There were homes that sustained damage to their roofs, cars that were towed, trees that were knocked down and sheds that were damaged. The majority of the town was left without power, but nobody was displaced from their homes, and Shamong Township overcame this devastating storm as a team.
“People came out and helped each other,” Committeeman Michael Di Croce said. “I thought that was pretty magnificent.”
At its meeting last week, the committee gave special kudos to the public works staff and the office of emergency management. The EMS and volunteer fire company were also out helping, doing anything from traffic control to moving trees. Even folks who are not regular volunteers were helping.
“We knocked on anyone’s door who could help us out for awhile,” Township Administrator Susan Onorato said. “People really stepped up to the plate.”
Obviously, with any disaster like this, there were a few residents who were up in arms in regard to how things were handled, but they seemed to be in the minority.
“I think the graces outweighed the criticisms, and overall we are making progress,” Onorato said.
So far the township has reported to the Federal Emergency Management Agency a total of just less than $28,400 in overtime cost for the removal of all debris.
The township did have to bring in an outside company to chip for one day to remove some of the brush and debris. The chipper now needs to be maintained as it went down several times throughout the long hours that it was worked each day.
“We’re going to send it out and have it repaired,” Onorato said.
The chainsaws also needed to be sent for sharpening and adjustments after the overuse during the days following the storm.
“Everything is just beaten up,” Onorato said.
As far as the financial relief, Onorato said she would be meeting with FEMA along with the township office of emergency management, public works and fire company staff to review what had been done and to seek approval on additional chipping and tree removal.
They are going through and doing a lot of tree trimming above the roads, focusing on branches that have been broken off and are now dangling, posing a threat of falling and hurting people or damaging wires.
“We don’t have the equipment for that; it requires a bucket truck. That’s why we went out and hired a third party for it,” Onorato said. “But we are eligible to receive some funds for that.”
However, upon further examination, FEMA will not be able to take care of anything for private property owners. The township is still trying to fight that to see if there is any way it can get some funds for those residents.
FEMA is denying the request because a state of emergency was not activated, and Shamong is falling a little short of the federal guidelines in terms of total losses.
“The minimum is $12 million, and the state of New Jersey is currently at $10 (million) and change,” Mayor Kenneth Long said.
However, towns such as Evesham have not even weighed in yet, so the numbers are projected to easily surpass the threshold.
“We will get money from FEMA,” Long said. “We just have to wait.”
There was also a resolution passed enabling a five-year contract with the Burlington County mutual aid and assistance agreement that is used in the aftermath of any disaster relief to cover a number of things from Homeland Security directive services to disaster control services. During the actual storm, communication became a problem as cell phone towers and Internet went down.
As a result of this, the committee discussed trying to enhance the Verizon Wireless connections in the town at their previous meeting.
“What we want from Verizon is the FiOS aspect,” Long said.
Onorato was still able to send messages through texts and email, but she ultimately turned to the Shamong news page on Facebook so she could reach the largest crowd.
The township was able to overcome multiple obstacles throughout this process, but it is not something it wants to experience again.
“Hopefully, we won’t ever have to relive this thing,” Onorato said.