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NJ lawmakers get firsthand look at storm damage

Published on NewsOK Modified: November 29, 2012 at 8:22 pm •  Published: November 29, 2012

Lavallette Mayor Walter La Cicero said his town needs more time to repay $4 million it's been forced to borrow for emergency road repairs and to replace police headquarters, which was destroyed.

The mayor told Assembly Budget Chairman Vincent Prieto that five years isn't enough time to pay back the money; he's hoping for legislation to extend the repayment period to 20 years.

For Seaside Heights, the property tax hit to surviving residences could be significant. Mayor Bill Akers said three-quarters of the town's budget comes from tourism. The damage estimate for the boardwalk's amusement pier is $45 million; some missing boards have already been replaced.

In heavily damaged Ortley Beach, where streets are piled high with discarded mattresses, furniture, appliances, insulation and debris, roads have been swept of sand and sink holes filled in.

"It's one month later and let me tell you it looks a million times better," said Toms River police Chief Michael Mastronardy, as he stood outside the demolished Surf Club.

Some officials came to the lawmakers with ideas for helping raise money for their towns.

One suggested a 2 percent fee added to all alcoholic beverages sold in the town.

"No one orders a Dewers and soda and asks, 'How much is it?' first," he said. "No one notices."

Another suggested a tax on parking.

A third asked that the state certify mold inspectors just like it certifies termite inspectors, so homeowners who remediate for mold would have some protection.

Oliver said the state's response would depend in part on how much money the federal government commits to the recovery. But she said the Legislature may consider tax credits to homeowners facing certain repairs, like hooking up to newly installed gas lines.

The Assembly plans to hold hearings next week on insurance claims, following complaints that some insurers have been slow to respond to storm claims.