SEA BRIGHT: FEMA TAKING THE LONG VIEW

The long-term revitalization of the downtown is expected to be among the topics addressed by FEMA-organized teams. (Click to enlarge)

By WIL FULTON

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is about to make its presence known in a big way to Sea Bright, officials said Thursday night.

Through a Community Recovery Assistance program being launched in the storm-battered beachside borough, FEMA plans to inject trained professionals to help locals guide their own long-term recovery.

Two representatives from the program were present at Thursday night’s mayor and council workshop meeting – Linda Weber, a professional planner, and T.W. Theodore, Recovery Task Force Lead – to lay out some of their plans for Sea Bright’s recovery.

“The idea is that we want to help you in any way we can,” Weber said, “to help the community move closer and closer towards your recovery, to take some of the work off your table and put it onto ours.”

“Our goal is to help communities that were hardest hit recover with greater resilience, and to provide them with the capability for weathering similar events in the future,” Theodore said.

Theodore said the program offers a variety of services, including those as simple as providing mitigation specialists to help residents through the maze of options available for preparing for future disasters to technical assistance in economic development. The program can also link the town with “engineers and folks who can help with infrastructural problems,” he added.

“We try to tailor our work to the needs and interests of the community we are engaged with,” he said. “One of our mantras is that every recovery is unique, so there’s no cookie cutter approach we can bring to you.”

Theodore described his role as involvement a “full-development project”, with a group of six professionals and experts ranging from planners to mitigation experts to architects, on-hand in Sea Bright to work on long-term solutions to problems stemming from Sandy’s impact, ready to start working in the borough immediately.

The first step, he said, is to organize a small recovery committee, which will set goals and a timeline moving forward, and to find ways to involve key members of the community, including council members as well as unofficial leaders in the community.

“Elected officials, appointed officials, opinion leaders within the community that may not have formal position – the person that organizes groups or block parties, or a faith-based leader – whoever it is in your community that people respect or respond to, we’d like to bring them together under your leadership to help towards an effective recovery,” Theodore told the council.

Mayor Dina Long noted that the creation of subcommittees under the CRA program’s guidance would be an important step to gather all the “moving parts into one place” and help expedite the recovery process, including committees focusing on downtown revitalization, the beachfront, housing rehabilitation, public access, and traffic circulation.

The subcommittees would likely consist mainly of volunteers and would work with the FEMA team to make recommendations that would then be reported to the council and collected into a long-term recovery plan.

“We work on behalf of the community, and hope to leave you with a community that is looking forward to the next 100 years of it’s existence, based on the things you loved about the last 100 years here,” Theodore said.

Here’s a brochure about the program: FEMA Community Recovery Assistance