Squire Street Residents to Seek State Help

Residents who saw their homes devastated by Hurricane Irene are turning to the Blue Acres program for help.

residents say they will apply for state funds to help deal with the fall out of Hurricane Irene, even if the Township Council decided not to help them.

The residents, whose homes remain largely uninhabitable after being flooded by Hurricane Irene in August, had asked the Township Council to purchase their homes, then make an application to the Department of Environmental Protection Blue Acres program to be reimbursed.

After being told no, the residents have decided to make the application on their own.

“The thing that we wanted them to do was buy the homes,” said Squire Street resident Susan Gomolka. “Because they could purchase the homes in two months, but with Blue Acres it could take a year or two...I don’t understand why East Brunswick won’t go through the bond act, then, go through the application as the land owner. Its all kind of strange.”

Blue Acres is a state program used to acquire land in the floodways of the Delaware, Passaic and Raritan rivers and their tributaries and other areas that are pone to flooding. Once purchased, those lands are used for recreation and conservation purposes.

Councilwoman Camille Ferraro said she was approached by Mayor David Stahl in October about possibly purchasing the homes and that at the time, Blue Acres was never mentioned. However, she said she would have been unable to promise a majority of "yes" votes for the proposal to pass. Compounding the problem, she said, is that Blue Acres money is not guaranteed and the impact on taxes would be too great and unfair to other residents.

“I felt for them and thought 'by all means we should be doing something,' ” she said. “But there are people paying taxes that are close to foreclosure, close to losing their jobs, and the government can’t be in a position of taking on charity. We have to be fair to everybody, as much as my heart went out for them.”

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.

Residents now only want to sell their homes, but find themselves in the position of having to invest in them just to survive the winter, or possibly ony to see them flood again next year. She said her home has been flooded in 1992, 2007, 2010, and 2011.

“I’m fixing up the house, but I’m fixing it up to the bare bones and hoping it will be knocked down,” said Gomolka. “I’m just going to put up any old furnace, If I was planning on keeping it, I would have gotten an oil furnace, and I’m not going to tile.”


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