Citing pressure from the state Department of Environmental Protection and from FEMA, Point Pleasant's public works superintendent on Tuesday night said it was time to wind down debris collection from Hurricane Sandy.
Public Works Superintendent Robert Forsyth told the Point Pleasant Borough Council that efforts to clean up debris from the storm have moved along far more quickly than he expected.
"We're much further along than I thought we'd be" six weeks after Sandy devastated the Jersey Shore, Forsyth said.
At this point, the borough has picked up most of the household debris -- belongings and furnishings damaged in the storm -- and public works is nearly done with construction debris. Metal goods -- damaged appliances -- continue to be placed curbside but the major concentration right now is brush and leaves, which are being picked up simultaneously, Forsyth said.
Once the borough has picked up most of the brush, which Forsyth anticipated would be completed by the first week of January, what will remain are large tree trunks, stumps and the like. Those will be taken to Ocean County Remanufacturing, which accepts them at a much lower cost than what it would cost to take them to the county's landfill, he said.
They're still at a stage where they clean things up and go back a week later and find more debris at the curb, Forsyth said, but "It's night and day compared with a month ago."
Forsyth said he has been meeting with representatives of the DEP and FEMA regularly and they are pushing the borough to wind up the debris pickup because now they're finding that homeowners doing remodeling that is totally unrelated to the storm are putting that debris at the curb.
"FEMA doesn't want to pay for that," he said.
He made the following recommendations, which the council voted to accept:
- Trucks will stop driving up and down streets looking for debris to pick up as of Dec. 28. After that, the borough will take appointments for those who still need debris removed.
- The short-term contract with Waste Management can be ended as of Jan. 21. "They have been extremely helpful, and we wouldn't be where we are without them," Forsyth said, but the borough should no longer need the extra help by then, though he recommended renting roll-off containers for a couple of sites in the most hard-hit areas.
- End all of the storm debris pick-up by Feb. 1. "The DEP and FEMA are pushing for that," he said.
The council also agreed to maintain Sunday hours at the recycling center through January, to give homeowners the extra weekend time to drop off recyclables. Normally the recycling center closes on Sundays for a couple of months in the winter, Forsyth said, but Mayor William Schroeder said maintaining the extra hours would be a help to residents as they continue storm cleanup. The center will remain open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sundays through January, and that will be reexamined at the end of January, Schroeder said.
In other business, the council announced its reorganization meeting will be held at noon on Sunday, Jan. 6, in the council chambers.
The council also approved changes to an ordinance defining responsibility for maintaining access to roads and other rights-of-way. Those changes were introduced at the council meeting on Dec. 4.
In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, homeowners in Sunshine Harbor were critical of the town over the lack of attention to several downed trees in the neighborhood, which residents said would have significantly hampered rescue efforts if a fire had broken out in that neighborhood.
There was much debate over who was responsible for removing the trees, which had wires entangled. JCP&L said the wires were not power lines but telephone cables; town employees said they could not touch them because of the wires, because they didn't know if they were live power lines or not. At a council meeting in November, several residents stood up and demanded help resolving the issue, only to be told the town wasn't responsible for the downed trees.
Councilman Robert Sabosik said in the wake of that criticism, the town took care of the downed trees, but also moved to clarify the ordinance.
"In the wake of the storm people had so much to contend with that we just took care of it," Sabosik said after Tuesday's meeting. "But the old ordinance was vague. This cleans up the language."
The revision states:
"All real property owners within the Borough of Point Pleasant Borough shall be
responsible for maintenance and upkeep of the Borough’s right-of-way which is
located beyond the property line, up to the curb line or on streets with no curb, up to the end of asphalt. The maintenance of the right-of-way shall include, but is not limited to, maintenance of sidewalks, grass and trees."
So the removal of a downed tree becomes the responsibility of the homeowner, not the town.