WILDWOOD – Before his Independence Day stroll on the Wildwoods Boardwalk with Wildwood Mayor Peter Byron, Gov. Phil Murphy told of how he was going to repair it.
The governor, after participating in North Wildwood’s Fourth of July parade earlier that morning, met with a pool of reporters and local officials around 10:15 a.m., announcing a $4 million commitment from New Jersey’s fiscal year 2022 budget to help repair the Boardwalk. The budget was approved by the governor June 29.
During the meeting held amid a bustling crowd outside the Wildwoods Convention Center, Murphy accentuated the Boardwalk’s importance to the businesses it houses, being at the forefront for driving the local economy for both Wildwood and the county. His remarks reflect those he made during an April 21, 2020, visit to the Boardwalk, when a nearby section was dismantled by a storm around that time (https://bit.ly/35mDIky).
“I can’t thank you enough, honestly,” Byron told Murphy.
The damages stretch beyond the section destroyed by the storm. Most of the Boardwalk faces significant age-related damage, and a project to fully repair it would cost $60 million. However, Byron said local officials are developing a plan to drop that price tag to $35 million. The project should take about five to six years, and plans are to begin in October.
“We’re re-working it on a daily basis,” Byron said, regarding the plan and making it cost-effective.
The announcement is the latest in what has been a tug of war between Trenton and local officials regarding tax dollars the Wildwoods send to the state government.
In 2019, Murphy, a Democrat, vetoed a bill that would have allotted $56 million for the Boardwalk’s restoration over 14 years, in addition to $4 million in that time frame going to the Greater Wildwoods Tourism Improvement and Development Authority (GWTIDA). Murphy deemed the bill unconstitutional, frustrating Ernie Troiano, Wildwood’s former mayor, and local Democrats, provoking a visit from Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-3rd) and former First District Legislators Sen. Robert Andrzejczak and Assemblymen Bruce Land and Matt Milliam (all D-1st).
Now, in 2021, Murphy said he’s excited to help fund what he called a journey to help maintain one of Cape May County’s most-treasured hallmarks.
“That’s history,” Murphy told the Herald, when asked about why he opted to veto the 2019 bill. “The good news is that we put $4 million into the budget this year to help Pete (Byron) and begin the process of what the mayor thinks is a five or six-year process. We’ve started a journey here, and I’m really proud of that.”
After Murphy’s 2020 visit to assess the storm damage, he and Byron held discussions regarding the funding in February 2021 as the budget process began, according to a previous Herald report (https://bit.ly/2ZTl00H). The following month, the Murphy administration asked Byron to put a proposal together for consideration, which Byron believed was a turning point.
Cape May County is also in need of infrastructure improvement in its roads and bridges, something else for which Murphy pledged his support. Murphy, when asked about allocating infrastructure funding for the county, said he expects New Jersey to be at the forefront of states receiving funding from the federal government’s infrastructure bill if President Joe Biden signs it into law.
“We’re dense,” Murphy said. “We’ve got a lot of legacy assets, like roads and bridges.”
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