By DON STINE
The landmark Asbury Park boardwalk will soon be partially replaced but not with a new fill and concrete design that was presented at the last City Council meeting.
City Engineer Joseph Cunha and two Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) representatives presented a new method to repair a large portion of the city’s iconic boardwalk damaged during Superstorm Sandy, which would probably be a first-of-its-kind project in the nation.
The project, which would run the boardwalk from Convention Hall south to First Avenue, calls for an “earthen type” base that would be capped with concrete and then recreate the boardwalk on top, much as it is today.
During the meeting FEMA representatives said the redesign was prompted by the recent boardwalk fire in Seaside Park.
Instead of pilings, fill material would be placed under the boardwalk topped by a concrete slab and capped off with southern pine laid on top in the same pattern that currently exists, according to Thomas McDermott, a FEMA mitigation specialist.
Proponents said that the new method would save the city save 40 percent in overall construction costs and because the substructure would be solid, it would increase the fire protection.
FEMA officials said that city emergency vehicles would be able to travel over the boards and it would be more accessible to large crowds.
But, earlier this week, City Manager Terry Reidy said it is highly unlikely such a project would proceed. He said he recently met with the city’s FEMA liaison and was told that any process to infill under the boardwalk would not receive federal funding,
“To change the design at this stage, we would not be eligible for reimbursement,” he said.
Reidy said the FEMA process is “very detailed, lengthy and vigorous” and one that documents damage and recommends the type of repairs to be made “in pretty specific terms.”
It is hoped that FEMA will reimburse the city for Sandy-related costs for a much as 90 percent or more, with Asbury Park estimated to get about $3 million.
“As it stands now, I don’t think Asbury Park should play Russian roulette with this kind of money. We have secured FEMA funding to repair the boardwalk and we need to go with that design,” he said.
Reidy that that other strengthening designs can be built into the boardwalk that will help prevent future damage.
Councilman John Moor said he has serious reservations about the new proposal and apprehension in adopting a method that has not been tried and tested.
“I just hate always being the guinea pig. I wish you could say, ‘Hey, John, 800 boardwalks have done this and it has this much of a success rate,’” he said.
The council will review the method over the next two weeks and may vote on the process at their next meeting on Oct. 15.