Surf City Undecided About Eliminating Proposed Pump Station for Ship Bottom Street Flooding

Feb 15, 2017

Surf City Borough Council has not decided if it is going to pass a resolution suggested by Ship Bottom for the elimination of a pump station along the corridors of Eighth and Ninth streets near the Route 72 Manahawkin Bay Bridge.

“We got a letter today asking us to pass a resolution that we don’t want it there,” Surf City Mayor Francis Hodgson stated at the council’s regular monthly meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 8. “Well, it’s Ship Bottom’s town, and they should decide what they want, as far as I’m concerned. However, I don’t want somebody coming back and saying, ‘You didn’t want the station, so live with the flow.’”

According to a resolution passed by Ship Bottom Council in December, the state Department of Transportation initially planned for the installation of a pump station as part of the Route 72 Bridges Project, to help alleviate flooding in the area. However, the resolution states, the DOT has now concluded that other proposed drainage improvements can provide a comparable level of relief from flooding without the installation and operation of a pump station.

Ship Bottom Mayor William Huelsnbeck told The SandPaper the pump station was proposed to alleviate flooding specifically near Eighth and Ninth streets.

“But when we get a major flood event, we have flooding all over town, especially by the Wawa and Central Avenue,” he said. “They’d be pumping an endless stream of water. It wouldn’t work.”

Huelsenbeck said there was some question as to who would be responsible for a $300,000 annual maintenance fee.

“I’d like to know what’s plan B? What’s the other option? Because it does affect us,” Hodgson stated at the meeting. “When Ninth Street gets flooded, you can’t get in and out of the place. So I would suggest – it’s up to you fellows, I don’t have a vote – to find out what plan B is before we do pass any resolution.”

“I mean, they proposed it because it has a function,” stated Councilman William Hodgson. “I’m sure it’s an ugly thing, but the state is the cheapest way of doing it, if there’s a way of doing it where it’s hidden,” he suggested.

“What else is going to work?” asked Councilman Peter Hartney. “There’s no pumping station there now. I think we need to get it straight and find out why they changed.”

“If we say we don’t want it and then it floods, they’ll say, ‘We told you,’” the mayor reiterated.

Councilman James Russell said he does not see how the DOT’s proposed drainage improvements would suffice.

“I can’t see it correcting anything,” he stated. “Water always runs downhill.”

“That’s what I want to know,” the mayor added. “Where are they going to pump it? If it’s flood rain and the tide’s low, yeah, you can pump it. But if it’s coming off from the bay, where the hell are you going to pump it?”

Russell noted that after resident complaints, a pump station was installed by the county at Ninth Street and the bay in Surf City within the past 10 years. It works well, unless the tide reaches the same height as the pump and causes the water to loop around.

“That’s one of the theories of pumping,” he stated.

“Ever bailed out a leaky boat?” the mayor asked.

In other meeting news, Walter Higgins was appointed as the borough’s part-time tax assessor. Surf City and Ship Bottom boroughs had shared Higgins’ services as part of an interlocal agreement, which was subsequently terminated after the first of this year.

“We spoke directly to Walter Higgins to see if he’d be interested in continuing work with the borough on a separate contract, and he was,” said Hodgson. “We’re thankful that he is because he’s very qualified and competent and knows the Island very well, especially Surf City.”

Hodgson noted surplus municipal equipment sold through has netted the borough approximately $24,391.

Hodgson also noted the Federal Communications Commission granted the police department’s request for a backup frequency. Also, the department is accepting applications for summer officers to walk the beaches and patrol parking. Applications can be picked up at the clerk’s office.

Hartney said the town has received at least one call a day in the past few weeks from people already interested in buying beach badges. He also noted federal funding has been secured for repairs to the beaches stemming from last year’s Winter Storm Jonas.

“The Army Corps is in the process of getting all their ducks in order and should, by October, be here to rebuild the beach from 12th to 25th streets,” Hartney said.

Hartney, also president of the Surf City Volunteer Fire Co. and EMS, said the company had a busy January with 39 calls, including a major fire on Division Street. The company answered a total of 515 calls in 2016, including 300 fire calls and 215 EMS calls.

Diane German, daughter of long-time resident Bob Giles who passed away last July, approached council for permission to host an annual American Heart Association charity walk in memory of her father at the Surf City Yacht Club in June. Giles was a former yacht club commodore and a local “firehouse philanthropist,” she noted. Although he suffered from many health issues, German said, most of them were cardiac related. The council members were pleased that German contacted them for their input. However, they said she did not need to ask for permission for a walk within borough limits.

Council also adopted an ordinance amendment pertaining to zoning, raising the maximum height of main buildings by a foot. An ordinance amendment requiring real estate agents to provide safe sidewalk access when using temporary open house directional signs was adopted as well.

— Kelley Anne Essinger

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