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Long Beach council to vote on recovery borrowing

Debris from superstorm Sandy sits in front of

Debris from superstorm Sandy sits in front of a home in Ocean Beach. (Feb. 7, 2013) Photo Credit: Ed Betz

The Long Beach City Council will vote tonight on whether to borrow $38 million in anticipation of superstorm Sandy payments from the federal government.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has agreed to reimburse 90 percent of the cost of Sandy repairs on Long Island, and the bill for hard-hit Long Beach is expected to exceed $200 million.

But Long Beach has to make payments on continuing and completed work, and needs to borrow to pay those bills, city officials said.

The council, at its meeting tonight, will consider whether to borrow $31.4 million in anticipation of FEMA payments and $6.6 million in anticipation of water and sewer fees, City Manager Jack Schnirman said.

The money will pay for street reconstruction, debris removal and repairs to facilities such as the Long Beach Ice Arena, City Hall and the Martin Luther King Jr. Center, Schnirman said.

The council also is scheduled to vote on whether to borrow $5.9 million to pay for capital projects throughout the city that are not related to Sandy, city officials said.

"Prior to the storm, the city had decaying infrastructure and what you see is an aggressive capital plan to improve the city's infrastructure as well as finance the city's robust recovery," Schnirman said.

Schnirman said the borrowing will not result in a tax increase because the city will be reimbursed within the year.

But Republicans in Long Beach swiftly criticized the Democratic-controlled city administration's plan to borrow money.

Jim Hennessy, a spokesman for the Long Beach Republican Party, called the borrowing "outrageous" and said too much debt could place a burden on residents.

John Bendo, president of the West End Neighbors Civic Association, said the $38 million price tag -- nearly half the size of the city's budget -- is daunting, but could be necessary.

"They need to come up with some cash to cover their bills," Bendo said.

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