LITTLE EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — The township has listed 492 homeowners who are hopeful they will receive funding to raise their homes through the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, but officials say there is no guarantee the funding will come.
Just because your name is on the list doesn’t mean you are guaranteed to receive the money, cautioned Little Egg Harbor Township Assistant Administrator Michael Fromosky.
The 492 homes on that list alone come with an average estimate to raise them of $50,000. That comes out to a staggering $24.6 million and there won’t be nearly enough grant funding to cover this, officials said.
“This is a federal grant and there’s only so much money and there are 10 affected counties,” Fromosky said.
Township Tax Assessor Joseph Sorrentino inspected 4,017 homes and all of them could potentially need to be raised, depending on their location on FEMA’s Advisory Base Flood Elevation maps and amount of damage, Fromosky said.
In the event all 4,017 homes need to be raised to the tune of $50,000, that would cost over $200 million.
“We are fighting for the same dime that Stafford is fighting for and that Seaside is fighting for. There are 33 towns in Ocean County and this is going to be a limited pot of money,” Fromosky said.
The deadline has been extended to March 15 for municipalities to submit applications for hazard mitigation grants for homes that will need to be raised in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, he said.
Last month, FEMA representative Katelynne Wolf explained to a crowd in Egg Harbor Township that the program offers grants up to 75 percent to raise buildings, build minor flood-control projects and buy properties.
Homeowners who are interested in the grant program must file with their municipality, and a prioritized list of applicants will be forwarded to Trenton, where government officials make the decision as to which projects will receive funding.
Wolf said the process for the grant program would up to a year, and if work moves forward with a project before an applicant is formally approved, he or she would be stripped of eligibility.
If and when the funding is received through the grant program, it is then the municipality’s responsibility to take the money and identify sections of town that sustained the most repetitive damage over time.
“It’s not just about the damage that happened during this last storm, it is areas that have flooded repeatedly and that’s exactly what these grants are, to mitigate future potential losses,” he said.
The Hazard Mitigation Grant Program provides grants to states and local governments to implement long-term hazard mitigation measures following a major disaster, according to FEMA’s website.
The program’s purpose is meant to lessen loss of life and property as a result of natural disasters and to allow mitigation measures to be added during immediate disaster recovery, the FEMA guidelines state.
“We’re trying to find as much money as possible to make everyone whole. I can’t promise everyone is going to be made whole again. The town has to get this started,” Fromosky said.
Chris Heins, owner of Heritage Construction Enterprises has been busy signing contracts—six this week—and meeting with potential clients to raise their homes, but he said some are still waiting because they don’t have the money to do it.
In Little Egg Harbor Township, Heins and the company’s co-owner, Darin Smith, have 50 proposals out for raising homes and about 300 in the Beach Haven West section of Stafford Township.
“We’ve told people up front that if they’re not ready with the money then they should wait, but a lot of people are waiting on these mitigation grants, but those could take years and there’s no guarantee,” Heins said.
Steve Riccardo has lived at his West Sail Drive home for the last 25 years and put his name on the township’s list for a chance at receiving a mitigation grant. He has spoken with Heins about raising his home, but he said he is waiting to see if he receives any funding through a grant.
“I thought these were grants that you get right away. I didn’t know it could take up to a year. That concerns me,” Riccardo said.
Riccardo is still living in his home that was flooded during Hurricane Sandy and so far rough estimates put him at potentially $65,000 to raise his home, he said.
“I hope that I get it. I also have to see how much money I can get from my insurance company,” he said.
Recently, Heins was evaluating and taking measurements at the home of Phil Torrisi on South Forecastle Drive. Torrisi can’t wait on raising his home because he is not entitled to the grant money because it is his secondary home.
Heins said the potential customers he has been in contact with regarding house-raising are a 50/50 mix between primary and secondary homeowners.
Torrisi, of Hazlet, Monmouth County, has owned his home for about seven years, and during Hurricane Sandy the home was flooded with about 30 inches of water, he said.
That 30 inches of water destroyed $30,000 worth of improvements Torrisi had completed over the last several years.
“It’s probably going to cost about $50,000, I think it’s worth it because my house is all fixed up inside. We like the layout of the house. Most of my neighbors want to raise their houses, but some of them can’t because of the type of home it is,” he said.
Tuckerton Mayor George “Buck” Evans said there are hundreds of homes that need to be raised in the borough. Borough Administrator Jenny Gleghorn said there are about 50 names on the list for mitigation grants so far.
In the borough’s Tuckerton Beach section that was hit the hardest during the storm, there were homes that disappeared during the storm and others that were heavily damaged and flooded. One of those homes that sustained substantial damage was Evans’ home.
“That is what people have been saying, that they don't know what they're going to do. Some people here will be able to afford to do it and some won't and these grants are not official,” Evans said.
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