Little Egg Harbor police Chief Richard Buzby pushed for the township's Disaster Recovery Center to remain open past Thursday for what he says is still a need for assistance with storm damage in the town.

Staff photo by Donna Weaver

LITTLE EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — After local officials called on the state for help, the Federal Emergency Management Agency Disaster Recovery Center on Radio Road will remain open.

The center was targeted to close Thursday. But earlier this week, township police Chief Richard Buzby called on the state to intervene and encourage FEMA to keep the center open. Buzby said there are still a large number of people in the township who still need assistance.

On Thursday, Gov. Chris Christie spokesman Kevin Roberts said the office was working on keeping the center open, but it was ultimately a decision that would be made by FEMA.

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“I’ve attended meeting after meeting saying how I have dozens of people who still need help who are coming here every day,” Buzby said.

On Friday morning, Buzby and township Mayor John Kehm said they were notified by the state and FEMA that the center would remain open. Buzby said he was relieved and that he will be monitoring the activity at the center to provide information to the state and FEMA.

The news comes one day after FEMA agreed with a call by Christie to extend the application deadline for storm damage aid by 30 days to accommodate victims who have not yet applied. That application deadline had been March 1.

The center is located on Radio Road at the site of the township’s Senior Center, which has been closed since November when the disaster recovery center opened.

“The first day it opened we had about 200 people here standing in line. The parking lot was full and we had people parked along Radio Road too,” Buzby said.

Buzby said that inside the center, which is adjacent to the township municipal complex, FEMA used up almost every square foot of the facility.

“There is such a tremendous amount of people here who need help, to close it now to the victims of this tragedy would leave them not well-served,” Buzby said.

Since the center opened in late November, 4,200 people have come through the doors, said Angela Sessions, the center’s disaster recovery manager. Township officials said about 4,000 homes were damaged in some way during Hurricane Sandy.

Sessions said that the center is still averaging about 40 people coming each day.

“Sometimes it’s busy in the morning and sometimes it’s later in the day. It really depends on the weather. We’re seeing a lot of both primary and secondary homeowners,” she said.

Buzby said many people in the township impacted by Hurricane Sandy still don’t have transportation and would have difficulty commuting to regional disaster recovery centers that are now open in Stafford and Hamilton townships. Those centers are currently scheduled to be open until March 9.

“These people don’t have the money or the wherewithal to travel somewhere else for help and they’ve already been victimized,” Buzby said.

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