By Neil Schulman
Oceanport — The borough is planning to once again apply for a grant to change its flood valves — and may proceed with the work even if the grant is rejected.
At the Feb. 2 Borough Council meeting, Borough Administrator Raymond Poerio said that in 2013 Oceanport had applied for a grant from FEMA to replace the valves on its current drainage system with check valves. It was rejected and the borough never reapplied.
Check valves only allow liquid to flow one way, which means that at high tide water can’t force its way up from a river to the street.
Poerio said that engineers estimate that replacing 50 valves around the borough would cost approximately $1,140,000.
The grant would require a 25 percent match, meaning that Oceanport would have to allocate about $300,000.
Poerio suggested that the borough might want to allocate the money to the capital budget whether or not they get the grant. If the application fails, they can at least identify about a dozen of the more flood-prone valves and fix them. Oceanport could then repeat this process and apply for the grant again.
Mayor Jay Coffey said that the nor’easter the last week of January showed how important these valves could be. When the tide was rising, the storm drains didn’t function well and the streets near water were flooded.
Once water begins to flow out, “it’s gone in 20, 25 minutes,” he said.
Money allocated in the capital budget indicates what the borough plans to bond (borrow) for. It does not need to be actually be allocated if council decides not to undergo the expense.
CRS helps residents save
Because Oceanport takes special steps to deal with flood prevention and mitigation, its residents are saving on flood insurance, Poerio said.
FEMA recently acknowledged Oceanport was part of the Community Rating System (CRS) by sending over a plaque.
The CRS is a voluntary procedure towns can take, following certain recommendations from FEMA. These can range from doing elevation surveys to advising residents of how to better flood-proof their homes.
Anyone in a town with a CRS rating is eligible for an automatic discount on flood insurance. In Oceanport, the average resident saves $177 a year; in total, there are more than $90,000 in savings, Poerio said.
He said that the program was possible because of Borough Engineer Bill White and Office of Emergency Management Director “Buzzy” Baldanza.
At the meeting, Poerio said that council may want to consider setting up a “storm trust,” money put aside that can only be used for storm-related events.
A year with many winter storms can play havoc with a town’s budget. Having a reserve can make a difference to taxpayers, he said.
“It builds you a contingency in case you have a wicked snowstorm or the transmission breaks down on the truck you use for plowing.”
Poerio said that it would relate to a bigger discussion about how surplus is used.