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Squire Street Residents Await Word From County

Almost a year after Hurricane Irene destroyed their homes, some residents are still hopeful that someone will buy them out.

It’s been almost a year, and some of the residents of Squire Street are still waiting.

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. Several weeks later, the mold and mildew came, and with the summer heat some residents left to live with family and friends.

Underneath the destruction was an underlying feeling of defeat. Residents told the East Brunswick Patch that they didn’t want to rebuild, that if they could, they would sell their homes to the township, to the state, or to anyone else, so that they would not have to rebuild and wait for the flooding to come again.

The problem, residents say, is that last year’s flood wasn’t the first, and they feel like it won’t be the last.

“There’s no sense in going through what we went went through,” said Nancy Vonspreckelsen. “It’s gets pretty expensive and we’re just going to have to rip it all up again.”

Vonspreckelsen has lived in East Brunswick for 68 years and moved to Squire Street in 1971. Back then, she said, she didn’t need to have flood insurance. But times change, and ironically, it was last August that she was trying to get flood insurance. But then the hurricane hit.

"In 1971 I didn't have to have flood insurance because there wasn't a threat of it flooding. Water would come up a few feet in the back, but there was no real fear," she said in between sips of tea last week.

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. On Friday, Stacey Bersani said the request was still being considered.

In the fall, residents asked the Township Council to purchase their homes and then make an application to the Department of Environmental Protection Blue Acres program to be reimbursed. But they were unable to convince enough members of the Township Council to help. At the time, Councilwoman Camille Ferraro said she would have been unable to promise a majority of "yes" votes for the proposal to pass. She also said there was no guarantee that DEP money would come, and that the impact of buying the homes would be $15 per taxpayer per year for the life of the bond, which could be 20 years.

So while residents wait on a county answer, life goes on for some. Steve Farparan and Anna Wallace have left their home (it sits vacant next to Vonspreckelsen’s house) and Vonspreckelsen has poured close to $30,000 into her home. She has had to replace carpets, cabinets, and the electrical work and has had to pay to have black mold removed.

But she hasn’t gotten much farther than that. Even though most of her repairs were done before the holidays, the 75-year-old still feels some trepidation about completing the project.

 “I haven’t put everything back yet in the cabinets, I just haven't had the heart,” she said.

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