STAFFORD TOWNSHIP — Some 17 months after Hurricane Sandy destroyed the Mill Creek Community Center, $2.3 million in construction plans for a new center along with a second facility have been unveiled.
But officials say federal funding to reimburse the township for storm-related costs is elusive.
A $250,000 donation received last year from actor Alec Baldwin and $140,000 from a $500,000 flood insurance policy will go toward rebuilding the new community center on Bay Avenue, but the township will have to wait on the federal government for the rest, said township Administrator Jim Moran.
During the regular township Council meeting Tuesday, a bond ordinance was adopted for $2.3 million for construction of the new community center on Bay Avenue and the building of a new community pavilion on Mill Creek Road.
“The total cost for the new community center on Bay Avenue is going to be about $1.7 million, and the pavilion will cost about $500,000,” Moran said.
After Hurricane Sandy flooded the Mill Creek Community Center with 2 feet of water, the township decided to rebuild out of a flood zone and replace the original town hall on Bay Avenue with a new center, Moran said.
In place of the center on Mill Creek Road, the community pavilion facility will be built, Moran said.
Township architect Vince Sibona said Hurricane Sandy has put a strap on construction costs and the pre-engineered buildings that have been chosen for the facilities are more economical.
The new community center on Bay Avenue will be a pre-engineered metal building that is about 5,000 square feet, Sibona said.
On Mill Creek Road, the current community center will be replaced with what will be called the Mill Creek Pavilion, which will function like a miniature community center, Sibona said.
The main building at the Mill Creek Pavilion will be about 1,500 square feet. At the back of building will be a roof line that will continue outside and function as an open air pavilion of about 700 square feet, he said.
But reimbursement of money the township spent during and after Hurricane Sandy is a game of hurry up and wait, officials said.
“There’s a payment system we have to work our way through now where the state receives the federal funding and then the state disperses the money to the municipality,” Moran said.
And waiting for a reimbursement to cover the costs of replacing the storm-damaged community center won’t be any different. Moran said a reimbursement estimate for FEMA for the new community center will be about $1.7 million.
“I haven’t even gotten anywhere near approval on the new community center yet. I expect we are going to prevail and get funding from FEMA, but that does not mean that I’m right,” Moran said.
The township is seeking about $5 million from FEMA that is connected to Hurricane Sandy damage and expenses, he said.
Moran said he learned Tuesday that FEMA awarded the township about $1.6 million in reimbursement for storm debris removal — almost 17 months after Sandy.
“We had a request for about $1.8 million that has been sitting out there for a year for debris removal, and we finally realized 90 percent of the money, but we still have another $700,000 to be reimbursed for debris removal,” Moran said.
U.S. Rep. Jon Runyan announced the reimbursement Tuesday and said the funding will be used to reimburse the township for the loading, hauling, and disposal of debris after the hurricane. This funding is being provided under the authority of Section 403 of the Robert T. Stafford Act, Runyan said.
“Although I applaud FEMA for awarding Stafford Township with this grant, I truly understand why the residents are frustrated with how long the process took to secure federal funding. I remain committed to ensuring that our coastal communities receive the funding they deserve, and my office and I are always available to assist in any way that we can,” Runyan said.
After Hurricane Sandy, there was no choice but to demolish the Mill Creek Community Center, Moran said. Inside the building, water marks showed that more than 2 feet of water flooded the facility during the storm, and the floor collapsed.
Mayor John Spodofora said it was clear that it did not make sense to rebuild where the building would have to be raised to meet new federal flood requirements.
“You don’t wait to do this work. You can’t wait. You have to move on with life. There were roads gone because of the storm, and they were replaced. I did a million dollars worth of sewer work after the storm. But you can’t wait on funding, the work has to be done,” Moran said.
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