Seaside Heights officials will receive a significant amount of state funding for a number of projects, in addition to so-called “adjustment aid” that will maintain essential services as the borough continues to operate with a reduced ratable base stemming from the impact of Superstorm Sandy nearly a decade ago.
Seaside Heights is one of the few local communities that receives adjustment aid, a source of state funding generally utilized by urban communities suffering from blighted tax bases and, often, governmental dysfunction. In the case of Seaside Heights, the funding is being utilized to bridge the gap between the amount of revenue required to maintain public services – the cost of which propels wildly upward during the summer months – as the tax base slowly-but-surely recovers from the storm and the 2013 boardwalk fire that followed.
“The governor called me last week and said he had good news,” said Mayor Anthony Vaz, explaining that a cut in funding that would normally have been assessed this year would not be applied as steeply as prescribed.
Seaside Heights will receive $750,000 in adjustment aid, but will also receive a special, one-time influx of $2.9 million for several improvement projects aimed at strengthening the tax base and beautifying the community as it focuses on redevelopment efforts.
“The governor has been very good to Seaside Heights,” said Vaz, a Republican, of Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy.
The $2.9 million in extra state funding will go to three projects: the purchase of a derelict motel that is sandwiched in between residential homes on Franklin Avenue – a story Shorebeat covered last week – plus boardwalk infrastructure maintenance and an ambitious improvement project along Central Avenue.
It is expected that $1.1 million will go toward the purchase of the property at 229 Franklin Avenue, after which it will be sold to a private party who will be required to comply with a redevelopment plan for the lot that fits into the character of the neighborhood.
Another $500,000 will go toward the purchase of timber to maintain the boardwalk. While the boardwalk was replaced after Superstorm Sandy, the age of the replacement lumber is now approaching a decade old, with some sections requiring replacement. Additionally, the vehicular access point at Grant Avenue is in need of replacement.
“We had a new boardwalk in 2013, but some portions have to be replaced every year,” said Vaz. “One section of the boardwalk costs about $900,000 these days. That’s a lot of money for the taxpayers.”
The most visible project will be a Central Avenue improvement plan – a proposal for which borough officials have long sought funding. The avenue is expected to be improved with tangible features such as bicycle lanes as well as aesthetic improvements that will greet visitors as they enter the town from the north. The beautification will also be occurring in an area of town where there has been significant investment in recent years, with numerous old motels being razed in favor of modern condominiums and townhomes.
Adding bike lanes to Central Avenue would connect Ortley Beach and Lavallette to Seaside Heights via the new bike lanes on Route 35. Seaside Park also has bike lanes, officials have said.
Though it remains in the planning stage, Seaside Heights’ proposal for Central Avenue includes:
- Creating new and improve existing crosswalks in east/west direction.
- New pedestrian signage at every intersection.
- Enhance parking barricades as pedestrian refuge islands.
- Reposition street signage so all signs are visible and readable.
- Create a dedicated bike lane in north/south direction. This would connect the bike lanes between Seaside Park and Ortley Beach.
- Increase the number of street trees and improve existing street tree pits.
- Replace lighting and banner poles.
- Reconfigure intersection with Bay Terrace and Porter Ave to remove wasteful street layout and create parking.
About $1.25 million will go toward the Central Avenue effort, and additional improvements may be available for the Boulevard.