akers said. "This is DOT and the chiefs of police."
Several residents urged Akers to just allow cars anyway, but Akers refused, saying he wants to be able to get people onto the island again after this initial access. Following the plan approved by the DOT is the best way to make that happen, he said.
"If this was my decision you all could drive in there and get your things," he said. "It's not my decision."
"We are trying to get everyone over there as quickly as possible," he said.
Several residents asked Akers what will be done for those who, due to work or other complications, and he replied the town will try to work with those residents to accommodate their situations. Those with individual issues should contact borough officials, he said.