Secaucus may seek over $3 million in FEMA funding to cover the immediate costs of Hurricane Sandy-related emergency response and repair in addition to long-term projects to reduce the risks from future disasters. At a caucus meeting on Nov. 25, the Remington and Vernick engineering firm presented a verbal assessment to the mayor and Town Council about the types of projects the municipality could seek to fund with federal dollars.
From mending fences to reinforcing berms
The tidal surge from Hurricane Sandy caused significant flooding throughout the town, damaging close to 300 homes as well as municipal parks and pump stations.
Last month the mayor and Town Council passed a resolution to add an emergency appropriation to next year’s budget for $347,009 to cover the cost of salaries and wages that were incurred during the emergency response to the storm – some of which are ongoing because of cleanup efforts. This number does not include operational and equipment and fuel usage costs, which Mayor Michael Gonnelli said are still being calculated.
However, the municipality may also pursue funding for a number of projects to fix fences that were knocked down, electrical components that were shorted out, and to reinforce berms that let water flow in at certain points because of uneven levels.
The municipality submitted an application last month for Federal Emergency Management Assistance funding through their public assistance program. The municipality will also pursue their hazard mitigation grant program funding once they begin accepting applications.
The Hazard Mitigation Grant Program provides funding for long-term mitigation projects.
FEMA will cover up to 75 percent of the eligible projects costs for both types of grants, but the municipality must find a way to cover 25 percent.
“Judging from the size of the storm, there is going to be a lot of demand for state funding so it remains to see how much money is available for the 25 percent share,” said Ed Dennis from Remington and Vernick during a caucus meeting in November.
According to Mayor Michael Gonnelli, he said the town will move forward with the projects irrespective of funding, but hopes that the projects will be covered by federal dollars at 100 percent, which is what Gov. Chris Christie is advocating for from FEMA.
Public assistance grants
Among its requests, the town plans to seek approximately $401,000 in federal funding for capital projects for repairs to pump stations and parks.
The engineers proposed a total of seven repair-related projects including: Acorn Street Pump Station; Buchmuller Park; the Koelle Boulevard Tide Gate; the Recreation Center; Millridge Fields; Schmidts Woods; and Smit Park.
The upgrades to the Acorn Street Pump Station would cost approximately $143,000 and include the installation of a new generator and control box on a concrete pedestal that will provide heightened elevation as well as the replacement of a tide gate and check valve among others.
Another large project for approximately $100,000 includes replacing the components of the electrical cabinet that controlled the sports field lighting and sprinklers at the Millridge Fields. The electrical cabinet was submerged in over four feet of water and shorted out during the storm. Other smaller projects include repairing the damage caused by a fallen tree to the roof of the pavilion in Schmidt’s Woods, which is part of an approximate cost of $29,000.
Some parks that were already pegged for upgrades, such as Buchmuller Park and Smit Park, also suffered damage. The municipality seeks $18,000 to repair the wall, fence, and to fix the handicap accessible auto lift at Buchmuller Park and $43,000 for Smit Park to replace a swing set and its rubber safety surface, which would be moved to another location in the park because it currently doesn’t meet safety standards.
Hazard mitigation grants
“While there is an urgency, of course, to fix the damage that has been done by the hurricane,” said Dennis, “I think we really can capitalize on this opportunity…to really come up with some projects that will help us not have to go through this again.”
The engineers proposed over $2.8 million in hazard mitigation projects to upgrade the Born Street Pump Station, the Creekside Street Berm, the North End Berm, and the Plaza Center drainage system.
Among the four projects, the largest one involves improvements at the Born Street Pump Station, which removes runoff from the residential neighborhood between Schopmann Drive and Riverside Court near Route 3. While the pump drains water to the river, it also prevents runoff from leaving the area during high tide conditions according to the project overview. The project would entail moving the pump station.
Another major project, which would cost approximately $900,000, requires work to assess and address any potential penetrations on the 7,500 foot berm that runs behind Millridge Fields, around Mill Creek Point Park, to Trolley Park.
Adriana Rambay Fernández may be reached at email@example.com.