New Jersey's Senate Budget Committee held a hearing in Toms River to examine the process of rebuilding communities that were hard hit by Hurricane Sandy.

 

The storm caused heavy damage to about 10,000 homes in Brick, Mayor Steve Acropolis said Monday. He wants the state to allow local communities to speed the permitting process to rebuild.

"When it comes to DEP permits or (Coastal Areas Facilities Act) permits, we can do that at the local level with licensed processionals in-house instead of having to go to another level of government and really slow down that process," he said.

Boardwalks in many shore towns, including Belmar, were destroyed. Mayor Matt Doherty says a new boardwalk and a seawall should be completed by Memorial Day.

"We're going to increase the height of the boardwalk by 12 inches and also install a seawall for the first time ever," he said. "Belmar has never had one before, and it would have helped mitigate the storm surge this time around -- and certainly would have deflected the surge from Irene last year."

Municipal officials are urging the state to take the lead in rebuilding dunes and beaches.

Senate President Steve Sweeney, D-Gloucester, says the hearings will provide input for lawmakers to consider in any legislation to help with the rebuilding. He says it's important not to build the same way as in the past so homes are better protected from future storms.

Lawmakers say they'll work on a bipartisan basis to pass any laws needed to help with the rebuilding. The process is expected to be costly and take several years.