Column as submitted by Toms River Mayor Thomas Kelaher:
I want to remind all Toms River residents that plans are currently underway for barrier island residents to get back into their homes as soon as feasibly possible.
I don't know that our residents fully understand the devastation that Hurricane Sandy has had on our beach community. Ortley Beach is known as Ground Zero. I think our residents need to mentally prepare themselves for what they'll see. Landmarks are not there anymore. Parking lots have had their asphalt ripped apart and literally thrown to the other side of the street. Houses have no staircases. Many homes were pulled from their foundation and are leaning on the dirt. Many homes are not structurally sound to even enter. Add to the fact that the roads are cluttered with enormous piles of debris, over 20 sinkholes and several dislodged homes are blocking the pathway to several roads.
We understand that other towns have allowed residents into their homes. We cannot comment on what other towns are doing, but we have been told, as per the NJ Department of Transportation, State Office of Emergency Management Officials and Public Safety personnel, that we are not allowed access until their assessments are completed. We need to abide by their orders for the safety of all residents. We have been blessed in the fact that there were not any fatalities or major injuries. I'm not going to overrule the DOT's safety procedure to appease outspoken individuals.
Arrangements are underway for a safe re-entry plan and residents will be updated on our township website the moment that information becomes available. You will be given ample notice and multiple opportunities to visit your homes, get belongings and winterize.
Thank you for your continued patience during this difficult time.
Due to Hurricane Sandy, the Toms River Township Council will be passing a resolution at its next public meeting that will authorize the extension of the grace period for the payment of real estate taxes through December 31, 2012.
This resolution will waive any late payment interest fees relating to the fourth-quarter 2012 real property taxes.
My house is damaged or non-existent. Do I still need to pay my taxes?
The Township is awaiting advice from the New Jersey Division of Taxation regarding real estate taxes for homes affected by the storm. These taxes are regulated by the State of New Jersey and not Toms River Township, and all local plans must be approved. Updates will be posted on the website.