Frustration over the pace of storm recovery boiled over in Toms River when Ortley Beach residents converged on the town council meeting.

A crowded Toms River Council Meeting (Photo by Tom Mongelli Townsquare Media)
A crowded Toms River Council Meeting (Photo by Tom Mongelli Townsquare Media)

The residents last night came to personally express their ire about Mayor Tom Keleher's recent comments to a Bloomberg News Reporter saying that he's fed up over the criticism by Ortley Beach residents about the township's recovery efforts. Keleher posted a full explaination about his comments on the township's website.

Keleher said they've taken the brunt of unfair and unwarranted insults. He says some residents are angry over the township's efforts to get one of the community's public beaches open as their homes remain in ruins.

"Real estate people have called me repeatedly to ask if there's going to be a beach available and we've tried to do that, but when someone calls you stupid and everything else for trying to do that, it's a contradiction and it's not even fair to their fellow citizens."

oms River Mayor Tom Keleher & Charts (Photo by Tom Mongelli Townsquare Media)
oms River Mayor Tom Keleher & Charts (Photo by Tom Mongelli Townsquare Media)

During the meeting, the owner of the Star Light Motel in Ortley Beach called for billing the town because other beaches remain closed.

"My manager called the town and asked if the beach could be used and she was told yes. I had a couple check in today, went up to the beach and they were thrown off the beach, they couldn't use it and they checked out. They had booked for three days. Therefore I think the town should pay me the $210."

Keleher says he understands the frustration, but saying the township is doing nothing is untrue.

"They get more attention than a lot of the other places in the town because we have 4,000 homes on the mainland side that were damaged," Kelaher explained.

However, township officials could give no assurances that another named storm won't cause the same devastation as Sandy this hurricane season. Council President George Whitman says they're working on a number of mitigation and beach replenishment projects, but without easements, their hands are tied when it comes to private property.

"The township can not build a dune across private property and to just put it across township property is not going to be sufficient," Whitman said.

"I can't stand on the beach and hold my hands up," Keleher responded. "We did the best we could with Ortley Beach and we can't go on these other people's properties. They delay at their own peril."

Another Ortley Beach resident asserts that the lack of signed beach easements are not to blame for the devastation on the barrier island community.

"Until they accept the fact that they've ignored any kind of beach maintenance over there for probably the last 20 to 25 years and until they stop dancing around that, you're going to get a lot of people who are very upset."

Ironically, council members did approve contracts for repairs to sewer lines, sand replacement and a first aid station reconstruction project last night. They also recognized hurricane volunteers and public employees, who went above and beyond the call of duty.

Toms River list the details of its Ortley Beach recovery efforts on its township website.

News Bureau Chief Tom Mongelli contributed to this story.

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