Concerns Linger as Oceanport Prepares to Welcome Evacuees to Fort
Relocated students likely to be bused back to home districts. Where do you stand on the issue of Oceanport accepting hundreds of new residents?
The tiny borough of Oceanport, made up of about 6,000 residents, could add a few hundred more to its numbers this week. Plans are in motion to open Fort Monmouth housing to residents from towns in Monmouth and Ocean counties left homeless by Hurricane Sandy.
Many New Jersey residents pushed for the idea, calling it a "simple solution to an obvious problem."
However, some Oceanport residents are wondering how its schools, police and fire departments will handle the influx. Oceanport is already hosting students from Monmouth Beach at its lower elementary school.
In this storm ravaged town, many residents are gutting their homes and looking for temporary housing themselves. Streets are still crowded with debris and trucks move to and from devastated homes to a temporary dump at Blackberry Bay Park, where the National Guard stands by.
"We have many people displaced," said one resident, who declined to give her name. "Aren't there other towns that just lost some trees that can host people? We have so much to deal with in our town."
Oceanport Mayor Michael Mahon said his borough wants to be "a good neighbor" to surrounding towns and counties and hopes that his town will "be a safe haven for those people piecing their lives together."
At the same time he shares concerns about how his government and schools can serve both the permanent and temporary residents of Oceanport.
Sitting at the shelter Oceanport created for area residents at the Port au Peck Firehouse, Mahon told Patch that to do that, "We need support from higher levels of government to give [evacuees] the security and services that are something they would expect from where they are tax payers.
"How can those communities support their residents from afar?" he added.
State Assemblyman Declan O'Scanlon said Monday that tentative plans call for busing students who relocate to Fort Monmouth back to their home school districts.
He said he and state and local officials are in the process of working out how this would be paid for, including the use of local, state and federal funds.
"Everybody is going to have to pitch in so no single entity is crushed by it," he said, adding that some areas hit hard are facing an additional property tax burden because of lost ratables.
"There's lots to figure out," O'Scanlon said. "But people should be reassured we are aware of it," he said of the school issue. "We got it. We know it's an issue."
"These are families that have lost everything and we as a community need to welcome them," he said.
Mahon said he would make sure that displaced residents of Oceanport and Shore Regional's sending districts -- Monmouth Beach and Sea Bright -- would have an opportunity to relocate to the temporary housing at the fort so they could be close to their jobs and schools.
"We need to get our folks out of hotels," he said.
State and Oceanport officials are set to meet to discuss the details of the arrangement. The governor's office was closed Monday for Veterans Day and no representatives were available for comment.
Stay tuned to Patch for further developments.