A lengthy portion of the Seaside Park boardwalk that is still made of timber boards rather than Trex-style material would be replaced if the borough is successful in receiving a portion of $100 million set aside by the state in a “Boardwalk Preservation Fund.”
How to go about maintaining and replacing portions of the borough’s boardwalk has been a consistent discussion in recent years, however with inflation causing spikes in the cost of materials, a nagging labor shortage and concerns over property taxes, taking on the debt that could come with such a project has stymied officials. The $100 million fund, announced in August, was the result of bi-artisan legislation that taps various sources, including federal pandemic-era outlays under the “American Rescue Plan” and other similar appropriations. New Jersey has billions of dollars in such funds that have not yet been dedicated to specific projects.
Seaside Park’s pitch to Trenton would be to replace the entire section of the boardwalk from 5th Avenue to K Street. This section of boardwalk is made of timber rather than the gray Trex-style decking material that makes up the rest of the boardwalk. It starts approximately at the lifeguard headquarters in the northern portion of the borough and runs south for about 17 blocks.
Last week, the borough council approved a resolution appointing T&M Associates, an engineering firm, to design a new boardwalk reconstruction project, prepare permitting documents and promulgate a formal request for funds under the grant program. The contract may not exceed $197,300.
“T&M is going to perfect the concept plan,” said Mayor John Peterson.
The borough had already sought bids for the boardwalk reconstruction project, with T&M’s proposal having been submitted in June. The grant funding application portion was a late addition that carried a relatively minimal cost, which was added in response to the announcement of the state dollars being made available to municipalities with boardwalks. Regardless, some type of boardwalk maintenance project was likely to be required in the next year, some members of the borough council have said, since the materials are simply in need of replacement.
“We wanted to perfect this proposal, fine-tune it and have the borough eligible to be in the best position to receive a boardwalk grant,” said Peterson.
Seaside Park may, indeed, find itself in an advantageous position when it comes to receiving funding. Its boardwalk – and local streets – suffered far less damage during Superstorm Sandy as compared to other communities because of an extensive dune system that had already been in place, and the Trex-style decking proved its worth. Part of the grant application process, Peterson said, is proving a community’s “resiliency,” and having a positive track record of good results in boardwalk construction projects could earn the borough points in the rating system the state uses to determine how the funds are spent.
“You get points for resiliency,” he explained. “They favor the more long-lasting materials such as Trex.”
If the borough is unsuccessful in obtaining a grant to reconstruct the boardwalk, officials will be faced with an important decision this year in how to approach the project unaided. Between fluctuations in the cost of materials and labor, plus concerns over property taxes linked to the Central Regional school district, residents have debated whether a project should be completed all at once or in small stages, replacing the areas most in need.
“If we were unsuccessful or it was put off, my recommendation for budget discussions would be that we consider some fair and reasonable funding for some type of reconstruction project ourselves combined with maintenance,” said Peterson. “Those budget discussions usually start in November and go through December and January.”
The grant application is due Oct. 31. The state has not announced when it will determine which municipalities are being awarded grant funding, however a carve-out has already been appropriated for Atlantic City as part of a larger economic recovery program.