Facts For Rumson Rebuild After Sandy
Some things you should know if you live in Rumson and need to rebuild and/or raise your home.
They circled the Forrestdale School parking lot in a swarm honing in on a spot, a step closer to solutions — Sandy-afflicted Rumson residents looking for answers.
Last week's stakeholder forum of Sandy survival was the sort of meeting the beleaguered and storm-embattled rebuilders been waiting for since the superstorm hit and rendered hundreds of homes in the borough’s low-lying areas uninhabitable.
This was the borough’s first post-Sandy forum featuring local, state and federal officials who may be able to help them.
It had been more than a month last Thursday when the frustrated capacity crowd poured into the meeting looking for answers and effective opening of lines of communication they saw as blocked by bureaucracy, many told Patch in emails and comments throughout the storm and after.
The meeting was typical of many town hall-style gatherings that have sprung up in several municipalities affected by Sandy. The superstorm-impacted were told where to go for resolving which issues. Yet, many still grumbled and walked away feeling like they were still fumbling through it all.
Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA), state Small Business Association (SBA) officials and local stakeholders, including Rumson’s construction official, sat on a panel, fielded questions that were filtered through borough engineers manned with microphones and emailed queries.
Residents did not announce names, but rather questions were asked in general.
After listening to the general questions and facts fielded, manned with books, pamphlets and fliers, and some new help sources, the Sandy-afflicted Rumson residents dispersed from from the Forrestdale cafeteria, in incremental dribs and drabs.
Their take-away: It's critical to know how to navigate insurance, FEMA, SBA and housing channels. And know precisely what sort of damage you’re dealing with in either remediating, raising or complete rebuilding and where to go for help. Assessing damage and getting to the right source of help for that type of damage is key.
The following are some facts to consider:
• Sea Bright Rising is committed to helping Rumson residents as well. And there are other "fill-in-the-gap" funding sources as well. Click here for a Rumson-culled list.
• Rumson resident Maryann Baret has volunteered to facilitate navigation of state, federal and volunteer programs and other modes of assistance.
To help people ”understand where the money train is headed," Baret said she "will try to find out for people where the money is going and how to fill in the gaps between what they can get from insurance and state and federal programs and charity, as Mary Pat Christie has pledged."
Baret is also working on an offshoot page on the Rumson Web site, a current work-in-progress dubbed Borough of Rumson Storm Recovery that will set up, in quadrants, guidelines to and through the funding chain.
The page is up and running and currently contains: FEMA and SBA information and links, post-Sandy borough tax assessment information and links, charitable organizations and telephone numbers. Click here for a direct link to the page.
• Will the building department grant permit fee waivers through Dec. 31 and beyond?
Yes, right now fees will be waived for raising homes and doing repairs through Dec. 31. The governing body will also likely approve a resolution to continue with that waiver for all Sandy-afflicted into the New Year or whenever homes are fixed. The waiver will not, however, cover home expansions.
• Where can people find desirable rental locations for temporary housing in the immediate area that is affordable with the money allocated by rental resources via the state? Lists provided in that price range cite places in either inner cities or undesirable unsafe places to bring a family, a resident called out.
State officials said that the Disaster Housing Task Force could be confronted with the problem and asked for additional help and rental assistance funds. Residents were not comforted by the answer.
Local Realtors, since Sandy, have pooled resources to shout out to area residents who may be wintering elsewhere and have empty homes they could make available for rental.
"If you have OR know of viable housing options, please email this volunteer group at email@example.com with whatever information you have," local Realtor Linda Gillespie said in a Patch announcement. "If you have direct access to a homeowner of a viable home, please forward that email address on to them and/or my cell phone number."
Residents were also told by state officials to call the Disaster Housing Task Force for expanded, updated lists. That, they said, was not an acceptable answer when they were in need of immediate relocation.
Some Rumson Sandy-related facts:
• Between Barley Point Island and the West Park section of Rumson alone, at least 200 homes adversely affected, some rendered uninhabitable, by this “vicious storm Sandy,” Rumson construction official Dennis Paris said. Throughout all of Rumson storm-related damage of some sort extended to more like 400 homes. Unsafe means uninhabitable, he added.
If more than 50 percent of a home, or at least 51 percent, is deemed unsafe, it is uninhabitable and determines whether the applicant qualifies for FEMA grants and/or SBA low interest loans.
• A total of 20 homes on Barley Point alone are completely ruined, essentially laying on the ground after having shifted completely off their foundations. “That was an easy call,” Paris noted.
• In order to qualify for FEMA and/or SBA assistance and insurance, you must have a letter from the borough by the end of the year saying your home was damaged and to what extent. And you must get to a FEMA Disaster Recovery Center by Dec. 31 to register.
• FEMA offers grants and SBA offers long-term, low-interst (1.6 percent) loans of up to $200,000 on a rebuild (meaning 51 percent or more of the value of the home has been wiped out post-storm) or up to $40,000 to replace personal appliances, depending on the extent of damage incurred.
• Loans from SBA for businesses, called Economic Injury Disaster Loans, in amounts of up to $2 million, depending, can be acquired at a 4 percent rate on a 30-year loan.
• West Park residents started a Facebook page, West Park Pride, to communicate with one another on storm-related help and frustrations.
• On Saturday, Dec. 15, from 9 a.m. to noon, St. George's By-The-River is hosting an open house for West Park residents to gather and swap Sandy stories and resource and rebuilding advice.
Things to consider:
• Was your home a "positive or negative structure" before Sandy?
• Is it worth it to raise the home, possibly sell and then not meet the new base height elevation (BHE) standards set in Rumson of building 13 feet above sea level in flood-prone areas and meet insurance criteria set by the borough’s standards?
• When rebuilding in a flood prone area, especially, Paris said, do not use foam insulation. In an emergency, it's much more difficult to remove and requires, rather than simple clearing of soggy material, chipping away at the foam.