By Chris Rotolo |
OCEANPORT – Officials believe the solution to Oceanport’s troublesome flooding issues is in clearing a system of storm drains that have needed attention since Super Storm Sandy ravaged the Jersey Shore in 2012.
“As far as we can tell, these storm drains have not been maintained to their maximum level for nearly six years, and we’re praying to God that cleaning them out will alleviate some of the problems that we’ve been having,” Oceanport Mayor Jay Coffey said in a phone interview.
Coffey said there are 14 areas of concern for flooding around town, but the most pressing issues are occurring at Port Au Peck and Genessee avenues. There are also county roads like Monmouth Boulevard and Myrtle Avenue where troublesome water pooling takes place.
Borough officials are attacking the problem with a plan for maintenance and repair of the storm drains, which Coffey announced to property owners in the borough’s monthly newsletter. He explained Oceanport has entered a shared services agreement with the Borough of Shrewsbury for the purchase of a Jet-Vac truck and street sweeper, vehicles that will be used to properly clear the town’s storm drains and check valves.
“To enter into agreements like this, when it makes sense, where both municipalities can benefit while keeping equipment and operating personnel costs down, it’s a win-win situation,” said Raymond Poerio, Oceanport borough administrator, of the agreement with Shrewsbury.
The boroughs have agreed to split the cost of a new Elgin Pelican P Street Sweeper, which was tagged at about $217,000, as well as a used 2001 Sterling Cleaner Truck Sewer Jet that was bought from the Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority for $85,000. Poerio said the towns are also working on a proposal for the acquisition of a Hot Box Asphalt Maintenance Machine, though that plan is still in the works.
Coffey also revealed in the newsletter that the borough council is planning to borrow $1.3 million over the next four years for the installation and maintenance of check valves at each of the outfalls in town, which will prevent river water from backing up into the drains and onto the streets. Oceanport is seeking a federal grant to help cover the cost in total.
“When I first came into office it became readily apparent to me that infrastructure maintenance had not been a priority. It seemed to me the can had been kicked down the road to the point where there was no road left,” said Coffey, an attorney who has worked in city government. “And it was clear that if we didn’t start investing in the non-sexy repairs, there was going to be hell to pay.”
According to Poerio, the council is committed to finishing the work and has budgeted the $1.3 million in the event grants are not made available.
The administration is working off a budget analysis of three-, five- and seven-year projections in order to better forecast and control costs associated with the future of Oceanport’s growth and development, Coffey said.
“Choices have consequences. If you want to have a certain lifestyle, and a certain type of standard of living in your town, it costs money,” Coffey said. “And it’s part of my job to help figure out ways to help us maintain that, while keeping those costs down.”
According to Coffey, Oceanport has averaged about three-fifths of a mile in road repair and/or replacement each year over the past decade, a number borough engineers say should fall between 1.6 and 1.9 miles per year.
The new budget in the works will allow Oceanport to fix the drainage issues on Myrtle Avenue, as well as sidewalks from Monmouth Boulevard to Port Au Peck on Myrtle Avenue, and – thanks to $2.3 million in financing by Monmouth County – completely repave Myrtle Avenue and Monmouth Boulevard.
Additionally, the intersection at Oceanport Avenue and Main Street will be redesigned and realigned, and a new signaling system will be installed.
Coffey said a portion of this project is being funded by a $300,000 grant from the state Department of Transportation.
A number of secondary roads, including, but not limited to, Milton, Avon, and Allenhurst avenues are also scheduled for an upgrade.
According to Coffey, Oceanport’s roadway maintenance plan has been forged on an “eyeballing basis,” though he’d like to have a contracted engineer conduct a more accurate study of the borough’s 27 miles of roadways in the future.
“We don’t have that kind of money available and I don’t think the council is ready for that commitment just yet. So right now the systematic approach to maintenance and tender loving care has been done on an eyeball basis. But hopefully if we budget for it in the next year or two we can have that engineer come and do a more accurate analysis for us.”
Coffey said he expects the 2018-19 Oceanport budget to be finalized and introduced in April.
This article first appeared in the March 22—29, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.
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