SEA ISLE CITY — An estimated 80 percent of properties in Sea Isle City, including City Hall and the Public Safety Building, were flooded when Hurricane Sandy crashed into the Jersey shore.
The water damage meant all city offices had to be moved into the town’s former elementary school building. But Monday a ceremonial groundbreaking marked the start of construction on a new, permanent home for the city’s daily operations.
“We’re so excited for it,” police Chief Thomas D’Intino said. “We’re in some cramped quarters now.” The Police Department, like all city departments, has been operating inside the former elementary school on Park Road. Jail cells now sit where woodshop classes were once held, said D’Intino, who graduated from the school.
But by spring or early summer 2015, that department and all other city offices should be housed in the new 29,000-square-foot building on JFK Boulevard.
During Monday’s ceremony, held inside the fire station adjacent to the vacant lot where the Police Department once sat, Mayor Len Desiderio credited the city and its employees with staying afloat during and after the storm.
“We didn’t miss a day of government here in Sea Isle,” Desiderio said, explaining that city employees worked over the weekends moving into the school.
The building will house everything from the Police Department to finance offices.
Desiderio was joined Monday by state and local officials, including Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, as they grabbed golden-painted shovels to dig into some dirt hauled into the fire station for the event.
“This is another step on the long road to recovery,” Guadagno said.
She said Sea Isle’s employees and volunteers sacrificed during and after the October 2012 storm to take care of the city’s residents before their own concerns.
“Thank you for putting the people of Sea Isle City first,” she said as members of the volunteer fire and ambulance crews as well as police officers looked on.
U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo, R-NJ, also took part in the ceremony, and he called the new construction and rebuilding in Sea Isle City an example of the “rise of new hope, a new way to move forward.”
Desiderio noted that the former City Hall, built in 1906, had never been breached in any other storm, including the March 1962 storm.
The new building will be built at an elevation of 16 feet in hopes of avoiding future flooding, said Neil Byrne, city construction official.
Byrne added that the facility will also be able to sustain winds of 120 mph.
Desiderio said the new building, which the city is paying for with bonds, will cost $11 million. He is meeting with state officials in April in hopes of securing funding to pay for some or all of the project.
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