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Lavallette Mayor: Time to Let Residents Return Home Permanently

Borough in surprisingly good shape after storm

It's been a month since Superstorm Sandy roared ashore in Lavallette.

But the streets have been cleared, the water is safe to drink, the electricity has been turned on and even the cable television service is back.

Just about the only thing missing in the small, barrier island borough is its residents – and Mayor Walter LaCicero wants that to change, quickly.

"Lavallette is one community that miraculously did not suffer the structural damage that occurred both to the north and to the south," LaCicero said in a letter mailed to Gov. Chris Christie Nov. 21.

By Thursday, LaCicero said he had not heard a formal response from Christie pertaining to repopulating his town, which has 1,884 year-round residents.

"I've gotten two texts from the office of the governor," said LaCicero. "They got the letter, they haven't forgotten about us, but I have not gotten a response yet."

Lavallette is unique in that it has its own electrical distribution system, water system and sanitary sewer system. It also has its own public works and police departments, as well as a borough school district for students in kindergarten through eighth grade.

The borough is ready to repopulate permanently, and LaCicero said he sees no reason why residents should be held up any longer.

"We're ready, we've had electric since Nov. 10," he said. "We never lost water, we never lost sewer. My cable TV is on, my Internet works."

Presently, residents are able to return to their homes during daylight hours on a staggered schedule.

The only service the borough does not have is natural gas, though service is expected to be restored within a few weeks, and in other areas such as Long Beach Island, those without gas service were issued space heaters to be used temporarily.

LaCicero, who attended a tour of the barrier island by state legislators and other officials Thursday, said he spoke with State Police officials who informed him of "a different route" that could lead to opening up the town.

"I'm optimistic that, rather quickly, we can have our people in," the mayor said.

JD November 30, 2012 at 11:24 AM
Wow... Good Job Lavallette.. Need to be careful with space heaters.
Donna Griffin November 30, 2012 at 11:48 AM
This is the best news I've heard this month! Hope you all get back home (with heat) for Christmas!!!
Opinionated November 30, 2012 at 11:54 AM
Please read the article about natural gas safety work in Mantoloking to Normandy Beach. You folks from Lavallette may have to wait for that first.
shorefriend November 30, 2012 at 03:03 PM
All of the people I know in Lavallette have a long way to go before they can move back in, they all had flooding and basically have to gut there homes. I don't think that any re-building has taken place yet. has anyone seen supply trucks arriving with building supplys for the rebuilding process or contractors doing actual repairs instead of just damage controll?
suz November 30, 2012 at 08:53 PM
How can Lavallette move back when they need to access that area from the north or south? By letting just one community back home one at a time is just asking for trouble...Thieves, looters, druggies, just to name a few that will also have access to other homes not yet occupied. Don't really think its a good idea.
Ajv December 01, 2012 at 12:23 AM
Are liquor stores open?
clyde December 01, 2012 at 02:09 AM
Lavallette is the only shore town with diesel backup generators. The police, fire, first aid, & dpw all have them. That's why they were able to get so much done. Kudos to the town for being prepared, and to all the dpw workers who have been busting their asses out there since before the storm hit.
Ajv December 01, 2012 at 02:22 AM
Any bars open?
1stcav December 01, 2012 at 02:50 AM
Ajv..yes but your flagged ! Because you keep repeating yourself and IT SEEMS YOU have been over served already...move on !
robert johnson December 01, 2012 at 02:53 AM
the public really has no idea what is going on. the mayor of lavallette illegally brought in two bus load of people the day before the election. most of the government assets were lost because no one drove the police and fire units off the island...you want real leadership...find michael mastronardy toms river twp police chief....the rest of the guys are nothing but political hacks..where was the governing body for lavallette and seaside park the first week of the storm..hiding! wish i was lying!!!!!!!!
Eric Birchler December 01, 2012 at 11:52 AM
Great job mayor, council & all borough workers. My office is 100% back up with water, sewer, electric, phone & Internet. We have heat through a temporary propane heating system. We are open to help get our clients back on track. I attribute this to fantastic leadership from within. You can't ague with the facts, no deaths or major injuries during the storm, first to get power back on the island, never lost water/sewer, cleaning rapidly occurring, friendly courtious police and an overall positive attitude toward rebuilding. Lavallette is an example other shore towns & government can learn from. Please keep in mind many of these people our homeless including my mother. Unfortunately my mother will not be able to return any time soon regardless of repopulation date. However, many others will which reduces the demand for temporary housing. Lavallette has many summer homes with minor or no damage which can be utilized for temporary housing. Repopulation is a good thing for Lavallette and surrounding towns. The roads are safe and populous is ready to rebuild. Let's turn the corner and begin the building. Every town needs ratables back to pay for this entire mess. Summer is not that far away which will drive our entire local economy. Proud to be a Lavalletion and proud of our town. Govenor please let them back. I'll buy you a burger at the Claw. You now you want one w an ice cold beer. I do!
Ajv December 01, 2012 at 12:22 PM
@1stcav I think your child like go butter your roll
Jack Wagon December 01, 2012 at 01:09 PM
Repopulation may be a good thing for Lavallette, but not for the rest of the barrier island. No offense Eric, but how can the rest of the barrier island trust that looting won't start when Lav. repopulates and the rest of the island doesn't have access to protect their property and personal belongings. I don't want people creeping around my house any more than they can already without me being there. Repopulation Lav. is only in the best interest of Lav. and not the entire barrier island. As usual, Toms River is to blame and will bring up the rear and drag their feet because of their lack of commitment to the part timers on the island and those part timers lack of voting power. The Mayor and council could care less as long as they can still collect taxes. The Mayor doesn't answer to the TR homeowners on the island because the homeowners on the barrier island are not really TR constituents like the rest of the barrier island towns whose mayors answer directly to the people who vote for them. Toms River is not only letting Toms River residents down, but also Lavallete residents with their horrendous response. There will be a reckoning when this is all over.
JD December 01, 2012 at 10:59 PM
Wow... Just found out Mark the Barber... Lavallette Barber passed away... He passed away just 5 days after Sandy. He was only 54... heartattack.. Wonder how many people passed away after Sandy due to stress, etc.. Probably getting all worked up not knowing and just seeing pictures of destruction caused the heartattack. He never got to see his home or business. Home and business sustained major damage from what I understand. I've gone there for 18 years... and will go back as Lavallette barber facebook says Nancy plans to rebuild.
cw1234 December 02, 2012 at 02:58 AM
I'm not sure they're the only town with them, and please tell me how well they work when under water.
suz December 02, 2012 at 04:03 PM
Jack wagon, I agree with you...I just don't understand why the officials from ALL the barrier cities can't and won't work together! There really needs to be some organization. You can not just "open" up one town without it effecting the dangers to the other towns around. It just won't work!!!
clyde December 03, 2012 at 01:40 AM
They won't work once they go underwater, but they never did.
cw1234 December 03, 2012 at 04:28 AM
Yes, I was trying to say that other places had them, however they went under water.
Eric Birchler December 03, 2012 at 10:26 AM
Jack/Suz While I differ in your opinion I respect it. I believe the quicker repopulation happens for whichever town comes first it is good for all. I 100% agree with your statement the towns should all work together to repopulate ASAP. I don't want you to think I care that Lavallette goes first. I would like to see entire island repopulated right now. Let people decide if their homes are safe to occupy with help from their contractor, architect, plumber, electrician.... If you can purchase, maintain and pay tax it should be your decision. I'm not a fan of government controls in general as I personally believe the private sector and homeowners can do a better job. However I also was on the island the day after the storm. I went on via boat and saw the destruction. Everyone has seen the pictures. The public safety issue is hard to argue and I agree with the governments actions in the beginning. The destroyed roads, homes in the middle of rt 35 in ortley, sand and boardwalk debris everywhere etc. Government needed to fix these infrastructure issues. It is a moth later and the change is dramatic. Roads are open, utilities back on and many people who had minor or no damage want to go back. Let them go regardless of town. Kudos to all who transformed the island in such a short time.
shorefriend December 03, 2012 at 06:35 PM
Eric, it’s good that Lavallette will lead the charge and definitely put pressure on Toms River to expedite the repair of the basic infrastructure. But overall I don't know how it's going to be feasible. No way to avoid from the North or South to and from Lavallette you must cross over the sections that are the “Warzone” uninhabitable. What about the lockout /curfew times coming on and off; how the heck is that going to work are people going to hide out in Lavallette trying to avoid the boot off the island? Either way it’s good to know that there is power available in Lavallette, let’s face it, the barrier island has so many towns on such a small stretch of land you almost can just run extension cords up and down the whole island!!!
Mark December 03, 2012 at 06:55 PM
Tom River Township's Mayor& Council is an excellent example of a dysfunctional, inept and incompetent governing body. The Governor should step in and appoint some business people to do what these zeros are obviously NOT DOING! * Why doesn't the Township have a mobile command center on the barrier island every single day to handle permits, tax appeals, answer general questions like what the process of succeeding from a dysfunctional government entity? Perhaps this command center can have toilet facilites that taxpayers can use! Has anyone see Ward 1 Councilwoman Maria Maruca and Township Mayor Kellerhar?
Irina December 03, 2012 at 07:14 PM
Keleher and Maruca are only arround for photo ops. Both need to be shown the door next election. I would hope the Patch would look into this....Why is Toms River charging for permits to restore power? Let's keep kicking the people while their down, DISGUSTING. TR is comparable to APK towing.
Donald Heresford December 04, 2012 at 05:18 PM
I live(d) in Lavallette: 1) I haven't seen the whole town; access is still fairly restricted but on my street (beach block) there was very little damage. This was largely due to the town's building code, that specified that all houses had to be built on pilings and elevated off the sand by 5-7 feet. The Lavallette Post Office serves areas outside the town and so people are used to referring to areas outside Lavallette as being in-town when they're not. I've no doubt some homeowners suffered great damage in-town but I haven't seen it myself. Mostly, it looks like it always did. 2. Toms River has been nothing but a huge PITA through this whole process: restricting access to Lavallette. Whereas the police in Lavallette understood that people hadn't seen their homes in three weeks when we finally got to go back, TR Police barked orders, made threats and were generally rude a-holes. I feel for TR island residents but I have to say I hate your town's administration and police. 3. I really doubt that people in Lavallette will want to look houses in Ortley but I'm sure the risk can be mitigated by restricting repopulation to year-round residents and keeping checkpoints/curfews in place. I want to go home. This storm has upturned my entire life, is hurting me financially and is costing the gov't money (being housed by FEMA now.) I'm sorry that TR and Seaside are run by incompetents but my town isn't. I've got electric, water, cable and will have gas by Friday. It's time!
shorefriend December 05, 2012 at 08:09 PM
Donald, do you mind if I run an extension cord from your house to mine in Ortley? LOL

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