Between homes, businesses, infrastructure and public facilities such as the boardwalk, Belmar has an estimated $130 million in damage from Hurricane Sandy, officials said.
The year ahead will be doing the hard work of rebuilding and perhaps the harder work determining what to do and how to fund it, said Belmar Mayor Matt Doherty in his 2013 address at Thursday's reorganization meeting.
But some of the biggest milestones in rebuilding Belmar are here. Doherty said the first pilings for the new boardwalk will be erected Jan. 9.
"This is a huge milestone," said the mayor, to audience applause.
Contractor Epic Construction will build in three sections — north, middle and south. Doherty said 400 pilings a week will be driven into the Belmar beachfront. The project costs $6.5 million.
Despite the aggressive push forward on rebuilding, Belmar has 50 homes whose families remain displaced, Doherty said.
"That's 50 families that weren't home for Christmas. For some, there's no real time frame to return," he said. "Let's make sure we keep them in our thoughts and prayers. As municipal government, we're not going to rest until each one is back in their homes back where they belong.
A final bit of business on the reorganization meeting Thursday night was the creation of an ad hoc committee to discuss what buildings should be rebuilt and how — buildings such as the gazebos and pavilions destroyed by Hurricane Sandy.
The committee will meet regularly and provide a report after several months. "They'll take suggestions from engineers, architects and residents... it's purely an advisory committee," said Doherty.
The mayor said the committee had a wide variety of community constituents — the owner of D'Jais bar, residents from different sections of town, longtime residents and former officials — but Councilman Jim Beam took issue with the list of nine members, listing that many among them were contributors to Democratic municipal campaigns.
"The only qualification has to be you have to be a Democrat or have donated to the mayor or Councilwoman (Jennifer) Nicolay, so I'm voting no on this," Bean said.
Councilman Brian Magovern, who accepted a spot on the committee, said partisanship will be far from his mind and he'll instead be relying on his knowledge growing up in Belmar over the decades, offering advice on what was once there and what could be rebuilt there.
Council President Claire Diecke said the committee welcomes all opinion.
"I had people email me who were very interested, anyone who is a resident can offer an opinion. These people named on the committee, it's not exclusive to them," she said. "We want to hear from everyone."
The borough is hoping to reopen its boardwalk in time for Memorial Day but officials said rebuilding pavilions and concessions will likely not happen in time for the coming tourist season.