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Long Beach approves $28 million for infrastructure, Sandy rebuilding projects

The Long Beach City Council has approved a pair of funding measures worth $28 million to improve city infrastructure, increase flood protection and rebuild sites damaged or destroyed by superstorm Sandy.

City Council members approved an $8.4 million bond Tuesday night for 25 infrastructure and flood control projects including road repairs, beach improvements, renovations to City Hall and equipment purchases. The bond will be added to the city's capital improvement budget and is expected to be repaid over the next 16 to 20 years.

A separate $20 million revenue note was approved, to be used specifically for Sandy-related projects and be repaid in the next year. The city expects the projects to be fully funded through storm recovery funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, City Manager Jack Schnirman said.

The revenue note is part of a $200 million storm recovery plan to rebuild the city through FEMA dollars.

Funding for Sandy projects can only by reimbursed by FEMA once work is completed or there is a proof of payment. The revenue note is expected to fund a dune-walkover project, beach construction and repair, water treatment plant improvements, and repairs to playgrounds and the city garage damaged by floodwaters.

"Long Beach has been asked to lay out a lot of money. We've held off on projects that were not as big of a priority," City Public Works Commissioner Jim LaCarrubba said. "These projects are all in the hopper. There's just only so much money the city can lay out on its own."

Long Beach has about $100 million in post-Sandy projects planned or underway. The city took out a revenue note last year for $33 million, with $15 million paid back so far. The remaining $18 million due next month will be paid with FEMA money or the reissued revenue note, City Comptroller Kristie Hansen-Hightower said.

The $8.4 million bond was approved under the city's capital improvements plan and budget in May. It follows a $7 million bond borrowed last year. The city saved $350,000 in interest from a new positive outlook given this year by Moody's credit rating agency, Hansen-Hightower said.

Among the capital improvements scheduled are $3.5 million in road reconstruction on Neptune Boulevard, Park Avenue and other streets. The budget includes $1.2 million in sewer improvements and $750,000 in equipment purchases.

The city for three straight years has approved funding for capital projects, Schnirman said. The city's total debt burden is at $59 million spanning several years. The city is operating on a balanced budget and pays back about 8 percent of its budget toward the debt, amounting to about $5 million to $6 million annually, Hansen-Hightower said.

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