Margaret Kluin sat in the wiping tears from her eyes as residents discussed the much-anticipated Hurricane Irene before the township committee.
For 11 years the Kluins have lived on Lake Barnegat Drive North, where the Easy Street retention basin fails and floods their home three to four times a year.
“Each time we have a significant rainfall we wind up with flooding and sewage water on our property…The water has nowhere to go,” Kevin Kluin said.
The retention basin was constructed years ago to improve drainage issues the area would have during heavy rains, Kevin said. But the pipe is only 10 inches wide when the standard is 18 inches.
The flooding goes right up to the front step and foundation of the Kluins home. There has been times when their house was 3 feet below water and it reached their electrical panel, Kevin said.
“I’m worried about implosion of the house due to water seeping through,” he said.
When it floods, the family has to call the and to block off the street and pump water away from the property, he said.
The flooding causes a safety hazard because traffic attempts to drive through the buildup, Margaret said. The vehicles then stall and have to be towed because they get water in their engines, she said.
The township recently was awarded a $250,000 grant for road improvements to the area but by a vote of three to five, the committee decided to overlook the drainage issues and cover 5,525 feet of paving at $291,015.
“If there is any flooding, property, or personal injury as a result of flooding from the inadequate drainage of the sewer, the township will be held accountable. This has been going on for too long, and we don’t think it can be ignored anymore,” Kevin said.
Looking past her anxiety, Margaret cracked a joke as she pointed out a picture of her home under water.
“Contrary to that picture, we are not a riverfront property,” she said
The Kluins are unable to go on vacation over eight hours from home for fear they would be unable to prepare if a storm hits the area, Margaret said.
“When the water does recedes, it takes my lawn with it, it takes my seeds, it takes the mulch around my trees, it takes everything off the lawn. It leaves behind bacteria, garbage, waste, deceased rodents,” Margaret said. “It has really been an ongoing problem and I’m very, very disappointed in the fact that we are not considered in the roadway phase.”
Two other residents from the area echoed the Kluins' feelings, noting safety hazards and other related problems. Residents no longer bother with landscaping because it is destroyed when the water recedes.
Gary Smith has lived on Lake Barnegat Drive North for 19 years.
“I understand when we have heavy storms, things like this can occur. But I just feel this should have been addressed a long time ago,” he said. “I don’t want to see the township put the cart before the horse. I would like to see the drainage problem addressed first before the paving.”
With only three committee members at the meeting, the governing body was unable to make a motion to move forward with the drainage project.
But Committeeman David Most pushed to pursue the complete project, as simply paving the road would be putting a band-aid on the problem. Addressing the drainage issue will cost the township more down the road, he said.
“I understand where our responsibility lies. I understand that protecting our assets as well as protecting some of your assets,” Most said. “Though these times are tough, this is the only project we’re doing this year. When we do a project, it makes sense to do it in its entirety.”
But Committeeman Sean Sharkey showed concerns over finances.
“I’m very disappointed the government didn’t take care of this 10 years ago…Today this government does not have two dimes to rub together. This project right here represents the absolute failure of this government to do something when we had the opportunity to do it. Now we’re broke,” he said.
Sharkey asked Township Administrator Veronica Laureigh to exhaust all resources and look into any possible grants that could be used towards such a project.
“To sit here and say that it’s been kicked down the road for this long and it shouldn’t be approved if we’re not going to get grant money, I don’t think that’s really an option. I think these people have lived long enough like this. They need this fixed,” Jerry Conaty of Lanoka Harbor said.
The township already appropriated $390,000 toward the Lake Barnegat Drive North Project, which will cover the paving of Lake Barnegat Drive North and Musket Road as well as Musket to around Continental Court.
“The township has no money and you’re talking about spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to pave a road. That’s not important. It’s like going out and buying a horse when you need food for the table,” Louis Riley of Lanoka Harbor said.
The committee can chose to fix the drainage problem now but it would not be covered under the grant and they would have to issue a bond ordinance, Township Administrator Veronica Laureigh said. The cost of improving the retention basin would be over $107,000.
The township committee will revisit the project at the Sept. 8 meeting.