LITTLE EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — Kristi Munro Hanselmann has been waiting nearly a year for some form of aid to help her repair the $1.4 million in damage Hurricane Sandy caused to her Mystic Island marina business.
So when the state announced Thursday that three “Sandy-impacted” marinas had received funds from a federal grant program, the Munro family was furious. Their anger was not so much directed at the grants. Munro Hanselmann said she knew they were part of a pool of funds annually made available to larger and luxury marinas, not to working-class docks such as hers.
What angered her was the state’s portrayal of the federal program as storm relief. The Department of Transportation statement used the state’s Stronger than the Storm logo, with the words “Recover, Rebuild, Restore.”
“This is a slap in the face for the people who are still here almost a year later waiting for help. We didn’t qualify for the National Boating Infrastructure grant program, because we don’t have slips for transient boats that are 26 feet or more,” Munro Hanselmann said of her business, which typically stores about 200 smaller recreational boats.
Michael Drewniak, spokesman for Gov. Chris Christie, wrote in an email Friday that the grants announced by DOT on Thursday are not part of the Sandy Relief package approved by Congress and administered by New Jersey. But a release from the DOT on Thursday touted the Christie administration, announcing federal boating infrastructure grants to aid “Sandy-impacted marinas.”
Thursday’s announcement said that last month one Ocean County marina, another in Cape May County and a third in Monmouth County collectively received $370,000 in grant funding through the National Boating Infrastructure Grant Program. The state Department of Transportation’s Office of Maritime Resources has accepted proposals from private and public marinas for the federal funding as part of the program.
For the Munro family, who are still waiting for grant funding through the New Jersey Economic Development Authority’s Stronger NJ Business Grant Program, which offers Grants and Forgivable Loans for Superstorm Sandy-Impacted Businesses, the announcement from the state is misleading.
That the money is going to facilities that are considered luxury adds insult to injury to marinas such as Munro Hanselmann’s that have suffered devastating damage from the storm, she said.
“This is not for regular marinas. We are not luxury here. This is definitely a blue-collar town. If the governor would come here, I’d show him this isn’t luxury clientele, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t need help,” she said.
In January, the Munro family, along with 12 other area marina owners, called on the state for post-Sandy assistance with rebuilding. Almost one year since the Oct. 29 storm, the Munros and many of their colleagues have spent their savings and are nowhere near recovered.
After applying in April for grant funding through the New Jersey Economic Development Authority’s Stronger NJ Business Grant Program, the Munros learned this week that they must redo hundreds of pages in their application.
It was just at the end of August that New Jersey was approved for extending eligibility for Stronger NJ Business Grants (part of the Sandy Relief package) to certain marinas, in compliance with HUD eligibility requirements, Drewniak wrote in an email Friday.
Munro Hanselmann said she also learned this week that the Munro Marina property must be inspected to determine that it is not a facility that caters to luxury clientele as a requirement of the grant application.
“The median income in this town is $45,000. That’s not luxury,” Hanselmann said.
Munro Hanselmann’s father, Allen Munro, 63, was calm and soft spoken Friday afternoon when he spoke of the setback and where the business is almost one year after the storm. The Munros have spent their life savings addressing the $1.4 million in storm damage.
“I was doing good, and now I’ve got zero,” Munro said.
Insurance covered only about half the damage. The marina’s building saw 4-feet of water during the storm and was demolished in February, but work has just started on a new facility. The Munros applied to the township for a building permit in May and just received it last month.
Piling now protrude from the dirt on an empty lot where the marina building once was.
Another blow was a 70-percent drop in business this past summer season.
A yard on the property is home to almost 100 boats that never went back in the water for this summer. It’s a combination of a community that remains displaced and fallen on hard times financially because of the storm, Munro said.
“We usually have about five boats left in storage every summer. Our seniors who cannot paint the bottoms of their boats and usually come to us are beaten down financially. They have no money this year, and they were out there painting the bottoms themselves,” Munro said.
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