Freeholders Praise Cooperation, County Workers' Efforts During Storm

County offered support to local towns but "respected home rule," Vicari says

A storm like no one has ever seen at the Jersey Shore brought out the best in Ocean County's workforce, the Board of Freeholders said Wednesday during the board's meeting in Toms River.

Heaping praise on all the departments and the county's Office of Emergency Management, the freeholders said the county's preparation has helped as its towns begin the work to recover from Hurricane Sandy.

"We are all faced with an unprecedented challenge," said John C. Bartlett, deputy director of the board. "We have so much in front of us and it will not be easy."

"No one ever thought it was going to be this bad," Freeholder Joseph H. Vicari said. At the same time, he said, county officials did not overreact to what happened. "The county provided great leadership," he said, as the county Office of Emergency Management coordinated with the county's 33 municipalities and offered support to them.

At the same time, Vicari said, "we also respected home rule."

Vicari said the county's priority is to get people back into their homes as quickly as possible.

"We will not abandon the barrier islands," Vicari said.

Freeholder John P. Kelly praised both the sheriff's department and the engineering department and the County Board of Elections.

"They (the county's law enforcement and emergency management personnel) train 12 months a year every year" in dealing with emergencies, Kelly said. "We get asked why they train so much. This showed why."

The county OEM had to coordinate with 33 municipalities, plus all of the hospitals, schools and more, Kelly said. When there was a shelter to be opened, the county OEM was involved, he said.

"Mike Osborn was the chief and he is an outstanding leader," Kelly said.

Kelly also praised the engineering department, which has been going out and assessing damage, including the county engineer personally checking the structural integrity of the Mantoloking bridge in the wake of the new inlet created in the storm.

"We are one county family," Kelly said. "This event showed that."

The County Board of Elections superbly handled the difficult task of adjusting to meet the needs of displaced voters, Kelly said.

"Election law in a typical year is complicated," Kelly said, "but this year all the rules were amended to ensure all had the privilege to vote, especially those displaced by the storm."

County Administrator Carl Block said cooperation between the county and the county clerk's office helped things go smoothly, even as voters turned out in droves to vote by absentee ballot over the weekend at the county Administration Building.

"We had lines up and down the halls, up the stairs to the second floor, up to the third floor," Block said. "People from other departments volunteered to help." The Clerk's office moved to the administration building, then back to the courthouse for the election, all while maintaining service, Block said.

James Lacey, the liaison to the county's Roads Deparment, said the vast destruction caused by the storm surge that was felt well into the estuaries, including Kettle Creek, the Metedeconk River, Beaver Dam Creek and more was so extensive that it was like a disaster movie.

"This is going to be a long drawn-out healing process," Lacey said.

But with neighbors helping neighbors and working together, the county will come through, Kelly said.

"We are one county family," Kelly said. "This event showed that."

barbara November 08, 2012 at 08:31 PM
thanks to all those that helped. Hey Vicari, trying to get answers on the barrier island plan, especially ss hts, i am housing 3 homeless families, no answer at borough offices, called t.r.p.d. and sick of hearing "I don't know".
Mac November 09, 2012 at 01:45 AM
What a crock! The Ocean County Freeholders were unavailable until after the election so they didn't have to explain why the Ocean County Emergency Management leader was missing in action, not just this time around but for most of the past ten years. And he still is missing. However, on the plus side, the sheriff and freeholders being unavailable probably worked out for the best for everyone involved, willingly or not. Now, if they would just go away again, the recovery effort could continue without more unnecessary incidents.
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