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Belmar Hoping for 90 Percent Reimbursement from FEMA

Reimbursement budgeted at 75 percent, but outlook becoming more favorable

Ninety is better than 75, when you're talking about how much FEMA could reimburse you for multi-million dollar rebuild projects.

And Belmar is tentatively hoping that FEMA will be able to up original estimates at reimbursement from 75 percent to 90 percent as the borough prepares to spend more than $6.59 million to rebuild its boardwalk after Hurricane Sandy.

On top of the $6.59 million, there's also $3 million in debris clean-up, an unestimated cost to rebuild boardwalk pavilions, and a bond to rebuild a portion of the sewer system.

These projects, eligible for FEMA reimbursement, were budgeted expecting that the federal agency would grant a 75 percent reimbursement back to Belmar, said Mayor Matt Doherty.

However the conversations are going more favorable. While far from being decided, a reimbursement could be as high as 90 percent, said the mayor.

For the boardwalk specifically, the borough bonded $20 million and planned to pay 25 percent of that through debt service, increased beach badge fees and decreasing the municipal budget in other spending categories.

"Paying 10 percent is better than being on the hook for 25 percent, obviously," Doherty said.

The possibility of a rosier reimbursement figure was a second set of good news for Belmar's coffers announced at Wednesday's council meeting. The council announced the cost to rebuild the boardwalk would be less than half the original estimate.

The $20 million bond, $17 million of which was estimated for rebuilding the boardwalk, is more than double the lowest bid for the boardwalk repair.

Epic Construction will build the boardwalk at a cost of $6.559 million, with a bonus if the work is complete before April 30.

On Dec. 3, Gov. Chris Christie formally requested federal approval of 100 percent reimbursement for state and local government costs associated with debris removal and emergency protective measures. 

Previously, Doherty said the reimbursement would be "at a minimum 75 percent." "That's the minimum. We're hoping for more than that."

Christie is asking FEMA to up its reimbursement and fully fund debris removal and emergency protective measures for 90 days, as it had for storms elsewhere.

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