Ocean County is at a cross roads and needs to rebuild a 10 billion dollar loss in rateables since super storm Sandy, Freeholder Director Joe Vicari said during the monthly Mayor's Association Meeting in Toms River Tuesday.

Ocean County Freeholder Director Joe Vicari/photo by Dianne DeOliveira, Townsquare Media

Vicari said the County has lost 18 billion in rateables since 2008 and is focusing on the upcoming tourism season, attracting small businesses back here and getting residents who suffered damage back into their homes as quickly as possible.

Vicari noted the County is still owed $42 million in clean-up costs from Sandy that they had to take from different departments.

He pointed out why the upcoming tourism season is more important than ever. "Right now we're number three in tourism. Of course, Atlantic City and Cape May are number one and two. We're number three and we're going to maintain that, " said Vicari.

Almost 70,000 people are employed every year by the tourism industry which Vicari said generates 4.3 billion dollars. "We have a lot to offer as far as 44 miles of excellent coastline with the Atlantic shore, which is absolutely pristine. Barnegat Bay has been fully restored. It's one of the 28 natural estuaries in the state of New Jersey," Vicari said, adding the County is doing an excellent job working with towns to rebuild beach communities.

Vicari said the County is working on bringing in more money and has aggressive plans in place to achieve that goal through educational programs, job training and working with the Joint Base McGuire Dix Lakehurst. The base plays a vital role in tourism by employing government workers and contractors who stay and live in the County until certain projects are complete.