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Council Approves Creation of Disaster Recovery Ombudsman Position

Ordinance creating position wins full support of present council members

A disaster recovery ombudsman position created by the Toms River Township Council is hoped to help residents as they rebuild from Superstorm Sandy. 

"I'm pleased that we passed the ombudsman position today," said Council President George Wittmann after the ordinance establishing the position was unanimously approved Monday night. Only Councilman Al Manforti was absent and did not vote. 

"I think that will help us with our residents as they have questions," Wittmann said.

The appointee will serve as the public's liaison to state, federal and local government agencies as rebuilding continues, according to the ordinance creating the position, which was first introduced by the Township Council last month. 

The ombudsman — someone with the necessary construction and recovery experience, the council has said — is expected to work four weekdays, mostly after normal business hours and on Saturdays to make it easier for residents to have their questions addressed. As a part-time position, the ombudsman will work no more than 19-and-a-half hours each week.

"This one person is not going to answer every question but what they will do is get answers to questions they can't answer themselves. So they'll help to coordinate and wade through the documentation needed to help rebuild your home," Wittmann said. 

Business Administrator Paul Shives has said that compensation for the position likely will end up in the $30-40,000 range. The township is expected to fill the position sometime in March.

The ombudsman "has to be flexible," Shives said when the ordinance creating the position was introduced in late-January. "A lot of the time we see the ombudsman coming to you."

At some point the ombudsman may have office hours in Ortley, either in a trailer or at a township annex planned for the A&P complex, Shives said last month. According to the council, the shopping center is anticipated to open sometime in March. 

The position will be terminated once administrators feel it is no longer necessary, according to the ordinance. 

In another effort to help Sandy-stricken residents, the township hired a part-time temporary records assistant in December to help the clerk's office field requests for documents. 

Michael Capo February 13, 2013 at 12:54 PM
I would like to see this town go through a zero base budgeting process for the next fiscal year. I have a suspicion that the resulting savings would be astonishing (if they did it honestly).
Mike L February 13, 2013 at 02:36 PM
Michael C, it would be nice even if they worked with what they had, oh! that right, a very large percentage are actually paper shuffelers, ever go down town and thru the building and see how much talking and coffee clotches are going on during "work" hours. Yes, there are some that do work and they are carrying the do nothings. As far as you saying, zero base budgeting, well last years budget was held down by the CAP. But a week later the "good old boys" put thru a 20 million bond to cover what they needed and didn't get in the budget process. Just another way they said @$#@% to the Tax Payers, because when the bonds mature, who do think is going to pay for it? Toms River has no future with the good old boys.
Mike L February 13, 2013 at 02:39 PM
Dudley, read Charlote's statement. Not all as fortunate as you. When did they ever have a meeting that was in line for the Tax Payers of this Township.
Larry February 13, 2013 at 05:21 PM
And they keep winning by massive margins every year. So it looks like the majority of voters have no problem with this stuff.
Don Lombardi February 18, 2013 at 07:31 PM
The Council and Mayor should seek a multi-talented person (male or female) who will accept the Ombudsman position ... without compensation, for a one-year term. The official will have an office in the T.R. municipal complex, and one office assistant. They will need direct-line phones, computers with special email addresses, and be open for business on the same hours as other municipal emloyees. I would also recommend that these individuals be recently retired public servants, preferably on public pension systems and with current health insurance benefits. That being the case, they should be more agreeable to VOLUNTEERING.

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