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Soft Sand and Red Tape: Brick Officials Deal With FEMA Follies

Reimbursement will come after arduous administrative process

The sandy situation presented to Brick officials was part-comical, part illustrative of notorious government "red tape."

If sand pushed onto public streets by Superstorm Sandy is moved from one place to another, it is considered debris that can be charged to a county contractor. But if the sand is simply pushed away from the street to clear a roadway, the township is responsible for paying for its removal and getting reimbursed by the federal government.

"Don't try to think of it logically," cautioned Business Administrator Scott Pezarras, during a township council meeting this week.

Council members questioned a $1.7 million bill for Sandy cleanup, asking Pezarras why the bill couldn't have been paid through the county's debris management contract.

The problem, Pezarras said, is that sand is debris - but only sometimes, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

"If you actually remove it, if it goes in a truck and goes to another location, that's debris removal," that is covered under the county contract, he said. "But it must be removed. If you're just pushing the sand, that's known as a 'category B' charge, not a 'category A' charge."

The bill in question had to do with clearing public streets where feet of sand had built up during the storm. The sand was pushed away to clear roadways and will eventually find itself back on the beach after being sifted.

While the money will still be reimbursed by FEMA to the tune of 75 percent, the township is required to lay the money out up front and process the payments.

So goes life as a public administrator in the wake of a natural disaster.

"FEMA views 'pushing' as an entirely separate category of work from 'picking things up,'" said Township Attorney Jean Cipriani, leading to chuckles from township residents who attended the meeting. "It's an entirely important distinction for them."

"The debris management company, AshBritt, only has a contract with the state for debris management, not pushing [debris]," Pezarras added.

Sand removal was required mainly in the township's barrier island neighborhoods, but also in some mainland areas, officials said.

Some streets remain covered in sand, which still has to be removed. Pezarras said the ultimate goal is to collect the sand, sift it and return it to the beach or the dunes. Though that work has already begun, a larger plan is in the works to finish the job.

The FEMA follies also extend to tree branch removal.

"Trees are considered debris, but if you're not removing the tree – if you're cutting it up and moving it to the side of the road – that's considered 'category B,'" said Pezarras. "If you're actually taking the material out, which we subsequently did, moving it to another site and chipping it there, that's considered 'category A,' debris removal."

"Wow," replied Council President John Ducey after Pezarras' explanation.

Pezarras has said the township expects to be reimbursed in full by the summer. An initial round of reimbursements for Brick was announced Tuesday.

can't say who December 20, 2012 at 11:22 AM
.It is not confusing at all. It is standard Federal Government reasoning. We all have grown up with all that tongue in cheek reasoning. God bless Scott for trying to make sense of it for us.
Betty Ann December 20, 2012 at 11:41 AM
Scott, you are so clear on this response. Can you please let us know if this the same effect on private roadways anywhere in Brick, albeit inland or barrier island? thanks.
A Resident December 20, 2012 at 01:33 PM
Let me see if I have this straight.... Brick wants to get paid to move the sand by township workers. Brick wants to get paid again for the same sand to later be removed by a contractor? And Brick has a problem with FEMA not reimbursing them twice for the same thing?
DennyD December 20, 2012 at 01:46 PM
While you are being so "clear" on this Scott, exactly what does Juan Bellu do for you to write his $150K per year?
tuna stick December 20, 2012 at 02:42 PM
The only "folly" is Brick officials not knowing what is category A or B. It's perfectly clear to anyone who would know how FEMA makes the distinction. Unless you are an elected official. Just more reactive, as opposed to proactive government.
Scott Pezarras December 20, 2012 at 04:18 PM
Resident Cat B is to push the debris and sand off the streets to allow access for emergency vehicles and utility companies to repair their infrastructure. Removal is taking the debris to its final destination. That is the distinction you are not paying for the same thing twice.
Scott Pezarras December 20, 2012 at 04:20 PM
Denny He runs the LAnd Use Dept. as I have said many, many times before on this site.
Donnlee December 20, 2012 at 06:02 PM
Actually the only folly is the inefficient federal government which is totally incapable of running large programs: you should see the "follies" individuals are having with FEMA and the National Flood Insurance Program...and these same ones will be/are running the National Health Program. At work have seen some of this stuff--yes a United States Preventive Services task Force ,and Advisory Committee on Immunisation Practices, and Health Resources and Services Administration---back in the USSR!
A Resident December 20, 2012 at 06:56 PM
Apparently Scott, FEMA (and I) see it differently. You are moving sand from point A to point B and wish to be paid for that. You are moving same sand from point B to point C and wish to be paid again for that. So you want to be paid twice to move the same sand. Good Luck.
WMS826 December 20, 2012 at 07:16 PM
Please explain what the land use dept is..what they do daily and what they have done in the past. We are or were about 95 percent built up, that is why you merged the building code dept. The land is already being used...could you guys not have come up with a better or more creative line for us. What is being done to re-vitalize areas such as old strip malls. What can be done for better code enforcement and a hardline approach to messy yards, and structures along with rental properties.
clamdigger December 20, 2012 at 07:17 PM
Well the good news is that tomorrow is the date we've all been waiting for...12-21-12...The End of the World, so all these rules and regulations will be pretty much meaningless. Now if the Mayan's were wrong, it's nice to know someone can make heads or tails out a the legal mumbo jumbo and that we can look forward to more words of wisdom out of our Council Pres like "WOW". I'm so glad Ducey is sitting up there,it makes me feel so much safer, it almost makes me wish the Mayan's were going to be right.
clamdigger December 20, 2012 at 07:33 PM
what does this have to do w/ FEMA guidelines? Let it go for now and focus on the crap at hand the Twp is dealing with and getting some of the money back that was spent cleaning up.
Typical Obama Voter December 20, 2012 at 08:38 PM
I was told by a department employee that Scott McFadden and Birdsall Engineering run the Building and Land Use department.
shorecorruption December 20, 2012 at 10:10 PM
If town employees moved it they are on the town payroll yes! Tell FEMA they were bailing out the Mantoloken bridge,not clearing sand from the roadway.
Scott Pezarras December 21, 2012 at 06:28 PM
Resident FEMA and I see it dirfferently from you we already got the project worksheet approve by the committee, and our FEMA Public Assistance Officer. No luck needed.Thanks for your concern.
DennyD December 22, 2012 at 08:12 PM
So EXACTLY what does he do?? You write the checks, no? What great feat did he perform last year to get a $50K salary boost? I'm calling you out on this one? Who decided that a $100K salary should be jumped to $150K in this lousy economy. Will you answer that or should I?


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