Township officials are hopeful that the town's barrier island re-entry plan may move into its third phase – where residents will be allowed to bring vehicles to their properties – in "days, not weeks."
Police Chief Nils R. Bergquist responded to questions posed by frustrated residents at a council meeting Tuesday afternoon. He expressed a desire to move as quickly as possible toward greater access, but stressed the fact that dangers still exist in the area.
"We're just trying to find a balance so we can cover as much during the daylight hours as we can," said Bergquist, explaining that between 20 and 30 sinkholes have been identified on side streets and more are being discovered.
"It's really a hazardous situation," he said, adding that each time he has driven down the one-lane-wide opening that currently makes up Route 35, he delays crews working to restore access.
"Imagine sending four to five hundred vehicles out there every day," said Bergquist. "We had to draw some rules and parameters so we could move forward."
But progress is being made, officials said.
According to Bergquist, the state Department of Transportation is moving heavy equipment from roadways and J.F. Kiely Construction is still working on the area's gas main. Despite that, officials are hoping to shorten the timeframe as to when residents will be able to bring personal vehicles to their homes.
"We expect that to be days, not weeks," said Bergquist.
Once the re-entry plan enters that phase, residents and contractors will be allowed access to the barrier island neighborhoods between dawn and dusk.
Barrier island homeowners, mostly year-round residents, expressed frustrations with the re-entry plan so far.
"I'm not looking to live there or go back next week, but I just want to clean up what I have," said Dean Janeway, a year-round Sunset Lane resident.
Janeway said he worked for three hours during the first re-entry opportunity and was only able to rip up a small portion of his soaked carpet.
"My losses are going to be two, three times what they would have been. I'm going to be battling with my insurance company already, and now this will be on top of it," he said. "Everything I own is in that house."