Squire Street Residents Not Only Ones Seeking Help
In Monroe, 12 homes that were damaged by the same storm that devastated Squire Street were purchased through the township's Open Space Trust Fund.
While residents on Squire Street wait for word on whether or not Middlesex County will purchase their flood-damaged homes through the Green Acres Program, for others the wait is over.
According to a story to be released on Monday in the Monroe Township News, Monroe Township used money from its Open Space Trust fund to buy 12 homes that were damaged during Hurricane Irene. The township has since requested reimbursment from FEMA.
The Monroe News is a publication written and published by Monroe Township.
“We wanted to help these residents as quickly as possible, and after weighing our options we looked into using Open Space funds to purchase homes that were deemed unsafe, but only to those who were willing,” Monroe Business Administrator Wayne Hamilton told Monroe News. “The Township purchased 12 of the homes and the homes will soon be razed. We will work to prevent damage of this kind from happening again.”
The homes were damaged during the same storm that flooded nearly 10 homes on Squire Street. Hours after Hurricane Irene hit the area in August, a storm surge came in and water from the nearby Matchaponix flooded the first floors and basements of nearly every house on the small dead-end street. Homes were ruined, possessions were destroyed, and porches, sheds, and businesses in the area were devastated. It was the same water that destroyed the homes in Monroe, which were flooded by the Matchaponix as well as the Manalapan brook.
However, in East Brunswick, when residents visited the council in the fall to ask them to purchase their homes and then make an application to the Department of Environmental Protection Blue Acres program to be reimbursed, they were told that would not be enough votes and the proposal was never introduced in a formal council meeting.
At the time, then Council President Camille Ferraro said the impact of buying the homes would be $15 per taxpayer per year for the life of the bond, which could be 20 years. In April, residents approached the Middlesex County Board of Chosen Freeholders to ask if the county would purchase their property as part of a Green Acres/Open space buyout. Last week, Stacey Bersani said the request was still being considered.
“Monroe was the first and to my knowledge is still the only municipality that used its Open Space Trust Fund for flood relief,” Monroe Mayor Richard Pucci said. “We knew something had to be done, and we worked with our attorneys and engineers to expedite the process, so we could get relief to our residents as quickly as possible.”
The town does not have specific plans for the parcels, except to remove the houses, grade the property and plant grass seed and keep the areas undeveloped.