North Brunswick Municipal Building closed due to flood damage

PHOTO COURTESY OF SOUTH BRUNSWICK POLICE DEPARTMENT
Mark Cafferty called Tropical Storm Ida another “storm of the century.”
But how many “storms of the century” have their been recently, he asked rhetorically.
He mentioned Hurricane Irene, which dropped 7 inches of rain in just a few hours in August 2011; Winter Storm Jonas in 2017; and then there was Superstorm Sandy in 2012.

 

“These weather events do come along and we do have to pay attention to the weather and we do have to be aware,” Cafferty, North Brunswick’s director of the Office of Emergency Management, said during the township’s morning briefing on Sept. 8.

The municipal complex at 710 Hermann Road sustained extensive damage on Sept. 1 due to Ida.
Mayor Francis “Mac” Womack explained “that flooding not only caused the kind of problems you have in your homes – possibly mold, muck, mess – but it knocked out our electrical, it knocked out our boilers. It really has knocked out our ability to work from the municipal building.

“We were hit very hard by this storm,” he said.

On Sept. 2, professionals told township employees that they cannot work out of the municipal building “for a while” because of COVID and Ida and other weather problems, Womack said.

“We’re not going to be able to get what we need: the boards, the electrical equipment, the boilers,” Womack said. “We’re ready to start fixing them but that equipment is not coming in right away.”

For the time being, municipal operations will be moved in a taxpayer-friendly way so the public can interface, Womack said. He said computers will be up and running. He said the building itself is closed, but if a resident seeking assistance calls ahead, an employee will try to meet outside.

“We learned how to work from home over COVID so the township operations are going to be able to go forward without much interruption,” Womack said.

Since all township employees are working, he said he expects no interruption of essential services.

Residents can call the township’s main phone number at 732-247-0922 for any questions or assistance.
“The township’s emergency 9-1-1 hotline as well as the main police department telephone number, 732-545-3200, will remain operational,” Police Chief Joe Battaglia said in the statement. On the evening of Sept. 1, the police department was evacuated due to flooding.
Cafferty said Battaglia made sure communications continued and residents received all of the services they expected.
He said the dispatchers stayed on board until the last minute.

Natural gas was escaping because systems were compromised from the water.

“There were some risky moments there that our employees of North Brunswick stayed in that building and did what they do to protect the community and the residents of North Brunswick,” Cafferty said.

Cafferty recalled being with his staff on the evening of Sept. 1 in their basement office. He said the weather report called for 3-6 inches of rain.

“We never knew anything was going to change from what it was,” he said.

The weight of the water broke open two doors in the basement “and in came the floodwaters, and in a matter of minutes we literally had to leave our operation center and exit the building and take other steps to make sure the building was safe. There were many changes that needed to be made,” Cafferty said.

 

“It was quite a serious event for those of you who may not have experienced it as some of our other neighbors, friends and relatives had,” said Cafferty, giving condolences to anyone who lost someone during the storm. “It was a storm that nobody could have imagined would have ended as it did.”

The cleanup process is underway at the municipal building.

“The good news is that everybody has gotten through it and everybody is safe,” Cafferty said.

Regarding residential concerns, Womack advised residents that “our Department of Public Works (DPW) is operating as normal, and will provide special pickup services of bulk items that residents have discarded because of water damage. DPW staff will tour the township throughout the week to see where pickups are needed.

“Hats off to those guys for really putting in the extra effort,” he said.

While the municipal building is closed, pre-existing COVID protocols will remain in place. Residents and businesses are encouraged to use the drop boxes in the municipal parking lot for correspondence and tax and water payments.

The North Brunswick Food Bank has been temporarily moved to the Our Lady of Peace Parish Center, 1740 Route 130. For updates, visit https://northbrunswicknj.gov/north-brunswick-food-bank-update/

The North Brunswick and South Brunswick offices of Emergency Management are working with Middlesex County Emergency Management and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to assess local damage from Ida.

The federal declaration covers any storm damage that took place during Tropical Storm Ida between Sept. 1 and 2. This relief is not just for residents who reported the damage on the day of the storm but anyone who may have experienced storm damage.

Under the latest declaration, residents and business owners who suffered losses in Bergen, Gloucester, Hunterdon, Middlesex, Passaic and Somerset counties will be able to request assistance at www.DisasterAssistance.gov or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362). The TTY number for the hearing or speech impaired is 1-800-462-7585 (TTY). Calls will be accepted seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Under the declaration, residents and business owners will be eligible for a series of federal programs, including low-cost loans for property losses not covered by insurance, and grants for temporary shelter and home repairs.

In addition, state and local governments and some nonprofit organizations in those same counties can receive federal funding for emergency work and repair or replace facilities damaged by the storms.

North Brunswick set up a Tropical Storm Ida Assistance Hotline for any questions about financial assistance from FEMA for damages related to the storm. The hotline number is 732-735-9232.

South Brunswick OEM Director and Police Chief Raymond Hayducka said, “We know of at least a dozen homeowners who called police headquarters to report flooded basements on Sept. 1. President (Joe) Biden has declared Middlesex County a disaster area that can make our residents eligible for federal assistance. I have directed Lt. Gene Rickle to be the point person for assisting residents in gaining information about the different programs available.

I am asking residents to email Lt. Rickle at erickle@sbpdnj.net to let us know of any storm damage to their homes or businesses as soon as possible. FEMA representatives will be in Middlesex County on Sept. 14 and we want them to evaluate any storm-damaged areas if possible,” Hayducka said in the statement.

He added, “I know many people have spent this Labor Day weekend cleaning up their homes. We will continue to work with our county, state and FEMA to get them assistance.”

Gov. Phil Murphy also announced preliminary details of a proposed plan to provide grants to New Jersey small businesses impacted by the severe weather. For more information, visit https://nj.gov/governor/news/news/562021/approved/20210903a.shtml

The New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) announced the Henri/Ida Business Assistance Grant Program. The $10.5 million program is designed to assist businesses and non-profits that have up to 50 full-time equivalent employees as reported on their last WR-30 form (Q2 2021) with the NJ Department of Labor and Workforce Development (DOL) and have a commercial location in the state that suffered physical damage as a result of tropical storms Henri and Ida with grants from $1,000 up to $5,000.

Of the $10.5 million available for the program, $10 million will be available for grants for businesses and non-profits impacted by Ida and $500,000 will be set aside for businesses and non-profits impacted by Henri.

The NJEDA has stressed to business owners and non-profit leaders the importance of thoroughly documenting all physical damage as they prepare to apply for assistance through this and any future programs, including taking clear photographs and saving receipts for repairs and associated materials.

Comprehensive information about the Henri/Ida Business Assistance Grant Program is available at www.njeda.com/henri-ida-relief/.

The NJEDA expects to launch an online application for the program at 9 a.m. Sept. 17 at www.njeda.com/henri-ida-relief/. Applications will be reviewed on a first come, first served basis.