BRICK – The governing body has called for an independent engineering study to be done for the Aug. 13 flood event that resulted in water damage to hundreds of homes located near the Garden State Parkway where major interchange renovations were recently completed.
Many areas all over town were affected by the eight inches of rain – the normal rainfall for a two-month period, said Mayor John G. Ducey during the most recent council meeting.
“It wasn’t just one particular area of our town. It’s all over north, south and central. We were hammered all over town by that storm,” he said.
Most of the affected areas are not in the floodplain and had never flooded before, such as in Greenbriar 1, where almost 100 homes were flooded.
“We also need to find out if there’s a cause beyond the two months of rain that fell in two and a half hours,” he said.
If the Parkway construction or the Parkway exit interchange construction had something to do with the flooding, a cause needs to be determined for the sake of liability and to ensure that it doesn’t happen again, the mayor said.
“We need to give the residents the peace of mind that it’s okay to rebuild and okay to move back in,” he said.
The council members passed a resolution that urges the NJ Turnpike Authority and Ocean County Engineering Department to have an independent study done of the data collected after the storm.
“An independent engineer needs to look at the evidence and make a determination,” Ducey said. “We don’t need the county engineer that designed the project to be the one to say ‘Oh yeah, there’s no problem.’ We don’t need a Freeholder three days after the flood to say ‘Oh yeah, it wasn’t us, don’t worry about it.’ We need somebody independent to look at that.”
Ducey was referring to an Aug. 15 preliminary report provided to county officials by County engineer John Ernst that the reconfiguration of the Parkway Exit 91 was not the cause of flooding in the north section of Brick.
Ernst said the design of the project “was adequate but we had a storm beyond what any design standard was designed for.”
Mayor Ducey said that after an independent engineering study is completed, the engineer should meet with residents and present their findings.
Meanwhile, the council voted for a resolution to authorize a temporary waiver of Building Department fees for flood victims for any rebuilding requiring permits.
Some Greenbriar residents said that waiving the permit fees doesn’t go far enough.
Angel Santos said he lost everything he owns in the flood, and he suggested that the township waive property taxes for at least a quarter to free up money for affected homeowners to rebuild.
Santos also said he has no faith in an independent engineer to examine the reason behind the flooding.
“We know what’s gonna happen: the Parkway authority is going to find a cousin of a cousin of a cousin…and at the end they’re gonna win and we’re gonna lose,” he said. “The people of Greenbriar are a little upset because we feel like the hot potato is being passed around from one hand to the other without giving us solid answers or a solid direction on where the township is going to headed for our health.”
While he said he understands the township does not have the money to help residents rebuild, he said the residents have been denied by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Red Cross and their insurance companies.
Santos said that in his cul-de-sac, three homes have been abandoned since their elderly owners do not have the money to rebuild.
“I’m a 100 percent disabled American veteran, so I’m on a fixed income. For me, to start all over again is a very hazardous thing: it adds to my PTSD, it adds to my emotional state of mind and seeing my neighborhood where we sit down in the front every night it is like an abandoned village, like being in a war zone,” Santos said.
The mayor said that anyone with a flooded home should fill out a Property Damage Inspection Request form, which has to be completed prior to December 31, 2018.
Inspections could be scheduled as soon as conditions inside the affected homes have been stabilized, he said. Inspections would start in October and would continue through December.
Homeowners whose homes are not quickly repaired should contact the Township Tax Assessor’s office to make an inspection before December 31
The inspection would impact 2019 property assessments, which is all that’s allowed under the law, Ducey said. The forms are available on the township website at bricktownship.net.
“That’s what they’re able to do. The property is the property, but the building is what you can’t live in and that’s what gets adjusted by the tax assessor,” the mayor said.
Evergreen Woods resident Stephen Brill asked if the 40-acre solar farm on Sally Ike Road, which is built upon a capped landfill, could have contributed to the flooding.
That water added to the expanded paved interchange 91 and the previous shoulder-widening project in the same area could have had a negative effect on the water capacity in the area, he said.
Mayor Ducey said the EPA had requested that the solar farm basin be checked to make sure it was functioning, and it was, he said.