Posted on April 11, 2017
By Victoria Ford, The SandPaper.Net
Stafford Township Mayor John Spodofora has announced a plan to solve the multifaceted problem of how to get lagoons and other areas of bay dredged, where to put the dredge material and how to protect the mainland from sea level rise and damage from future severe storms. He wants to use dredge material to build up sedge islands in the bay.
The dredging question has been one of the biggest issues for the town to figure out, he said at the township council meeting March 28, where he announced a resolution supporting his plan.
“Nobody’s been able to figure out a way of doing this,” the mayor said. Taking lessons from Superstorm Sandy, he continued, officials recognize ways to mitigate and reduce the type of flood damage Sandy caused, and to use dredge material from areas critically in need of dredging to build berms. And, if built correctly, he added, the berms would protect and enhance existing ecosystems in the bay and re-establish wildlife habitats that have been lost.
Spodofora’s vision is to inspire unified legislation among waterfront communities along the entire coastline. He has already met with mayors of surrounding towns, congressmen and area scientists, he said.
The council approved the resolution, which supports legislative action requesting New Jersey and the federal government to perform a comprehensive study of potential mitigation to reduce major impacts of storms that cause major damage to life and property surrounding Barnegat Bay.
“We’re never going to stop the flood,” Spodofora said. “We’re not going to build a wall across the ocean.”
However, he explained, what can be controlled is wave run-up, which is when a wave hits the beach and runs up onto the land and hits homes and properties. Controlling the waves by reducing the fetch, or distance waves travel over water, by interrupting the wave’s path with berms, which act like speed bumps, reduces flooding impact.
The resolution is the first step in the direction coastal communities need to go, Spodofora said.
He believes his methodology will fix the issues others have tried and failed to fix before, he said. Of the scientists he’s consulted, “I haven’t had anybody tell me this will not work.”
There’s grant money available for such a study, he said, and Stafford will go after it.
“With a little bit of work and a lot of luck, I hope we can get these berms built, and reduce the impact of waves hitting our shoreline and eroding our salt marshes, and protect our shoreline communities more than they’ve ever been protected before,” Spodofora said.
Councilman Alan Smith vouched for the mayor as a champion of the cause. Daily he’s in his office working the numbers, looking at the engineering, coordinating people and scheduling meetings to get his plan heard, Smith said.
In other news, Township Administrator James Moran announced the 2017 municipal budget with a total general fund of $45.7 million. The portion to be raised by taxes is $35.1 million. The town will hold a public hearing on April 25. In the meantime, budget workshops will be held and line-item changes may occur.
During council reports, Councilwoman Sharon McKenna announced a resource for those in need of guidance: Ocean Community Church offers the services of a licensed clinical social worker for five hours each Wednesday. She will take hour-long appointments (on a sliding payment scale of $0 to $25) to help those in need to navigate the social services system. Call 609-597-5151. Other faith-based organizations will share the talents of this social worker, too, McKenna added.
In his updates, Moran said the East Road project is expected to begin next spring, 2018. The East Road intersection is the “worst in town,” he said, and officials have spent 15 years fighting with the state Department of Transportation to get improvements made there. Stafford has signed one contract with the state to move a water line, and another with Atlantic City Electric to move utility poles. The project will go out to bid in late 2017, with the award in early 2018 and, hopefully, a spring start.
Speaking of dangerous intersections, after three years of working on it, Route 72 and Barnacle Drive will soon see a “right in, right out only” turning lane configuration that will hopefully reduce the number of deadly crashes there. The DOT permit for that project arrived at town hall last week.
During public comment, Galley Avenue resident Joe Mazzola asked about absentee Councilman Steve Jeffries and suggested once more for the record that Jeffries donate his salary to a worthy cause in the town. Mazzola, as a volunteer, said he does more in one day for no pay than Jeffries does for the council all year and earns a salary. Technically, Jeffries’ absence from council meetings is excused while he is in South Dakota on business, so the town has no recourse. But Mazzola said it’s not fair to the residents or to the council, and the council agreed.
The majority of the remaining hour of the meeting was dominated by a rehashing of the community center saga as it concerns the frustration and disappointment felt by residents of Beach Haven West.
Detailing the dwindling scope and hope of a Mill Creek facility, with cost estimates all over the board, Beach Haven West resident Frances Kosa said, “We got to this point partly because of misinformation or lack of communication. The message has changed several times, almost always to the surprise of Beach Haven West civic association members, who thought they were working with the town.”
She spoke of strained relationships and the shock and insult of hearing the mayor say “the people of Beach Haven West think they’re special.” Moran later said the atmosphere of entitlement had been created by some residents’ insistence that Beach Haven West pays the majority of taxes in town, which just is not true. It’s about 23 percent.
Sectionalism in Stafford is unacceptable, she said. As a result, Beach Haven Westers are being targeted as complainers.
Kosa accused Dave Taylor of having had no right to say “we all went through Sandy together.”
“Unless you own property in Beach Haven West, and you shoveled mud, removed flood-soaked insulation, had to live in temporary (structures), then you can say we went through it together,” she said. Taylor said he does own property in Beach Haven West, and on Bay Avenue, in addition to his residence in Ocean Acres.
Town officials have repeatedly promised a community center on Mill Creek, Kosa said.
“We trusted you,” Beach Haven West Civic Association President Dawn Papatheodorou admonished the council. “Now you’re taking the last thing away from us. It’s like you put a stake in our heart. That’s what it is, Mr Mayor. That’s how I feel.”
Spodofora, in defense of the governing body, explained that the planning and design of the community center or pavilion on Mill Creek Road has evolved over time as events, ideas and opinions changed. For one thing, the opportunity to purchase the Pine Street building at a bargain price changed the direction and outcome of the plans.
Ultimately, Mill Creek was never the ideal location for a community center to serve the whole town. Currently, no one is saying that nothing will get built there – they’re just not sure what. “We’re having discussions,” Spodofora said. “My job is to look out for the taxpayer’s dollar.” For now, a needs assessment is the most prudent use of time and resources, council members said. In the meantime, it’s too much money to gamble on a project that might not make the best sense, economically. Something will be built there, maybe a boat ramp, public restrooms – something practical.
“When we look at things, we look at the entire town, 47 square miles,” the mayor reminded the public.
Source: The SandPaper.Net